Big’uns & Little’uns!

Sweet Peas showing difference between cordon and bush

Just taken this photo for my next piece in Garden News and thought I would post it to show the difference between bush grown sweet peas on the left and cordon grown ones on the right. The bush grown ones are grandifloras which have more flowers and a stronger scent and I just let them scramble up pea netting and obelisks in various parts of the garden. They get no attention other than watering, feeding and cutting. The cordons are all frilly Spencer varieties used mainly for competitions and have less scent and less flowers but they are much, much bigger! Some stems are 18″ long and the flowers are at least twice as big as the grandifloras. However, they involve a lot more work and I have been tying them in every day for weeks, nipping out the side shoots, cutting off the tendrils and pinching out the flower buds to force them to put all their energy into making tall strong plants. Fingers crossed for a first time success at the local show next week!

Phew-eniculum vulgare!

It seems from what I have read, that the smell of Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare (hence the pun!) is one of those you either love or hate. I therefore consider myself lucky at the moment because the acid yellow umbelliferous flowers have given way to thousands of seeds which are now ripening on the huge clump by the back gate and there is the most gorgeous smell of licorice / aniseed as we brush past it each morning to take the dogs for a walk.

The tall feathery foliage on thick branching stems makes a bold architectural statement in any garden. It loves a well drained poor soil in full sun and, unfortunately for some, seeds itself freely around the garden. I think the smell takes me back to my childhood eating Bassett’s Licorice Allsorts and aniseed balls!

Pollen-Free Lilies

One of my mini trials this year has been to see if so called ‘pollen-free’ lilies are as worthy as the fully loaded versions. The main purpose was to find a group of lilies that I could grow as cut flowers but which did not have the usual annoying habit of dropping their pollen and staining hands, clothes, tablecloths and runners, and even furniture. Strong stuff that pollen! Incidentally, the last thing you do if you want to remove pollen from material of any kind is to use a damp cloth. This just makes things worse. The best thing to do is to use sticky tape and lift the pollen off without rubbing.

I bought 3 pink varieties for the trial; ‘Elodie’, ‘Miss Lucy’ and ‘Brokenheart’.

First mistake was ‘Elodie’. Absolutely no scent! What a waste of time and money. It looked like a lily which should have had pollen but had it washed off. The style and stamens were in place but there were no anthers or stigma and no pollen. Weird!

‘Elodie’ a pretty lilly and no pollen, but no scent either!

Next to open, two weeks later than ‘Elodie’ and thirteen weeks after planting, was ‘Miss Lucy’, a beautiful white and shell pink lily with an intense fragrance. Unlike ‘Elodie’, the reproductive parts are hidden by sepals which do do not open but form a central ‘cone’. Two stems in a vase filled the room with scent.

‘Miss Lucy’ pollen-free and highly fragrant.

A week later than ‘Miss Lucy and fourteen weeks after planting, ‘Brokenheart’ finally opened and is pleasant but not as striking as ‘Miss Lucy’ in my personal opinion.‘Brokenheart’ was certainly the most branched and with the most flowers, approx 6 on each stem, but the buds opened pointing downwards and gradually lifted their heads to reveal their beauty and amazing scent.

Overall, I would rate this trial a success because it has proved you don’t need the pollen to get beautiful scented lilies. However, the colour palette is currently limited and would therefore not satisfy every occasion. There is also one slightly worrying aspect which I need to investigate further. Although there is no pollen, the flowers appear to exude a colourless sticky residue which falls on to the leaves and then on to the surface holding the vase. In our case, this was an expensive oak side table! Fortunately, it does not seem to stain and is easily wiped off but annoying and unsightly nevertheless.

Plant of the Day

My plant of the day is Gladiolus callianthus commonly known as the Peacock Orchid. It is a simple, beautiful, pure white flower with a maroon centre and strappy leaves. Unlike the usual gladioli where a straight stem is a must, these charming cousins from the high mountains of central Africa droop modestly.

Sometimes also called Acidanthera murielae or Abyssinian sword lily, they have a light scent, especially in the evenings, which may indicate it is a moth attractor.

The corms are not fully hardy but it will be easy to lift them in November and store them in the shed in a paper bag with some shredded paper until spring. I will try them as cut flowers when a few more come out to see how long they last. They are supposed to be good and, being white, would work on their own or with other stronger colours.

Update 31 August 2012

The blooms work well as cut flowers, particularly against a dark background as this photo shows

Free but costly!!

Lily ‘Elodie’ which is pollen free is also scent free! The idea was to have lilies for the house which didn’t drop pollen, but without scent it is pretty useless for that purpose. I understand the other two I am growing, ‘Miss Lucy’ and ‘Brokenheart’ are highly fragrant. Hope so!

Pollen free Lily ‘Elodie’ is also scent free! Pretty but disappointing.