Glad for Gladioli

I’ve always loved Gladdies. Such theatrical flowers on dramatic tall spikes which shoot up from relatively small corms and with so few roots it’s a wonder they stand up at all. They are also neat and slim, taking up very little room in the garden which makes them good value plants in my book. Continue reading

Lazy Lizzie!

Photo credit: grow-your-secret-garden

I suppose it was just a flight of fancy, one of those sudden impulses which seem perfectly reasonable at the time but then turn sour. What I had overlooked was that most of the flowers I lusted after in the florists window had actually arrived by plane from the warm shores of Asia, the Southern states of North America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Way back in March while ‘researching’ cut flower seeds I came across an advert on Ebay for one of my favourite cut flowers, a double yellow Lisianthus, the cultivated form of Eustoma. I should have known this wasn’t going to be easy when just 5 seeds cost £1.75 + p&p but there were no others so I bought them. A few days later they arrived in a small packet, or rather the crushed remains did.

Lisianthus aka Eustoma from Lalbagh Garden, Ba...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Undeterred, I contacted the lady seller and  she kindly sent me some more, this time better packaged.They were sown on 27 March in my propagator but after 3 weeks nothing had happened. Then eventually, one tiny little shoot emerged. It just sat there for weeks, doing nothing. Then another shoot emerged and did the same.

The weeks went by and at the end of June I was fed up of looking at the miserable weaklings which by now had been overtaken by everything else and were now just taking up space. I put them in the cold frame and was too busy with other things at this stage to be bothered with them any more so I ignored them completely. Sometimes you just have to put it down to experience and move on. Then, all of a sudden, they decided to grow! Up they went, branching and filling out as they grew until, by the end of August, one had faltered slightly but the other had reached 60 cm tall, strong and healthy and showing 21 tiny flower buds.

Both plants look healthy enough, they have been variously fed with Phostrogen, Tomorite, home-made Comfrey tea and seaweed extract over the last 5 months and, due to it’s warm and humid origins, I have kept them warm and sprayed the buds and glaucous green foliage with tepid rainwater every few days. I have treated the larger one as a house plant for the last 4 weeks to avoid cooler night temperatures so it has had just about everything it could possibly want – and it still won’t flower! At this rate it will be sitting next to a Poinsettia as part of the Christmas decorations! I am now desperate and out of ideas.

I wonder if anyone has had similar difficulties getting them to flower? There must be something I can do to stimulate the buds to open. Perhaps a kind blogger friend in warmer climes could offer me some advice.

‘Allo ‘Allo! Allouise

Just in case you were wondering, the new header picture for my blog is Chrysanthemum ‘Orange Allouise’ bought as a plug plant from Sarah Raven in April 2011 and propagated into 5 further new plants this March from basal cuttings. It is utterly gorgeous, like dripping creamy butter, and I hope to keep it going for many years to come. The header picture has been cropped a little so here is the full shot with water droplets after a shower of rain.

Lily Landini

Lilium ‘Landini’

This Asiatic Lily is quite simply stunning. Photographs don’t do it justice. It is fully a metre tall with dark green glossy leaves and what are variously described as dark red, chocolate red, or burgundy red flowers. In differing light levels and aspects they can vary from a shade of very dark red to almost black. To me, they look good enough to eat, like dark bitter chocolate!

Two stems of Lily ‘Landini’

Unfortunately, like a lot of the most beautiful lilies, there is no scent to add to it’s credentials but it’s colour is enough to warrant inclusion alongside white and yellow forms to provide contrast and drama.

‘Landini’

I have to admit that I bought the bulbs at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show hoping that they would flower at the same time as the huge flowered white and pink Oriental Lilium longiflorum trumpet lily ‘Triumphator’ which I planted on the same day but, as is often the way with gardening, timing is everything and mine was off! Anyway, it will give another excuse for a separate post when the buds finally open next week. They are still in the greenhouse along with two pots of promising looking Turks Cap lilies, but colder nights may mean disappointing results. We’ll have to wait and see.

Big, Beautiful Boy!

This beautiful China Aster, Callistephus chinensis, deserved a posting of it’s own just because of it’s glorious deep purple colour. Definitely worth remembering and sharing. It was grown from a packet of seeds called ‘Big Boy Mix’ and certainly lives up to it’s name with strong, 90cm straight stems which make wonderful cut flowers. Oh, that colour!!

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

Daily Jottings

My first Carnations, Garvineas and Alstroemerias from the new cutting garden. Delighted!

The autumn clear-up has begun today with the obelisk of sweet peas being removed from the front garden. It has been fabulous this year with several hundred flowers picked from just 6 plants. They are old fashioned strongly scented Grandifloras from saved seed and are always very prolific in pink, purple, red and blue.  Strangely, no white ones appeared this year so I guess the seed must still be in the packet! This year we mixed them in the vase with Ammi majus flowers and Thalictrum foliage (a bit like Maidenhair Fern) and it set them off a treat.

My friend Bob Lawson has kindly given me two seedlings of Lothospermum scandens sometimes called Asarina. The common name is ‘climbing foxglove’ and that is exactly what it looks like. A twining climber reaching about 8 ft in a single season and covered top to bottom in shell pink foxglove shaped flowers in mid summer. It self seeds everywhere. Bob has them coming up in his tomato pots! I have kept one and given one to my friend Paddy who has a huge heated Hartley Botanic greenhouse so we will see who has the best plant next year. I love a bit of competition!