Thursday 27 January 2011

Beautiful flowers & scented leaves with a scary parent.

Roller's Satinique

A complete contrast to it's parent, Roller's Satinique is a a seedling of Voodoo which has dark scarlet single flowers with black centre. Roller's Satinique has scented leaves and an abundance of really pink single flowers with darker feathery markings on the upper petals.   Hybridised by Carol Roller of California,  

Flowering now in the house is my Ludisia Orchid.  When it is not flowering visitors mistake this for a tradescantia as the growth habit is very similar with spreading stems and similar shaped leaves.  Flowering in December, the Ludisia's white flowers on long stems are very pretty, but quite insignificant compared to the most beautiful leaves.  These are a dark velvety brownish green with pink stripes which remind me of  the pin striped suits worn by a City Gent (I won't tell you which one!).  If you shine a torch on the leaves at night they twinkle with what appears to be millions of tiny stars.  Keep it in a shady spot all year and, as with all orchids, water very sparingly.

Sunday 23 January 2011

A Green Goddess

Ivy Leaf Pelargonium 'Green Goddess'   

I think this flower is just stunning and so unusual with lilac petals and a green centre.   Ivy Leaf ' Green Goddess' was hybridised by Francis Parmenter and released in the U.K. in 1988.  It is a compact grower and lends itself perfectly to exhibiting:-

Ivy Leaf Pelargonium 'Green Goddess'

This plant was grown and exhibited by Peter Lancaster at the last British Pelargonium & Geranium Society Show at Capel Manor in 2008.   Peter won a well deserved First for this plant in the UK Open Championship Class for One 8" Hanging Pot, Ivy Leaf or Hybrid Ivy Leaf Cultivars.

David Taylor of Gosbrook Pelargoniums ( very kindly brought the pelargonium cuttings I had ordered along to a meeting we were both attending last Saturday.  They are all up to the usual high standard that this nursery provides.  The light green stellar, bottom left, is Damilola that I wrote about last week,  the green stellar and the green zonal are Cowes and Cherry, both miniatures and replacement plants,  The silver variegated stellars are Red Glitter and Silver Glitter and the coloured leaf zonal is Warrenorth Platinum.    These last three are for a friend.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Golden Harry

Golden Harry Heiover

No, not my grandson Harry, although we do think he is a golden boy, but the old zonal pelargonium Golden Harry Heiover. 

First introduced by E.G. Henderson of Henderson's Nursery, North London at the RHS Chiswick Trials in 1873, Golden Harry Heiover is a dwarf pelargonium.  It has a spreading habit and in Victoria times was used in the front of borders as a bedding plant.  The flowers are a single bright red which contrast nicely with the light green leaves which have an attractive bronze zone.  I don't find it a very robust plant, in fact it is quite spindly, but looks good in a mixed planter.   I wonder who Harry Heiover was?

It was quite exciting to notice this morning the first true leaves appearing on the first bee pollinated pelargonium seeds I chitted and 'sowed' on 5th January.   The radicle appeared after about three days, fairly quickly followed by the cotyledon leaves.  These tiny plantlets were then potted into Fertiss plugs and placed in my small propagator.  Today - true leaves.   I do have to admit that not all the seeds germinated - probably about a third of them, but not all the seed was last years.  I chitted and 'sowed'  a few more seeds after I planted out the first seedlings, and these are now also potted up into Fertiss plugs. Again, only about a third germinated.   

Noticed rhubarb and garlic appearing in the vegetable garden.   

Yesterday vegetable seeds arrived from Medwyn's - I am hoping for prizes in the village show again this year.  

Sunday 16 January 2011

An old favourite Regal Pelargonium

Regal Pelargonium 'Rosmaroy'
When I first started going to Pelargonium Clubs and shows, the Regal Pelargonium 'Rosmaroy' used to always win prizes in the Regals Classes.   It's not often seen now, but pops up occasionally.   Rosmaroy is a very free-flowering Regal, with showy frilled blue/pink flowers.  The plant has a compact growth habit which is why it makes a good show plant.   Introduced by Mr Hollihead in the UK about 1984.

I have had a bit of a disaster in the greenhouse in the last few days.  On Thursday I found one plant with botrytis - that dreadful grey mould that attacks greenhouse plants during very damp weather.   I cleaned the plant up and thought 'that's fixed that'.  How wrong I was!   On Friday morning, when I went to open the greenhouse doors before we went out I discovered about ten plants covered in grey mould.   It had spread like wildfire.  I probably looked a little odd to anyone passing as I was trying to get rid of as much of the mould as I could whilst holding a plant at arms length in an attempt to not cover myself in it, being dressed fairly smartly for an outing at the time.    When we got home mid afternoon, the first thing I did was get changed in to my gardening togs and headed for the greenhouses, secateurs and a carton of green sulphur powder in hand, to deal with the disaster.   I pulled off all the offending grey mould covered leaves and cut away any stems that looked iffy, and then dusted the plant with the green sulphur powder.  When I had finished I puffed a light film of green sulphur powder over all the remaining plants in the greenhouses.  One greenhouse is affected more than the other, and mostly the coloured leaf pelargoniums.  Unable to check them yesterday due to having to attend a meeting in the Birmingham area and was gone all day, but today, the situation does not look any worse.  I hope this damp weather will end soon.   It really is most odd since we had lots more rain last winter, our garden was almost totally flooded due to a blocked land drain on the highway and one greenhouse had 4" of water in it. I had taken all the plants out and put them in the other greenhouse, the one with the botrytis in now, so it was really jam packed,  No botrytis.   It is no consolation that they make a wine in California from botrytis covered grapes.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

A Pelargonium for Damilola

Damilola Taylor

In November 2000, members of the public in the UK were shocked to learn of the senseless stabbing of an eleven year old boy on his way home from school.   Damilola Taylor had arrived in this country from Nigeria during that summer with his mother, brother and sister to seek medical treatment for his sister.  His father stayed behind in Nigeria to continue his career in the Civil Service to help support the family.   Because of his sister’s illness, Damilola wished eventually to study medicine, but he was also keen on sport, particularly football.   Damilola’s killers, aged just 12 and 13 were eventually brought to justice and are now serving time.

A Trust Fund was set up in Damilola’s name to honour his memory and to try and help bring about changes in the community for the better. 
Steve Pollard was recently asked by the Damilola Trust to name a plant for Damilola Taylor.  At the time he had an un-named miniature stellar which had won a First Prize at The Pelargonium & Geranium Society National Show in June.  The plant had been grown by top grower Ken Abel and had about fifty heads on it.   

Miniature Stellar Pelargonium 'Damilola'   (photograph Steve Pollard)

Steve asked David Taylor of Gosbrook Pelargoniums (  if he would release it and it was agreed that for every plant sold £1.00 would be donated to the Damilola Trust fund.

The Trust also operates an awards programme called “The Spirit of London Awards” which recognises the work done by young people in London and is supported by Mayor Boris Johnson.    To mark the 2010 awards the nominees and sponsors were invited to No. 10 Downing Street, London, to meet the Prime Minister and Steve was asked to present the plant to David Cameron, which was a great honour and will remain a lasting memory for Steve.  He tells me that they spoke for a couple of minutes. David Cameron was very interested in the plant, the culture, how often he should water it and whether it could be grown in the gardens at No.10.

'Damilola' is a miniature stellar with single deep magenta blooms and attractive pale green leaves with a darker bronze zone.   It is a short jointed and will make a good show plant. 

Only available from Gosbrook Pelargoniums:   £1.00 for every plant sold will go the the Damilola Taylor Trust Fund.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Just one Pelargonium!

Pelargonium exstipulatum

The sky was blue, the sun was shining so, although there was a chilly wind, Brian and I went to Wisley this morning.  And I found just this one pelargonium in flower in the glasshouse.  The natural habitat of Pelargonium exstipulatum is the Little Karoo in southern Cape Province growing on light soils in rocky conditions.   Said to be a small branching woody shrub, the plant at Wisley was quite sprawly and ground spreading.  The one I had grew in a straight line upwards - I should probably have pinched it out to make it branch.   The leaves are an attractive grey/green, but do have a sticky feel to them, and a pungent aromatic scent.   Diana Miller, in her book on the species 'Pelargoniums' says this plant is known to have been grown here as early as 1779 by the Countess of Strathmore.

Some colourful views of Wisley today:-

This view of the prairie planting outside the glasshouse always looks good, whatever time of year.

I'm not too sure about this display in the corridor between the glasshouses - a mix of spring, summer and autumn planting.

Brian hopes our Crassula does not get this big!  
I don't think they are real!  Hippos in the glasshouse pool.

Alpine House

Crevice Garden being constructed outside the Alpine House - looks interesting.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Doreen - A Show Beauty

Pelargonium 'Doreen'

Hybridised by the late John Ecclestone, Pelargonium 'Doreen' makes a good show plant.  Delicate apricot/peach double flowers on a dwarf stocky plant which has plain green leaves.    

Although this is a plant that will look good on the show bench, I am a sucker for buying plants with names of people I know.   This was purchased because Brian has an aunt of the same name of whom we are both very fond.

Seeds update:  Most of the bee cross pelargonium seeds I 'sowed' in the petri dishes on Wednesday are beginning to show rootlets.    The species do not appear to be doing anything. As I've never sown species seeds before I don't know if this is normal, but I suspect it is because the seed was a couple of years old, and were given to me by a friend.   I have ordered more from the Alpine Garden Society Seed List, and when they arrive I will make sure I sow them straight away.

Ordered vegetable seeds from Medwyns of Anglesey today.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

To celebrate a Century.

Pelargonium "Santa Maria Centennial"
2004 was the centenary year of the City of Santa Maria, California, and as the ‘geranium’ is their official flower, it was decided to promote a new ‘geranium’ for that occasion.   The hybridiser, Jim Zemcik of San Diego, California had an un-named plant and it was suggested that this would be Santa Maria’s centenary plant.  But what to call it?  There were already two pelargoniums named Santa Maria but Debby Lipp, who was involved in the introduction of the centenary plant, suggested Santa Maria Centennial.  And, as Debby says, “The rest is history”.

Santa Maria Centennial has to be one of the prettiest pelargoniums in my collection with its soft peach pink double flowers on a dwarf stocky plant.  It is an Hybrid ivy leaf, i.e. an ivy-zonal cross.    In the U.S.A. these plants are known as Ivy-Zonal Crosses.

I’ve been sowing pelargonium seeds this afternoon.  A couple of species and some bee crosses from last summer.   Hybridising is not something I’ve ever done before, so the bee crosses are a first step.   Sowing pelargonium seeds is something I’ve done lots of times before, but not at this time of year. The first job is to  very carefully remove the seed from the husk.  Not easy as they are so small and it is easy to lose seeds when they go flying off in all directions. (It would never surprise me to find pelargoniums growing out of the side of  my 'fridge freezer).  I don’t sow these seeds in the conventional way, but rather use a method devised by Cliff Blackman of Australia.   I do deviate from his directions in that I take a sliver off the pointed end of the seed, whereas he scores along the length of the seed with a needle. (It’s useful to have a very good magnifying glass for this job).  The seeds are then placed on kitchen paper inside a petri dish. Seeds and paper are sprayed with cooled and boiled water to which is added a small amount of Phostrogen and placed at an angle in a heated propagator.  The seeds will swell and begin to open within 3 or 4 hours.  It is important not to let the paper dry out, and to rinse the seeds twice daily with clean water with added Phostrogen to wash off any toxins.  Growth will be noticed within about three days, and when seed leaves begin to open and the root is about 15mm long, the seedling can be carefully potted up into small pots.  I’ve had success with this method; it is also quick and means I can start more seeds off in days, rather than weeks.

I’ll keep you posted on the success, or failure, of my seed sowing at this time of year.

Sunday 2 January 2011

Scented Royal Oak

Perlargonium quercifolium 'Royal Oak'

The oak leaf shaped leaves give this species plant the name 'quercifolium'  as in quercus sp.   It is also known  and sold as Royal Oak.  A large and shrubby plant,  I like to grow this in a planter which is moved outside fairly early on in the summer as it seems to be fairly tolerant of cooler weather, and I bring it inside later than other pelargoniums.  It does like sunshine and likes to be kept on the dry side.  It has fairly large and very beautifully marked flowers over a very long season - my plant is still flowering in the greenhouse now.    The leaves have a dark blotch in the centre and feel sticky to touch.   Although this is often sold as a scented plant, it is not a sweet scent, but rather is strong, like balsam. 

P. quercifolium is found growing naturally in Cape Province on rocky slopes.  The plant was introduced to Kew Gardens in 1774 by F. Masson.
The sharp eyed amongst you will have spotted in my last post that two plants on my 'sick bay' ledge are not  pelargoniums.   The two pots at the back on the left are of Orostachys iwarenge - also known as Chinese Dunce Cap.   This is a succulent of the crassulaceae family and is from Japan.  It has soft pink/grey rosettes of leaves which are quite beautiful.   At the moment, they do not look very interesting - just a greyish very tiny rosette surrounded by brown dead leaves.  However, at the end of this month, the brown dead leaves will rot away completely and the rosettes will begin to grow.   They grow larger as the summer progresses until the end of July/beginning of August when the rosettes will appear to grow taller - like dunces caps.  By the end of the month they explode into mountains of small flowers.

 The flowers only last two or three weeks, depending on the weather.   Last August was very dismal so I did not have many flowers and they were very soon over.   Once the flowers die, the plant seems to wilt and die, but I collect a few of the larger, non-flowering rosettes which are beginning to die off and pot them into small pots of John Innes 2 and bring them indoors for the winter as the plant is not hardy here.

Happy New Year!