Monday 28 February 2011

A Black Knight and a barrel of fish.

Black Knight
The Pelargonium Register lists four 'Black Knight's, three zonals and this one, which is listed as a Regal.   It is a small regal and usually sold as an Angel.  It has small typically regal-type leaves of green with serrated edges and the flowers are a purple-pink with a white 'eye' and white edges to the petals.  It is an old variety and was first catalogued in 1951.  I love the colour combination of the bright green leaves and the flower colours.   Like all Regals and Angels, it is prone to white fly, and this one more than the others I find.

I recently wrote about the pond in my garden, and we are still not quite decided on what we should do with it.  We thought that the ducks had finished off the remaining two fish we had seen, but over the weekend I spotted the sarrassa comet, so hopefully the ghost koi is still there as well.

But we don't just have fish in the pond.  When I was visiting my family in Australia several years ago I was very impressed with a wooden half barrel planted up with water lilies and water iris, plus two or three goldfish.   When my sister and her husband came to visit me a year or two later they bought one for me as a gift before they left for home.  I planted it up with a miniature water lily and variegated iris and three goldfish.  The barrel never seemed able to support three goldfish, always called Freeman, Hardy and Willis, so we usually just had Hardy and Willis. We bought a liner for the original barrel because for some reason it always leaked, but sadly last year the barrel rotted away.   

I rather like my barrel of fish and we intended to get another wooden barrel.  However, they were either very pricey, or did not have a good appearance, being intended for planting up.   But, last summer we spotted a black plastic half-barrel, deeper than the original wooden one, which we thought would do.  I planted it up again and we bought another Freeman, Hardy and Willis.  Knowing the plastic barrel would not be as insulated as the wooden one I wrapped bubble wrap around the outside of the the black plastic and during the really cold spells I also covered it over with bubble wrap.

My efforts seem to have paid off - Freeman, Hardy and Willis are all doing well.  The variegated iris is beginning to shoot and the water lily is reaching for the top of the water.   Here you see Freeman and Hardy - Willis is rather shy.    So far the barrel, which is deeper than the original, is supporting the fish.  Of course, we will have to remove one if they get too big.

This is really a lovely feature for a patio - the grandchildren love it as they can see the fish close up and after a while they tend to become quite tame and will come to the top to be fed.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Pelargonium 'Saxifragoides'

P 'Saxifragoides'

Pelargonium 'Saxifragoides' has to be one of the cutest pelargoniums with its dark green fleshy leaves measuring just about 1cm to 2cm and dark pink flowers of a similar size.   It is thought to be a hybrid of  P. peltatum, the ivy leaf pelargonium. 'Saxifragoides' means 'resembling a saxifrage' and I can only image that is referring to it being low growing.   P. 'Saxifragoides' was originally found at the Royal Horticultural Society garden at Chiswick before 1890 but it is not recorded where the plant was obtained.  

I've had crocus out in my garden for a couple of weeks or so now, but for some reason the sparrows always peck at the yellow ones before they open fully. They have not yet spotted these and so have been left to open fully.

Monday 21 February 2011

Butterfly Brian West & ducking and diving

Butterfly Brian West

Butterfly Brian West leaves

Butterfly Brian West is a dwarf stellar type pelargonium and is a sport found by Andrew Simmons on his miniature silver leaf stellar that he had named for Brian West.  The growth habbit of this plant is much stronger, but it does have the same beautiful double blooms of dark pink fading to a white eye.   The butterfly in the name refers to the butterfly shaped pale blotch in the centre of the leaf.   The plant is sometimes referred to as Brian West Butterfly.

We have a small pond in our garden and last September on our return from France we found a heron helping itself to a rather expensive fish snack.  It was our fault as we had forgotten to make sure the cane and net cover was completely over the pond before we left.  Fearing that there were no more fish left as the heron had had a fortnight of snacking we decided that we would leave the pond and give it a good clear out in the summer.  We were surprised to notice a couple of weeks ago that there are still two fish left - at least there were.  Yesterday we found this pair of mallards swimming and diving on the pond.  We usually do have a pair visit us each spring. They fly in from the village pond, and they never stay long, just long enough for a stroll around the lawn and borders and then they fly off.

Saturday 19 February 2011

The shy pelargonium - and a lesson to be learned.

P. mollicomum

I call P. mollicomum 'shy' because I hardly every see it in flower for long, let alone take a photograph of it.  So often I would spot it in flower, pop back to the house for my camera, only to find when I returned that one or two petals had fallen off.  In fact, I don't think both of these are complete flowers.  It is almost always in seed, which it spreads around freely.

P. mollicomum is from the eastern Cape Province and has been associated with P. odoratissimum. Both plants have leaves that are rounded and a grey/green colour, but P. mollicomum leaves have a pineapple scent.   I find that P. mollicomum has a rather more shrubby growth habit and the flowers are also larger. 

As with all the species pelargoniums, it  likes a loamy compost which has plenty of grit incorporated into it.

I now have to confess that I failed dismally with the pelargonium seeds I sowed last January.  I think I sowed about 30 seeds, but I now have only six small seedlings, although they do seem to be growing well.   

On the other hand, Sue's seedlings from France that I have written about before are flourishing.   These are seedlings that Sue found in her pots of pelargoniums in France when we tidied them up at the end of last summer.   Sue brought them back home and has cared for them very carefully over the winter and they are really doing well. 

I think there is a lesson for me here - I must sow the seeds when they are fresh, or keep them in cooler conditions than I have been.

Sue's pelargonium seedlings - February 2011

Monday 14 February 2011

A pelargonium for Valentine's Day

   Pelargonium echinatum

Pelargonium echinatum was first collected by Francis Masson for Kew Gardens in 1789.  Known as "the sweatheart pelargonium", because of the heart shaped red blotches on the upper petals, Pelargonium echinatum is a native of  the north western regions of Cape Province. It is an erect shrub-like succulent plant with thick thorny stems.  In America it is also known as The Cactus Geranium.   Echinatus or echinate from Latin meaning armed with prickles or spines.   I love this plant when it is in flower - the flowers just seem to shine out so brightly - beautiful.
Pelargonium 'Miss Stapleton'

There is also a purple-pink flowered pelargonium known as 'Miss Stapleton' which is very similar in growth to P. echninatum, apart from the colour of the flowers. It will also be noted that there are blotches on the lower petals and feathering on the top two petals.  In her book, The Pelargonium Species, Diana Miller says 'Miss Stapleton' is the only named hybrid remaining today.  Although it was thought to be a form of P. echninatum, it has been suggested 'Miss Stapleton' is the result of a cross between P. echinatum and P. cortusifolium.  Raised from seed collected at Collvill's nursery and first flowering in 1823, it was named for Miss C Stapleton - a lady much attached to the Geraniaceae'.

Having just got over a very heavy cold it was so nice to be able to get out into the garden this afternoon.  The sun was shining and I have cut back the clematis and given them a feed of blood fish and bone.

A sure sign spring is on the way - it was good to spot these in flower.  I also spotted Cyclamen coum and a Pulmonaria in flower, but the sun had gone in so too dark to take a photograph.

Iris reticulata

Viburnum ferreri

Snowdrops - opened at last

Primrose - just opening

Helleborus foetidus
Winter Jasmine

Pansies in the window box

Thursday 3 February 2011

A Chinese Theme

Stellar Pelargonium Chinese Cactus

Since today is the start of the Chinese New Year  (the year of the Rabbit of you are interested), I thought I would write about the Stellar Pelargonium Chinese Cactus.  This is the pelargonium that Ted Both of Adelaide, South Australia, used in his crossings to develop the stellar pelargoniums we know today.   Where this plant came from is a mystery. No one knows how it got to Australia, or where it came from. It appeared in Australia around 1950 and was known as Chinese Cactus, Fiery Chief, and also Sunstar. The leaves and flowers are quite unlike the usual zonal pelargonium that were known then.  The leaves of Chinese Cactus have the same dark zone that many zonal pelargoniums have, but the leaves are deeply indented.  The single pink flowers are also very different from the normal zonal flower having two very narrow top petals and three narrow lower petals which are serrated.

Pelargonium Chinese Cactus leaves

Ted Both crossed this plant with a large number of zonals to produce the stellar pelargoniums that we know today.   He though that this plant resembled P.staphysagroides, and called his new hybrids 'Staphs'   However, it has since been proved that Chinese Cactus is not P. staphysagroides.

In Australia these hybrids are still called Staphs, but here and in other parts of the world they are known as Stellars, for the star shaped leaves.

Continuing the Chinese theme:-
 Choun Cho

Ivy Leaf Pelargonium Choun Cho has the darkest and most velvety petals.   I bought this at Fibrex Nursery a few years ago and was told that it was given to them by a visitor from France.  They also said that Prince Charles orders Choun Cho each year for his hanging baskets.
2011 Year of the Rabbit

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Ashfield Serenade - and a bargain book

Zonal Pelargonium Ashfield Serenade

Perfectly formed flower head with single pale lavender pink flowers, Ashfield Serenade was introduced by Kitson in the UK in 1975.  It has dark green leaves with a light zone.  It has a compact and dense growth habit  and is short jointed.  

Ashfield Serenade is a tretraploid - tetraploid means the plant has four times the number of chromosomes than a diploid.  Each member of the pelargonium family has a different number of chromosomes either diplopid or tetraploid, and therefore they will not ‘cross’.   A good guide is that diploid zonals have a smooth and glossy appearance to their leaves, and tertraploid zonals have a furry feel and appearance.

I spotted a bargain Poundland last week which I just could not resist- a new hardback book on Heuchera, Tiarella and Heucherella by Charles and Martha Oliver.  It was published in 2006, so not a very old book.  It gives practical advice on growing these plants, and also includes the lesser known tellima and mitella. Detailed information on all the garden-worthy cultivars, where each will grow best in the garden, cultivation, care and propagation is included.  There are some beautiful photographs.  Well worth £1.00.