Category Archives: Plant Profiles

Alstroemeria – a moving tale(!)

Whenever I add a new plant to my collection I generally find it takes a few seasons to become properly acquainted with it, and my alstroemerias are no exception.

I’ve been growing the Planet series of alstroemerias, namely Cahors, Sirius, Uranus and Sedna, for only a couple of years, and I now know from experience that they are reasonably reliable as regards overwintering in my location, both in containers and in the ground (they haven’t been tested for prolonged periods of below -5C, but that is rare in this part of the world, thankfully!). I also know that they flower freely over a very long period from May right through to December in milder years, that they aren’t overly demanding when it comes to food and water, that their flowering stems need support of some kind and that they appear to be non-invasive.

What I didn’t know until this spring was how they respond to being dug up and moved, something which varies greatly between species, so I decided to experiment with my clump of Cahors which I’d planted quite close to Sirius and needed shifting along a bit.

I was in two minds as to when to do it: for many herbaceous plants it doesn’t really matter whether you lift them in autumn or spring, but given that in my garden all my alstroemerias insist on flowering way into December I decided spring was probably the better option. So, in late March I set to with a fork and spade, carefully digging up the clump and re-planting it in manured ground a foot or so away. Then I waited….and waited….and waited.

I have to say that by the end of April I was starting to think that I’d managed to kill it because, whilst all my other untouched plants were sprouting vigorous new shoots, Cahors was doing absolutely nothing. Nary a leaf nor stem. It wasn’t until mid May that I finally started to see signs of life, and even now there isn’t much to show for it:

alstroemeria-cahors-moved-26th-may

Just 3 short shoots have emerged thus far compared to the dozen or so much taller ones that have come up from the untouched plants:

alstroemeria-not-moved

So I think what I’ve learnt here is that whilst they can definitely be lifted and divided, they do not particularly appreciate the disturbance and are probably best left to their own devices as much as possible, only requiring attention when they become over-congested.

I imagine that my clump of Cahors will re-establish itself fairly quickly and will ultimately benefit from having a bit more elbow room, but I shall know to leave it in peace for a good few years now!

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Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’

One of the most welcome sights in my spring garden each year is the return of my pulmonarias, particularly ‘Blue Ensign’, which I’ve been growing now for about a decade.

I have yet to capture an image of its true colour, but this is as close as I’ve come:

pulmonaria-macro

 

Pulmonaria species flowers are generally a mid-violet-blue colour, but those of ‘Blue Ensign’ are a significantly richer, deeper blue, almost electric blue in some lighting conditions. This cultivar also stands out from the crowd in that it has plain, dark green leaves with none of the characteristic white spotting that one associates with the genus.

Growing it couldn’t be easier provided you have a moisture-retentive soil and a sufficiently damp place in partial shade. Pulmonarias do not take kindly to being dry at the roots – persistent dryness will leave them vulnerable to mildew – and they will quickly wilt if exposed to too much sun.

Having said that, they can be grown in less than optimal conditions. Mine aren’t ideal, in fact: my soil drains fairly freely and bakes hard in hot weather, and my chosen location for ‘Blue Ensign’ gets midday sun all through the summer, but it seems to tolerate these adversities reasonably well as long as I remember to water it from time to time.

One objection that people may have to pulmonarias is that they can be rampant self-seeders, but I haven’t noticed ‘Blue Ensign’ being a problem in that way. It doesn’t seem to spread much either, although that may be because it isn’t entirely happy with its location.

All in all, if you’re after a small, clump-forming perennial to inject a splash of vibrant blue into your shady spring borders and provide a valuable early season nectar source for bees, I’d say you can’t go far wrong with this one.

 

Hemerocallis “Egyptian Ibis”

I blogged about this plant last year and wasn’t going to do so this season, but when I went into the garden this morning and found not one, not two but three flowers had burst into bloom over night, I couldn’t resist a pic:

hemerocallis-egyptian-3-flowers

The large-flowered hemerocallis hybrids truly are showstoppers, for all that the individual blooms last only a day. Even in a small garden such as mine I feel they’re worth the space: from mid-Spring onwards I’m waiting excitedly for the flower stalks to appear, then for the buds to fatten day by day until they finally burst open in dramatic and opulent fashion, so the interest starts well before the actual flowering period for me. Add to that the fact that they suffer very little from pests and diseases, propagate easily by division and perform well in a variety of soil types and situations and you have a winner for my money!

 

Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus

Always the earliest hemerocallis to flower in my garden is H. lilioasphodelus:

hemerocallis-lilioasphodelus

I grow it by an east-facing fence and it seems to do fine even though it often gets somewhat overshadowed by a honeysuckle growing behind it.

The flowering period is rather short – about 3 weeks, give or take – and it’s probably not the best use of space in a small garden such as mine, but I keep it because it is very well-behaved (maintains a nice, tidy clump and never outgrows its area), keeps its foliage in mild winters and, best of all, has a lovely fragrance to go with those cheery yellow blooms. I’ve also never known it to suffer pest or disease problems, which is a big plus in my book.

It’s easy to propagate by division in spring or autumn (preferably spring) and has few requirements other than a reasonably fertile soil that doesn’t dry out too easily – a drop of water during a dry spring might be necessary to ensure flowering.

So there it is: nothing spectacular, but early summer in my garden wouldn’t be quite the same without its fleeting golden trumpets, so I won’t be replacing it any time soon…

Sundiascias – first season’s growing experience

Many years ago I grew diascias and wasn’t hugely taken with them, but this year I spotted something advertised as “Sundiascia”, a supposed improvement on diascias in terms of both flowering and hardiness, so I thought I’d give them a whirl.

As yet I cannot vouch for the hardiness – that will be tested pretty soon! – but the flowering has been marvellous, and they’ve proven to be a valuable addition to my very small garden.

I bought them as plugs in Spring (12 plants, 4 each of 3 different colours: rose, orange and pale pink), potted them up in 9cm pots of multipurpose compost and kept them protected from frost until June when I planted them into their final positions in 12″ pots, 3 plants to a pot, placed in the sunniest spot in the garden. They were fed weekly (Miracle Gro for the first couple of weeks, then tomato food) and watered liberally, especially in the hottest weather.

They were a little slow to start flowering, as were most plants this year, but by the heatwave in July they were in full flow and have only lately begun to run out of steam, providing a solid 2.5 – 3 months of colour.

This is the rose variety:

Sundiascia-rose

Their continuous blooming without need of deadheading is a great attribute (the flowers are shaped in such a way that they can only be pollinated by a particular bee that doesn’t exist here, so they cannot set seed), although I found their habit a little less appealing – compact they are not! They grow to about 12″ high, then start to sprawl, so I wouldn’t recommend them for a formal bedding scheme, but if tidy mounds are not required, they definitely look good rambling through one another in a tapestry of colour.

I’ve taken lots of cuttings over the summer and they strike very easily, so I will be bringing some of those indoors to overwinter as insurance in case the parent plants are not as hardy as promised.

All in all, I would say they were an excellent buy. Given a sunny spot and reasonable care they perform very well  over a long period, so a big thumbs up for the Sundiascia from my corner of Hampshire!

Aster frikartii “Mönch”

Late summer welcomes the first of my two asters into bloom:

aster-frikartii-monch

 

I always have mixed feelings when the asters start to flower because it means that summer is definitely on its way out, but I certainly can’t deny the charm of their simple daisy forms, and the resilience that carries them all the way through to the first frosts, whenever they might arrive.

Mönch is a particular old favourite of mine with its profusion of 2-inch wide lavender blooms, but at 3 foot tall it needs support, even this year when I experimented with the “Chelsea Chop”, cutting it back by half at the end of May in an attempt to produce a more compact , better-behaved plant (didn’t work!).  Sprawling habit aside, it’s a relatively undemanding plant for a sunny spot – it does need thorough watering in dry spells, I find – that provides an excellent foil for the bright yellows, oranges and reds of late summer and early autumn, so well worth its place in my small garden.

Alstroemeria “Cahors”

Not the best photo as I over-exposed it, but anyway:

alstroemeria-cahors

This is the last of my five new alstroemerias to come into bloom, and it’s another winner in my book. The flower stalks, which appear in succession from mid-summer, eventually  rise to about 18 inches tall and are sturdy enough to be self-supporting, whilst the flowers themselves, which last for weeks, are an appealing shade of rich salmony-orange (they show a lot pinker in my photo than they are in real life).

As long as I can keep them through winter, I think these alstroemerias are probably the best addition to my garden in a long time. In their first season they’ve ticked most of  the boxes for a small-garden-friendly plant: compact, healthy, easy-care, vigorous without being unruly, long-flowering and, of course, beautiful!

The one thing they lack is scent, which is a pity, but considering all their other virtues, I’ll gladly give them a pass.

I’ve grown them as container specimens this year, and they’ve performed extremely well in that situation; I’m good at watering, feeding and generally pampering plants in containers, so they’ve had it easy really. Next year, however, I’ll be moving them out into the borders, so it will be interesting to see how they do there. For one thing, I suspect that I’ll have a much harder time protecting them from slugs and snails, and for another, they’ll also have to contend with my rather unlovely soil and somewhat unfocused border watering and feeding regime, so things will definitely be different!

Alstroemeria “Spitfire”

This is the one I’ve been most looking forward to:

alstroemeria-spitfire

 

With its variegated foliage and vibrant red-orange and yellow flowers, this truly is an all-singing, all-dancing variety; I’m just not sure I actually like it!

For one thing, it’s a little hard to place in my garden where the predominant colours tend towards the pinks and mauves, and for another, it’s almost too striking for a small garden where excessive attention-hoggers can be a bit overwhelming. I’m trying to visualise a large clump of this, and I think I’d need sunglasses to look at it no matter what the weather!

I’ll have to give it some thought: perhaps a pocket of “hot” plants (purples, yellows, oranges, reds) in a sunny spot would accommodate it well enough?

Anyway, it’s a nice mid-sized plant about 2 foot tall, needs a bit of supporting, and is later to come into bloom than some of the others. I imagine the flowers will persist for several weeks in typical alstroemeria fashion, so I suppose I’d better get used to them!

Tree Lily “Picasso”

Maybe?

Lily-Picasso

It’s the last of my three unknown pollen-free lilies to come into bloom, and the one I’m least sure of identification-wise.

Looking through some online catalogues, I’m fairly certain that my white/pink one is Monet, and my pink one is Cezanne, but this white one is still in doubt.

It ought to be Picasso because those are the three that seem to be sold together as the “Crystal” collection, but the pictures of Picasso appear to show a scattering of dots towards the centre of each petal, which mine don’t have? The petals on mine are almost pure white with just a hint of a green stripe down the centre and definitely dot-less!

Oh well, it’s a lovely thing anyway. It’s the tallest of the three at about 5 foot (should be taller, but in my mini-garden, if it stays this height I’ll be quite happy!), has a delicious scent and produces 4 or 5 large, ice white blooms per stem. It’s also been the keenest to propagate itself as I now have three flowering-size bulbs from my original one:  love it when something so beautiful decides to reproduce and I don’t have to do a thing!

I’ve never made a note of the flowering period, which I suspect won’t be long, but as I’ve said before, these lilies earn their place even in the smallest of gardens because they occupy so little ground space and can be easily grown in pots to be moved into and out of the limelight at the appropriate times.

A cameo performance, maybe, but well worth it!

Alstroemeria “Sedna”

The first bud opened a couple of days ago:

alstroemeria-sedna

Another very pretty flower, but in truth its colour is a little too similar to Sirius, and if it weren’t for the fact that they came in a collection, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to own them both.

Having said that, their habits appear quite different: Sirius is nearly 3ft tall now and requires a bit of staking, whereas Sedna is a mere 1ft tall and supports itself without any assistance, so I suppose they both have their place dependent on space and height requirements.

It seems to be happy in the partially shaded spot it occupies (east-facing, so it gets the morning sun), but I’m tempted to move the pot to a slightly sunnier location to see if it grows any better or faster.

I’ll update this post as time goes by so that I can record the eventual height, how long it flowered for and my end-of-season thoughts – also, how well it overwinters.