There was a cold wind blowing, and once again I took refuge in the greenhouse. By dint of shuffling some plants out into the cold frames, which meant spending a chilly hour setting the existing occupants of a cold frame out on to the concrete, I made space on the bench for some seed trays, and that hour was enough to convince me that I was better off in the greenhouse. I also freed up some room by throwing out those pots of things that had died over the winter.
There weren't too many casualties. A couple of seedlings of Beschorneria septrionalis had died, assumed cause over watering, but looking on the bright side I still have half a dozen left, and don't need more than one or two plants. They were sown last year, the seed coming from Derry Watkins' Special Plants Nursery.
My remaining 2015 sowings of Melianthus major were leggy but still alive. It is not the easiest plant to keep happy in a pot, seeming susceptible to both over and under watering, and I'd already thrown out a couple of small plants. I have four or five left, which is enough for my purposes, especially since I rather recall taking cuttings successfully in the past. I gave the seed raised plants a good watering and moved them up into slightly bigger pots, now it is spring and they seem minded to grow.
There was room in the heated propagator as more than half its occupants from my February seed sowings have germinated by now, and been taken off the heat. I am leaving the porcupine tomatoes to cook a little longer, as they might find the inside of the heated propagating case a more realistic approximation of Madagascar while they're so small. But there was space for pots of Cosmos. I have sowed more 'Sensation Mixed Colours' as they did so well last year, and I keep getting free packets of seed with garden magazines, and some of last year's open packet of the white variety 'Purity', and a yellow flowered mixture I haven't grown before called Cosmos sulphureus 'Bright Lights'. It is another from Derry Watkins' stable, and I trust her eye for a good plant implicitly.
I pricked out a pot of Malva moschata, which yielded two trays of seedlings, and sowed two lots of sunflowers into seven centimetre pots, and that was as many trays as there was room for on the bench, which is a nuisance as there is another pot of Malva equally ready to be pricked out. I hope I am growing the right species when it comes to the Malva. I have spotted a pink mallow with divided leaves growing happily in long grass at East Ruston and in the Bishop's garden at Norwich, and leafing through my wild flower books thought it was probably M. moschata. I wanted to repeat the effect at home to jazz up our grass after the spring bulbs are over, and thought I should be in with a sporting chance copying ideas from other gardens on light soil in the low rainfall of East Anglia. But perhaps I have the wrong plant, or there may be some key difference between their gardens and ours which I have not spotted. I've got pots of Centaurea nigra and Knautia arvensis on the go as well as part of the same project. It is my second attempt at raising C. nigra from seed, my first sowing having yielded precisely one plant. Which is doing very nicely in its pot and I must plant it out in the daffodil lawn.
Two Helleborus foetidus have made handsome specimens in nine centimetre pots, despite spending the winter lurking in among a lot of geranium cuttings and getting very dry a couple of times. There was a third, but it rotted and died at a tender age. They look exactly like normal stinking hellebores, but are supposed to be the named variety 'Miss Jekyll's scented' and to produce an overpowering fragrance from the pendulous purple lipped flowers. That is what the seed catalogue says, but they have not flowered yet. Normally the flowers don't smell strongly of anything, and the stinking part of the name refers to the foliage if you bruise it. The ordinary H. foetidus in the back garden have been bothered by some kind of black death in the past couple of years, so I need to consider where to put my two fragrant beauties.
The tiny corms of Gladiolus flanaganii are already sending up little threads of leaves. I was quite excited to see that.