I spent the day getting the pots of tender summer flowering stuff out of the greenhouse, and starting to pot on things that need it. The weather forecast out to Saturday 27 May doesn't show any night with temperatures even in single figures, and I think the risk of frost is over for this spring. The welter, the absolute chaos of pots, is incredible. I hope I am at peak mess, and that by tomorrow evening I'll have started to restore some sort of order, though frankly, I don't understand how so many pots fitted in the greenhouse in the first place.
Last year's dahlias, those that survived the winter, are arrayed in three sections. Some are to go outside the conservatory, arranged in the order I want them to end up, pale yellow and dusky pink at one end, deep purple at the other. One bright purple cactus variety, new last year, has not come back to life, its tuber sitting apparently solid but entirely inactive in the compost. As a compensation, the mini plants I bought this year from Halls of Heddon have all made sturdy plants which are now filling their nine centimetre pots with fat roots. I am potting them into two litre pots, and will grow them on in the greenhouse for a while longer before moving them into terracotta pots for display. And I will keep the terracotta a size smaller than the ones they are destined to end up in. I think I over watered some of the newer dahlias last year and their roots rotted.
The second cache of dahlia pots is destined for the shell pink and mid purple scheme outside the garage, and there are a couple of big, blowsy ones in a soft orange to go in the orange corner on the patio (or terrace), along with some other tender, orange flowered plants that have made it through the winter. I've had Lobelia salicifolia for years, and am glad it's still going as I haven't seen it for sale recently. It produces tall, thin stems with narrow, willow-like leaves and tubular orange flowers, and runs gently at the root, and I have moved it into a larger pot to give it more scope. I did experiment planting some out in the garden the last time I split it, but I haven't noticed any signs of life from them so it's just as well I still have the potful.
Sitting on the low retaining terrace wall I have put my Lotus berthelotii, bought as summer bedding a couple of years ago and experimentally nursed through the following winters, kept frost free and on the dry side. It produces long, lax,branching stems clad in very fine grey leaves, which have a distressing propensity to drop if it is allowed to get too dry, and I think that of the three little plants in the original bedding scheme only one now survives. Again, I am glad that it does as the garden centre where I bought it didn't have any this year when I called in to buy something else. The flowers are claw shaped and a dark, fierce shade of orange, and I am very fond of them.
Salvia confertiflora has been shuffled round the corner from the conservatory to the corner of the terrace, as I thought it might like a real baking and I'm making a thing of orange this season. It makes a big plant, and mine is not so bushy and splendid as the ones I saw first at Kiftsgate and then noticed once I had got my eye in at East Ruston Old Vicarage. I have promised to feed it more, but wondered if it would like a change of aspect. The flowers are tubular, individually smallish, carried on tall spikes, in a nice bricky shade of orange. I got my plant at Kiftsgate Court when we visited on holiday, and it spent the rest of the week by the kitchen window of our rented flat, horrifying me each time it wilted as I got the hang of the watering regime. It is quite thirsty when in growth, with its big felty leaves. In winter I keep it pretty dry, terrified of it rotting.
I fell for the charms of Dicliptera suberecta when we visited Spetchley Park in Worcestershire. It is a grey leaved, woolly sub shrub that sends up vertical flowering stems with whorls of soft orange flowers. I wanted one very much, but it is not the easiest thing to track down, and eventually I discovered that a nursery in Lincolnshire that I was buying some verbascums and other bits and pieces from stocked it. It is slowly clumping up at the root and was filling its pot, so I have given it a larger one. Again, I keep it quite dry in winter.
A trio of seed raised silver leaved Gazania left over from last year will complete the orange corner. For several years I raised a whole divided tray's worth of plants and put them out in the gravel, but they struggled in the drought and the sand, and I have gradually realised that they do well in pots, and make it through the winter in the greenhouse quite reliably. Pot culture is the way ahead, I think. I would have liked some Arctotis 'Flame' since seeing them in the gardens near the house at the Hillier Arboretum, but I have not managed to find anywhere that would let me buy a sensible number of just that variety. Instead they came bundled up with other colours so that I'd have ended up buying nine or fifteen plants, six or ten or which I didn't greatly want. I have read that Arctotis come readily from cuttings, so if I could just lay my hands on one plant that would get me started. I certainly don't want to buy fifteen. They are easy from seed, only I did like the colour of 'Flame' and none of the ones I've grown from mixed seed have been quite as good.