Wednesday, 31 January 2018

outdoor and indoor gardening

In the garden the Iris unguicularis along the south wall of the house are having another flush of flowers.  I like this winter flowering iris, which appears to ask for nothing except to be put in a sunny, well drained spot, and to be left alone.  There are named varieties with darker, paler, larger or otherwise supposedly superior flowers, but the straight species is perfectly nice.  The flowers have a sort of wild grace, and there are enough of them over a longish period to make the exercise worthwhile.  Although it doesn't seem to affect flowering one jot, the effect will be smarter if at some point before it starts you take the time to trim out the old, dead leaves.  Also snails tend to live among the foliage, and take the odd chunk out of the petals.  And over many years the clumps form thick, knobbly, almost woody bases and I am starting to wonder if there is any risk ours could have risen above the damp course.  Apart from that it is no trouble once it is growing, although it is not the easiest thing to establish.

In the gravel of the turning circle the first, dark purple, dwarf iris is full out.  I wish I knew exactly which variety it was, but over the years I have planted out a lot of pots of several sorts of iris.  I have never attempted to label them, to avoid the hamsters' graveyard aesthetic and because the labels would only get kicked over anyway.  It is not 'Cantab' because that is light blue.  It could be 'George', or 'JS Dijt' which Sarah Raven says is very similar, since I have planted both in the turning circle, although I haven't planted any 'JS Dijt' since 2005.  I've planted 'Harmony' several times but that looks as though it is blue rather than dark purple on the bulb merchants' websites.  It is definitely not the strange, smoky, mixed coloured 'Katharine Hodgkin' or 'Sheila Ann Germaney'.  Perhaps it is just straight Iris reticulata which I've also tried in the gravel a couple of times.  Dwarf iris generally last more than one year in the ground, given sun and good drainage, but not necessarily for twenty years, which is when I first started planting dwarf bulbs in the turning circle.

Indoors I prised the lid off the old ice cream box of damp vermiculite in the airing cupboard to see if my seeds of yellow flowering Clivia miniata from Derry Watkins were doing anything.  All three were just starting to push out their first fat shoot.  I put the lid back on the box and left them to it.  Fortunately I had a practice run at germinating Clivia using seeds harvested from my existing orange flowered Plant Heritage stall plant, and based on previous experience I think the shoots want to be a bit longer and better developed before I ask them to make the transfer from their bed of vermiculite granules to a pot of compost.  Then I have special dispensation from the Systems Administrator to keep them on the kitchen window sill, since I can't evict them to the greenhouse in this weather.  The window sill is not supposed to be an overflow greenhouse, but there are exceptions.  There was nowhere else to put the amaryllis, which is now busy sending out enormous and slightly floppy leaves.

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