Saturday, 10 December 2011

Seedlings


seedlings, originally uploaded by peganum.
Some pots of seedlings to whet the appetite for next year, or the year after that, depending. Seed raising is one of the most satisfying parts of running the nursery. I love it.
I tend to sow most fully hardy species as soon as the seed is shed, both in case they need some summer ripening/winter chill regime to break dormancy and also to get them in as fresh as possible. A lot of my species are a bit obscure to say the least, so information on germination can be hard to come by, so I just get them in as soon as they're ready - as of course happens in nature. Unfortunately this doesn't always work.
I've had to invest in a treatment for Pythium (damping off) for the first time this year, possibly because of the mild damp autumn. Some Penstemon and Asclepias suffered particularly badly when they germinated in October. I think in previous years I've sown these summer rainfall species in mid-winter (when the seed merchant delivered them) so in these cases a winter/spring sowing might be best.
The treatment, by the way, is called Prestop and is itself a fungus (it comes as a yeast-like powder) that colonises the compost, out-competing the Pythium. Seedlings are still emerging and don't appear to be failing now, so fingers crossed. Anyway we'll see how it goes. It's nice not to be using poisons anyway.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Over Wintering

Inside the tunnel
One might expect this to be the quiet season on a nursery but the mild weather (the mildest on record apparently) means that things are still growing and I've taken the executive decision of continuing to pot things on here and there. Autumn can be a time of prodigious root development in many species in a normal year so it's not as mad as it sounds. They've usually stopped by mid November though so this year is undoubtedly odd. I already have all sorts of seedlings up that I normally wouldn't expect to see until spring and I'll have to keep them cool and well-ventilated through the dark months if they're to survive.
Anything remotely tender of course should be left well alone now. It's important not to damage the roots in case they rot, or prune the tops too much in case they try to make new growth. The damp mild weather produces a lot of moulds and aphids so it's touch and go.
Plants from Mediterranean climates (Chile, California, western South Africa) are the exception. It's worth knowing which ones these are because Autumn to Spring (being mild and damp) is their main growing season in the wild so it's a good time to think about potting them on, or even pricking out seedlings. I have some pots of Chilean Lobelia excelsa and polyphylla seedlings which look very eager to get on with life. I'm not sure they'll look so happy if I wait until March but moving them now might be worse. It's a learning curve, as they say.

The other thing of course is getting the nursery itself set up to receive customers in the Spring. At the moment, apart from the polytunnel and the shed, it's something of a blank slate. At some point soon I'll be buying in a lot of timber to make display beds, and there'll be a shade house and an area with a pond liner for wetland plants. At the moment it's just a basketball pitch sized area covered in Mypex. I'm hoping for some inspiration for the design - something eye-catching but practical.
For now though I'm working on the shed, for which I've been making window frames - something the like of which I've never attempted before. Getting the corners square and strong has been something of a challenge, given that the shed itself isn't exactly square, but they do actually have glass in them now. I'm not planning on becoming a carpenter any time soon but it's been very satisfying.
Next I need to get some gates for the entrance, and a properly installed electricity supply (not just an extension lead strung across). Insurance too - that's a big one.

This is also the time of year for checking out the new catalogues. I shan't reveal my sources of course but going through the lists of the various seed merchants is always exciting and I always end up with longer wish-lists than I can possibly pay for or find space for (assuming they come up). Each year I buy in a few stock plants of things that are particularly uncommon from other UK nurseries but this is my first year importing plants from abroad, in this case from Japan. It's not cheap, what with all the official hoops they have to jump through (quite rightly) getting the certification, and a bit of a gamble, but if seed is not available it's the only way to get hold of some particularly special things. I shan't say any more for now but I must say I'm very excited about the package that should arrive in the post sometime in the next week or two.

I've been putting together my listing for the new Plantfinder. I've just checked and am very pleased to discover that I have no less than 186 new items to add to the existing 102, all but eleven available at less than twenty other nurseries (often a lot less) and nineteen previously unlisted in the Plantfinder. Many of these are still in 3in pots so I'd better stop faffing about and get on, hadn't I.


Monday, 17 October 2011

Alstroemeria brasiliensis

Alstroemeria brasiliensis
Very different from the more familiar garden hybrids but just as adaptable. This species forms a slowly spreading colony of stems up to 2ft tall and flowers sporadically through the summer. Excellent as a part of the ground cover under deciduous 'hardy exotic' trees and shrubs, or growing amongst things like Hedychium and Zantedeschia, to complete the subtropical scene. The colony from which these roots were taken have come through the last few winters unscathed in mid Sussex but might benefit from mulching in colder areas.
I was under the impression for a long time that this was a form of A.psittacina but the flowers here are of a more ruby red with less green.
3L pots ~ £7






Iris lazica

Iris lazica

A terrific alternative to the more familiar I.unguicularis - more adaptable and with better foliage, but somewhat later to flower (although I've seen flowers as early as November) It also does better in part shade and on moister soils and is therefore easier in British gardens.
p.s. I just had a look and there's already a flower coming through on the plant in our front garden - in mid October.
2L pots ~ £7












Friday, 30 September 2011

Rostrinucula dependens


Rostrinucula dependens
There's one to get your lallaker round, as my grandpa used to say (ie it's a tongue twister, for those of you that don't speak Olde Sussex). 
This is definitely turning out to be one of my favourite plants.

The arching habit, elegant 6in blackish sea green foliage and pale bloomy stems and leaf undersides have been a feature all summer. Exquisitely sculpted 3-4 inch pearly white 'catkins' sprout mauve/pink filaments in Autumn. 
Rostrinucula dependensThe whole thing has a most unusual pale/dark effect - restrained but very classy and unlike anything else. I cannot speak too highly of this plant.

To 4ft tall, and not shrubby, despite appearances, so don't worry when it disappears in winter.

Easy in any sunny well-drained site. 
(My sources tell me this is more likely to be R.sinensis. R.dependens has broader leaves, not so white beneath.)
3L pots ~ £9




Sunday, 25 September 2011

Ranunculus sp. Cazorla

Ranunculus sp. Cazorla
A miniature species from Southern Spain (possibly R.nigrescens) with glossy dark green palmate leaves - tinted black when young, red stems, and substantial fresh yellow flowers. It has tuberous Ficaria-type roots but without any invasive tendencies.
Ranunculus sp Cazorla
It appears in spring, flowers, and disappears again, and is therefore ideal for combining with other small Mediterranean bulbous and tuberous plants. An extremely neat and satisfying little buttercup for troughs and raised beds.
10cm pots ~ £6



Lonicera hispidula

Lonicera hispidula
The Californian Pink Honeysuckle - ideal for drier, sunnier or shady conditions, where a lot of the more familiar types tend to get mildew. The pink flowers are produced sporadically through the summer and into autumn. The foliage is rounded and somewhat fuzzy and, in the population from which these seeds were collected (thanks Dennis), marked with irregular maroon-black blotches, especially when young.
Desmodium elegans album and Lonicera hispidula

Some individuals have completely blackened foliage which I find rather striking, but I understand that not everyone will agree. Please let me know if you'd prefer a specimen with more or less black leaves.
3L pots ~ £12




Sunday, 11 September 2011

Geranium malviflorum

Geranium malviflorum
A less common but much better relative of the familiar G.tuberosum - this has much larger flowers of a rich violet mauve. Like G.tuberosum it comes up in winter, flowers in mid spring and disappears again in summer - ideal ground-cover for summer-growing herbaceous plants and deciduous shrubs.
Drought tolerant but good even on retentive heavy soils.  
2L pots ~ £6






Fuchsia procumbens

Fuchsia procumbens
A fascinating little species from New Zealand (almost all other Fuchsia are Latin-American) with a creeping habit and bizarre little green and yellow flowers with violet anthers, peeking up from among the rounded leaves.
Fuchsia procumbens fruit
In a good year you’ll also get edible cranberry-like fruits.
Normally considered very borderline in cold-tolerance, the parents of these plants have come through the last few winters in mid Sussex without trouble. Best in rather dry shade in my experience.
sold out - more next summer

Fuchsia procumbens - reverted Wirral probably
Also available - a grey leaved form - almost certainly a reverted version of the variegated form (apparently correctly known as Wirral - which bodes well for its hardiness.) Exactly the same in all respects as the above but the foliage makes an interesting change
sold out - more next summer

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Anemone rivularis and leveilei


Two very similar species with blue tinted white flowers on tall stems. The main difference seems to be that leveilei (on the left, below) is an altogether more substantial plant
Anemone leveilei (left) and rivularis

Anemone leveilei
Anemone leveilei
Purple blue tinted white flowers with dark anthers are produced on long arching pedicels in an umbel on a stout leafy plant up to 2ft tall. For moist alpine or woodsy conditions. 
3L pots ~ £8




Anemone rivularis
Anemone rivularis
White flowers tinted steely blue on the reverse and with similar coloured anthers on slender wiry branching stems. This species is adaptable but is particularly useful in wet sites.
2L pots ~ £7





Tuesday, 6 September 2011

New for autumn 2011

Elscholzia stauntonii
Elscholtzia stauntonii
Nothing to do with the Californian Poppy (that's Eschscholzia) - this is a smallish shrubby plant related to Agastache, notable for its autumn flowering - the mauve flower spikes contrasting well with the foliage which may turn maroon at that time of year. Aromatic and very easy-going given a sunny spot. 5L pots ~ £10




Dracocephalum grandiflorum  
Dracocephalum grandiflorum
A compact leafy herbaceous perennial producing a mound of rounded green leaves with rich purple ‘Dragon Heads’ on short reddish stems above. For a well drained (but not too dry), sunny (but not too hot) site, if that makes any sense. Basically a large alpine. 
sold out


Cymbalaria hepaticifolia
Cymbalaria hepaticifolia
Forget the common Ivy-leaf Toadflax that festoons shady walls in many parts of the country (pretty though that is) this is a much nicer species with delicate mauve white flowers and fleshy silver marked leaves and spreading without being invasive. Excellent in dry shade but best to avoid big vigorous neighbours. Good cover for hardy Cyclamen. 
3in pots ~ £5




Saturday, 30 July 2011

Clematis fusca

Clematis fusca
A really peculiar species with nodding urn-shaped flowers that look like they're made out of dark brown felt and with a silky white lining. Very odd.
This is a small scrambling herbaceous species growing to about 6ft so plant it among the shrubs near the path where you can get a proper look at it.
Clematis ianthina
Also comes in purple - known as ianthina. Best chosen on the nursery
2L pots  ~ £12.00




Monday, 11 July 2011

Sophora flavescens

Sophora flavescens
Now for something completely different...
A herbaceous species from China with pale yellow, somewhat monk's-hood like flowers on tall slender stems over elegant pinnate foliage. A cool airy alternative to Baptisia and Thermopsis. 
Sophora flavescens
Hardy and easy in ordinary garden soils and not in the least bit troublesome.
1L pots ~ £9





Salvia chamaedryoides


Salvia chamaedryoides
An absolutely gorgeous little Salvia from Texas or thereabouts, sprouting spikes of intense indigo violet over low ash-white bushes.
Salvia chamaedryoides
It will, like so many species from this area, need the driest sunniest site you've got but is quite cold tolerant and if it likes you it can eventually make quite a sizeable patch.
1L pots ~ £6.00




Monday, 13 June 2011

Conoclinium (Eupatorium) coelestinum

Conoclinium coelestinum
Essentially a hardy perennial Ageratum with fuzzy powder blue flowers in late summer and autumn.
Conoclinium coelestinum
Best grown in a moist (or even wet) rich soil in full sun. Needs a long warm season to flower well but worth it for the very late display. To 18ins. Spreading but not invasive.
2L pots ~ £8



Saturday, 14 May 2011

Felicias

Felicia rosulata
Felicia rosulata 
As a normally very sensible friend recently commented on Flickr - these are indeed 'adorable'.
Previously known as Aster natalensis, these have proved easy to please in a sunny well drained spot, and although said to benefit from a dryish winter (coming from East Africa, this is to be expected) they have so far been better if not too parched. Completely unfazed by the last few winters' onslaught.
An easy alpine and should be better known.
1L pots ~ £6




Felicia uliginosa
Felicia uliginosa
Very different - this is a creeping species with needle-like foliage and soft lavender daisy flowers. Just as hardy and easy to grow. Uliginosa means 'of wetland' or something like that, so probably best not too dry.
1L pots ~ £6




Asclepias exaltata


Asclepias is another group of plants I have a major thing for. None except A.incarnata and perhaps the more tender A.tuberosa and curassavica are at all well known in the UK but all have a certain something about them. Certainly they don't look like anything else in the garden.
A.exaltata is to my mind one of the best new things I've come across, and I have no idea why I so rarely sell any
Asclepias exaltata
Although the flowers are not vividly showy they are exquisitely crafted in jade and ivory and dangle elegantly on long filaments from the tips of the 2ft stems.
Asclepias exaltata
Very much a part of the prairie/woodland edge communities in the eastern US - these are completely frost hardy and easy to please on any fertile retentive soil in sun or part shade.
3L pots ~ £9




Sunday, 1 May 2011

Gentiana paradoxa

Gentiana paradoxa
A fabulous and rarely seen late summer and autumn flowering species. The elegant clear blue flowers appear at the tips of a cluster of upright 6 inch stems in August and September. The narrow leaves typically turn yellowish toward the end of the season making a very pleasing combination. 
Gentiana paradoxa
This is not one of the Asiatic autumn flowering gentians. This one comes from the Caucasus and does not require acid soil. In fact, despite warnings to the contrary, I have found this an easy going species for rock gardens and raised beds.
10cm pots ~ £8