Desert flowers

25 Jul

Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a heatwave, and very nice it is too. To celebrate, here are some pictures of cacti and succulents blooming in the covered, raised bed.
Opuntia macrorhiza:

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Aloe striatula:

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And this, which I have decided is Aloe mitriformis, though I might be wrong there:

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Gloriosa superba

25 Jun

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Here’s my newest new thing. It was bought as a tuber from the London Spring Plant Fair. Never having seen one in real life, i’m well pleased to have my own example living it up in the greenhouse. Despite the bloom looking like a lily, it isn’t. It’s a climber native to the tropics and is a noxious weed in some warm countries, which in my experience makes it an ideal summer annual in this country. I’ve lusted after those showy blooms for a few years now, with their reflexed petals with wavy margins. I like a wavy margin, me. Cultivation has been simple, I just laid the long, brittle and intensely poisonous tuber in a large pot in the conservatory and moved it into the greenhouse shortly after the new growth broke the surface of the compost. This is another appeal: besides being glorious and superb (whoever named it was seriously impressed, obviously) it is lethally toxic, containing copious amounts of something called colchicine, which apparently causes one’s hair to fall out and various parts of the body to break down in ways too disgusting to detail, followed by rapidly ascending paralysis of the nervous system, and death. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t chosen to grow it just because it is deadly. I don’t have living arsenals of colchicine, ricin, scopolamine and oleandrin just for the sake of it. Its toxicity would be by the by if it weren’t for its peerless, flaunting beauty. No, it’s the combination of beautiful and deadly that hooks me hopelessly in.

As for garden use, gloriosa superba doesn’t really have one, for me. The colours don’t fit in especially well with any scheme of mine, I haven’t a sunny spot by a door to use to show it off, and in any case I wouldn’t want it where my children can easily access it. It’s here only as a greenhouse specimen.

Oh, the never-ending pleasure of tending living things which have no right, according either to good taste, safety or the simple facts of our cold climate, to be alive here in northern England.

Mid June

22 Jun

*sigh* i’ll lay my hands on a better camera soon, meanwhile there’s a fog on the lens.

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Ornithogalum saundersiae, an explosion in glowing blue-green.

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and the same in its situation, which is another of the new beds i’m creating where the lawn was. It’s planted with waifs and strays from the greenhouse, there’s no great plan to it. It’s been very dry here recently as you can tell. That’s ok, it suits most of the plants i’ve placed in this particular bed.

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This bamboo selection, Phyllostachys vivax ‘Aureocaulis’, is growing like mad in its third year with me, typical bamboo behaviour there. It doesn’t seem to be much of a spreader – so far.

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Two aloes coming into flower. To the best of my knowledge, aloes tend to flower in the cooler months in their warmer natural environments. I have no idea how they figure out what the hell to do in my climate. I’m pleased enough for them to be alive, let alone in flower.

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Opium poppy. These things are bordering on being weeds, the way they will set roots down anywhere. I wish the peony flowered strains I have grown in the past were such prolific self-seeders. They were spectacular.

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Here are a couple of bona fide annual weeds, Rosebay Willowherb (epilobium angustifolium) which goes crazy at the time of year, and Hairy Bittercress (cardamine hirsuta), a year round annoyance.

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Paulownia tomentosa

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Plenty of blooms on brugmansia ‘Maya’. I would bring it into the house for a couple of nights to see if I could live with the perfume without getting a headache, but there’s red spider mite in there and angels’ trumpets are martyrs for those critters.

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I’ve posted before about this combination but it’s worth doing so again. Glaucous, scarlet and black together. You can tell that they are drought tolerant. The cerinthe grows much more upright under the roof of the desert bed. There’s not much soil in that bed. They’re growing in a mix of at least three quarters gravel, a little sand and the rest is coarse, twiggy compost I brewed up myself and added in thin layers in amongst the rock.

New bed

31 May

Here are the latest results of my efforts. I’ve tried to make the colour scheme as unearthly as I can! I will cover over the paths with bark mulch at some point.

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The Garden in May

24 May

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Arisaema tortuosum

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Aloe striatula in bud!

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The Trochodendron aralioides hasn’t flowered before

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Camille Paglia

22 May

We say that nature is beautiful. But this aesthetic judgement, which not all peoples have shared, is . . . woefully inadequate for encompassing nature’s totality. What is pretty in nature is confined to the thin skin of the globe upon which we huddle. Scratch that skin, and nature’s daemonic ugliness will erupt. What the west represses in its view of nature is the chthonian, which means “of the earth” – but earth’s bowels, not its surface. The chthonian [is] the blind grinding of subterranean force, the long slow suck, the murk and ooze.
From Sexual Personae

It’s been ages since I last read this book, probably because I wanted to conceal where I got so many of my cues from; she uses a very broad canvas but doesn’t delve into any one thing very deeply. It’s quite a “pop” book in that way, a tome, but not a learned tome. But Ms. Paglia put me on to Mademoiselle de Maupin and it would be ungallant of me not to be grateful for such a big favour as that.

She’s done me another favour now, putting me on to Suddenly, Last Summer. I’ve yet to see the film, but there’s some great stuff in the script, where a dandy’s garden is described.

“The set may be as unrealistic as the decor of a dramatic ballet [. . .] The interior is blended with a fantastic garden which is more like a tropical jungle, or forest [. . .] The colours of this jungle-garden are violent, especially since it is steaming with heat after rain. There are massive tree-flowers that suggest organs of a body, torn out, still glistening with undried blood.”
Tennessee Williams

Ms. Paglia points out that this garden is a bubble of chthonian horror amidst the cast’s frenzied efforts to impose order, whereas in À Rebours (come on kids, this is the Decadent 101 we’re talking about here, keep up), Des Essientes’ collection of exotic plants is just one of his many attempts to impose order on the chthonian horror of, well, of everything outside his front door.

I also love how she writes that “Amorphophallus is, incredibly, a real flowering plant”. I know, right? Get gardening already! There aren’t enough of us!

Agaves

10 May

The agave haul has been pulled out of the greenhouse, it doesn’t look too bad overall.

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Arthur’s not best pleased though.

I have a variegated one from seed!

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Pinkish tones on these A. americana ‘variegata’, must be dry

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I like the alternate leaves on this fellow on the right. There something singular about the one on the left too.

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This is the most handsome of the bunch. He’s quite a size, for a nipper.

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So you see i’m alright for agaves at the moment. Although an A. bracteosa wouldn’t go amiss.

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