Flashes in the Pan

Actually, these photographs of the alpine pan* were taken in daylight, no flash required. But there are flashes of colour, flashes of brilliance even. It’s a poor punny title but the best I could come up with.

First, here is the pan a few days after I uncovered it. (It spent the winter outdoors under a pile of leaves, under a rose bush, under a thick blanket of snow.) Many of the plants (primulas, lewisia, saxifraga) have evergreen leaves, so the pan emerged in April looking more alive than when it was put to bed in October. The tips of crocus leaves are visible around the drawer handle** (bottom left, 7 0’clock); and below the terracotta chips (around 2 o’clock), the leaves of a Puschkinia scilloides are just nosing above the surface. Click on the photos to enlarge.

*Previously on the blog, I have called it an alpine trough. I now know this broad, shallow container is properly called a pan.

**When I find a bit of junk in the garden, a key or a plastic toy soldier, I drop it into the nearest pot. In photographs, the small marbles can give an idea of scale.

alpine pan after winter

alpine pan after winter

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A few days later….     I have juiced the colour, but the pale blue crocuses (bottom left) and blue-striped squill (3 o’clock) still look washed out. One crocus bulb has grown into a colony of 20-some flowers in three years and needs dividing. The Saxifraga paniculata (9 o’clock) is also spreading happily. The many small grey-green seedlings (in among the crocus flowers, above the saxifraga, and filling the top left corner) sprouted last year from seeds thrown by the Primula mistassinica at high noon.

pat ft crocus and puschkinia

Early spring bulbs flowering in the alpine pan.

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This Puschkinia scilloides (striped squill) doesn’t fit in the pan. The long leaves and full flower stalks tend to fall over. It should be replanted in a bed where it will be less vigorous.

puschkinia scilloides

Puschkinia scilloides

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Now the centrepiece, Primula marginata ‘Herb Dickson,’ is coming into flower, as is the little primula in the top right corner. The crocuses are finished and the P mistassinica seedlings are taking over that spot. The Lewisia pygmaea is poking through the mistassinica seedlings top left. The Lewisia cotyledon (6 o’clock) is putting out new leaves, and buds will soon follow.

alpine pan early spring

alpine pan early spring

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I have cut pieces off this Primula marginata and planted them out in the alpine garden. I’ll have to take more cuttings before it outgrows the pan. In the front corner is an auricula hybrid, P x ‘Chehalis Blue,’ holding up a stem of buds. (Right next to it is a year-old self-seeded Lewisia cotyledon.)

Primula marginata 'Herb Dickson'

Primula marginata ‘Herb Dickson’

It doesn't get better than this.

It doesn’t get better than this.

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I found a couple of named primulas that resemble this very small, very pale yellow one that I bought at a farmers’ market from a man who dug it out of his yard and claimed it was a yellow auricula faded by the sun. Could it be Primula ‘Cream Viscosa’ or Primula ‘Bewerley White’? (Or should that be ‘Beverly White’?) Both are P x pubescens, which means a hybrid of P auricula and P hirsuta.

Small near-white primula

Small near-white hybrid primula

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Among the crocus leaves, self-seeded Primula mistassinica now flowers.

Primula mistassinica and crocus leaves

Primula mistassinica and crocus leaves

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Primula x ‘Chehalis Blue,’ an auricula hybrid, in a corner of the pan.

Primula x 'Chehalis Blue,' an auricula hybrid, in a corner of the alpine pan

Primula x ‘Chehalis Blue’

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These last three photos bring us up to the present day. Loaded stems of Saxifraga paniculata (P mistassinica in the foreground, Lewisia pygmaea behind).

Saxifraga paniculata soon to flower

Saxifraga paniculata soon to flower

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Lewisia pygmaea (spiky succulent leaves, pink flower buds) surrounded by P mistassinica seedlings (still not weeded out).

Lewisia pygmaea's pink flower buds

Lewisia pygmaea’s pink flower buds

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Trusses of red buds on Lewisia cotyledon. Last summer, I dug this plant out and cut off the offsets, to try rooting them and starting new plants (only one took hold, but it’s worth trying again). The old plant, showing renewed vigour, has already grown several more offsets, underneath and between last year’s red-edged leaves.

Trusses of red flower buds on Lewisia cotyledon

Trusses of red flower buds on Lewisia cotyledon

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One Response to Flashes in the Pan

  1. Pingback: Looking Back in Anticipation | The Plants I Grow

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