Too busy gardening

What kind of gardening blog has no new posts during all of May and June? Only the worst kind.

I will get caught up…. For now, here are the (lone) Meconopsis and a few of the Primula alpicola blooming in the garden today.

DSCN0006 DSCN0001 DSCN0016 DSCN9998 DSCN0009

Seeds, please?

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Primulas, Early April, 2015

Pictures from the first half of the month. It’s an early spring. No Primulas in bloom — but any day now. (These three basement plants don’t count.)

I am marking the farinose-leaved border auriculas for crossing. By the time the plants are in flower and can be hand-pollinated, much of the farina will have been washed away.

The farina on this Primula marginata is yellow, I discovered, when a bit rubbed off on my hand, pulling off last year’s dead leaves. I have an auricula with yellow farina. If it flowers in time, I will try crossing it with this one.

Last fall, I dug up and divided a Primula villosa that was getting leggy. The pieces are in four pots. After spending winter in the cold flame, they will flower earlier than had the plant been left in the alpine garden. The white buds will turn a light purple over the next couple of days. Click to enlarge and see the furry leaf margins. (Go on.)

So far, the race to be first among the auriculas in bloom is between these two. The buds were apparent when the snow melted in March. One bud on the auricula x marginata (toothed leaves) was starting to open, but the weather cooled down and the turtle-head bud closed up tight. These are two of many seedlings I’m hoping to see flowering for the first time this spring.

Some of the edged blue acaulis seedlings spent the winter in the cold frame. I wasn’t sure they would be hardy, but didn’t want them all indoors. They came through this relatively short and mild winter just fine. We’ll see how they cope out in the open garden next winter. The early buds are light blue, the colour deepening as they grow. When they open, they will likely be as dark as the ones at the top of the post.

Primula elatior. Its third year in the garden, it is now a good size and will be spectacular in bloom. Elatiors rise very quickly out of the ground. One day, you’re poking around looking for signs of life, and the next time you look, there’s a whole plant.

My first auricula is over 15 years old now, a slow grower. This year, for the first time, it has three rosettes and, likely, will produce three trusses of its clear yellow and deliciously scented flowers.

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Snowdrop Census, 2015


Galanthus elwesii

As is tradition here, we start the season by looking at the size of the Snowdrop population. After a relatively mild and short winter, there are nine flowers this spring. The colony, now five years old, continues to increase slowly.


Nearby, the Bulbocodium/Colchicum are also a little bigger than in their last appearance. This is the year they will be dug and divided.


Like the Snowdrops, Crocuses were planted in large numbers, and the few hardy survivors are growing into small bunches.


Crocuses in the alpine pan have an easier life and multiply quickly. It’s nice to have a pan full of flowers in early spring, but once the flowers are gone, views of the pan’s proper occupants will be obstructed by crocus foliage for several weeks. At the end of the season, the pan will be replanted and the crocuses moved to a container of their own.

Leaves of Cyclamen hederifolium front left and buds of Primula rusbyi behind right.


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Devonian Botanic Garden, 30th May 2014

A bit later than usual, here are pictures from the previous year’s walk around the gardens. First the Primulas — in the Primula Dell, the Patrick Seymour Alpine Garden, and a few other places. And then pictures of other, arguably less impressive, plants. This year, having brought a second battery for the camera, I was also able to take pictures in the strangely Primula-free Kurimoto Japanese Garden. These will come at the end.


Primula polyneura buds

“polyneura” = many nerves or fibres or, in this case, many hairs

Click the picture to enlarge and marvel at the lush, long hairs on this Primula polyneura, growing in the tufa bed in front of the gift shop, before you enter the garden. It is labelled Primula gerariifolia, a misspelling of geraniifolia. P geraniifolia is a close relative of P polyneura.

The question¬† every year is whether we will find signs of progress in the long-promised “programme … to increase the number of species of Primula in the Dell,” or whether the beds will still be full of old signs for long-vanished plants, signs that sometimes appear to identify other, “volunteer” plants,¬† often self-sown garden hybrids of Primula veris and Primula elatior.

This established clump might be what, Silene viscaria?


a nice little colony of self-sown Dodecatheon

self-sown Primula veris or garden hybrid

Maybe next year (this year).


P allionii hybrid Peardrop

Primula allionii ‘Peardrop’

A couple of spectacularly successful hybrid Primula allionii, ‘Peardrop,’ and ‘Lismore Jewel.’ It will have taken many years for them to reach this size.

P allionii hybrid Lismore Jewel

Primula allionii ‘Lismore Jewel’


DSCN0173A poorly photographed polyanthus primrose. I spent most of the day using a camera set for an indoor Streptocarpus shoot.


Primula auricula. Another nice plant poorly photographed.¬† (Won’t make that mistake again.)


A Primula sieboldii cultivar slowly increases its territory.


DSCN0195A named hybrid auricula cultivar.


P chionantha ssp sinopurpurea beginning to open its flowers

Primula chionantha ssp sinopurpurea. I take pictures of this plant every year. In fact, if you have looked at my previous tours of the DBG, very few of these plants will be new.


Pulsatilla It’s not all Primulas in the Primula Dell. This is Pulsatilla tongkangensis (the sign says). Not a great picture, but I wanted to record the name so that I could look for seed.


Primula wulfeniana awaits the weeders. Finished flowers can be seen around the edges. Hope to see this tidied up and blooming next year


auricula 'Arundel Stripe'Auricula ‘Arundel Stripe,’ another plant that has appeared here before. This is a very hardy and vigorous auricula, a good one for the garden.


This picture is from 2011 but got missed when I posted that set. Putting it up now as a reminder to look for this plant next visit. It appears to be a small hybrid auricula. Maybe it has a name to go with that great cherry colour.


self-sown Primula veris or garden hybrid

Primula veris or garden hybrid

Before we leave the Dell, one more self-sown cowslip


P mattholi aka Cortusa matthioli

Primula matthioli (Cortusa)

Outside the Primula Dell, in the Sensory Garden, furry-leafed Primula matthioli.


Primula cortusoides

Along the walkway between the alpine troughs and the crafters’ workshop, Primula cortusoides, a plant found naturalized in a few places around the DBG.


These next few pictures are from the Alpine Garden.

double auricula Emily P

double auricula ‘Emily P’

Double auricula Emily P is another long-established plant here and has reached an impressive size.

double auricula Emily P


Primula auricula ssp bauhinii in full sun, massive and many years old.


Another sprawling old specimen. No sign to tell us what it might be. Perhaps a white form of Primula marginata.

P marginata flowers a little earlier than P auricula. Here is another marginata, in a less advantageous spot than the white one, and less vigorous. The little offsets would do well moved to the tufa garden or the alpine troughs.


Primula glaucescensWe were too late to see flowers on this Primula glaucescens but it is a nice-looking plant nonetheless. I have a little two-year-old seedling of P glaucescens that may produce its first flowers this spring.


Primula latifolia, failing to attract my camera’s attention away from the gravel.


P allionii hybrd Pink IceAnd another named Primula allionii hybrid, ‘Pink Ice.’


Other Alpines

to come

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Basement Dwellers

I brought some Primulas, and a few other plants, indoors in early November. Some were in bloom or in bud; some didn’t look winter-hardy; some could have stayed out had I got around to planting them in time. Now they sit under lights in a cold room in the basement. They grow tall and skinny under artificial light. In the spring, after they are moved outdoors, their soft, old, indoor leaves, stressed by sunlight, even indirect sunlight, may not last long.


yellow auricula

This auricula is from seed out of my first auricula, which has smaller flowers of a brighter yellow. You really appreciate the fragrance of an auricula growing indoors.


hybrid Primula out of P villosa

hybrid Primula out of P villosa

This plant is from seed out of a Primula villosa, crossed with a neighbouring Primula in the alpine garden — maybe an auricula or a Primula hirsuta. The colour is better than it appears, a slightly bluer pink, solid, not at all washed out. It looks like it will make a good garden plant.


seed pods on Primula acaulis (hybrid)

edged blue Primula acaulis (hybrid)

These blue acaulis primroses came indoors in November. They were still flowering; besides, they don’t look zone-3 hardy. I’ll divide them in the summer and plant some in the garden to see how they hold up.

One of the edged blue Primula acaulis (hybrid) set seed. The pods are ripening in the basement. I had seven or eight of these plants and hand-pollinated all of them, but just one took. (I don’t know which, except that it was a pin — you can see the long style and pin-head stigma still attached to the pods: click on the picture to enlarge it.) I’ll sow a few of the seeds once they are ripe — soon, I think; the pods have started to shrink, no longer as plump as in the picture. The parent plants flowered from seed in 6-7 months. If these fresh seeds can be started in February, there could be flowers again in August and September and maybe enough plants to risk a few outdoors over winter.


orange coronation cowslip

This is one of the large-flowered Primula veris hybrids, in yellows, oranges, and reds, known as Coronation Cowslips. I brought this plant in because it didn’t have a label, it was flowering size (a two-year old seedling), and I thought if it could be brought to flower indoors, I would see what it was. It has flowered twice and more buds are coming.


seed pods on Cyclamen hederifolium

Also overwintering indoors, a pan of Cyclamen hederifolium. Outdoors in a milder climate, or in the wild, summer would be the plant’s dry resting season, when it does not put up new growth but ripens its seed pods. I don’t know whether these pods will ripen over the winter in a cold room or whether they will wait for summer heat.


Streptocarpus flower and green seed pod

While there are a few dozen Streptocarpus seedlings in the basement, these two plants were on display in an upstairs window. I brought them down to take their pictures under the lights. The blue has good colour that the camera can’t reproduce accurately — the throat should be white, the petals a strong, solid blue with darker blue netting). The pink has remarkably tenacious flowers. The seed pod is full-length and the petals, which normally would have fallen off weeks ago, have not given up trying to attract that special insect.


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