Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Spring is slowly happening. Hellebores been out for several weeks now, but so much later than normal. In this garden every seed which hits the ground grows, so unlike my last garden, even though the soil was so similar (slightly sticky red sandstone). So 2 years ago we dug up loads of seedlings and planted them out in nursery beds, thinking I might use them in a planting to raise the tone of some of the public borders I do in Bristol. But the city seem to have run out of dosh for public planting and have just beheaded the chief of parks, or something along those lines, so the good burghers of the city will have to do without my hellebores. Anyway I did not expect them to be as ‘good’ as the parents (Ashwood Nurseries) but to my surprise they were. No really good dark ones, but lots good reds and spotties and this picotee.

Interesting to see an obvious genetic linkage between vigour and flower. The picotee are slow, rather weak plants, the reds very vigorous. The most vigorous is a double, which I am pretty sure I got from Wendy Perry at Bosvigo. Probably sterile as no sign of seedlings.

Lots of Barnhaven polyanthus flowering. Such wonderful deep colours or unusual and sophisticated tones. The story is well-known – they were bred by a lady in British Columbia (Canada) in the 1930s, but seed is now available from a nursery in France. www.barnhavenprimroses.com

The seed is hand-pollinated and jolly expensive, but they all seem to grow. The contrast with the offerings from the garden centres and the big money breeding programmes is total. Modern polyanthus seem to get more hideous by the year, as flowers progressively more enormous and colours cruder. I should imagine the breeders are investing in the latest everything-but-GM breeding technologies. The results are truly hideous. Let's save modern genetics for stuff we can eat shall we?

One relatively modern hybrid which is fantastic is Narcissus 'Tete a tete' which is a cross-sectional hybrid, so doesn't fit into the various classes which daff-folk have divided the genus. Its incredibly prolific and early and tough and just comes up to brighten the dreariest post - winter border. It is one of those plants which is so easy and now so commercial that some are already turning their noses up at it. But me, I'm going to buy a sack of them for next autumn and stick them in everywhere.

Also on daff-talk, I see some seedlings of the wild Narcissus pseudonarcissus from the famous wild daffodil area of Newent in Glos. flowered for the first time this year - five years from seed. That's the quickest any daffodil seems to take.

Just had to share this. It's from Tony Avent’s website, he of Plant Delights nursery in North Carolina. I once got an award for an entertaining catalogue when I had my nursery but this is far better, laugh out loud at your desk stuff:


HappyMouffetard said...

That's a very pretty picotee. I would hope for something as lovely as that from my seedlings. Interesting what you say about vigour - I'll have to take note of the vigour of the seedlings and see how they flower.

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

What a cracking link. I NEED a plant delights catalogue!

Annelie said...

I believe it's the tête á têtê that I have in my garden. Coming up now for their second spring. (I'm in MA) They are fairly early and very small. I have a few minis (irises, tulips and crocuses) and they seem to come up earlier than the standard size. Maybe that is the only way for them to be noticed. :)
Oh, and nice blog by the way.

Pomona Belvedere said...

I've never planted Tete a Tete, one of those ones I was always going to get around to, but my bulb list is always scores of items and hundreds of dollars so I have to cross things off. You may have just put this one higher on my list.

I'm impressed you breed hellebores, completely agree with you about modern polyanthus, and am intrigued to learn that your seedling Narcissus pseudonarcissus flowered in five years.

And Rob, the Plant Delights catalogue is ESSENTIAL.