Posted on 10.02.2023 |
Added in Sheila May's Blog

Drought this summer – Hardy Plant Seeds winners and losers in our garden 1.
Let's start with a stalwart February star plant – Crocus tommasinianus – here flowering under the plum trees in our orchard:-

crocus tommasinianus 86

These flowers are a vital source of nectar for our early flying bees – as is the winter flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera x purpusii ‘Fragrantissima' – here with a regular winter visitor on Valentine's Day:-

winterhoneysucklerobin 33

Another star February plant is the Winter Aconite, , which I photographed last year in flower under the big Apple Tree on 1 February, and this year after a much colder and wetter winter is yet to flower here, though yet again I know that Newark town centre had them flowering at the beginning of January, despite the cold:-

winteraconites1222 60

Now to the fourth aspect I want to tell you about of the very strange horticultural year we had in 2022, what with the weather and the health issues/being away so much unexpectedly.  A report on some of the winners and losers in the seeds sown from the hardy plant seed list, and the RHS seed list of collected seeds.    As I said at the beginning of this look at the drought this year, I was not going to sow any of the seeds I had been sent as we did not have the garden space landscaped/prepared for the new plants, but I was talked into sowing them by himself, who is always considerably more optimistic about how much work we can get done in a given timescale even though all our experience has shown it takes well over three times as long as he thinks a job is going to take, never mind external issues like weather/health etc .   I am going to approach this over two blog articles, separated by a foray into snowdrops next month.   This month covers up til early June with sowing/pricking out/potting on and next steps.
In late March, I sowed the seeds in 2” pots.  Some seed is sown on top of chick grit (very fine grit indeed) as it needs the light to germinate; some seed has chick grit on top of it; and some is very big seed that needs to be half a centimetre or more below the surface so is covered with potting compost.  (I say potting compost, but I just use multipurpose compost which is VERY coarse now that it doesn't have peat in it, and needs sifting…..mixed with vermiculite).  By the end of April the seeds in the hotbed looked like this:-

flowerseedinhotbed 10

By the 22 May those seed that had germinated NEEDED to be pricked out:-

need to be pricked out 57

By 6 June, my progress was as thus – some pricked out, some not pricked out, and some not germinated:-

some20pricked20out 01 52
some not pricked out 10

The not yet germinated were moved under the staging to give space for those seedlings potted on.  As of January 2023 there were still at least 12 pots where nothing has yet germinated.  It is possible that a spot of vernalisation (cold over winter) will make some of these seeds germinate as it warms up in spring.  As you know, if you don't want to leave pots for a year or more to see if they germinate after a cold spell, you can fool them into thinking they've been through a winter by mixing the seeds in some damp vermiculite in a bag and putting them in your fridge for two or more weeks, then potting them up.  (If you have loads of space you can sow them into small pots and cover the pots in a plastic bag in the fridge for the couple of weeks or more – I find that is less fiddly than then trying to sow the seeds out of the damp vermiculite, particularly if the seeds have started germinating in the fridge.  But who has that much space in their fridges?  (BTW remember to LABEL THEM!)  
As an aside, talking about vernalisation, I was given some collected Yellow Rattle seeds (), in July that need to be sown fresh and left to vernalise – so I have lots of trays of them on the patio overwintering – whilst I am shivering in the house in the biting cold I am comforting myself that the Yellow Rattle is getting its “cold snap”, so I hope it appreciates it and germinates!   This is hopefully to get plug plants to establish to put in my “wild flower meadow” under the pear trees where the cowslips are growing naturally, to try and keep the grass in check.  Here is the meadow of Yellow Rattle seeds (Rhinanthus minor) mine were collected from on 8 July:-

yellowrattleseedsjuly 6

Now it's going to get a bit geeky, as I list some of the seeds that had germinated and were potted on.  In some cases I also let you know what happened to the seedlings later in the year:-
Hardy Gloxinia (Incarvillea delavayi) 
; (Pricked out in clumps as it was so small – they stayed in greenhouse, still there)
Jacob's Ladder, White Flowered form (Polemonium); Pricked out later in the year and one tray still in the greenhouse alive, whilst three others went out on the patio and died
Tree Lupin with Mauve/Yellow Flowers (
Caucasian Crosswort (Phuopsis stylosa); some pricked out, but some still in original pot in greenhouse all winter
Tripartite Sea Holly (Eryngium tripartitum) – Not pricked out
Agastache ‘Astello Indigo; (Pricked out later in the year, one tray on the patio – died, remaining trays grew, flowered, died in greenhouse)
Caucasian Germander (Teucrium hircanicum); one tray outside – died – two stayed in greenhouse, still there, alive.
Bonnet Bellflower (Codonopsis clematidea); in greenhouse, died
Agave-leafed Sea Holly () one tray in greenhouse alive still, one tray on patio, died.
; Pricked out later still in greenhouse not sure if its alive
Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum); Still in original pot in greenhouse all winter, alive
Arkansas Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii); tray on patio, died
Hairless Blue Sow Thistle (); still in original pot – covered in weeds, not sure alive fingers crossed some of the thistley looking weeds are Cicerbita!
Digitalis refugium; still in greenhouse alive
False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
Himalayan Indigo (Indegofera heterantha)
Echinacea ‘Green Twister' one small pot in greenhouse, maybe alive
; one tray left in greenhouse still alive, two trays on patio died
Perennial Centaury (Centaurium scilloides); alive in original pot in greenhouse still
– germinated in original pot in autumn, still in greenhouse.
Mediterranean Sea Holly (Eryngium bourgatii) – still in original pot in greenhouse, possibly alive
Then we entered our most intense period of being away at short notice, being back for maybe four days at a time – such as the jubilee weekend; his 70th weekend; (we were at home during the 40+ degree days but WERE NOT GOING OUTSIDE!!), then being away for a month unexpectedly mid-July onwards.  If plants grew large enough I put them outside, otherwise they stayed in the greenhouse.  Our neighbours very kindly watered all these tiny plants for us if we were away.  Unhelpfully, the trays of Hardy Gloxinia (Incarvillea delavayi) got eaten by slugs within two days of putting them outside only one plant survived.  Those that survived grew, and needed potting on…….what to do?   Our knee jerk reaction was to dig a new hospital bed.  We eventually managed to mow the grass on the chalk hillside almost at the very end of June for the first time.  And determined on a space near the black triffids that was about 1.5m deep and maybe 2.5 m long – it had to stop before it hit the patch of grass with the common spotted orchids in it – which were where the whiter cane is in the picture below of the turf beginning to be removed at the end of June:-

dignewhopsitalbedstart 16 1

Here's the bed fully cut out on 4 July – you can really see the quality of the soil on the chalk hillside!! :-

bed cut 96

This was not going to be anywhere near big enough for the plants I had grown, but it was all the space we could quickly lay our hands on in the timescales we had.  I would have to prioritise which plants went in there.  My thought processes went like this:- are they ready to be planted out, or could they stay in their pots for a while (I did not expect to be away til 18 August from this point mind!).  Are they drought tolerant (I felt if they were specifically chosen as drought tolerant plants – Berkheya purpurea; Tjanchan Globe Thistle (Echinops tjanschanicus) or Alpine Sea Holly () springs to mind – they might cope better growing on in individual pots rather than some of the other plants, after all the sea holly's live on the beach in very extreme conditions (I have borrowed this photo of the Alpine Sea Holly Flowers):-

alpine sea holly close 95

Another consideration was if they are annuals (I need to plant them out so they grow on and flower and I can gather the seed or I have thrown the opportunity away).  
I laid the plants out on 5th June, and then planted them the same day, digging in some of the concentrated manure compost before planting out the tiny plants:-

newbedhpsseeds 79
all planted up 70

I will break off here and tell you what went into the bed and how it fared in my April blog.  Next month, Snowdrops.  As a taster, here are a shot of a clump of my Galanthus ‘Hippolyta', an early flowering Greatorex Double form, in flower on 31 January last year:-

hypolitta last year 99

Perhaps more unexpectedly Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora' in flower at the end of Feb covered in a dusting of snow:-

kerria20japonica 92

Sheila May

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