Meanwhile, in a New Zealand summer

In a world beset by problems, a little ray of delight can change a day. In a segment entitled ‘Meanwhile in New Zealand’, I give you this from the southern city of Dunedin:

Whether this is the same sea lion who then chased the swimmers out of the surf at St Kilda Beach the following day, I do not know. It seems a little ungrateful if that is the case. St Kilda is a big beach. John Wilson Ocean Drive is a long drive. She seems to be claiming an awful lot of territory as hers.

Yellow tigridias in the summer borders but everyone has red freckles

I have been looking at the tigridias this week. Tigridia pavonia or jockey caps in the vernacular. These are Mexican in origin, day flowers – as in each bloom only lasts part of a day but each bulb sets a flower spike with multiple buds that open in succession. They make a good wildflower or can be mixed in with other plants in a border but overall they are not a plant of great refinement.

We were given a collection some years ago and I spent some time separating them out into different colours to use in different contexts, as well as sorting out the more common spotted ones (freckled, we call them) from the ones without. The scarlet red and the yellow ones were put into the summer borders. The pinks and whites I used in separate blocks in the lily border, going from white no freckles through pale pink to deep pink with freckles at the far end.

The usual form has the freckles in the lower row.

Tigridias seem to cross readily so there is a whole range of orange tones I have seen in another garden and apparently they come in purple which I haven’t seen and surprises me because they need a blue gene to get to that shade.

My yellow ones and red ones have never thrown a freckle-free bloom that I have seen and I was thinking about this in my garden thinking time*. My theory was that if I was really intent on trying to get a freckle-free result, crossing the pure white onto the yellow should work. Ditto, crossing the deepest pink freckle-free bloom with the pure red one. The seedlings would be variable, but a few at least should, theoretically, come out in a pure colour with no freckles.

Would crossing the deep pink/no freckles with the freckled red and the freckle-free white onto the yellow likely lead to seedlings in red and yellow without the spots, I asked Mark

Fortunately, I have a resident plant breeder to hand and he confirmed my theory with the proviso that it depended on whether the freckle-free white sets viable pollen. Sometimes mutations can be sterile – genetic blind alleys.

I prefer the purity of the blooms with no freckles. Mark does not. He has never understood why his late camellia-breeder Uncle Les Jury spent time trying to breed out the freckles. He told me the story of when he was a small child and a tigridia flowered in the rockery in front of the house. His memory is still so vivid that he gave me the exact location of it in the rockery and he still recalls looking into the bloom and being fascinated by the spots. He has a childhood attachment to freckled tigridias and who am I to argue with that? He has shown zero interest in doing the crosses for me to get freckle-free yellow and red ones.

My favourite tigridia at this time

I know the process of doing it but I lack the will to do the cross, mark the blooms that have been hand-pollinated, watch for the seed to form and ripen, gather the seed and sow it and then look after the seedlings for the two years they take to reach flowering size before I see if any of the potentially scores or even hundreds of seedlings look as if they have pure colour and nary a spotty freckle in sight. It takes effort, skill and a whole lot of patience to do controlled plant crosses. I have other priorities for my time so I shall be content with keeping an eye on my existing yellows and reds to see if they do it for me. It seems unlikely at this stage but I can live with this passing disappointment.

*Apropos gardeners’ thinking time, all the feedback on last week’s post indicated that none of us are intent on using that time to come up with theories of great importance or indeed to plan great contributions to the culture of civilisation. It is the immediacy of the task in hand that occupies us and the very act of being able to focus on that task is what soothes us and centres us in our own patches in nature.  

6 thoughts on “Meanwhile, in a New Zealand summer

  1. Peter Smith

    Very interesting , love the Tigridias , I live in the South West of England , I’m going to see if they are hardy in our location , we have a very mild climate.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I am just guessing but I would guess that winter hardiness in your conditions would not be an issue because they are dormant but they may need summer heat to thrive.

  2. Paddy Tobin

    Dunedin City Council are to be applauded; the sea lion less so.

    I love the tigridias, such flagrantly bright and cheerful flowers.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Oh Paddy, I have been thinking about you in Ireland’s Covid crisis. I hope those close to you are staying as safe as you and Mrs Paddy are.

      1. Paddy Tobin

        Numbers have been crazy, at frighteningly high levels. We have stayed at home completely; not going out at all for any reason. We know people who have been diagnosed with Covid 19, one of whom died, so it is a scary time. Our intention is to sit it out in isolation. Good weather means we can garden which is a blessing; bad weather can be very tedious – a small complaint in such days. All the best.

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