Tag Archives: Galanthus S. Arnott

Tikorangi Notes: Flowers great and small. With added lemons.

Doryanthes palmeri or giant spear lily. Certainly shaping up to be giant

Behold Doryanthes palmeri! The giant spear lily from eastern Australia. It has never flowered for us before so the three metre, sturdy flower spike is a thrill even though it has yet to open. This particular plant is a nursery relic, by which I mean that it was not planted in this position. More, cast aside from nursery crops (we once produced a few to sell) and left to its own devices. Now the grass garden is planted beside it and it looks quite at home. This is just as well; each pleated leaf is about one and a half metres long and I don’t fancy moving it. I am hoping the flowers will open in the next week or so.

Snowdrop season! Galanthus S. Arnott

From the massive to the tiny, it is snowdrop season here. We are not really-o truly-o good snowdrop territory and Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ and G. elwesii are the two main varieties that perform consistently well and multiply for us. Mark would dearly love some later flowering ones to extend the rather short season but while he went through a stage of gathering various different varieties, none of the later ones have thrived. Undeterred, he is trying some hybridising to see if he can get some variety but these projects, you understand, never yield instant results. It is more like a ten or twenty year plan, all to get the extended snowdrop season.

Luculia Fragrant Cloud keeps on flowering this season

It was a full month ago that I wrote about luculias. The bright pink ‘Early Dawn’ is well finished, white ‘Fragrant Pearl’ still has a few blooms but the main specimen plant needs some attention (a bit more judicious pruning and more light – it has flowered better in the past). But ‘Fragrant Cloud’ has been in full flight ever since and still looks good. This is the very best I have ever seen it and the scent is divine.

Daphne Perfume Princess

Equally fragrant are the daphnes in full bloom. We grow a number of different daphnes but a fair amount of them are our own ‘Perfume Princess’. Mark has bred other plants that are showier and more spectacular (especially the magnolias), but this obliging daphne represents a breeding breakthrough in some aspects and may well end up as the one he is best known for internationally. It is certainly the one that enabled us to retire early. Given that, we are deeply relieved as each year it proves itself again as a garden plant and a superior daphne which will stand the test of time.

I admit that as this post goes live, we are far from Tikorangi. Well, not that far. Just ‘across the ditch’, as we say, in Australia. While we need passports to travel to Australia it never feels overseas as further, oft more exotic, destinations do. It is just that all three of our children live in Australia these days and we are all joining the celebration of the second birthday of our only grandchild. So not a garden or plants-focused visit but I am sure we will find matters botanical of interest on the way. While I love the place we live, I have been missing the stimulus of travel this year. I need to find somewhere interesting and new for a trip next winter. By the time we arrive home, we should have the first colour showing on Magnolia Vulcan and M. campbellii should be in full bloom in the park. Winter will feel as though it is on the wane.

Preserved lemons – the liquid is opaque because some of the salt has yet to fully dissolve

Before we left, I made another jar of salted lemons, having noticed a heavy crop and smaller fruit on our main tree. Smaller fruit fit in the jar better. I prefer to make salted limes but the lime tree is having a year (or two) off fruiting. They are dead easy to do, store for many months in the fridge and are very tasty as a flavour addition. They can make couscous flavourful (though I have gone off couscous since I realised how highly processed this product is), add taste to rice and all manner of stuffings or savoury dishes. I resorted to buying lemons one year, in the absence of a good lemon crop at home, but if you are buying fruit, pour boiling water over them and stand them for a few minutes first. Some are, I read, coated (in wax?) to help their storage life and you need to get rid of any coating or spray residues before preserving them.

Just looking at the jar is like looking at a ray of Italian sunshine on a winter’s day in Tikorangi.

 

 

Tikorangi Notes: August 4, 2015. Spring flowers, Franchi seeds, a new spade and the Magnolia and the Cross

Narcissus Peeping Tom in golden light

Narcissus Peeping Tom in golden light

With heavy rain forecast over the next few days, I picked some of the spring bulbs. The light was fading as I brought them indoors,  but I like the stainless steel backdrop of the splashback to our stove and I had fun photographing the flowers both in the general background light of the kitchen and in the shafts of golden light, which, believe or not, emanate from the spotlights on the range hood above. If you are on Facebook, there is a fuller album of them on our Facebook garden page. 

Galanthus S Arnott in silver light

Galanthus S Arnott in silver light

033The new Franchi seeds catalogue arrived in the mail last week. If you haven’t met this brand before, you can find them on line at http://www.italianseedspronto.co.nz/ (that is the address for New Zealand mail order only). There is an interesting range of heirloom and traditional Italian varieties. They are expensive when compared to some other brands on the market, but you get a hugely generous amount of seed per packet. Given the sparse number of seeds in the packets of some other brands, this is something of a surprise. Mark is a particular fan of the packets of mixed lettuce varieties which he sows in succession to keep supply going, so he is more than happy to get a generous quantity of seed. There is a good variety of different lettuces in these mixed packets too, which mature at different rates and add interest to salads now that we have moved on from just Iceberg or Buttercrunch.

001 (2)I was positively excited to buy my very own spade recently, and what a lovely spade. It is a Joseph Bentley border spade with a handsome oak handle so it must be imported from the UK. A border spade is both smaller and narrower than a conventional spade and I find the lighter weight makes it easier to use – a pleasure, even. There are cheaper spades around – I think I paid somewhere between $70 and $80 for this one at Palmers Garden Centre – but I have not found a spade I like more. I expect it to last as long as I do. Mark kindly oiled the handle again before use, using linseed oil. And he sharpened it for me. I sometimes wonder whether the current fashion for no-dig gardening and the desire by some to avoid the effort of digging is related to blunt spades. A sharp spade makes digging so much easier but I can’t recall seeing the advice offered widely that you need to sharpen your new spade before use and then to keep an edge on it from time to time. If you are wondering how to do this, I see I published a little article on this very topic some time ago.

The Magnolia and the Cross

The Magnolia and the Cross

Having referenced the Magnolia and the Maunga and the Magnolia and the Wellsite  recently, I now offer you the Magnolia and the Cross. This is M. campbellii again, but in the grounds of St John’s Church in Waitara where I spotted it when we attended a funeral recently. Even if one is not of a religious persuasion, the cross is a very strong symbol.

Pink & white parade

April is the cruellest month, wrote T.S. Eliot in his famous poem, The Waste Land. Not, I have to say, out of fear of late frosts in a northern hemisphere spring, as one gardening wit thought. Here, it is July that brings us the bleakest days of winter.

But as July progresses, it also heralds the start of a new gardening year. Magnolias and snowdrops mark the passing of winter into spring.

Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii

The first deciduous magnolia of the season to open is always M. campbellii. There is an attractive group of them in New Plymouth on Powderham Street and the first flowers on those appear in late June, sometimes before all the leaves have fallen. Asphalt and concrete in cities raise temperatures enough to trigger flowering earlier than in country areas. M. campbellii is not a great option in colder parts of the country because frosts can take the early blooms out but where space and climate allow, it is beautiful. Our tree was considerably larger until a falling Lombardy poplar took out half of it, but it is staging a comeback. There is a white form too, but the pink is generally regarded as superior.

Magnolia Vulcan

Magnolia Vulcan

July also sees the first blooms opening on Magnolias ‘Lanarth’ and ‘Vulcan’. The latter was bred here by my late father in law, Felix Jury, and marked the first of the new generation red-toned magnolias. For several years after we first released it, we used to be able to track it flowering down the country by the phone enquiries. It opens in Northland much earlier than it shows colour in Otago and Southland.

Magnolia Lanarth

Magnolia Lanarth

Lanarth (technically M. campbellii var. mollicomata ‘Lanarth’) remains the best purple available, in our opinion, even though its flowering season is brief because it only sets flower buds on the tips and they all bloom at once, rather than in sequence down the stems. It is worth having in a large garden because it will take your breath away for two or three weeks in late July and early August but smaller gardens probably need trees with a longer season.

Galanthus  S. Arnott

Galanthus S. Arnott

At the other end of the scale, we find snowdrops enchanting. We have tried growing a wide range of different species but in the end it is Galanthus nivalus ‘S. Arnott’ that is happiest here in the mid north, although we also get a good run from the larger leafed G. elwesii. Gardeners in cooler, southern areas will have a bigger selection to choose from but we have to go with what performs here.

Snowdrops are one of the few bulbs where the standard advice is to lift and divide in full growth – usually straight after flowering although there is no reason why you can’t do it when they are dormant. They multiply satisfyingly well and we are on a mission to spread these charmers in huge swathes throughout the garden.
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What northerners often call snowdrops are not. They are leucojums, commonly called snowflakes. Proper snowdrops are much smaller and prettier. They have a central cup surrounded by three longer petals that look like dainty wings. Leucojums, on the other hand, just have the cup as a bloom and are much stronger growing with plenty of foliage that looks like daffodil leaves. You often see them growing in paddocks around old farmhouses. Some of the bigger flowered selections make good garden plants (Leucojum vernum ‘Gravetye Giant’ is the one we use), because they have a much longer flowering season than galanthus. But they lack the dainty refinement of the proper snowdrop. There can be little doubt about that.

First publshed in the New Zealand Gardener July issue and reprinted here with their permission.

Plant Collector: Galanthus S Arnott

What can be prettier than snowdrops in the depths of winter?

What can be prettier than snowdrops in the depths of winter?

Are there any bulbs more charming than proper English snowdrops? Except that they are not English at all, having been introduced from Europe where they have a wide distribution. I had thought they were called ‘snowdrops’ because they often peek through snow (a light covering, I assume because they only grow about 15 to 20cm high) to herald the coming of spring, but I see the botanical name translates from Greek as milk flower. Because we lack the chilly temperatures and snow here, we are limited in the range of galanthus that we can grow well. There is such a word as a “galanthophile” – one who is obsessed with the genus but you would have a hard job earning that epithet here in the mid north. Easily the best performing snowdrop for us is Galanthus S. Arnott which never fails to delight and increases satisfyingly well. We keep gently increasing its spread around the garden and that also staggers the flowering because it will come in later in colder parts.

You don’t get a long flowering season but oh they are so very charming. The proper snowdrop has a little inner trumpet of three petals surrounded by a skirt of three outer petals which look like little wings. Sometimes people refer to the stronger growing snowflake, often seen in paddocks, as a snowdrop. But it is not. It only has the inner trumpet of petals and lacks the delicate charm. It is also a different genus, being a leucojum.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

More mid winter delight than harbinger of spring – galanthus (snowdrops)

Galanthus S Arnott is a wonderful performer here

Galanthus S Arnott is a wonderful performer here

It’s snowdrop time. Proper snowdrops which are galanthus. These are widely referred to as English snowdrops, though they are not. In fact they occur naturally throughout Europe and down through the Mediterranean. It is just that the English have made them their own and who can blame them? Snowdrops rank right up there beside daffodils for that feeling of seasonal wonder.

We lack the snow of course, so we don’t get the simple picture of the flowers appearing through melting snow. I assume this is why they are called snowdrops in common parlance.

We will never be galanthophiles here, though that has more to do with climate than anything else. We have a number of different types of snowdrops but most are very marginal in our mild conditions and we struggle to keep them going here so there is no point whatever in collecting as many different ones as we can and keeping them separate, as galanthophiles will. While there are only about twenty species, there are hundreds of named varieties. Most of these are species selections. In other words, while snowdrops will seed down in the wild, particular variations have been selected out and then propagated from that original bulb (as opposed to raised from seed which won’t keep the variation stable – most will revert immediately to the usual form). We could only look in awe at the fabulous prices paid for a very good new white and yellow snowdrop in the UK last year. It was knocking on the door of past times when the wealthy paid vast amounts for a new tulip bulb. While we have the old double variety, G. nivalis Flore Pleno, we have not sought the many variants on doubles. Flore Pleno is not flowering yet so I can’t photograph it but it looks a bit of a mutant and lacks the charm of the simpler, more natural forms in my eyes.

In this country, if you want to see snowdrops in all their glory, the place to go to is Maple Glen where Muriel Davison has built up extensive plantings in her large garden. Unfortunately for northerners, it is sited at Wyndham between Gore and Invercargill so few of us are likely to make it at the right time. Or time a late winter trip to the UK. For years I had a photo a reader sent me of a carpet of snowdrops (and we are talking bulbs in the magnitude of five to six figures all in bloom at the same time) beneath white barked birches somewhere in England.

So I know that our snowdrop efforts here are modest by those standards. But we have snowdrops, and quite a few of them now. The one variety that performs consistently well in our conditions, flowering reliably every year and building up readily, is Galanthus S. Arnott. Apparently it is equally good in the UK because it has been given an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

The peak flowering season is not a long one. It is just enchanting while it lasts and snowdrops lend themselves to drifts in garden borders, on woodland margins, in our growing bulb hillside (coming through the grass) as well as being featured in rockery pockets. They flower at a time when there is not a lot else out. While typically regarded as harbingers of spring, they are more mid winter. We keep gently spreading them further afield in the garden. Many British gardens open in February for what is often called a snowdrop weekend. That is the aim here. It may take us another decade to get sufficient carpets of snowdrops to warrant declaring snowdrop weekend, but we could never be accused of taking the short term view of gardening. And we are well on the way.

Curiously with snowdrops, the practice is to lift, divide and replant soon after flowering. There aren’t many bulbs where you are advised to move them in full growth. In England they are often sold as “green bundles” when still in growth. I have taken from this that they are not fussy so I move them any time now – whether dormant or at any stage of growth. Typical of all bulbs, they need good drainage and reasonable light levels. Woodlands overseas are largely deciduous which means they have more light. Our dominance of evergreens in this country leans us more towards forest than woodland. That is why we go for planting the margins rather than the depths.

Finally, just for clarification, what is often referred to as a snowdrop in New Zealand is an entirely different family. The leucojum is much stronger growing, often found in old homestead paddocks, associating with daffodils. It has the little cup without the surrounding skirt of petals and is less refined than a proper snowdrop. Notwithstanding that, it is an under-rated garden plant with a very long flowering season. But it is a snowflake not a snowdrop.

Snowflake (leucojum) to the left and snowdrop (galanthus) to the right

Snowflake (leucojum) to the left and snowdrop (galanthus) to the right

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

The Plant Collector: Lachenalia reflexa

The earliest bulbs are in flower - Lachenalia reflexa midst the snowdrops

The earliest bulbs are in flower - Lachenalia reflexa midst the snowdrops

I have this little self-imposed rule which is that I can’t repeat a plant (at least, not yet) so the plant this week is not the delightful English snowdrops (this form is Galanthus S. Arnott which is the most reliable performer in our conditions), even though the clumps and drifts we have in full flower throughout the garden are an absolute delight. No, we are looking at the yellow flowers coming through with the snowdrops. This is Lachenalia reflexa. It is the yellowest of the lachenalias we grow here, all of which are native to South Africa. There are well over 100 different species, often taken for granted in their homeland where they are just wild flowers. Not all are easy to grow. Reflexa isn’t too difficult though it is not particularly vigorous, which is why it is not common. The yellow is a pure bright lemon shade, sometimes with green markings which fade out as the flower matures. Like most lachenalias, it doesn’t hang onto its foliage for particularly long after flowering. These plants are growing on the edge of our gravel driveway beside a low stone wall. Many of the species bulbs (which is as they occur in the wild) are used to surviving in quite harsh conditions with little soil and low fertility. If you try and treat them like choice garden plants, they don’t always cope. The critical issue, as always with bulbs, is to ensure excellent drainage, even more so when they are dormant (in summer for reflexa), to avoid them rotting out.