Friday, 31 May 2013

Another picture from the Meconopsis beds in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. This is a hybrid between Meconopsis punicea and M. quintuplinervia made by Leslie and Avril Drummond of Forfar in Angus, Scotland. An interesting plant which Leslie used for further breeding experiments but slightly lacks the impact of the two parent species. Very reliable and tough. 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

This image is the main bed of blue poppies at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. They seem to be mainly Slieve Donard.  This is a standard hybrid between M. betonicifolia and M. grandis and is sterile and is called M.x Sheldonii after the man who first made this cross - W.G Sheldon in 1934 in Surrey, England. This cross of Slieve Donard was made in Edinburgh by Alec Curle many years ago and given to Edrom Nurseries south east of Edinburgh and were called Ormswell; others of this same raising found their way to the Slieve Donard nursery in Ireland and were later named after it. They are a very beautiful form and Slieve Donard and Ormswell are still available in the trade occasionally.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Primula szechuanica from Western Sichuan and northern Yunnan. Flowers are fragrant and this was originally collected by the great George Forrest as well as others a century ago but later lost. This plant probably derives from a more recent collection by the Cox family from Glendoick.

Monday, 27 May 2013

A quite incomparably beautiful plant. Primula reidii williamsii is about 10 inches high with most delicate soft green foliage. It has huge flowers - 5 on this little specimen with the most powerful and astonishing scent. This was given to me by Jeanie Jones who also lives in Dumfries and grows a whole range of difficult and beautiful primulas. Not long lived but usually sets good and reliable seed.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Full gale from the north west shredding the petals on all the M. punicea out and a high today of 6 C! The lilies are still growing despite the cold and this view of part of one border shows about 8 species all in clumps growing on from planting  pots of seedlings out some years ago. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

We are back at present  in Scotland to cold north westerly winds and there are few new Meconopsis flowers out. There are many lilies planted in between Meconopsis and a lily relative I have had for many years is Cardiocrinum giganticum. I grow these from seed and they origally took 9 years to reach flowering size and the first one was 14 foot high (over 4 metres). The bulb is monocarpic and dies after flowering but there are off sets of varying age around the old bulb and once a few plants are established there are flowering spikes somewhere each year but the spikes are not so tall. Some of these plants are approaching 40 years old now and although the lily family is subject to viral diseases these have stayed healthy. In my main Meconopsis garden I have never planted bought in lily bulbs since these can often be virused which is spread by aphids.
 Bought in lily bulbs are in a different garden in the herbaceous border. Cardriocrinums  have lovely dark green foliage in summer (usually dark foliage is an adaptation to growing in shade) and they enjoy an annual top dressing of decayed leaf mould. 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

There is a large group of Meconopsis that are evergreen with rosettes that gradually become larger as the years pass. These usually flower at 3, 4 or even 5 years and then a flowering spike arises from the centre and usually reaches several feet as the flowers open.
 They then die and are thus what is known as monocarpic. These plants are clearly hybrids and thus it is better to write M. 'napaulensis' Under the new classification by Chris Grey-Wilson M. napaulensis is a relatively short yellow flowered monocarpic species from a restricted area in the Himalayas. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Continuing on the other theme of Lilium. All my lilies that are grown from seed are eventually planted out as a whole undisturbed potful. Here this years germination of the relatively newly described Lilium lijiangensis is placed in front of a previous potful  planted out undisturbed 5 years ago that will flower in another month or so and has grown into a excellent clump. These plants are not clones so will reliably set good seed each year. 

This is typical of the classic M. integrifolia. It is a short plant with a bright yellow  upward facing flower. This is the only one going to flower and I find most Meconopsis, if selfed, do not set seed. I have pollinated it with M. punicea (which can be seen behind) I have done this many times but never had seed set. Strange in some ways since M. quintuplinervia, which is close to M. punicea,
does form a hybrid called M.x Finlayorum which is very attractive.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Growing lilies as well as relatives like Nomocharis and Notholirion is on going in my propagating area every year. I would strongly advise people who want to grow these plants from seed never to prick them on but eventually plant the whole pot out. I have a lot of nice species mixed in with Meconopsis which complement each other. I am now able to harvest my own seed and hence can sow several pots full of each species each year. An easy species like Lilium formanosanum will sometimes flower in the second year, a few things in their 3rd year, more likely 4th and Cardiocrinums can take up to 9 years to produce a flowering spike (which then dies) but is usually surrounded by offsets which  keep the flowering going almost indefinitely. Favorite species are L. macklinae, L. flavum, L. oxypetalum and L.o. insigne (though I suspect these last two are actually different species). If you use seed exchanges,Notholirion, this image shows Nomocharis hybrids, Lilium macklinae, Lilium oxtpetalum and the white Chinese Lily L. duchartrei. 
you will be lucky to get more than 2 or 3 viable seeds but once you have a stock they can be maintained by growing from seed indefinitely.
The round pot left is Notholirion 2 years old and the large square pot right is 3 year old Nomocharis hybrids - the seed came from the wonderful Explorers garden in Pitlochry (down by the theatre) expertly run by Julia Cordingley. The seed in the front centre that has just germinated is L. oxypetalum insigne. This pot is clearly crowded and next spring will be carefully knocked out with no disturbance and placed in a large pot of rich compost. In an overcrowded pot the fittest will survive and when planted out as many as ten spikes may be produced once they flower.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

This is the first blue poppy to flower this year and in the garden of my daughter at Invergowrie in Tayside, Scotland. It is, appropriately enough, one of my Kingsbarns Hybrids and has the same origin as Lingholm where a clone of the sterile hybrid x. sheldonii became tetraploid (ie 4 sets of chromosomes). 

The original x sheldonii hybrids - of which there are some number - were crosses between M. betonicifolia and M. grandis which have different chromosome numbers and were always sterile. The tetraploid crosses therefore have 2 sets of chromosomes from each parent which can thus divide normally and produce viable seed.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Another picture from among the Meconopsis plants while we wait for warm weather to start opening other species of the genus. This is another rare and beautiful plant - a gift from Fred Hunt of Invergowrie in Tayside who has a small garden absolutely packed with wonderful plants. It is the pink form of
Trillium grandiflorum. It does slowly increase and can eventually be split but one needs patience.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Still cold north westerly winds with sleet!! Very little movement of anything in the garden. Another group that mixes well here with Meconopsis is Fritillaria. Suprisingly large numbers of species thrive in the garden and are easy from seed. Like all bulbs I grow them for 2 years in pots and then
plant the whole potful. Lilies are the same - PLANT POTFUL WHOLE. Singling seedlings will see you lose most!!  This is the white form of the native Fritillaria meleagris

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The garden is full of things that flower with Meconopsis and this is one of my large collection of Trilliums. This is the rare double form Trillium grandiflorum. Slow growing but will eventually divide.

Monday, 13 May 2013

I am not totally obsessed my Meconopsis and thought I might show a few other plants that I grow with them occasionally. Here on the east coast of Scotland in Fife we have a naturally alkaline soil with major limestone out crops in places. Over many years I incorporated tons of coarse peat tailings into the garden and to this day regularly topdress with large amounts of well rotted leaf mould but it is largely still alkaline and some ericaceous plants are not happy. The soil is never turned over and over the years I have had literally thousands of Dactylorhiza orchid seedlings. What is incredibly strange is that these should take many years to grow to flowering with, for some years, underground  mycorhizal associations before they even appear above ground.  I have never seen a young orchid plant at any stage until they appear and flower. They originate from the first orchid I obtained - the Meditteranean species D. elata and hybridized with the local D. fuchsii. also in my garden. A new one this year and already split up into 6 tubers I shall name 'Full Circle' This is illustrated.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The warmth today has brought several new flowers out and I cannot resist photographing them. They are such an extra-ordinary flower.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

I have always been intrigued by the way the long petals of Meconopsis punicea are folded within the the bud and indeed how they develop like this!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Meconopsis punicea is the one species that still grows easily for me here in East Fife Scotland. In the wild in North Sichuan it must be insect pollinated though red is not a typical colour for insect pollination -  many red flowers in the United States are hummingbird pollinated. As can be seen they are a very pendant flowers and for a bee or other insect to find their way up does not seem straight forward. They do however need cross pollinating and in the wild something must do this! Just maybe in natural habitats the flowers open wider but the pendulous nature of the flower does look as though this may be a protection against rain and they probably do flower in the wet season. However they clearly are pollinated in the wild. Here in Scotland I find hand pollination essential or no seed will be set. You need at least two plants both at the same flowering stage. Pollen is not shed until at least the second day the flowers are open. This species needs the seed sowing as soon as it is ripe and then keeping cool and damp until the new year. It does germinate if dried and stored normally but with a lower percentage of the seed succeeding. 

A flower tipped up to expose the stigma surrounded by the anthers. Some of the anthers which were shedding pollen were removed to pollinate another flower and this stigma was dusted with pollen from a second flower. 

Monday, 6 May 2013

Meconopsis seedlings have distinctive leaves. All species in this genus have a similar pair of long narrow cotyledons (seed leaves). In some species they are slightly larger than others but all are easily recognized and once you have grown a few seed pans full, they are easily told from seedlings of other genera. After about a week they show a tiny little typical leaf in between the cotyledons and these are always covered in hairs like all adult leaves throughout the genus.