Saturday, 27 December 2014

This is Helleborus niger 'Potter's Wheel' growing in Cumbria and photographed on Christmas day. This is a very good form of a lovely plant but has flowered very well like so many things after the hot summer and has been undamaged by slugs. 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

                                     A special Christmas post!                                                         It shows two of my other loves beyond Meconopsis - birds and trees. In the village in East Fife Scotland where I live there are many holly trees (Ilex)  and this year they have been very well berried after the hot summer. In the last week blackbirds (Turdus merula) in particular have stripped off all the berries from the trees  in the village. I love having well berried holly to decorate our house and my children's at Christmas. This tree, which is still smothered in berries, has not been touched. Why?  - because it has been guarded by the large mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) - the species name is derived from the mistletoe - Viscum album. This is another plant species with berries that this species likes and of course it is another Christmas plant. My guardian angel  is seen on a chimney pot right next to the tree and any blackbird that comes anywhere near it is chased off with a harsh rattle.  This will be the winter food supply for this bird right through the cold months at the beginning of the year.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A vulnerable winter rosette of M. punicea. The outer  leaves will not survive long and the rosettes can become almost invisible above ground and are therefore vulnerable to being damaged during winter tidying

This  is how I cover them for the winter. Three methods shown here. 1. Glass cloche made of two pieces of glass (broken large cloches from vegetable garden) 2. A piece of perspex on a wooden pole.  3. A clear plastic container of the sort soft fruit is sold in. The last needs a stone underneath the edge it so that air can circulate
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This is a two year old rosette of one of the evergreen monocarpic (die after flowering) species - probably what we call M. napaulensis of garden origin. They can rot in winter and wet followed by frost repeated several times can induce this rot. I normally do not have problems in the dry east of Scotland but IF in doubt place a simple tent of glass over so the rosette keeps dry but the roots of the plant are kept moist. I shall suggest next week that you do the same (if you are lucky enough to have them)  with Meconopsis punicea seedlings as a simple glass tent cannot harm them and they are too precious to lose and will take an image to show this.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

                                This is about seed sources

If you want to start growing Meconopsis from seed then both the ALPINE GARDEN SOCIETY and THE SCOTTISH ROCK GARDEN CLUB offer extensive seed lists to members. For rare items or seed collected in the wild there is often only a small quantity of seed available. If you donate seed you get a few extra packets. You are asked for a long list of alternatives but you will always get some seed from the top of the list. 

The address of the AGS is AGS Centre, Avon Bank, Pershore, Worcestershire WR10 3JP. U.K.  EMAIL is  ags@alpine  The subscription is £32 a year. This includes a really excellent Journal 4 times per year (approaching 500 pages for 2014) with superb colour plates all the way through.

The address of the subscription secretary of the SRGC is 10 Quarry Avenue Acklington MORPETH Northumberland NE65 9BZ U.K. The subscription is £18 per year and includes an excellent journal twice a year full of colour images and original articles by experts. 

Very few seed houses offer Meconopsis. A firm that offers several species is Plants of Distinction, Abacus House, Station Yard, Needham Market, Suffolk IPO6 8AS.

 The only other one I can find is DOBIES which offers LINGHOLM. This is a wonderful fully perennial big blue poppy that reliably sets seed. It is available in their current catalogue at 70 seeds for £3.59. This normally germinates well to a standard spring sowing and 70 seeds is generous and should provide plenty of plants. If you yearn a perennial blue poppy in the garden this is by far the best choice. Even in southern U.K. in a light shady position on well enriched soil because it is tetraploid and thus very robust, it should be content and with more than one seed grown plant it should set fertile seed. 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

This is the cover of a new Monograph in the Kew Botanical Monograph Series by Dr. Chris Grey-Wilson. V.M.H.

I should say at once it is very useful with a huge amount of information at all levels. It is however a taxonomist's volume and Dr. Grey-Wilson was a Kew trained taxonomist. It has quite superlative photographs, all in brilliant colour - save a few historic pictures. Each species has a long account - well illustrated - with much very thorough taxonomic information. There is a short chapter on cultivation that is a synthesis of  most of what is known. It is a large format book approx. 12 inches x 10 inches of exactly 400 pages. As one might expect there is a very comprehensive index and full references. Many of the photographs are by the brilliant field taxonomist and photographer Toshio Yoshida  who has not only photographed so many plants in remote and difficult of access places but has also described a number of new species of Meconopsis starting his explorations in 1984.  He talked memorably to the Meconopsis Group in Edinburgh in 2010. 

Many others contributed to the wonderful images including David and Margaret Thorne, Harry Jans, Martin Walsh, Tim Lever and others. I should add that this book has well researched information on cultivation. Proof reading is pretty  faultless. It is certain that real experts who travel in the Himalayas will find things that they disagree with but that is inevitable. Finally who is this book for? The answer to that has to be real enthusiasts who are already familiar with the basic characteristics or new comers who wish to learn. 


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

I recently visited the garden in Wick of my daughter and went through and cleaned and tidied this bed. The message of this is just how easy blue poppies are to grow in cool northern climates and over many years I have not lost a single one of this collection of about 40 variations on blue poppies. There are large clumps for me to divide in spring (best time to do it). The Phormasol between the rows very much helps reduce any weeding and I obtain a great deal of seed from these plants. I have a reserve collection of all the species I grow in dry east coast Fife up here. 

I intend to start a weekly write up of all the more common and relatively easily grown species for people who would like to start to grow some. This is the time of year when groups like the Alpine Garden Society, The Scottish Rock Garden Club and the Meconopsis Group bring out seed lists where members may choose a small selection of packets and these are only available to members. There can be restrictions on sending plant material to some countries but most allow seed. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

A lovely white flower on a wet old day. Camellias are very good plants in with Meconopsis since they like an acid soil, are evergreen and can flower well in winter. This is Camellia japonica Nobilissimum. It says a lot for the modern digital camera that an image can be produced on a deep grey day with heavy rain in shade. It also shows how very weather proof Camellias are!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

I added a second white image in error. This is another very attractive Glaucidium again from Tetsuo

Sunday, 26 October 2014

At this time of year flowers that second bloom on a cold windy day are very welcome. This at least has the merit of being blue and is a rather nice small flowered hybrid clematis.

The Meconopsis Group met at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh yesterday. Dr. Chris Grey Wilson gave two talks based round his latest monograph on Meconopsis which has just been published. There are  new species being described as well as re- appraisals of current species particularly those based about Meconopsis 'horridula'  David and Margaret Thorn and David Rankin also made presentations. More on this when I have the minutes.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

One of the wonderful things about writing this website is the generous friends one meets. This is a quite wonderful semi - double form of Glaucidium palmatum from Tetsuo in Japan. This is a photograph of a photograph so the resolution has suffered but I very much look forward to growing the seeds on that he also most generously sent. His advice was about half will germinate in 2015 and the rest in 2016. Having said that I always keep seed pots for 3 years as a policy. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

This is very much the time of year when all sorts of organizations collect in seed from donors  - often from all over the world. The seed needs to be cleaned to remove any rubbish - fragments of seed pods, non viable seeds and then dried. It then should be carefully labelled and packaged and sent off to the Seed Manager. The seed is then checked and if there are queries they may contact you. Depending on how many people send in a particular  variety and how rare it is they package it into individual seed packets with either a very few seeds for rare plants or things of high demand. This seed  is then added to a seed list which is published and sent to all the members of the particular organisation. Members then choose a particular allocation of packets and eventually these are sent out in time to sow in spring. The Meconopsis Seed Group does this, so does the Scottish Rock Garden Club and the Alpine Garden Society. Many members will be involved in the packaging but the really big job is that of the Seed Exchange Managers who overall supervise and make the allocations. We all need to be very grateful for this dedication. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

This has been a remarkable autumn for late or second flowering. I have always thought very highly of blue flowers which is I suspect why I was so attracted to Meconopsis. Some of those above are a deep true blue but many show just hint of purple. The Corydalis - a hybrid in my garden but derived from C. cashmeriana, the Ceonothus, the skullcap (this is a wonderful blue and was bought as an annual and grown from seed but has been perennial some some years - Salvia but not sure of species) and the Delphinium are blue as is the annual Lobelia but the Clematis heraclefolia, lavender, geranium and Veronica all have a touch of red which gives them a purple hue. 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Meconopsis 'napaulensis' is a really good garden plant. Ít has lovely rosettes of foliage which will gradually increase in size over several years until about May and then start to develop into a flowering spike, which flowers top down over at least a month. They will set abundant seed if there is more than one plant. I use inverted commas since what we now have in cultivation is a mix of a number of species. M. napaulensis in the wild as a true species is a yellow flowered one with a similar structure to the hybrids. The pink colouring may well come from something like M. staintonii. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

This is a busy time of year with a years food supply for all the family to be harvested. There is, as well, unending weeding due to the endless rain and good germinating weather. I am also  collecting seed for myself and various seed exchanges. I always have pots of seedling lilies on the go all the tíme as they can take up to five years to reach flowering size though Lilium formanosanum can flower in the second year. These two are variations on Lilium svovitzianum and are very tough strong growers that never need staking and with several plants will always set seed. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Images of the wonderful red Meconopsis. M. punicea. This is now firmly back in cultivation thanks to a local lady who grew on seed from plants that I gave her some years ago. We have already been able to see these back in some gardens. I have given some to Julia Cordingly who runs the lovely Explorers garden in Pitlochry and the lady who rescued them has given some to Steve McNamara at the quite wonderful gardens at Branklyn  in Perth which he curates so excellently. I hope to take plants to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh for the late October Meconopis Group meeting to see they are shared out as widely as possible.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

A lovely thistle photographed in a remote part of the wonderful  highlands of Scotland is I suppose appropriate as we in Alba have to decide on our future. Two of my children were born in Scotland and one in Wales and my eldest son in law spoke only gaelic until he was in his teens but my wife and I were both born in England and spent time in Australia - so I guess I shall stay British!  Never been mad on politicians - promise I will not be political again!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The main bed where I grow Meconopsis for seed in my daughter's garden in Caithness at the far north of Scotland. There are several beds like this all surrounded by wind reducing netting and the ground is covered with Formisol to keep it weed free. It has just been tidied for the winter and all the seed pods collected. I am drying these but as down here in southern Scotland there has been quite a poor seed set ín this particular summer with long cold spells in the spring. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Three different heaths all within a square foot of a roadside bank on the road to the north coast of Scotland to Bettyhill. Heather, Bell heather and Cross leaved heath. They are a good ground cover in Meconopsis beds and very weed suppressing. They survive but do not thrive here in my East Fife garden though they are happy with the thick deep layer of leaf mould I use to maintain soil acidity.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

This is a flower on Eucryphia Nymansay, like so many things this year it is flowering brilliantly. It is always covered in bees - both my honeybees and a bumble bee species Bombus hortorum or the white tailed bee. It clearly produces masses of nectar since they are there all day. This plant is about 18 feet high and grows in full sun in very alkaline soil and shows no sign of this ín the leaves which are always a deep green. It has always been totally hardy.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

This is a tray of Meconopsis punicea (the wonderful red one) due for delivery to a public garden in Perthshire. It is one of the great things about  growing plants and being able to share them. Three years ago I gave M. punicea to a local friend and she germinated masses and gave me half a plant pot seedlings and I have nearly 300 pricked on and growing in large pots. They have been potted on into a rich compost of peat, leaf mold and perlite, the last to to keep the mix open. They should produced really large plants for next year (M. punicea is normally a biennial and the bigger the plants that go into winter the better they flower and the more seed they produce. 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

I have a number of lovely forms of Codonopsis vinciflora including this white form which is very well flowered and climbs up the stems of Meconopsis napaulensis types that have finished flowering and are waiting to yield seed. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Nearly all my spare plastic pots and 3 sacks of compost but all this years Meconopsis are now potted on. There has been exceptional growth this year and I have added inorganic fertilizer to my usual leaf mould, peat and grit compost. I just hope the growth will not be too soft to over winter properly. This should give me an opportuntity to give a lot of these plants back to both professional organisations as well as to a group plant stall and get them safely back into cultivation. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The first of the big blue poppies flowering in a garden in Cumbria. This is the one named Marit. I find the growing number of named forms difficult since they vary in colour and stature depending on the growing season in a particular year. I have suggested we need a proper botanical key if we are going to identify accurately the exact clone. However they are mostly really lovely, robust and very perennial if happy and will usually divide after a year or two. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Dactylilorhiza O'kellyii. A plant from the Burren many years ago and much propagated since as it multiplies well. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

I have a very green fingered friend down the road to whom same years ago I gave plants of M. punicea - this is the unique bright scarlet species.  I do have a little seed this year which I sowed a month ago and hope this will germinate next spring when brought into the warmth from the  dark damp site where the pan now lies. HOWEVER my friend has several hundred well grown plants of this and gave me a pot of seedlings which I have carefully nurtured and now have 250 plants for distribution to various public gardens who may want them. M. punicea in cultivation has been very much rescued, which only goes to show that passing rare plants on is a good long term strategy!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Have just returned from the Auvergne in France and fulfilled a 40 year ambition as I imagined it would be countryside like my childhood in rural Sussex. There are  wonderful old farm buildings, many of which have been beautifully restored by wealthy people from elsewhere in Europe as holiday homes and very often including a swimming pool. This last is a wonderful asset when one takes grandchildren! The actual farmed land mostly consists of small fields, often as clearings in the extensive woodlands - the tractors used were mostly very old. This is strikingly different from the intensive farming here in the east of Scotland with huge fields and equally huge farm equipment and high input of both artificial fertilizers and weed and pest chemicals. The flora was however a little disappointing and I failed to find any orchids to photograph. There were however lots of interesting birds and we were serenaded day and night by nightingales all round the house. Red kites ad black kites as well as honey buzzards drifted over for much of the day. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

These Dactylorhizas are very much a feature after most Meconopsis have finished flowering. They multiply up to four fold every year and as they are difficult to obtain they are a very useful plant to offer to visitors to the garden. They transplant pretty well even if in flower. 

I am away for 10 days so there will be a gap in postings.

Carpenteria californica.  A really lovely and reliable shrub, quite happy in fairly alkaline soil, which I have had for many years and has always been been totally hardy with no frost damage ever to lovely dark green foliage. By reputation requires a sheltered site on a south wall - possible different strains have different hardiness. Has fragrance.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

A really lovely form of Meconopsis betonicifolia from my daughter's garden in Invergowrie, Tayside. A seedling of mine from my own seed.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Nomocharis are to my mind some of the most beautiful of all bulbous plants. They grow well in the slightly humid conditions that suite Meconopsis on this dry side of  Scotland ( though this year it never stops raining!) and if slugs are kept deterred they increase in size and reliably set seed. Difficult to put a species name to this as it is probably hybrid - but all are beautiful.

Friday, 6 June 2014

This is actually a rather nice deep blue with little in the way of purple. It is a part of the 'horridula' group with spiny buds and foliage. There are lovely silver blues as well as white. It is I suppose now technically M. racemosa but this 'super species' shows great variation. A great advantage of these is that they are really tough plants flowering at 2 (usually) or 3 years old and would grow pretty well even in hot dry sites south of the Scottish border. It is winter dormant with resting buds below the soil surface. Seed from seed exchanges may well of course have some of the less desirable forms with coarse spiny foliage and a flower colour and spots on the leaves of purple. If you have a good colour it will probably breed true. 

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Meconopsis napaulensis now produces a wide range of colours and forms with much variation in the foliage. They are clearly somewhat hybrid. This is a very soft cream with a plain green stigma. After a few years as an increasingly large evergreen rosette they eventually throw a tall flowering spike at the back of the border. They will die after this but usually sets lots of seed, 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Meconopsis x beamishii. This ia a hybrid between a form of M. grandis and either M. integrifolia or M. pseudointegrifolia. The blue/ yellow crosses always seem to be this same creamy white. It will hopefully be perennial but only a proportion are. The cross with the yellow species and M. betonicifolia is M. x sarsonsii. The leaves of the hybrids usually more closely resemble the blue parent and this is how the two can be told apart.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Trilliums very much a group of plants that are happy growing with meconopsis. This is a lovely double form. They only increase slowly but eventually they will split. This is Trillium grandiflorum Flore Plenum.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Meconopsis Lingholm. Probably repeating myself but if you aspire to blue poppies in the garden this is the one. It was originally found in a Lake district garden (Cumbria). It is derived from the old sterile hybrid  M. x sheldonii. This was a cross between M. betonicifolia and M. grandis and these were sterile.  By  chance a part of one of these plants became tetraploid and now there were two sets of chromosomes from each parent and normal division could take place and plant became fertile and produces masses of seed since they are vigorous plants and very long lived. I found a similar fertile pod on a M. x sheldonii many years ago in my garden and this too produced a rather smaller and perhaps less effective perennial fertile plant called I called Kingsbarns x hybrids after where I live in East Fife. 

In the heaviest shade behind my main Meconopsis beds and in front of the bee bowls are a fern collection alongside a path. I love the delicate spring green of these that gradually darken as summer progresses. 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Fritillaria is another good genus where many are happy to flower in spring in open ground but are quite happy in the sun in the peat beds during the summer. All my plants in this genus are seed grown and most set good seed annually to pass on. My memory is not what it used to be but I think this is Fritillaria grandiflora - certainly a very large flower for this genus. 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Another picture that really is an indoor plant but in full flower in an bed in the alpine house. This is Iris hoogiana variety noblesse. I also have the straight species. I have never tried these outside - perhaps I should. They have a wonderful smell which is why I have a whole row along the far side of the indoor bed. In the garden the Meconopsis rosette species are sending up flowering spikes - so not too long to wait!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Another wonderful blue flower - the Chatham Island forget-me-not. This is Mytosotidium hortensia locally known as the Kopa Kopa. It is in the Boraginaceae but not a forget me not as we know them. It is said to need shelter from frost and I do have it on a shaded south facing wall and it regularly sets seeds which give me young plants. I have always loved blue flowers and there was a man with the pseudonym of Novalis (who was actually Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg  1772 - 1801) from the Harz Mountains. He said the blue flower symbolises desire, love and beauty. 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Slightly taken aback to find this at Branklyn. I have kept this for years in my daughter's Caithness garden. It does set seed from a single plant but have no idea where the garden in Perth obtained this from or why on earth it is called James Cobb! It is one of three distinct forms of Meconopsis grandis that I have  and  always called it Early Sikkim. As I write the first blue poppies are out in the garden of my Invergowrie daughter which is a very early date. 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The first flower of a meconopsis for 2014. This is Meconopsis punicea and it is always very early compared to the other species I have in cultivation. I have only six plants to flowers this season and although on a really hot day they do open right up I always hand pollinate between any plants that are out. It is usually 3 or 4 days after they open that the pollen is shed and I pollinate with a soft paintbrush as long as there is any pollen still shedding. They must be insect pollinated in the wild and I have always assumed the long drooping flower is to keep rain off, since it must flower in a wet season in China. It is an extra-ordinary colour for a 'blue poppy' and my favorite.
I have done very badly with my seed sown Meconopsis. I have already been rescued with trays of Meconopsis punicea to prick on (all done). Yesterday I traveled up to home in Scotland via a friend, Jeanie Jones from Dumfries. She has traveled very widely in the Himalayas and I met her when I went on an organised trip to Yunnan a few years ago. She is the most green fingered person I have ever known and has a huge range of wonderful plants and almost countless pots of seedlings. Her speciality is Primula with a long list which she has seen in the wild. She gave me all sorts of Meconopsis that I had lost and these are all now pricked on. So my sins have been forgiven and I can replant the 'peat garden' with all the different species that I love to have.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Very much within  the alpine house! These are two colour forms of Lewisia tweedyi. They do not really produce offsets with

 me but do always produce good seed and are very perennial in pots. I shall try seedlings outside since they should actually be very hardy - probably should have done this a long time ago.