Friday 1st October 2021

Pouring with rain. Outdoor play has been suspended. Everyone’s indoors.

They’re playing cards. What the hecky decky is going on?

Poker? Show no emotion. Masks will help.

So true. And I’ve got all spades

(How appropriate)

Actually, it’s a card game featuring plant families. Every plant belongs to a family, of which there are many. Lamiaceae; Asteraceae; Rosaceae; Iridaceae; Scrophulariaceae (sounds nasty)…. the list is long. Plants in the same family share physical characteristics which can assist in their identification. Those in the Asteraceae (Daisy) family, tend to have a daisy-like form, whilst those in the Rosaceae family usually have open, bowl-shaped flowers with five petals and a cluster of stamens in the centre.

So, Sunflowers, Chrysanthemums and Dahlias are in the Daisy family (but, surprisingly, so are Echinops and Yarrow), and Roses and Blackberries are Part of the Rosaceae family (and so are Apricots, Apples, Pears and Raspberries).

Families can be tricky and surprising, can’t they?

Plant Ident.

This week’s focus is on Persicarias (aka Bistort or Knotweed). Part of the Polygonaceae family, they are a varied genus of robust, hardy, herbaceous perennials which flower from mid-summer to autumn. There are about 100 species, so there’s plenty to choose from, and they have become very popular in prairie-style plantings as typified by Piet Oudolf and also by the McBrides at Sussex Prairies. They provide vibrancy and interest in late summer borders and contribute to that season’s rich tapestry of colours.

Generally speaking, they thrive best in rich, moist soils, but they’re pretty adaptable and will manage in poorer conditions provided it’s not too hot and dry. They need room to spread and display themselves, but are low maintenance on the whole, needing only the occasional haircut. The flowers are loved by butterflies and bees and, what’s more, will last for a long time in water when cut and brought indoors.

Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Alba’

Slender tapers of tiny, white flowers are borne on long stems rising above a mound of large leaves. Flowers from summer through to autumn, and grows to around 1.0 m.

Persicaria virginiana var. filiformisGuizhou Bronze’

 More impressive as a foliage plant, this one has large, felted leaves with smudgy dark green markings. Rated by Steve Edney of Salutation Garden fame, it’s got to be a good ‘un.

Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Orange Field’ and ‘Pink Mist’

‘Orange Field’ is a cultivar selected and named by the Belgian landscape architect Chris Ghyselen. It has luminous, slender, coral flowers.Ht 1.0 m.

‘Pink Mist’ is shorter than many Persicarias; soft pink spikes rise above its slim stems, and the plant forms a gently rounded clump. Ht 0.8 m

Persicaria virginiana var. filiformis ‘Alba’

This one has an upright bushy habit. Mossy green leaves have a faint chevron marking and narrow spires of tiny white flowers emerge in the autumn months. Hardy, deciduous and performs best in shady conditions. It’s a good choice for borders where there are Ferns and Hostas, as it will give some height and late colour. It can tolerate quite dry soils once established, but, like other members of its genus, it really prefers moisture retentive conditions. Ht 0.9 m.

Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’

This cultivar is a vigorous, spreading perennial with lanceolate leaves which are purple/green in colour. The silver/green chevron marking on each leaf do indeed conjure up the face of a dragon. Clusters of small white flowers emerge in late summer – early autumn. Can provide good, dense ground cover, as this is one of the lower-growing Persicarias. Cut back after flowering. Ht. 0.5m

Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Fat Domino’

A good, reasonably well-behaved variety, again introduced by Chris Ghyselen, with long spikes of plump, deep red flowers carried on stems above bright green foliage. Spreads freely but tends not to be invasive. Its impressive impact in the garden is largely due to the size, quantity and continuity of the flowers. Looks good with grasses. Ht. 1.0 – 1.2 m

Succulents

A trayful of succulent Succulent cuttings

These cuttings were taken earlier and left in a tray to callous over, which will aid propagation. They may start to grow roots even before planting.

Ready, steady…..propagate!

And they’re off…

Succulents can be divided by removing the little plantlets, or offsets, that have grown up alongside the mother plant. Sometimes it is possible to divide them by root separation, where the plant itself is split into separate clumps.

They can also be grown from cuttings. Here, a leaf can be pulled away, or a stem can be cut (useful when a plant has grown long and leggy). Cut the stem leaving about 2cms on the plant. Leave to dry. Plant in a good, well-drained potting medium – compost mixed with grit or perlite – ensure they are firmly bedded in. Water sparingly.

Here we are propagating by planting the individual leaves of Succulents – things such as Echeverias and Aeoniums. The cut part of the leaf is gently pushed upright into the compost. New plants will grow from the base. It’s all very exciting.

Don’t watch them though; it will take time.

Outside at last!

Potting up cuttings

Propagate grasses

Dig up clumps of Grasses (various). Divide. Pot divisions into fresh compost, removing dead and damaged leaves and shortening the root system. Use of a devilishly sharp pruning saw is advisable.

Count fingers on both hands before and after this job.

But how many fingers did you start with?

Six, seven, eight, nine…..

And what’s happening in the greenhouse?

Lots of green growth

Nicely labelled, Puss. And are they all properly categorised?

“I can categorically confirm that they are.”

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