The Sasanquas.

By mid October most people’s gardens are at best winding down.  Such colour as is left is from late and weather battered Dahlias, Fuchsias, Salvias, the odd rose and the like. Very few plants chose late autumn for their main flower display and many gardeners have also given up and hunkered down to wait for spring. One group of plants that enters the stage after the main performance has finished is late flowering Camellias.

The autumn flowering Camellias are usually referred to as “sasanquas”, though Camellia sasanqua is one of a handful of species involved. The earliest flowers usually appear in early October and different varieties extend the flowering period into the new year. Compared to the spring flowering Camellias, the flowers are generally smaller, often single and most have at least some scent.

In general, they both require and happily tolerate much warmer conditions than the spring flowering varieties and in the west of the UK probably perform best in full sun or part shade. In warmer, dryer places they may benefit from a bit more shade. The leaves are relatively small and new growth often red or purple tinged, making them eminently suitable for hedging in places where they grow well. I have seen them used this way to great effect in Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand and the Paradise series, raised by Bob Cherry in Australia, are marketed as hedging plants. They are generally regarded as too slow growing for this usage in the UK.

Left to grow unchecked, most will eventually make large shrubs, some upright, some wide spreading; with a rather open habit. A bit of formative pruning will make for a more compact bush, as will growing in full sun. When they have reached their required size they are not difficult to contain by pruning. They will grow in poor soils, provided it is acidic and as young plants in containers are nutrient sensitive such that they need much lower feed rates than even other camellias, let alone vigorous deciduous subjects.
In areas with unsuitable soil they may be grown in pots, They will need an ericaceous compost and their roots must be protected from freezing. Regular low level feeding will be needed.

I should also mention a small group of hybrids between C. sasanqua and C. reticulata that were raised by Howard Asper in America. These are ‘Show Girl’, ‘Flower Girl’ and ‘Dream Girl’. ‘Show Girl’ is an exceptional variety, with huge semi-double pink flowers for a couple of months in the middle of winter.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Navajo’ has just begun to flower in my south facing front garden. Beside it and not flowering yet is Camellia sasanqua ‘Paradise Little Liane’. My plant of this flowered freely last year and is well budded this year, in stark contrast to plants at Mt Edgcumbe and Trewithen which are growing in shade and do not flower at all. It is a very compact variety with small double flowers with a pleasant scent.

C. hiemalis ‘Bonanza’ is in the Mt Edgcumbe collection and flowers well even though it is located in full shade. The blooms are about 5cm across and an intense vivid pink bordering onto red. They have little or no scent in my experience. ‘Crimson King’ is either variable or more than one clone is sold under the name. A good form is a clear light red. ‘Gay Sue’ is of similar size and shape to ‘Bonanza’ but has a strong scent.

I have a plant of Camellia ‘Show Girl’ in a pot. It is about four feet tall and covered in buds. The large plant at Mt Edgcumbe is around 10 feet tall and upright growing. It turns in a superb performance regularly every year with semi-double blooms 15cm across.


Camellia ‘Show Girl’

I have written about the sasanquas in the National Collection at Mt. Edgcumbe with illustrations of many more varieties.
Sasanqua season – 1
Sasanqua season – 2
Sasanqua season – 3
Sasanqua season – 4
Sasanqua season 2018


Six on Saturday – 13/10/2018


Wednesday was a lovely day and seems such a long time ago. I looked at the forecast and got some pictures taken then and on Thursday. I did a quick loop of  the garden this morning and it’s looking battered and soggy with most of the pot stuff lying down.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Navajo’. This is not what is happening today. It happened on Thursday and got blown to pieces on Friday, but there are lots more buds waiting for a break in the weather, a couple should be out by tomorrow. It’s my first bloom on an outdoors, in the ground Camellia for this season. The autumn flowering sasanqua varieties need more light and warmth than other Camellias and this one is at the front of the house in full sun. I was taking pictures of sasanquas at Mt Edgcumbe earlier in the week, wrote a piece on the other blog if you’re interested.

Hesperantha coccinea white form. This came originally from Cally Gardens, via a gardening friend and I don’t have a cultivar name for it. There are a number of white forms around; this is a pure white with no pink at all and seems quite vigorous. It’s still in a pot, I haven’t fond the spot for it yet.

Salvia confertiflora. We managed to get a poor plant of this through last winter and took cuttings early. They’re nice young plants in pots now but need nursing through the winter and planting in the spring. It could then get to six feet and be magnificent. That’s the plan at any rate.

Solanum pyracanthos. We were given a small plant of this earlier this year and I put it in my 21 July six. If I’d looked after it better it would have transcended interesting and made it to magnificent, but it wasn’t that sort of year. I suppose it could have died but it’s survived to produce a single typical Solanum flower. Hurrah.

Araiostegia parvipinnata BSWJ1608
Seems mostly to come up as A. parvipinnula on Google, but still listed as A. parvipinnata on Crûg’s website, from whom I got it, along with A. pulchra HWJ1006, which if anything has a slightly finer leaf. Bob Brown (Cotswold Garden Flowers) lists A. parvipinnula but suggests it may be the same as A. hymenophylloides. It’s a mess.
At the beginning of the year I split my 10 litre pot of it into three, one bit went to a gardening friend, one into my garden and the last third back into a pot. The bit I gave away has done best, of course. My planted chunk struggled in the drought but is looking happier now and has put out new fronds in recent weeks. The multiply pinnate fronds grow from surface rhizomes covered in golden scales, a feature much easier to appreciate in a pot than in the ground. They come over the sides of the pot like hairy caterpillars.
In its pot and especially while I had it growing under glass, it was getting 2 ft tall. In the ground it seems likely to be much shorter, perhaps only half the height. I could see it spreading quite enthusiastically in moist woodsy conditions and a mild climate. Crûg say it has thrived in their (North Wales) garden for years.
The bright yellow thing is Disporum viridescens, showing it has another string to its bow.

A fortnight back, I had a picture of an unknown beastie’s eggs on a cutting I’d taken of Colletia. They hatched midweek into tiny caterpillars about 2mm long. They looked to me like sawflies of some sort. Readers, I have to inform you that they met with an unfortunate accident shortly after the picture was taken. Really regrettable, but these things happen. On the plus side, they won’t be setting out to munch every leaf in my greenhouse, not that I’d have minded.

And that is it for another week. Lots more sixers will be linking in to The Propagators blog with their contributions. There’ll be more shared misery this week than escapist loveliness, but there’ll be a bit of that I hope.

Six on Saturday – 6/10/2018

I was expecting to wake to rain this morning, but it still hasn’t arrived. It’s not far away but it’s not moving either. Hey ho.

Six things happening in the garden now, no problem.

Not one, but two bulging packets arrived in the post yesterday, next year’s seeds. I stuck with Kings for my main veg order, on the basis of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The other one was a departure for me, sparked by my following a link from Nadia’s blog a couple of weeks ago to a seed company called Seedaholic. (Thank you Nadia) I can tell you that first impressions are excellent. Each seed packet is attached to a sheet containing a full description, growing instructions and background information.

It’s the time of year for contemplating the herculean task of squeezing all our pot grown plants which have spent the summer outdoors back into a greenhouse for the winter. I’ve made a start with Fuchsias. My first step was to update my inventory of what we have. I am a massive list maker, I can’t help myself. It means I can tell you we have 99 varieties and a total of 265 plants. Some are in the ground, 48 in fact, the rest in pots ranging from 9cm to 7.5 litre. The hardy varieties amongst the pots will go in the tunnel, the rest under glass, having been trimmed and stripped of leaves. Quite a few are still looking very good and will be left for now.

I also updated my inventory of Camellias this week. More lists. The most pressing job needing to be done is to get nematodes to treat them for vine weevil. I took out a dead plant yesterday which had been barked completely below soil level, squashed two grubs. I have camellias in the ground, up the allotment and in pots. Some are young plants that I have propagated for one reason or another, like because the National Collection only has one and should have a back-up. In truth, I could not give you a convincing reason why I have so many. 203 varieties, excluding the cuttings on the mist bed. I have two Camellia sasanqua varieties flowering in the tunnel now, ‘Crimson King’ and ‘Gay Sue’.

Nerines. Compared to last year, my Nerines are terrible this year. The bulbs seemed to survive the cold and leafed out fine, so it seems they haven’t produced a lot of flower buds because of the dry, which I find very surprising, having hoped for the opposite effect.

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’. Most of my Dahlias were a bit slow to get going in the spring, perhaps because the ground was colder than usual. Once they were under way though, they made up for lost time and have been flowering for many weeks in most cases. Not this one, which decided to wait until October to open its first bloom. Very dark blooms are interesting and dramatic, but stand back a few feet and they don’t contribute much to the overall flowery look of the garden. I’m happy with that, I want both.

Blechnum tabulare. Not to be confused with Blechnum chilense, though it often is. That’s the rampant spreading one I’m trying to get rid of. This one is from sub Saharan Africa and only borderline hardy in milder parts of the UK. I have it in a pot so it can be moved under protection if the weather turns nasty. It has grown strongly and is now in a 20L pot with a crown over a metre across. In time it will develop a trunk. Like a lot of plants grown mainly for foliage, it looks much the same year round and risks missing out on its deserved SoS slot because there is no point when it does something to grab my attention.

That’s how early autumn is looking in my neck of the woods. As ever it will be interesting to compare notes with lots of gardeners at a similar point in the cycle and to be inspired by a few who are way ahead or behind. Links to fellow sixers as ever from The Propagator’s missive. (Ooh!, it’s finally started raining, how exciting)

Impatiens omeiana

I have three very distinct forms of the Mt Omei balsam in my garden, two planted out and one still in a pot. The one that I have had the longest is the form most often encountered here and came to the UK from America, having been introduced to cultivation by Don Jacobs of Eco Gardens Nursery. It is most often referred to here simply as Impatiens omeiana, with no clonal name, but perhaps should be called I. omeiana ‘Eco Hardy’. The online RHS Plantfinder lists eight varieties but does not list this clone so it has to be assumed that it is what you are getting from the 21 listed suppliers of Impatiens omeiana.

I have it growing in two places, one in moist soil shaded by the taller Astilbes amongst which it grows, the other, in the picture above, a shady corner beneath an assortment of other plants. The picture shows it flowering a year ago: this year it collapsed in the hot dry summer and has gone completely dormant. I would expect it to come back up in the spring, but it clearly needs to be in ground that never dries out. The clump amonst the Impatiens-omeiana-2
Astilbes suffered some leaf scorch but is now flowering well as in this picture.

The second clone I obtained with a label saying Impatiens aff. omeiana, implying that the seller didn’t know what it was but was having a stab at I. omeiana. I am now fairly certain that it is the form now called ‘Pink Nerves’. It has vivid carmine red midribs and veins to the leaves which also have a dark red reverse. The insides of the flowers areImpatiens-omeiana-3

spotted red on a yellow ground. My confidence in my identification of it was shaken
when I saw what appeared to be the same thing at a plant sale labelled Impatiens omeiana ‘Chen Yi Red’. Chen Yi is a Chinese nursery with a dubious reputation for supplying illegally wild collected material, much of it wrongly named. Slightly surprising then that someone would be openly selling a plant in this country from such a source. I didn’t buy it and have subsequently learned that Chen Yi Red is probably the form that Nick Macer has given the clonal name ‘Sango’ to. Like ‘Pink Nerves’, it has a lot of red pigmentation but seems also to have a silvery marking either side of the mid rib, and slightly broader leaves, not that I have seen it in the flesh.

My third form is ‘Ice Storm’, introduced to the UK by Michael Wickenden from a Japanese nursery. That has light green leaves which are silvery on the top surface when they emerge in spring, though by mid summer they are mainly green.

The RHS online Plantfinder lists one or two others, though it seems likely there may be synonyms amongst them. A form collected by Dan Hinckley under collection number DJHC 98492 is not listed as such but may be the one listed as “long leaved”. One nursery is listed as having a variety called ‘High Voltage’ which looks attractive if not highly distinctive in pictures I have seen.

Given reliable moisture and shade, these are easy plants to grow, attractive in leaf and flowering in October when most other plants are shutting down. It will also make an excellent pot plant for shade. I won’t be chasing all round the country to get every form, but I’d buy others if I saw them.


Six on Saturday – 29/9/2018

SOS638At this time of year bad weather causes a rapid slide into chaos and good weather puts the slide on hold without reversing it. Excellent weather for getting things done though. There always seem to be a lot of takers for the idea of autumn as favourite season. I’m not one of them; I prefer spring with its sense of renewal and getting better, autumn is the season of decline.

Still, it shouldn’t be difficult to find six reasons to be cheerful:

Says he, then starts with what presumably should be seen as a pest, albeit unidentified. I took a few cuttings of Colletia hystrix, as you do, and put them under the mist. On one of my should be more regular than they are checks, I spotted this lot on one of the cuttings. I’m assuming that when they hatch the plan is to make a meal of the cutting. That probably won’t happen.

Camellia sinensis ‘Benibana-cha’. So called “Red Tea”. This is always the first of my Camellias to flower. It’s a very small plant in a 2 litre pot and it’s grown a bit better this year, the combination of warmth and feeding has suited it. The flowers are 1.5-2cm across and odorous in a neither unpleasant or pleasant way.

Cyclamen hederifolium. We have a tree of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Little Spire’ in the garden, notable only for the inappropriateness of its name. The bigger it gets, and its probably 25 feet or more now, the less well anything within the spread of its roots grows. This summer I was watering things around it to keep them alive, knowing the tree was grabbing 75% of it, to grow even bigger. I think Cyclamen hederifolium have a reasonable chance of succeeding, so I splashed out on several, including both pink and white flowered forms with solid silver leaves. The plan is that they’ll seed around and make a nice mottled leafy carpet.

The same buying binge at the Plant Heritage sale at Rosemoor last Sunday netted me Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea ‘Transparent’. I’ve planted it to replace another quite tall grass that had been a bit of a mess ever since it was planted. I can’t even find its name now. I’m hoping this one will be an improvement, encouraged by another rather shorter variety of the same species I have elsewhere. I mean, it’s purple moor grass and Bodmin Moor is just up the road and covered in the stuff., why wouldn’t it thrive? There was a clue in the name to the fact that photographing it was going to be tricky.











The pink thing in the middle is the thing to which I would draw your attention. One of the things I’ve always admired at RHS Rosemoor is the collection of assorted pots that are on the veranda around the house. They must have quite a stash in a glasshouse somewhere, bringing them out there when they’re doing their thing. My stash is growing and includes this Nerine on steroids, or to give it its botanical name, x Amarine tubergenii ‘Zwanenburg’, making it a bigeneric hybrid between Amaryllis and Nerine. If I’m honest, it was a bit of a disappointment, being exactly like Nerine but about 50% bigger. Oddly, it’s better this year than it’s ever been, while both the Nerines and Amaryllis that I have are the worst ever.

The number six spot was scheduled to be Dahlia of the week, but the one I took pictures of was the one I started with at the beginning of August. Besides, the pictures I took of this aster have got the colour just about right for a change, so I thought I’d join the great Symphonic Trichum debate. I don’t have any idea what the variety is either, it’s always been known as “June’s Aster”, June being the lady from whose garden it came. I have ‘Purple Dome’, which is a quite different colour in the garden and identical on the computer screen.

I’ve had a quick gander at The Propagator’s six and the links to other contributors are mounting up as usual. So interesting to get this snapshot of where everyone is each week. It’s too nice a day to be inside though, the garden and allotment beckon.

Six on Saturday – 22/9/2018


I just looked out the window and noticed how autumnal next door’s plum leaved thorn is looking; that seemed to happen overnight. It’s raining and it’s due to last all day.

The poor old garden has been given a right thrashing this week and there’s more to come. I don’t like wind. Even taking pictures is tricky, with plants whipping about and the sun in and out and showers waiting for me to venture out. We’ve had much needed prolonged heavy rain though, not that I’ve checked to see how far down it went. I’ve half heartedly started making a bit of room for the annual quart into a pint pot business of getting things under cover for winter. It’ll take a credible threat of frost to really get some action going, same as every year.

For now, there’s plenty flowering, if a little brown round the edges, and stuff happening in various ways. Here are six of them.

Haemanthus albiflos is my favourite plant name. There was one on offer at the HPS sale back in May, which I bought. It had the name ‘Mrs Burree’ on it, which may be a cultivar or it may be the name of the person who donated it to the sale. Could even be both. I took its picture using focus stacking but couldn’t resist one of it in context. It’s pretty much what I look out on when I’m washing up.

Out the front. Our next door neighbour went into a home a few months back and sadly died on Monday. I’ve been doing his garden for years and out the front treated his and ours pretty much as one space. We don’t know what will happen now, presumably the house gets sold and we get new neighbours. There are some nice plants on his side, like Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’, which is just about to start flowering. When I looked it up, I found it has its own website. I guess if someone moves in who doesn’t want the plants, we can dig and move them at this time of year. His is/was left of the boundary line in this upstairs view, it’s actually at least double the size of our side, the picture is misleading.

I included my Bomarea edulis a couple of weeks ago and nice as it is, it had been gnawing at me that the one I really wanted was Bomarea multiflora. There’s a nursery half an hour away that I’d been meaning to visit and I looked at his plant list online. There it was. This was Tuesday evening. I looked at his opening times; shut on Wednesdays. Ridiculous. First thing Thursday I got to wander round for half an hour with not another soul about. Picked out a few things and gave the large cow bell on his shop counter a good swing. Treseder’s at Lockengate, a nursery name with a very fine pedigree. Have a look at his list, it’s pretty impressive. He’s feeling his way into mail order too. I came away with Bomarea, Fuchsia ‘Eruption’, Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ and a couple of Cyclamen hederifolium. Picked up a couple of cheap Campanulas at another nursery on the way home. The cyclamen at the front were some Sue got a few days back. Good thing there’s a plant sale at Rosemoor on Sunday.

Apples. ‘Holstein’ and ‘Red Windsor’ to be specific. ‘Holstein’ is what I grafted onto my unhappy ‘Elstar’ some years back. ‘Holstein’ is a German variety, thought to have ‘Cox’ ancestry; beautiful apple, very scab resistant, which matters in Cornwall. I was afraid the wind would blow them all off and nearly picked them before it came. Hardly any have fallen, from either tree. ‘Red Windsor’ is on M9, which may not really be vigorous enough for Cornwall, it’s fruiting almost too well, or to put it another way, I didn’t thin it enough, but it’s not making much new growth. In spite of, or because of, the dry summer, my apples are way better than last year, twice as many and twice the size.

Hardy Begonias. People have been growing various forms of Begonia grandis outdoors for a long time. It gets up about 18 inches and flowers quite late in the year. There are pink and white flowered forms. In autumn it produces little bulbils, effectively the axillary buds detach themselves and fall to the ground and in spring when it comes up again, it is surrounded by small plants that have grown from the bulbils. Last year I bought Begonia ‘Garden Angel Blush’ and planted out one of my two plants of Begonia sikkimensis. Both survived the winter, though they were painfully slow to get going this year. I think they’re only really hardy if they are kept frost free under a sufficient layer of leafmould or suchlike; I’ll give them a good blanket this year. The Begonia sikkimensis in a pot shows its potential. I planted out Begonia luxurians this year too. It was very pot-bound but it’s done all right. I’ll cover that and see if it comes through.

Dahlia of the week is ‘Orange Cushion’, the parent of most of my allotment seedlings that I might have occasionally mentioned. I dead head regularly but tagged a few to leave for seed. They’re nearly ready, see if we get a couple of dry days next week. They’ll get sown next spring.

That’s it again. I was going to do Impatiens omeiana, I’m not sure which of the above six I missed on the first count. It’ll be better next week.

A rainy day is the perfect excuse to make a coffee and settle in to reading all the six on Saturday posts from all over. It’s like having your garden open each week and getting mostly the same people visiting and you don’t have to worry about the weather or baking cakes or parking or people nicking cuttings. Plus you can go visit lots of other gardens at the same time as your own is open. It’s like magic.

The gateway for all this fun is The Propagator, the host with the most.


Six on Saturday – 15/9/2018

I don’t know how many different plants I grow, it’s several, if not more. Some are rarities, some are not. Some are big and bold and brash, some so restrained they’re hard to spot. I’m a gardener, I grow plants; for me, two different plants are more interesting than two the same.

Each of us has a different list of elements for what constitutes a good garden, and for each of us the prioritising of the list is different. For me it would depend on the mood I was in when you asked the question. Variety and colour generally occupy first and second slots on my list, usually in that order.

Variety means there’s always something happening, always a reason to go and see how or whether something is coming along. Colour is for me one of nature’s greatest gifts, the more so for being, or at least seeming, like an unnecessary extravagance. Grasses get along just fine without bright colours, why do Dahlias need such gaudery? And why does it seem universally true that when we are surrounded by flowers, be it tulip fields, desert flowers, a field of poppies or the National Collection of Dahlias; our mood is lifted by the experience. We’re not bees, it should mean nothing to us.

Time to cut to the chase. Arthropodium candidum ‘Little Lilia’. Looks rather like the spider plant in the porch, but more compact. Having visited both, I’m vulnerable to the charms of any plant from New Zealand or Tasmania, the former in this case. Bodmin Nursery, where I was surprised to find this, often surprises me with something unexpected. I think I will keep it in a pot and put it under cover for the winter.


A view. The longest axis of our garden. You’re facing north-west in this picture, with much shadier areas just out of shot to left and right. This strip gets sun for a lot of the day. Dahlias provide vivid colour for a long time, supported by Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Fuchsias, Salvias and plenty of coloured foliage. Herman (the head) needs a new wig. Some of the Dahlias over by the tunnel are 6 feet tall, if they were in the right place they’d hide the tunnel.

Some of the begonias we had last year survived the winter, others succumbed to cold, wet and wine weasles. I had no idea what colours they were when I planted half a dozen in this big terracotta pot in the spring. The pot was given us by our elderly neighbour who moved into an old folks home a few months ago and won’t be back. We used to plant and maintain a trough of flowers outside his front door and he would sit in his porch and enjoy them. I’m sure he’d be pleased with how the begonias turned out.

Our floral display at the front of the house is a mix of things moved out of the glasshouse for the summer and pots of bedding plants. And the odd Dahlia that I didn’t get round to planting. And the Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata that were cluttering the conservatory and actually do very well outdoors. And the Coprosma that needs planting out and kept blowing over round the back.

Dahlia of the week. We visited the National Dahlia Collection field last weekend, must be one of their worst years ever, and still it’s fabulous. (and free). I bought this as a rooted cutting from them last year but it struggled somewhat; probably more my fault than theirs. It’s a collarette variety called ‘Danum Torch’.

Colour disharmony. I don’t care, you hear me! Right of the path is the oranges and yellows bed, except it used to be the pink bed and there are one or two still left and the whole clump of Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ died mysteriously in the winter so gap plugging was called for and someone gave me a handful of roots of the anemone and it needed to go in somewhere quick. Excuses, excuses. The dahlia is one of my seedlings, that’s the most flowers it’s had all summer. Solidago ‘Fireworks’ is looming over everything; I’m still not entirely convinced it’s a great plant.
Left of the path hasn’t benefitted from a unifying theme. Zingiber mioga ‘Crûg’s Zing’ is intent on pushing everything else out. Its comeuppance is not far off. It sets off the purple aster, (I assume “aster” is still acceptable as a common name, even if it had too few syllables for the botanists) There’s a camellia at the back, it’ll get huge; a Schefflera top left, it’ll get huge; a magnolia far left, it is huge.

What, please can I have some more sir. I haven’t mentioned Haemanthus albiflos, or Molinia caerulea ‘Heidebraut’. Fuchsia ‘Papoose’ will be over by next week.

Humph, six it is then. Weekends wouldn’t be the same without a few more sixes popping up as links from The Propagator’s post every time I come in for coffee or lunch or whatever. Garden voyeurism of the highest order.