December 11, 2012

Chinese Collections Bloom under Glass

Camellia 'Kitty', one of the earliest of the winter camellias to bloom in my greenhouse. On a cold, rainy day, it brightens up a shady bench.
 I finally could not escape the nasty chest cold virus that has been going around, so obviously, I have not been blogging nor taking photos since last weekend. Today, I was able to sneak out a bit in the afternoon to fill the bird feeders and to water the greenhouse a bit, and to grab a lemon or two for my tea ( oh God, I'm starting to sound old!), and I was surprised that on these - the shortest days of the year, there is much in bloom under glass.

A majority of the blooming shrubs and plants right now are Chinese, where the South African spring blooming ( fall blooming here) plants have begun to wind down, there is a break when most of what is in bloom is Asian. Camellia, Asian primula, citrus seed to dominate.  I am always struck at how many plants I now associate with specific seasons, in much the same way that one associates Lilacs with April or Trillium with May, I associate Chinese Primroses with December and January, or Camellias with January and February. These repeat visitors are like old friends, like any other garden plant, but only with us for a brief week or two on the gardening calendar.

Primula forbessii is one of two known annual species of Primrose native to Yunnan and northern Burma. Monocarpic yet sometimes self-seeding in the same pot, the species is closely related to P. malacoides, the once popular Fairy Primrose which was so common in cool greenhouses at the turn of the last century.

I've been primula species - deficient this past year, just out of lazyness, and not from a lack of seed, for as any visitor knows, our cheese drawer in the fridge is jam packed with primula seed! I did sow a few trays of pots this autumn, which I will bring back into the greenhouse around Christmas to germinate, and I am ordering some newly collected species to sow from Jelitto ( since they are pre-chilled) and some from the finest source of hybrid primula - Barnahaven Primroses in France, but I fear that the only primrose that I will have in bloom this winter is this P. forbessii ( and maybe a few P. obconica that I was able to carry through the summer heat).
In a few weeks, this pot of Primula forbessii will be in full bloom. First flowered in England in 1891 in the alpine house at Kew, today it can only be found in the greenhouses and collections of plant collectors, as it requires annual seeding and demands a cool, moist environment. I was lucky that my plant self seeded last spring.

My Meyer Lemon crop was small this year ( I really think that I need to get a few more trees in the greenhouse). With only about 25 lemons, I still should have enough to last for tea through most of the winter, but not enough for Lemon curd or Lemon Merengue Pie this year.

The tiniest citrus in the greenhouse is this pea sized kumquat, Fortunella hindsii. Virtually doll-house sized oranges.
This Kumquat, or Fortunella  species is rarely seen today, but it is a common plant in Hong Kong ( it's the one you see outside the windows when taking the train to the top of Victoria Mountain and often called the "Hong Kong Kumquat.) In China it has been pickled ( but then, what hasn't), and preserved, but with pea-sized fruit, it's more of an ornamental - a thorny one - than anything else. Each fruit holds a single or pair of large seeds.

1 comment :

  1. The primulas are exquisite, so much more refined than some of the garish varieties sold in their millions over here.


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