Introduction - lachenalia and cyclamen

Brian Whyer
Wed, 09 Apr 2003 13:27:25 PDT
Hi all

I thought it about time I introduced myself, after lurking for 1 month,
and over 520 messages!
I am recently retired, a lifetime gardener-plant grower, the latter
taking priority. I live west of London in the UK, in a valley on the
edge of the Chiltern hills. My rear south facing garden (yard?) is 90' x
20', with a thin chalky soil over flinty gravel. -5C is a realistic
winter minimum air temperature, but occasionally lower, 30C summer
maximum, occasionally higher. Rainfall is ~22", falling throughout the
year, rarely as snow. Last spring frost varies from mid April to late
May, first autumn frost varies from mid September to late October. ~ 18
hours of daylight in late June.
I grow the many of my bulbous/tuberous plants in pots either
freestanding in the garden, protected against the south wall of the
house, in 2 cold frames, in a small alpine house, or in a frost free
(~6C min) greenhouse. The easier bulb(ou)s plants I grow, or have grown,
in the open garden, include narcissus, tulips, crocus, iris, scilla,
chionodoxa, colchicum, anemone, dracunculus, arum, nerine, dactylorhiza,
cyclamen, oxalis, ornithogalum, eranthis, corydalis, erythronium,
allium, galanthus, fritillaria, lilium, eucomis. camassia, tropaeolum.
The more demanding bulb(ou)s, I grow protected in some way, include many
of the above again, but also lachenalia, zephyranthes, habranthus,
tulbaghia, morea, arisaema, asarum, crinum, cardiocrinum, disa, pleione,
trillium, paris.
My main problems are the very thin dry alkaline soil, and winter wet
destroying bulbs I read of as hardy in zones 6 and 5 in north America,
hence the winter protection.
I belong to the UK's RHS and AGS, NARGS, and the Botanical Society of
South Africa, and participate in several discussion groups.

My experience with "African beauty"/lachenalia is that the newer
introduced forms, are more difficult to flower a second time than the
many species I have grown from BotSocSA, NARGS or my own seed. The local
garden centres, which have been selling them for 2-3 years, often at odd
times flowering during the summer, do not understand them yet. They were
frozen solid this last January still displayed outside in the UK's
biggest GC chain. Several lachenalia are now used plunged in temporary
displays in the alpine house in the RHS Wisley garden, including today
while we are having night frosts.

Cyclamen hederifolium grows easily and spreads on my dry well drained
soil, C. coum much less so, although it has seeded itself in one place
in the edge of the lawn from a long ago abandoned pot. In a local
friend's garden on a west facing slope in organic amended, sticky chalky
soil, C. coum grew and spread to several dozen beneath a large bird
cherry tree. Since the tree was cut down they have almost died out over
~5 years, but increased well only 3 yards to the side under a large
overhanging shrub. C. coum seems much fussier about position here. C.
cilicium survives for me on the rockery and I suspect others would also.
I have seen C. libanoticum in another garden against a SW facing wall.

Brian Whyer, (zone 8'ish) Buckinghamshire, UK

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