This is my April 2018 contribution to our special project: When Fashion and Nature Collide
These flowers and Roda‘s critter photos have provided the inspiration for Dominique‘s styling and Lisa’s art this month. Please go and visit their own blogs and see their posts. Collages used here were prepared by Roda.
The plant pictured is one of the many horticultural hybrids or selections springing from this species originating from the mountains of Western China and Tibet. For many these autumn-flowering Asiatic Gentians are trouble-free garden plants and will spread into colourful mats of foliage covered with blue trumpet flowers in autumn.
They do demand moisture and acidic (low pH) soil. They also benefit from frequent division and replanting in fresh soil.
I confess the picture represents my solitary success with these…. I feel they are not well suited to coastal gardens and often die after the storms of late autumn and winter. I suspect they may be very intolerant of salt.
When browsing my most recent photos Dominique noticed this closely resembles the necklace she is wearing with the Gentian blue outfit. So we decided to include it here. It is named after Mr Ron McBeath, formerly of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. I can do no better than to include the text from the seed catalogue of its original discoverer Jim Archibald:
690.080 : MUSCARI MCBEATHIANUM (Subgen. Pseudomuscari) * Turkey, Adana, ENE of Tufanbeyli. 1200m. Open areas among Pines in fine sand. (Racemes of open-mouthed, ice-blue to white flowers from porcelain-blue buds on 10cm. stems. A charming, delicate little species we discovered in 1985. Needs careful watering in the alpine-house.
The double-flowered forms of this species are often sold just as Ranunculus or Turban Buttercup for use as summer bedding plants. I much prefer the original wild forms that these were bred from. They are a favourite of mine and were the subject of an article I wrote for the journal of the Scottish Rock Garden Club a few years ago. This is free to download here (Issue 125): http://www.srgc.net/site/index.php/extensions/journal
They have large flowers, almost poppy-like. And occur in red, yellow, white, pink and purple forms. Often a particular population is all one colour. For instance the vast majority of plants on Crete are the lovely white form. The species grows throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.
The wild forms grow in winter, flower in spring and then die back to dormant tubers to avoid the Mediterranean summer heat. Effectively behaving like the bulbs they often grow with. This means they are not hardy in cold climates and even in the UK are better under glass. They are generally easy to grow if this is catered for. Plants often become infected with virus which eventually distorts the flowers and foliage, at which point they are best discarded and replaced.
Romulea is a genus of bulbs (actually corms) related to Crocus and found in both Europe and in South Africa. Some of the South African species have large flowers in spectacular colours. This species is one of those. It grows through the winter, flowers in spring and then goes dormant for the summer, just like Crocus. Unfortunately the South African species are not so cold hardy and need protection from frost. The habit of flowering early in the spring means that they often get leggy due to the low light levels here in the UK at that time. They therefore must have a bright sunny position in the greenhouse. Some Romulea increase well by offsets but this one is more reluctant so hand-pollination to obtain seed is the way to go.