Echibeckia

DSC_0007I know it’s not much of a plant at this stage, more of a box really, but inside is a bit of the horticultural future…..apparently! We are all familiar with Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ and R. var. ‘Deamii’ and have probably had a brush with the larger flowered and more colourful annual Rudbeckia hirta in the form of ‘Marmalade’ or ‘Green Eyes’ or similar. We are also probably all familiar with Echinacea purpurea and have discovered that only the species is truly hardy; the myriad cultivars I have been suckered into buying have been hopeless and die in their first winter…too wet in the UK. They need long, dry, cold winters as they get in the mid western United States to survive.  My friend Rob Cole at Meadow Farm Nursery is selecting open pollinated variants and testing them for the factors required in a British garden worthy plant and is pretty close to releasing a couple on the market but, in the meantime, the Echibeckia has been introduced from the United States to satisfy our desire for a hardy, early and long flowering perennial that is hardy and disease resistant. As the name implies, it is an intergeneric cross between Rudbeckia hirta and Echinacea purpurea. So what’s in the box????????DSC_0009

Certainly well packaged by Hayloft Plants; arrived safe and well grown……DSC_0010

far bigger than expected, at least 25cm high and one even beginning to flower!DSC_0012

However, we are going to have to wait until next summer to find out a) has it survived and b) was it worth it!

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Snow!

Garrya elliptica catkins in the snow

Garrya elliptica catkins in the snow

After 3 bitterly cold days, it warmed slightly and the snow arrived. Not much, 10cm or so, but enough to keep us indoors. Most low lying shrubs and emerging bulbs are now sleeping under a warm blanket but tall shrubs like the Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ look even more stunning when the long catkins are covered in snow.

Eranthis hyemale, the Winter aconite

Eranthis hyemale, the Winter aconite

These little aconites are reliable early winter stalwarts, emerging before everything else and gradually spreading to all parts of the garden. I must have disturbed them during the renovation because they are appearing in the strangest places. I think this one must have been in the root ball of the primula I transplanted last year.

The woodland path!

The woodland path!

Just outside our bungalow, the one you can see in the distance in this photo, there is a lovely woodland path which winds it’s way up the hill on to Charlton Kings Common and then into the old stone quarry and beyond. Most of the year it is an enjoyable, dry and interesting walk but in recent winters, and particularly this one, it has turned into a stream bringing flood water and debris down from the hill and depositing it on to the road. More worrying is the fact that the first storm drain it reaches is the one outside our drive, 200 metres from the end of the path. By the time it reaches that, it is more of a raging torrent than a stream. So far it has not caused any significant damage but ……….. we’ll see!

Echinacea seed heads stripped by the birds

Echinacea seed heads stripped by the birds

I only saw the finches a couple of times but it seems they made a meal of the  Echinacea purpurea seed heads I left in the front border. We also had some strong winds which must have blown more away to be eaten by the Wrens, Dunnocks and Pied Wagtails which are always scratching around looking for stray seeds. Who knows, some may even germinate and give me some free plants.

Frost

Frosted Echinacea

This image is not one of mine but I thought it was nice to end this piece. I guess this must have been taken in a place which suffers very early frost because all my Echinaceas lost their petals weeks before our first cold snap in October. It reminds me of crystallised fruit dusted with icing sugar!