Some posts take on a life of their own and are visited many times! I wish I knew why and I would write a few more!
Early on I did a series that I dubbed ‘Her indoors’ to identify my little forays into how to grow house plants. There is nothing in the title ‘Her Indoors 3’ to attract attention but there have now been 18,000 visits! It had languished at about fifty ‘hits’ in the whole of its first year!
I wanted to write just a little more about this easy to grow house plant and wondered about updating my original post. But no, why should I kill the golden goose? If it’s not broke don’t fix it!
For a plant you never see at the garden centre, achimenes is very popular and has been from Victorian times. I recently read a very long list of varieties grown in an iconic Australian glasshouse in 1850.
There is a huge range of colours which vary in habit and size. Some tend to be tall and floppy, some rather insipid and others weak growing. There are however a handful of magnificent varieties that will give you for very little effort, four months of glorious colour each summer.
My rock is still purple Achimenes ’Early Arnold’ but I wanted to tell you about my fun with ‘Inferno’ last year. I have never grown ‘Ambroise Verschaffelt’ but is well recommended with it’s lilac flowers with strong purple veins and sturdy constitution. It is a heritage variety, has an award of garden merit, and has been popular for at least 150 years!
I want to grow Tarantella again as we did in my old home. I think it’s my favourite with strong pink flowers which hang from beautiful, very healthy and glossy, slightly pendulous, almost black shoots.
Go to Dibley’s site to find some beautiful named varieties. Go to google images to find lots of lovely colours but rubbish identification.
Overwintering in our frost free porch. There is no good reason not to cut off the dead tops. Except it helps me remember what’s in the pot!
Culture of achimenes
I gave you the formula for growing achimenes in my previous post. Withhold water and let them die down to dormant tubercles in October. Keep them completely dry and frost free in Winter.
|For demonstration purposes I have divided my old plant in January. Enough tubercles for three new plants (plenty more if I feel frugal).
Start up again in late March, usually repotting and watering thoroughly. Beware not to generously water again until they start to become dry. Over enthusiastic new gardeners tend to overwater before there are any leaves to take up water and later in summer with plenty of top growth and high temperatures they don’t water enough.
There are many variations on the above formula that might be regarded as refinements or just my own slovenly practices. In Autumn I do not remove mine from their compost until I restart them in Spring. Tidier persons than me might separate the tubercles and keep them in an envelope. On balance I think my way is better as tiny tubers can dehydrate. In Spring I just crumble-out lumps of compost containing several tubercles and repot them back into a mixture of new and old compost. I reuse all the old compost and throw nothing away! I have far more tubercles than I need and I pot up lots of extra plants to give to friends.
I lie about my use of ‘proper’ compost. Regular readers will know I am one of the lucky few whose garden soil is suitable for potting. I enrich my soil with slow release fertiliser and later on top dress with my YaraMila fertiliser. Most gardener’s will need a proper potting compost. Nothing special, but remember as to quality, you get what you pay for and these days there is a lot of rubbish around.
I read that some gardeners like to use water absorbent gel as an additive to their compost. Perhaps this is more relevant in much warmer climes than the UK when the plants can go outside in tubs for the summer!
I recommend regular liquid feeding, perhaps fortnightly from when new growth gets going. Alternatively you might prefer to infrequently top dress with fertiliser as I do.
My plants are grown in a bright east facing conservatory and receive direct sunlight from early morning until mid day. I think they like the fairly dry atmosphere and excessive humidity can be a real difficulty in wet greenhouses. They do not like their leaves to remain wet for long periods, especially when it is cold at night. Best not to wet the leaves when you water, although I usually fail. In my old home I was not allowed to water at all!
|I have sinned and wetted the leaves when the weather has been dull. It’s difficult to avoid water scorch in humid glasshouses and imagine what a garden centre would do to them!
Let the compost get dry before you give a good watering and if some water drains through into a saucer that's alright. If they had got really dry, leave them to to suck back the water which has run through. Don’t of course leave them standing in water more than a few hours.
My adventure with Achimenes ‘Inferno’.
|Brenda shouted at me when I described it as orange - “it’s crimson!”
Two years ago in April, Peter gave me a small pot of tubercles. As my ‘Early Arnold’ raced away they failed to appear. Only in August they emerged and made weak pathetic growth and hardly a flower.
I gave the stronger dormant tubercles a second chance last year. This time they did not appear until the end of September when my other achimenes were fading!
But how different from the previous year, they grew strongly and produced a continuity of magnificent scarlet flowers from late October until early January. They have been absolutely superb.
They have only now in February died down. I can’t wait to see what they do in the coming season. Should I start them later than the others? I don’t think so. They won’t clutter our conservatory whilst I wait for them as I start my plants out of the way in a warm porch.
All has been explained now I have checked out my plant on the net. It’s actually called Achimenantha x ‘Inferno’. It’s not a straight achimenes, it is an inter-generic hybrid, achimenes crossed with smithiantha! It looks identical to other achimenes and I guess there must have been some back crossing.
Considering my recent posts on hybridity, it’s quite ironic really!
(I have just submitted to temptation and ordered six new varieties from Dibleys and will update this post in six months to report on their progress)
(To read my other efforts with house plants put ‘her’ in the search box at the bottom of the blog scroll)