The foundlings

It’s all very well messing around calculating perfect compost for difficult seed, but sometimes you have to wonder, what’s the point? Back in Spring I was poking around in the undergrowth, as you do, and ran across a pile of old spruce stumps, which were abandoned around fifteen years ago as too difficult to split for firewood. Self-sown into this half-rotten mess – rhododendron yunnanense seedlings:

I had no idea that yunnanense even set viable seed in this climate, still less that its ideal germination medium was spongy rotten wood. But apparently so. Now the time has come to try and move them and pot them up. This is easier said than done, because I have no idea how far down into the rotten stump they have sent their roots. I start by using the chainsaw to hack the stump to a manageable size:

Shifting into the greenhouse, I assemble an unusual selection of garden tools, including a floorboard saw, a paint scraper and a spiky kind of fork I usually use for splitting primulas.

It turns out, luckily, that the rhododendron roots mostly have penetrated only the top half inch of the stump, although some have run down the edge and need to be picked out carefully. There’s a lot of wildlife in the stump: tiny worms, slugs, woodlice. Rotten wood is a good habitat.  There are ten separate seedlings. Some have done well, in a Darwinian sense, and are well away. Others are spindly and feeble, but perhaps once they are given their own soil and space, they will learn how to compete.

I’ll leave them in the greenhouse over winter, where I can keep an eye on them, and plant them out in the Spring. I don’t know where, though – rh. yunnanense is very beautiful (see here) but I don’t know that I find room for ten. Anyone want one?

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13 thoughts on “The foundlings

  1. Well done Kininvie! You were rewarded for your resourcefulness. Now you must make up adoption application forms and buy a classified ad, like Alberto when he had those puppies…. Your link showed how beautiful the flowers will be. Surely you can absorb a few of these foundlings into your own gardens, where the irresponsible parent plant must also grow? I hope you didn’t utterly destroy the nursery stump with the chainsaw (don’t you have a handsaw?) –it might produce other surprises.

    • Dear Linnie. You really don’t like chainsaws, do you? I’m thinking of doing the neep carving with a chainsaw, as it would be a first (a messy first) – speaking of which, I’m in a heathen country for halloween, so you may have to wait. Oh God, why is Google so rapacious? My miserable seedlings and red gloves are now in there with the lovely yunnanense flowers!

        • Where am I supposed to find a neep in London? There’s probably a delicatessen for expatriate Scottish neep-lovers, but if so, I have yet to find it.

          As for Google – I suppose it is better than seeing all and telling no one. But I think it needs more discrimination in its choice. Can’t someone create a web-crawler with good taste?

  2. What a lot of seedlings, fantastic the way they have grown in your rotting tree and you didn’t masacre them with your chain saw!! They deserve a new home away from chain saws, hope they all grow to be beautiful shrubs!

  3. Now you’re a really clever chap. Whist I’d kill one, I’m so impressed with your armoury and those (tuning?) spikes…….I think you enter the propogators hall of fame with that chainsaw. I’m now looking at mine in a different light. It’s not just a woodchoppers aid, it rescues rare seedlings! Kudos Mr K. As for heathen lands for Halloween good luck. They call things by funny names in other places, neeps turn against you. Watch your back.

  4. You are right, Fay. I asked a London policeman if he knew of a good place to get a big neep, and then spent some time in a police station ‘helping with enquiries’. I tried explaining that in his language I was looking for a big swede to carve up for Halloween, but that only seemed to make things worse…..

    • You see, this is why we should all speak Latin. I’m sure he would have found you a suitable exotic delicatessan to find such an item should he known which brassica you wanted. Talking in tongues, only leads to confusion. I hope you were helpful with his enquiries. Perhaps a copy of Stern or the RHS beginners guide to latin would be something to keep on you at all times, like a passport. I hope you didnt’ take the chainsaw with you. Policemen don’t seem keen on them for general day or evening wear.

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