Plant of the Month – April 2018

Our Plant of the Month is a little different this month. Frank Rhodes has been running a small trial since the middle of last summer, growing Dionysia aretioides Bevere unprotected from the elements, inspired by hearing of Dorothy Searle’s success in doing this. Here is his report, preceded by an account from Dorothy about how she grows this Dionysia.

My Dionysia aretioides Bevere
by Dorothy Searle

I think that I bought my Dionysia Bevere at the Rocky Flower Show in May 2016, but I can’t remember who the supplier was.

Dionysia Bevere June 2017

Dionysia Bevere June 2017

I grow it with other very small alpines in a 6″ deep, 20″ x 60″ aluminium trough on legs (Two Wests ‘alpine’ bench, with extra draining holes). I live in a third-floor flat in Southampton and my alpines are on a south-facing balcony, where they get strong sun. The Dionysia is planted between two small tufa blocks.
My normal alpine compost is equal parts JI2, horticultural sharp sand, and the grit I also use for top-dressing. I have added some extra sharp sand for the cushion plants. I feed all my alpines about every 10 days from April to September, using very dilute tomato fertilizer. I water whenever necessary with a can or hose. No plants are protected from the weather at any time.

Dionysia Bevere March 2018

Dionysia Bevere March 2018

I leave my Dionysia alone. I don’t dead-head it or remove brown rosettes (unless they are actually detached already). I find that green rosettes readily take the place of the brown ones. It produces flowers in most months, with the peak in March.


Dionysia aretioides Bevere

Trial report

from Frank Rhodes

In June last year Dorothy Searle and I compared notes on our Dionysia aretioides ‘Bevere’. We both grew it out of doors, completely unprotected throughout the year, and both were in full flower. To see if this was just a fluke, or if ‘Bevere’ is much hardier than it is generally thought to be, I decided to set up a small trial.

It was not the best time of year to start, but I am old and impatient, so I had Robert Potterton send me 20 plants, in two batches. The first batch was easy to place with members of the group. The second batch was not so easy to place, since many members were by then away scouring various mountain ranges, so some plants were left in the nursery pots for several weeks.

Members were asked to grow the plant in the open with no protection throughout the year. Most were concentrated in the region of Southampton and Chanders Ford, with others spread from Fareham in the east, to Newbury in the north, Ferndown and Ringwood in the west. The weather for the year was the usual mixture of rain and drought. The winter was not particularly cold or wet, until the cold snap at the beginning of March, with short-lived coverings of snow in the first and third weeks of the month.

Of the 20 new plants, 3 did not get established, and 3 more died in the winter, leaving 16, including the two older plants. Of these, 9 flowered, some better than others. The other 7 are alive but not flowering – ‘just hanging on’.

Seymour 2018-3-6 crop

Rhodes No. 0 2017-3-13 IMG_4133 adjust

Hughes 2018-3-2 P1640667 adjust

Why the difference? It’s difficult to tell, but I suggest that the key might lie not in the days of rain, but in the days of drought. It seems that the better flowering plants enjoyed a consistent watering regime in dry periods, while others were left with spasmodic watering at the best (as indeed was suggested for the purposes of this trial).

Parmee Paddy 2018-3-18thumbnail_IMG_0788 crop

Parmee Ben 2018-3-1-29 IMG_0790 crop

The rosettes which are growing strongly appear to be able to shrug off the rain (and snow), while the rosettes which are stressed with an outer ring of dead brown leaves catch the rain, which leads to further loss. A fully open position seems to help the plant dry out quickly after rain.

Now for a more focussed trial, to test that conjecture. Pairs of ‘Bevere’ planted in similar conditions out of doors, left unprotected throughout the year, one given careful watering in dry weather with browning leaves removed, and one left to look after itself with only spasmodic watering. Do join in if you wish, and let me know next March how the pairs of plants have fared.

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