Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
18th May 2014
Convallaria majalis 'Rosea'
A good week that has been warm enough to promise rain rather than threaten it. A little bit of drizzle on monday barely reached the ground before it evaporated
and people have started talking about long hot summers. The evergreen azaleas have opened and although they are terrifyingly bright it would be nice to
have them for a fortnight before they crumple into a pile of bleached tissue, like a collapsing hot air balloon in a wheat field.
Convallaria majalis also has a form that is pink though this is a much more subtle thing. It is one of those plants that I wouldn't want to lose
but don't actually like very much. Lily of the Valley is a lovely plant for the woodland, it is vigorous and scented. There have been repeated attempts
to select clones with better flowers and longer stems and I am happy to grow as many of them as I can. I don't worry that they all look exactly the same
and flower at exactly the same time. They are all equally enchanting. Identically enchanting. The similarity makes any variation fascinating. Double flowers,
variegated leaves or in this case, pinkness.
There is always an 'unfortunately' and in this case it is a grubby pink. It is like a thirty year old baby blanket that has been stored in an attic.
Full of emotional impact, but you wouldn't put it anywhere near a baby. The colour clings to the flowers like an ancient stain. It still smells
of half forgotten romance but it's best to close your eyes.
18th May 2014
Off to Australia to find a pink that is still fresh. Dendrobium kingianum is a lithophyte that grows along the east coast of Australia from Queensland
to New South Wales. It varies in flower from deep purple pink to pure white. Australian growers select the deepest colours and seem to take great joy
in applying the term 'red'. As with the Red Kangaroo it helps if there is a substantial speck of optimism in your eye. These are purple and it is a sad defect
of my language that I can't think of a single cheerful and bouncy adjective to describe purple flowers. The darkest forms deserve an up-beat colour description,
that would be the equivalent of shaking a bottle of Lucozade and unscrewing the cap.
I have been collecting together colour variants just because they are fun. This one sits in the middle of the range, flowers freely and behaves itself.
I grew them in a cold greenhouse for many years until it dawned on me that they were good plants, at which point I started to bring them indoors for the winter
and get a bit precious about them. Fortunately I got over it. They are back in the greenhouse with the Pleione. They certainly withstand a few degrees of frost
and they remain evergreen with a bit of fleece covering them.
The flowers have a thick sweet scent that fills the greenhouse and attracts aphids in the way that a late night pub with a big screen attracts football supporters.
18th May 2014
Rhododendron 'Loderi King George'
There are 364 days (in most years) when Rhododendron 'Loderi King George' doesn't open for the first time and they seem to be perfectly serviceable days.
On one day every year I go into the garden, the Rhododendron has just opened and the air is filled with the first suggestion of paradise. The deficiencies
of other days are laid brutally bare and it is only the fact that they are behind me that keeps me from despair. The flowers and the scent persist
for long enough to allow a slow reintegration with the mundane and the long wait for next year.
The flowers open mid-pink and fade over a day or two to silvery-pink, travelling on a journey towards white but never quite arriving.
A number of seedlings were selected from Sir Edward Loder's 1901 hybrid between R. fortunei and R. griffithianum. To my eye they all look exactly the same
but I am glad there are a dozen or so names. It gives me a good reason to seek them out and plant them together. Have a good solid objective comparison.
Certainly there wouldn't be any dreamy swooning in a fragrant copse. No lying on a mossy bank watching the evening sun succumb to the perfumes of night.
Oh no, it will be colour charts and tape measures for me!
18th May 2014
Roscoea cautleyoides Mauve
I remember playing a game that I suppose you would call hide-and-seek in the woods as a child. It was a very light, frothy game among the trees.
Now you see me, now you don't. No real hiding, or seeking just slipping behind the trunk of an unclimbable beech and then appearing again with a laugh.
Parts of the garden have that same interaction, the distance is lost behind trees and shrubs without a formal barrier.
It is there in my attraction to hardy gingers. Now you see it, now you don't. The winter had been dominated by the hidden surprise. The promise of delight.
Feet on the ground, the spring has been filled with lugging heavy pots of Hedychium about, rescuing them from under benches and moving them out to the sun.
Suddenly the pots are filled with shoots like fat red fingers tickling through the soil smiling and giggling.
I looked for Roscoea last weekend, on my hands and knees over the ground sweeping away the fallen leaves in the hope of surprising them.
There was nothing. In two other gardens this week I have seen them pop up and I have almost stamped my foot in a petulant fit that mine have found better
'Not funny any more!'
Up they come, laughing. It has been a good week.
To find particular groups of plants I grow, click on the genus name in the table above. Click on the "Index" box at the top of the page for the full list.
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