14th September 2014
The dry spell continues to give beautiful days in the garden. The Sycamore trees are still sombre green but beneath them the ground has filled
with the first fallen leaves, crackling like crumpled newspaper. I ran the lawnmower over the paths to clear them and for a moment the garden
had a geometric precision that was satisfying. Straight paths looked straight, sharp corners were sharp. By the end of a windy day chaos was restored
and it had a satisfying familiarity. I get off the mower and tuck it away in the shed. As I walk down the slope to the house I am convinced I am
still vibrating which is as much reason as I need to stop for refreshment.
I wandered out again yesterday looking for photographs, convinced that nothing much had happened in the week but a garden couldn't be more surprising
if it jumped out from behind a telephone box shouting 'Boo'!
Colchicum agrippinum has appeared to mark the space where the Celandines will follow. I had forgotten I planted it there so the large lilac
blob was something of a mystery until I got close enough to focus. As far as I recall it only produced two flowers last year and both of those were
mangled by slugs. This year there are half a dozen open with some more buds emerging, so I am hoping it has established and started to increase.
It is said to be vigorous so I have hopes for an even bigger blob of lilac next year. Unknown in the wild, it is thought to be an old hybrid
between C.autumnale and C.variegatum. I was a bit worried to see it because I had just mowed the space where 'Waterliliy' will come up,
but I haven't found any shredded lilac corpses so I think I mowed in time.
14th September 2014
Last week I weeded the bulb house to rid myself of the pestilential annuals before the Nerine flower shoots grew long enough to damage.
In the process I took a close look at the pot of Arum pictum, hoping to see signs of growth. No such signs were found.
A week later and things have changed.
As well as the usual excitement, waiting for the first Arum of the new season, I know that the poor old plant was half starved after too many
years in a small pot. It was repotted into a large tub this spring, but that is just the time a precious plant will give a last gasp so this flower
is a celebration of survival as well as a marker for the new year (the last season is still producing a scattering of Pinellia flowers
so it isn't quite done yet).
I am on the lookout for some more clones of Arum pictum. I would love to grow some seedlings and search among them for signs of variability.
There are some selected leaf forms available now ( well, there is 'Primrose Warburg') but it would be fun to select some sombre smelly flowers
in the Nerine season.
14th September 2014
Nerine sarniensis var. curvifolia f. fothergillii
It was the emerging Nerine flower spikes that prompted me to weed the bulb house. I have a vision of the place looking pristine as the
flowers open for weeks of searing colour. Things never work out like that. The bright green cotyledons of new weed seedlings are already appearing in
the pots and the Nerine flowers are looking rather sparse at present but the vision remains.
I haven't worked out the reason for the poor flowering yet, and perhaps it is an illusion. Many of the bulbs are still dormant and may yet produce
flowers. It could be that the summer was too hot and the flower initials aborted or it may reflect the strange flowering behaviour of
Nerine bulbs. Flower buds are initiated at the end of the growing season (late summer) and remain dormant for all of the next year when a
second set of buds are initiated. At the end of the next year a third set of buds are initiated and the first buds finally elongate into flower stems
and flower. At this time of year the bulbs already contain three sets of dormant buds. The flowers that are opening come from buds that initiated in
If it turns out to be a poor year I don't know what to change. It could be that the bulbs were too hot during the summer, or it could relate to
conditions in 2012 when the poor old plants were starved and underpotted. Time will probably not lead to any greater clarity.
14th September 2014
Habenaria radiata Variegated
More surprises emerging from behind the Pleione. Not in the form of P.praecox unfortunately. Its failure to re-appear after a mild winter
adds hard evidence to the suggestion that it isn't hardy. Instead I have an unexpected flower from Habenaria radiata (I know, it is
Pecteilis radiata now, I'm just old and slow and grumpy about it). I'm not sure I have killed it before (frequently) but I have certainly
failed to get it to prosper. The last time I failed I promised myself never again but you know how it is. Bob Brown at Cotswold Garden Flowers had
the variegated one for sale. I have a great ability to overlook the inevitable when it comes to variegated forms. I assumed that I was going to enjoy the
distinctly underwhelming variegated leaves for a season and then add the plant to the long list of casualties that get tallied up as experience or incompetence
according to the company being kept. Surprise temporarily disabled rational thought when I noticed the first green shoots appearing again this spring.
The plant that grew had a distinct air of leafiness about it so the experience of surprise was repeated when it produced a minute thread like flower stem. Far too small
to support a viable bud, but a welcome sign that the plant was prepared to put up a fight. Finally, surprise upon surprise upon surprise, a bud that opens fully!
I am now convinced that this is the last I will ever see of it but I may be entirely misguided on the matter.
One of the great joys of incompetence is that you never know quite where it will apply.