21st December 2014
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'
It has been a dank week again. The weather forecast suggested that there would be little change but, astonishing as it may be, weather forecasters can be wrong. The weather remained dank,
but today is the winter solstice and the garden is responding. My friends politely (and not always politely) suggest that I am mad claiming to notice the passage of the shortest day
but it is here. If I don't capture it on the page, it is at least written across the garden. My sanity may be questionable but my happiness is evident.
The buds of the Hamamelis have been clustered for weeks like tight clenched hands clinging on to the stems. I have been watching them, expecting the accidental pop of a bud overfilled
with enthusiasm, but there has been nothing. Diddly - as the saying has it - squat!
This week they have opened all over. The air has been too cold and humid for the scent to appear and this is 'Jelena' which is not especially fragrant at the best of times. Those of a kind
chromatic disposition will describe the flowers as orange but the entire effect is lost among the wrinkled brown of the retained leaves. I collected a few of last years seed pods, which
are just ripe, and noted that the poor plant was so determined to rush into sex that she had forgotten to take her clothes off.
21st December 2014
Ficaria verna ssp. ficariiformis
It is a time of change and perhaps I should leap on the bandwaggon. The genus Ranunculus is large and diverse so it is not surprising that the less conformist elements should
be split off. Ranunculus ficaria grew on its own little branch of the family tree, and it has been pruned. It is time to embrace the new name, Ficaria verna.
I haven't got as far as updating the rest of the site yet, it is a job for a rainy day, but I have accepted that the Lesser Celandine is a buttercup too far.
Showing this picture now might imply that it is another sign of the solstice, but in truth it has been flowering for a month. The first flower was chewed by a slug before
I got a picture, the second turned to slime in the wet weather without opening properly so I have waited for numbers three and four. R.f. ssp. ficariiformis
is an odd thing. Stace (New Flora of the British Isles) suggests that it has escaped from cultivation or may possibly be native to the south-west. It is a tetraploid that produces
bulbils in the leaf axils later in the season, though in the clone I grow, the large thick triangular leaves are the most distinctive feature. I'm not sure where it is supposed to
have come from to have escaped from cultivation, but on the other hand I have never seen it in the wild either (and I do pay attention). So for me it is a mystery with a new name.
21st December 2014
Galanthus 'Faringdon Double'
Snowdrops and the solstice. We are stepping lightly back in the direction of madness, but I will try to explain. There have been snowdrops about the place since G. peshmenii
produced its first autumn flowers in October. The traditional spring snowdrops have been pushing their glaucous noses through the ground for a month or more, and a few early ones have
rushed up into flower. This week has seen a change from the slow thrusting of new shoots. A number of cultivars have switched to producing thin flower stems from the fat noses and
have rushed up a couple of inches. Last week 'Moccas' was barely visible above the ground, this week it is a mass of thin buds. It will be a couple of weeks before they develop enough
to open, but the change in the pattern of growth has been distinctive.
I bought this bulb of 'Faringdon Double' because it had a reputation as the first of the double flowered forms to open. Not spectacular, just first. I thought it would be quite nice to
have a double in the early part of January so this appearance in time for the solstice is a special joy. At the current rate of increase I will have a sheet of blooms under the acers
in time for my hundred and fiftieth birthday.
21st December 2014
Helleborus 'Walhero' WALBERTON'S ROSEMARY
Times change but rarely as much as we think. A couple of centuries ago we would all have been gathering in harvests and hoarding things away for winter. I try to resist the urge to
store things away but at times it is difficult. I even stopped to check the supermarkets, and they are barely closed for 24 hours so there is no need. Those with my dim senile
recollections of the past will remember the days when we had to survive without shopping for 24 hours every single week. I think they used to call it Sunday or some such. The point being
that somewhere in the week between solstice and christmas there is a shift from hoarding to using. A subtle change from putting away to taking out.
The Hellebores have had their heads down for months, tucked away at ground level. Nothing very much on show but if you look, there have been fat buds deep in the crowns. This week the
stems have started to elongate and the first flowers have opened on WALBERTON'S ROSEMARY (a trading name and I prefer the cultivar name 'Walhero').
It is a recent hybrid between H. x hybridus and H.niger raised by David Tristram and released in 2008. It is a very rare hybrid, only a couple of other clones have ever
been reported and this is the first to be made available, thanks to the wonders of micropropagation. It flowers just as H. niger is supposed to (my plant never flowers before the end of march)
and has the colour of H. x hybridus. All in all, it is quite astonishing.
Which takes me back to the checkout of my local supermarket. I was making idle chit-chat with the assistant about purchasing things I didn't need to hide away in cupboards for a few weeks
when I produced my favourite festive salutation. "You won't believe what I've just found in my drawers!"
Best leave it there.