11th January 2015
A delightful week in the garden. There is something very relaxing about the quiet weeks of winter. The garden lies in beds like the early morning, conscious but not choosing to be awake.
I spent a happy time like that myself this morning, aware that the dawn had come but not reaching out to it, knowing that if I turned over and saw the clock things would change.
The garden is like that. It is awake and filled with delightful things but completely relaxed. There is no sense that it has places to go or people to meet.
Every winter is strange. This year I have been surprised by the things that have appeared early. This Galanthus woronowii was not expected but when I look back at my records I see
that it has appeared in the second week of January twice before. Perhaps winters are predictable it is memory that is strange. This is a single clone that I selected from a mixture of
flowering bulbs. At the time I would have been looking at the green marks on the inner segments though I can't remember the particular reason I selected this one. It remains a favourite
because it has deep green leaves, satisfying large flowers and a dreamy appeal that I am happy to leave vague. Close analysis of its attributes would feel like waking up.
11th January 2015
Helleborus x hybridus white double
I distinctly remember a week at the end of February last year when I walked down from the top of the garden lamenting the end of the quiet times. The snowdrops had peaked, the hellebores
were in full flower and the garden had started to rush forwards. It felt like the last time I would be able to walk around, the season of doing things had started.
There are hellebores for every taste and I am quite unable to decide which ones I like. My favourite is always the one in front of me at the time. At the back of the hellebore border I have a lot of
pinkish seedlings planted as filler when there was a lot of empty space. One of those happy chances when a lot of spare seedlings that were cluttering up benches were planted in
a border that was struggling to look occupied. Two problems solved in one afternoon. Of the hundreds of seedlings that went in, just one fills me with January joy. It is a pale earthy pink with dark spots
and tepals so thin they are almost transparent. It flowers in a cluster of tiny stems just inches above the ground and from three feet away it is almost invisible. It is a tiny
little joy that I don't share with anyone else because I don't want to listen to the sneering. It is exactly the wrong thing for the back of a border best seen from a distance.
That is its charm.
This white double it its antithesis, exactly what the border needs. It is early, compact, floriferous and the white flowers stand out against the woodland floor. Over several years I have noted
its various laudable characteristics without taking heed so I have made a little footnote in my mind beside it. Pay attention.
11th January 2015
Sheds of one sort or another play an essential role in the cultivation of gardens. They are the emotional retreat of the weary gardener. A place to rest while a complex and confusing task
untangles itself. Sheds are the Narnia of everyday life, doors to a world of wonder and possibility where imagination runs free and everything always works out in the end. Small wonder that
anyone with a shed will spend as much time in it as they do in the garden. I don't have sheds, I have greenhouses. In the bulb house I travel around the world's mediterranean climate zones
watching as the bulbous flora bursts into flower. Over the years the bulb house has drifted closer and closer to South Africa. There is a very special joy in a flora that will perform during the
least appealing phases of winter and still tolerate some cold weather. Slowly the European flora has been squeezed out. There are one or two South Americans left but in recent years even
the South Africans are being edged out by the expanding Nerine collection. I need to make a stand. Wonderful as the Nerine are during autumn, what use is a shed that is no longer
a storehouse of surprises?
Massonia obovata exists in collections as a distinct plant, though botanists currently consider it to be part of the variation within M. depressa. The cluster of white flowers
that emerge from between the paired leaves are pollinated by gerbils in habitat and I have noted a recent increase in the number of cats lurking. One of them has just dug a large hole in a pot of
Tulbaghia violacea and presumably left a little present at the bottom.
Sheds are an intellectual refuge so I haven't gone to check. I don't want to know.
11th January 2015
Narcissus romieuxii ssp. romieuxii var. mesatlanticus
Narcissus romiexii has started to produce flowers. Last summer they were all repotted and rescued from several years of neglect and they have appreciated the change. They were also all moved out of the bulb house
to make space for an increasing horde of Nerine. They now grow under an overhanging porch where they will stay dry but be a little cooler. Time will tell what they think of that.
Narcissus romieuxii is a variable species from the coastal mountains of North Africa. There seems to be a general concensus that the species can be divided into two subspecies,
N.r. ssp. romieuxii and N.r. ssp. albidus but beyond that point taxonomic opinion diversifies. N.r. r. var. mesatlanticus is not clearly distinguished from
N.r. r. var. romieuxii and may be one of those names most usefully forgotten. It is said to have deeper yellow flowers, but the strain in cultivation is uniformly paler
and rather tall. I raised seed from the Alpine Garden Society in 2010 and it is about time there were some flowers, I very nearly threw the pot out in summer as a waste of space.
I took advantage of the warm still weather yesterday to cut back some leyland cypress. They are messy trees that drop little pieces of dry leaf and stem all over me as I work. Itchy fragments end up
falling down my neck and seem to get everywhere. I spent all of last evening scratching sudden irritations around my body, despite a bath and a complete change of clothes. Just as I went to bed
I felt a terrible dry itch around my neck, and as I looked down the largest queen wasp I have ever seen crawled out of my sweat shirt. I don't know when she got in there, but she had spent an
evening wandering around my upper body making trouble. I had spent the time absent-mindedly poking her about so I am thankful I wasn't stung. Reminds me to read my own footnotes. Pay attention.