1st February 2015
Eremophila maculata Pink
February arrived overnight and with it comes the suggestion that spring is glowing with warmth just ahead of us, tantalising us just beyond the reach of outstretched hands in woolly mittens.
A blast of cold air has arrived with it from the north but it seems to know it can't stay for long. It is in a hurry. The garden is being blasted by cold winds and all the photographs this
week are out of focus. Flowers on stalks were jiggling about like mad during the occasional glimpses of the sun and I thought that was the problem but in a sudden lull I fell forward on my face
so perhaps I wasn't all that stable either.
Half way round the garden there is great pleasure in a cosy greenhouse. It is starting to be heated by the weak sunshine and it is completely out of the wind. Two years ago I planted a little pot
of Eremophila maculata up there. It is a small shrub found in the middle of Australia, in more than one sense. It doesn't occur in the tropical north and it doesn't stretch to the cooler
temperate south. Although it occurs in coastal habitats, it is concentrated in the centre of the country. Think of a hot, dry and harsh; a climatic anti-cornwall on the other side of the world.
This is the background of the little pink flower that welcomed me to the greenhouse. For a couple of years it struggled in a small pot but it has only been happy since I planted it out under cover.
A slight frost earlier this winter has damaged one branch but we have had colder winters and it has been more damaged so I think it will recover. I don't think it would have made it outside
but it roots from cuttings so I will give it a try.
1st February 2015
Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'
I wish I was bolder. I wish I was bolder and I know I wish I was bolder (if you see what I mean). Every time I do something in the garden the thoughtful part of me says make it simpler, make it bigger.
It says it and I hear it saying it and I wish I listened more often. The early spring is greeted with little creeping movements along the ground, snuffling for snowdrops and hunching against the cold.
I bought Galanthus 'Egret' last weekend, the outer segments reflexing back in pixie-hat fashion. The shape catches the wind and dances about like a mad thing while I stoop like a grounded iceberg
hoping for a photo-friendly lull that never came. Eventually I realised that if I crouched any longer it would be permanent and abandoned the pursuit of detail. I wish I did that more often.
When my mother moved out of her last garden I dug up all her G. 'Brenda Troyle' and planted them in a long ribbon under the camellias. With the endless optimism of a gardener I enjoy the approaching
prospect of a frosting of delight under the old ladies. It inspired me to try again.
I bought a thousand double snowdrops and planted them in the Hellebore bed. I have worried about it for months, waiting for some sign of growth. At the last moment they have appeared, bursting from
the ground flower first. The pleasure is difficult to explain as I watch the specks of colour boil through the wet ground. Something like the perfect lotus emerging from the mud with a touch of animal
passion thrown in.
It also reminds me of the 1970's. Proud house owners would have white chippings rolled into the surface of their new tarmac drives like some suburban Cruella de Vil with an anti-Dalmation driveway.
It was very chip-chic at the time. I wonder if people still do it. Perhaps in Bedfordshire, the nations most ironic county?
1st February 2015
Helleborus x hybridus 'Cherry Blossom'
It is difficult to maintain a state of high excitement. It is a wonder that snowdrops still do it though they usefully plug the marketing gap between Christmas decorations and the first bedding
plants. If you walk around a garden centre in January you can almost hear the managers rehearsing lines from Spike Milligan - "What are we going to do now, what are we going to do now...".
For a few years the benches were filled with Hellebores but unfortunatel they are killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. The market has been flooded with second rate seedlings from
breeders who can't be bothered to do the work. The mass producers moved to tissue cultured H. x nigercors and a range of other stem forming hybrids that perform rather poorly in the garden
and now we are facing the prospect of micropropagated identical H. x hybridus forms that will destroy all interest in the same way that it destroyed interest in double primroses.
It is easy to be grumpy. I had to turn the heating up last night as well!
Fortunately there are still some pearls being cast before the swine. This double seedling from the 'Cherry Blossom' breeding line is just thrilling, deep and rich and warm and joyful. I know
nothing at all about Marietta O'Byrne from Eugene in Oregon but she has given us a strain of seedlings that make me stand tall and smile in the face of the gale and I am deeply grateful.
Come on wind, blow me!
1st February 2015
Narcissus 'Bowles Early Sulphur'
A delightful little bulb, bright as a button and nodding in the breeze. I have a long string of pictures of a bright yellow blur streaking through the frame. It is dwarf but that seems to have made
it springy rather than stable. It is a wonder. I bought a potted bulb in flower a few years ago and I was recklessly happy. I would have opened my wallet for the seller to take it all
and been gleeful and smug. We live in a world of delightful people (among the "...second rate seedlings from breeders who can't be bothered to do the work."), he wouldn't have taken it.
It doesn't seem especially early, but I live in Cornwall and the fields are filling with yellow daffodils. I visited Bowles' garden last weekend and it is certainly early for Enfield. It isn't
quite the pale shade I would refer to as sulphur, but people see things differently. In Bowles' garden I saw it growing tall and elegant, pale as moonlight on primroses. Mine isn't
sulphur, it isn't early and I don't think it is the one from Bowles. Sad face.
Not much point in wallowing in the misery of things that aren't. This is a very lovely little thing that I would not otherwise have met. It is the first of the tiny daffodils to open among the snowdrops
and it is doing exactly what I wanted. 'Bowles Early Sulphur' like the spring, tantalising us just beyond the reach of outstretched hands in woolly mittens.