17th May 2015
Another week of spring weather. The days have oscillated between scorching sunshine and chilly cloud with overnight rain. On wednesday I coated myself in sun cream like a channel
swimmer plastered in goose fat and then spent the day shivering in a thick jumper. That was a very interesting garment to put in the wash at the end of the day. Fluffy on the outside,
I don't think it will be fluffy on the inside ever again.
At the top of the garden the bluebells have been a distraction. I have far too many and I wage a half-hearted war on them. I don't want them, but they are magnificent. It is my own fault,
I sowed a bucket of seed under the trees about fifteen years ago knowing as I did it that it couldn't be undone. I was a reckless youth, it was fantastic.
Every year I enjoy them enormously just before I start to get rid of them. This year there were distinct gaps in the carpet of leaves where I have destroyed them. I was crestfallen
No such dichotomy this week, they are simply magnificent. I have been selecting those with the darkest pedicels (by pulling out the pale ones) because it adds a dark richness to the colour.
For now they are one of the wonders of the garden. In a few weeks the massacre will begin again.
17th May 2015
Rhodohypoxis baurii 'Pictus'
I have just spent a week moving soil and concrete to construct a display space for the hardy Nerine; my 'Nerine Theatre' (it's wonderful, I love it, I have never been so happy,
it nearly killed me, never again). I hadn't even moved the Nerine into it before I needed space for the Rhodohypoxis.
Last year I repotted them all. They were looking tired and starved in little pots of compost and they deserved better. They all went into great big pots of rich loam compost and then
back onto the bench. A fortnight ago the bench collapsed under the strain. I took one look at it and went to have a cup of tea. One of those days when you say 'I don't care what has happened,
it must sort itself out'. A couple of days later I came back and stood the pots upright, removed the broken bench and walked off again in a grumpy huff. Little dears are even starting to flower
(except I didn't call them little dears). In the end they were moved into the Nerine Theatre because there was space. They all had to be moved up the hill, and now I understand why
the bench collapsed. Whoops!
Rhodohypoxis are pink. Sometimes it is quite dark pink and sometime the tinge is so slight they might be mistaken for white, but they are all pink at heart. Even 'Pictus'
has a little pink heart as well as pink tips to the petals. It is large flowered and vigorous, gaining a First Class Certificate from the RHS in 1990.
17th May 2015
Rhododendron 'Loderi King George'
When spring first tumbles out of the tree of winter it is cold and hard and yellow, like an unripe pear. You can watch it every day, waiting for the first hint of delicious ripeness
but it will still take you by surprise. Suddenly the garden is soft, fragrant and pink.
I first discovered Rhododendron 'Loderi King George' when I wandered into its ripeness in a garden. The gentle scent wrapped around me and I found it hard to trace the source.
It couldn't possibly be the giant flowered Rhododendron I was walking under, we all know that Rhododendron have no redeeming features at all. Ugly bushes with big flowers,
surrounded by nutcases and indumentum? I acknowledge my mistake.
Thus began my gentle education in the ways of Rhododendron. Among the thugs, tarts and axe murderers there are a few that are gentle and wonderful.
'Loderi King George' is still my favourite. If the genus as a whole was banished to the fiery pit of hell that spawned them, this one alone would be sincerely mourned. This one
and 'Wine and Roses'; and 'Fragrantissimum' perhaps; and I would miss the evergreen azaleas. The deciduous ones as well if I'm honest; and R. williamsianum of course, and
R. campylogynum; but just those. Those and the Vireya's perhaps (but I will never be able to grow those, so they don't count). The really big trees are magnificent as well,
and there are some lovely species, and I do like many of the hybrids ... but honestly...the fiery pit of hell ... or something.
17th May 2015
Primula auricula 'Avon Khaki'
I have had a similar relationship with the genus Primula over the years. They have been intractable in cultivation as though they were taunting me with their aloof refusal
to co-operate. It took me decades to accept that the real taunting came from the vine weevil that consume them so voraciously. I am slowly re-introducing myself to the genus
as I find ways of discouraging the wicked weevil. I could just douse the plants in poison every few weeks, I know many growers who follow that path, but there is something rather 'evil stepmother'
about the poisoned primrose and I am no Snow White.
This spring I am getting some good results by removing all peat and organic matter from the compost. It is still to early to crow with triumph, but I am quietly cheerful about the season.
I suspect I was not feeling so optimistic when I bought 'Avon Khaki'. Something about its sombre brown flower appealed at the time. I still find it fascinating if a little ridiculous but
I imagine at the time I saw it dressed in sombre colours ready for its inevitable doom.
Some cheery spring thought like that anyway.