24th May 2015
Magnolia wilsonii .
We have had some magnificently warm weather this week, but it has been punctuated by reminders of winter. Sunny days have joined forces with biting northern winds. Ominous cloud
drifted in, sinking lower and lower until we were engulfed in mist. Warmth and humidity are perfect conditions for wildlife in the garden, especially invertebrates. Ominous clouds
of flying insects have also been biting. How I love biodiversity.
I have learnt some interesting life lessons however. Running through the garden screaming at the top of my voice while trying to swat tiny midges with a spade is neither dignified nor
effective. I need a new technique.
The garden is a strange mix of the inevitable and the unexpected, as though someone had shuffled the numbers on a clock face. Each hour passes with absolute precision but it is never
the one that was expected. Magnolia wilsonii is the reliable passing of an hour. My small tree flowers like clockwork, waiting for the first evergreen azaleas to open in a blaze at
its feet and then subtly eclipsing them. The hanging white flowers pour their delightful scent down on my head and in recent years they have set seed in abundance. I have some pots in the
greenhouse filled with fat green cotyledons, promise of a forest of the future.
24th May 2015
Gladiolus aurantiacus .
The summer flowering Gladiolus have been following the expected pattern, leaves appearing as the spring weather warms up and slowly resolving into flower stems. I have been watching
pots of familiar leaves follow their steady course for weeks now, delighting in the regular appearance of some old friends. Suddenly there is a surprise. I hadn't bothered to check the
names on the labels so I assumed this was one of the old regulars but it turns out to be Gladiolus aurantiacus, a new face for this year. New face perhaps, but the leaves are very familiar.
I sowed the seed in 2007 and the leaves have been popping up in early summer ever since. I had given up hope of ever seeing flowers and was resigned to making the best of a grim situation
by drawing attention to the marvellous grassy elegance of the thin arching leaves (graminiphiles beware, I am poking fun at you).
The bulbs in the greenhouse are changing season. Autumn and winter flowering species are dying down though I am still watering the last withering leaves hoping to fatten the bulbs just a
fraction more before their summer rest. I have been watching the Nerine with interest and I am sure the bulbs increase in size after the leaves have died, as though their last act
once the leaves had gone was to suck up all the water they can get before dormancy. In a month or two the first autumn flowers will start to appear and it is best not to think about it.
Someone even mentioned Christmas to me in the week.
24th May 2015
Ixia viridiflora .
I was walking through the top part of the garden yesterday taking pictures and delighting in the color of the azaleas. When I first planted them they were arranged along a path
in a controlled sequence of colour. I starting with the scarlet and orange, toned down into white and then built again through pink and lilac until I got to the bold purples.
It was the sort of ridiculous idea I had at the time and reminds me that we should always take care to laugh at the young without mercy.
Over the years they have been moved around the garden here and there but I am now concentrating them back into a single border. It is as bright as it was in the old days, but
completely without order. As they flower I am trying to replace their labels. I can still identify most of them though a few don't seem to appear in either my planting lists or
the old pictures. Possibly they were wrongly identified when I planted them, or memory has let me down. It doesn't really matter, the colour is quite ridiculous, as it should be.
Ixia viridiflora makes their fiery colours look ordinary. I imagine that in the bright light of South Africa the pale turquoise flowers blend quietly into the background.
Not something that happens here. They prosper in the bulb house and if it produced seed for me I would have pots of them growing everywhere, shouting, clashing and generally
inciting a colourful riot. Not a plant of quiet harmony, I would love to bed them out among the bluebells.
It reminds me that we should always take care to laugh at the old without mercy.
24th May 2015
Coelogyne cristata var. alba .
Orchids have a slow and deliberate way of doing things. It is part of their appeal. New growths can be scrutinised to see if they are going to produce flowers
and months can pass before flowers actually open. Months filled with hazzards that cluster like greenfly around the pots. Months when every day is a challenge that can
shrivel the buds and drop them on the ground with a thud of disappointment. In general, orchids leave plenty of worrying time before they flower. All orchid growers are driven insane by it
and seek refuge in humidifiers, shading and magical fertilisers. The accoutrements of lunacy.
In that context I am perplexed by Coelogyne cristata 'Alba'. I bought it three years ago as a sick looking division and it has remained sick looking. It has grown, but each new growth
has been wrinkled and sickly. I am not surprised, I wasn't expecting it to prosper, my greenhouse isn't warm enough. I bought it because I love Coelogyne. They remind me of old friends
and happy days. The sort of things that mad old people use to cheer themselves up as they struggle with forgetfulness and constipation. I bought it just to prove to myself that I couldn't grow
Coelogyne any more, and had better let go and be done with it.
So this flower appearing without warning is tempting me into the impossible. It's just normal orchid behaviour, casually driving me insane.