24th April 2016
Erythronium 'White Beauty' .
When I think about spring I remember perfect sunny days with fat bumblebees bouncing between the daffodils. That's memory for you. I tend to forget the northerly winds
that cut to the bone and the knees in trousers that never quite dry out. Spring it is, despite the grumbling predictions of a late frost and all the other nonsense people like
to fill their grumpy faces with. You know, if the wind changes you will stay like that. (Ha ha ha Grumpies, I am laughing at you!)
To be fair, gardens are curious places. Optimism and pessimism in the same thing. The borders are always half full, or is it half empty?
One thing I am sure of, Erythronium are wonderful. I have seen them making great carpets under trees and once I have seen it, I want it. E. 'Pagoda' was a success
among the snowdrops. It adds a whole new month of interest after the Galanthus end without needing any change to the way it is managed. I wanted to see if I could add to the colour range, so
I bought 100 E. 'White Beauty' and planted them under the Camellia. Cheaper than a meal out, as I was told yesterday, and you don't flush it away the next day.
If I'm honest, they looked feeble in the first year. I don't think they liked being dried out. The second year was erratic. Some had recovered, some didn't look good. This year most of them
have bulked up and are flowering well. A few are clearly dead. I don't mind. I wanted a "natural" look, or at least to pretend it, given the obvious artificiality of underplanting Japanese
shrubs with American bulbs in Cornwall.
24th April 2016
Primula elatior .
These Oxlips are less obviously artificial, though I bought my two plants at a Plant Heritage sale in Essex. One pin and one thrum so that I could raise as many true bred
babies as I wanted. It was such a good plan. In the event, they flower about three weeks apart and barely overlap. I keep meaning to bring a division of each into the greenhouse
and do it properly but it's spring, who wants to be under glass. Actually, as the cloud blows over, that is looking like a good plan again.
I am trying not to get too involved with Primula, though the evidence seems to suggest I am failing. Like most gardeners, I can ignore the obvious if I dont want to see it.
There is a 24ft bench in the greenhouse half filled with primroses, and I have no intention of filling it with anything else.
When I moved to this garden, I brought a lot of old double primroses with me. They were all dead within a year or too. No time and no manageable garden. A decade later I started to
replace them but they were all lost to vine weevil. Never again. Absolutely never again. Never never never never thank you I would love it. How kind.
24th April 2016
Uvularia grandiflora .
I have a couple of groups of Erythronium now that would pass for "drifts" as though they had blown in like some magical flowering cloud and settled on the ground. I have a short memory
which (eventually) adds light hearted delight to these things. I barely recall the day I spent in the blazing summer sun planting them one at a time with a hand trowel, sweating, swearing
covered in blisters and then unable to stand up straight. Gardening is the gentle and under-rated art of forgetfulness.
I would like a sea of Trillium as well and I have heard two interpretations this week. A certain garden publicist explained how lucky they were that voles had spread their Trillium
seed and formed a natural covering under the trees. A gardener was talking in firmer terms about the pain involved in planting 1000 pot grown Trillium in the same woodland garden.
Perhaps they are both right, but I noted that none of the plants had more than two or three stems in the clump.
Which leads me to Uvularia, delightful in a pot and vigorous in the ground. It forms dense clumps, never seeming to wander. I have seen it naturalised under thin tree cover
looking quite ridiculous, dense upright tufts quite determined not to fit it. Funnier than those blue fescues that are so popular as ground cover, scattered at random like institutional acne.
They should really be planted with geometrical precision in front of council offices, a faceless blue army of ragged conformity. (Ha ha ha office workers, I am laughing at you as well!)
24th April 2016
Anemone pavonina .
This was probably the week for Wood Anemone's. I haven't shown any but in places they have spread into broad shag pile rugs of satisfaction. They have been edged out by a single red flower.
Anemone pavonina occurs around the north and east shores of the Mediterranean, from France through to Turkey but it isn't as ruthlessly xeric as the other red tuberous species. It tolerates some
summer wet and doesn't really need to be baked like a rice pudding until the skin goes brown and crispy. A few years ago I was convinced by a wise gardener, ecologist and coincidentally,
nurseryman with a lot of plants to sell, that it was the species most likely to establish in the garden. I tried a few in the meadow ("the grass will keep them dry in summer") and never saw them again.
I naturalised a handful under the trees, had one the following year ("they're probably just building their reserves"). Never saw them again. Planted one in a tub in the sun, and it has come up every year since.
Perhaps I should be downhearted but I am singing with joy. I would love to have a sea of them waving gently in the eternal sunshine of remembered spring but I have one in a tub and it is enough
to inspire the idea. What is the point of an imagination if you can't use it to save yourself hours of back-breaking frustration?
And I could always "naturalise" some tubs. I'm not above that. (For what it's worth, I'm laughing at myself!)