2nd October 2016
Impatiens tinctoria .
If you were to go on holiday you might pack all of your most essential clothing into a suitcase that was just a little too small, and to secure it from an internal pressure based catastrophe, you might
wrap a belt around it and buckle it securely. I'm sure that in these days of international elegance and belt-bomb extremism you would do no such thing, but humour me.
The result would be that everything you had that was most essential was packed up in the most inconvenient way possible. The holiday starts in a hotel room blighted by the sudden expansion
of clothes that will never be quite the same again.
I have a tendency to garden like that. A little pocket of precious pressure that I am afraid of opening in case it all goes horribly wrong. I am fighting it. Some things that seem essential may not be.
Some things don't survive packing. Some things can be left behind and replaced if needed.
Impatiens tinctoria has suffered, but I am trying to release it into the wider garden. This one went out and has become magnificent. I have two more in pots waiting. Impatiens are difficult to release.
They look so fragile, so tender, yet those that survive in the garden are far stronger than their potted relatives.
Over the road from my driveway there is a thin strip of neglected gound. Four or five years ago a single plant of Impatiens glandulifera bloomed. Now there is en explosion of it, swaying expansively in the autumn sunlight.
Where did I put that belt?
2nd October 2016
Acanthus sennii .
I don't think of myself as a pessimist but sometimes I look at the way I have done things and wonder at the terrors that must have driven me. Take Acanthus sennii. It is a spectacular large bush.
I kept it in a small pot for a few years, to rush it inside a cosy greenhouse if needed, but finally I had the courage to plant it in the Agave house. It has become a scarlet delight, flowering from autumn
until the clammy fingers of winter grip the flowerheads in their rotting embrace. I worried that it might not be hardy up there, so I surrounded it with a collection of other tender things. Perhaps I was hoping that
the climate up there would foster exactly the right number of plants for the space, and I wouldn't have to do anything. Perhaps they would all die and I could plant something else.
That isn't how it worked out. Acanthus sennii has grown to the extent that in winter it drops a thick carpet of prickly leaves on top of Protea burchelii just as it flowers. Two feet to the side,
Acmena smithii (a large evergreen tree) has to be stooled every year to keep it within the seven foot headroom. Albizia julibrissin, Furcraea andina all growing in the same square yard.
Something about the terror of winter blinded me to the impracticaility of what I was doing.
For now I can take the time to enjoy the flowers on the Acanthus and think about a long term solution.
2nd October 2016
Nerine filamentosa .
The urge to spread things out a bit more started among the Sarracenia. There is no free space there at all, and I am determined to pot things up so they can be more magnificent, rather than split them
into smaller pieces. I haven't really resolved that one yet, though I have some ideas. I didn't have the courage then to do anything radical, so in frustration I turned to the bulbs and went for them.
All the little pots were planted into big tubs and stood on the ground. All the benches that encouraged me to grow little pots were removed and anything unwanted was given away or composted.
When it was finished and I realised the magnitude of what I had done I was as giddy as a vomiting teenager on a theme park ride.
It has been magnificent. Everything that is left has been wonderful. Nothing that has gone has been missed. Finally the Nerine have the space they need. N.filamentosa has responded
with a little tuft of leaves, that looks to me exactly as it did in a 1 litre pot, but with a dozen flower spikes. True to my nature, I want to make a series of hybrids with it but there are so many
flowers I don't know where to start. I can't emasculate the whole thing - I would be there all day trying. New systems require new skills and I might finally be forced to enclose the blooms in little muslin bags
and write neat little labels on dangling paper tags. That feels like a step too far.
2nd October 2016
Colchicum 'Waterlily' .
The October sun has lost its summery harshness. The rain has let up for a bit. A few white clouds have stalled in the sky uncertainly. I opened the front door to let the sun in and ate my breakfast on the front step.
A few yards away the hubbub of the road passes, cushioned by the autumn air. It is time to visit the Colchicum.
I have a little patch of trees at the top of the garden that provide some shelter. There are some Leylands on the perimeter that block out the sun. I would like to remove a few of them and let more light in,
but I am afraid that if I make a break, the wind will take down the rest. One day I will just do it, and to hell with the consequences.
It is an out of the way corner and that is where the Colchicum have come to rest. I am very fond of 'Waterlily', ridiculous ragged pink tuffet though it is. It flowers for weeks just as this part of
the garden looks like it is falling asleep. It is an illusion. Like all woodland gardens, it actually sleeps in summer. Shortly after the Colchicum finish the first snowdrops will appear and spring will
arise on the distant horizon.
This year I planted 100 new Colchicum 'Waterlily' (by taking a deep breath and frightening my credit card). The first flowers show that it was worth it. As they settle in they will fill the space
in a very comforting way. Then the snowdrops, then the Erythronium, the bluebells and a long summer siesta. It is a very slow garden. Slow and satisfying.
The first C. 'Waterlily' I ever bought went into a pot, and stayed there for years. I don't think I would ever do that again, so among the potted chaos there is hope.