13th November 2016
Camellia 'Narumigata' .
Memory is a curious thing. I keep notes about everything and they allow me to snatch back fragments of memory that would otherwise have slipped into compost in the garden of the mind.
This week has been clear and bright, but I know that is a memory I have constructed from a series of brief moments. It has poured with rain on occasion but I was indoors at the time
so it has been forgotton. On Thurdsday night I saw the hardest frost for some years. The windscreen of the car was covered in thick ice in the morning. I will remember the feeling of horror for some time.
I will forget that I was in Wiltshire where these things are perfectly normal.
Camellia 'Narumigata' lurks on the boundary between memory and reality for me (in case you wondered what all the nonsense was about). The first was planted in the "stylish" phase of my young garden,
and it was edged out by Ligustrum quihoui which tries so hard to look like a Lilac while smelling like a privy (I mean Privet).
The second belongs to the "well it will have to go somewhere" phase and that was where it went, at least until I couldn't stand it any more and dug it out. The third is still in a pot, looking beautiful in the greenhouse
but weighed down by the decades of memory of failure. I love it but I'm scared to commit it to the garden. I don't take notes of the things I'm afraid of. That stuff will all rot away to nothing.
13th November 2016
Begonia taliensis .
Caution: the following paragraph contains the word "fuck". If you don't wish to read this ... well, too late.
Driving down to St.Ives always fills me with a mixture of elation and anxiety. Something about the town is both exhilarating and terrifying. I was on the road on Wednesday wondering what I would
do if I owned a small garden in the decorative tropical zone that clings to the coast like a marginal variegation on the leaf of the county. I certainly wouldn't grow anything hardy, and perhaps that is
the thing that unsettles me. The town is full of plants that couldn't be grown anywhere else, scattered among things that anybody could have. A fat Bergenia in a kerbside garden, looking as
though it was waiting for a bus. It would be out. I would have a fat Begonia with shining scarlet and silver leaves that cackled at the seagulls, but I would miss the commonplace.
I was musing
on these ideas on Friday, as I sat trapped in traffic in Surrey. Suddenly I snapped to attention and realised there are always other people. I really wouldn't miss the commonplace.
I have plans for a Begonia house and if I got nothing else from the commuter-belt traffic I realised that the plan had to move forward. For now
they are mostly in the Agave house, sheltering from the hardest winters and enjoying some summer warmth. I want a greenhouse where I can plant Begonia rex like a psychedelic carpet, a "fuck-you" chromatic
challenge to traffic jams and roundabout horticulture. Probably best I don't move to St.Ives then (or Surrey for that matter).
Begonia taliensis does things in a much more moderate way, sleeping until July and then inflating with colour for a couple of months until the bubble bursts. I have caught it at the last moment,
that largest leaves beginning to fall. Next week it will be naked, clothes scattered across the bedroom floor as it sinks back into sleep.
13th November 2016
Clivia gardenii .
I have a box of biscuits by the side of my desk and I find one of the indulgent joys of writing is sitting with a cup of coffee and gobbling biscuits without concern. They seem to scatter crumbs of nonsense
through the work and , more tiresomely, through the keyboard. However busy things seem to be, when I am writing I find enough space for biscuits.
Having enough space is crucial to enjoyment. I had allowed the Clivia to get crowded and I had stopped looking at them. A clear-out in spring has improved things beyond measure.
While I was away I bought a new yellow seedling of C. miniata from named, large flowered parents. Not because I need another, just because I was curious, and I had somewhere to put it.
I have also started looking at my Clivia gardenii more critically. I have always known that this was a very pale example, but I have been putting it down to a late season
or shade or some other rubbish. Actually, this is just a very pale one. I saw a deep orange one on Friday, and now I am on the look-out. If I had still been in Clivia grid-lock
I wouldn't have dared to notice.
More space for clivias, begonias and biscuits is my New Years Resolution. It is either very late or very early.
13th November 2016
Galanthus corcyrensis .
That is what people think about the Autumn Snowdrops, either very late or very early. Personally I think they are about right, and it is the people that are disturbed, but I don't say it out loud. Autumn Snowdrops come in
autumn. Quite what constitutes an Autumn Snowdrop is more a matter of debate. I have been walking through the beds looking for signs of 'Remember Remember', a selection of G. elwesii
for the first week of November. It is still a spring snowdrop, just flowering a few months early.
Galanthus corcyrensis on the other hand, is an Autumn Snowdrop at just the right time. In the grown-up world of taxonomy it is now regarded as G. reginae-olgae but it has always
been treated as distinct in gardens. Coming from Corfu originally and also found in Sicily, it was distinguished from the Turkish G. reginae-olgae by having leaves at flowering time. The distinction is
slight and mostly fictional. If I could clear enough space in the memory I might correct the name but I don't see it happening.
The flower was a surprise when I was looking for something else. It is so long since it flowered that I had given up. It was planted in a location that had been slowly overgrown so a few years ago
I lifted the last remaining bulb and replanted it with more space. It has done well, performing better in the garden than G. reginae-olgae (Turkish) but I still feel it would be happier
under cover with the other Autumn Snowdrops, away from the wind and rain.
Among the delights of a trip away, and one that will banish memories of traffic, ice and begonia-terrorism, have been a couple of new Snowdrops. 'Barnes' and 'Peter Gatehouse', both
G. elwesii forms, flowering now and due to be planted where I can walk among them in November, peering at the ground hopefully.
When I run through the years in my mind, that has been the defining characteristic of this garden. Peering at the ground hopefully.