29th January 2017
Camellia 'Yuletide' .
At this time of the year I start to worry if the weather settles. There was a hint of it at the start if the week when cold air from the east
started to flow across the south of the country. It brought bright clear days and bitterly cold nights. On Monday I hid in the greenhouse again,
took more photographs than I needed to and warmed myself in the sunshine. By Thursday the cloud had closed in from the west and there was nothing but the
cutting wind left of the wintry spell. For the umpteenth time this year winter had turned to spring. February may turn into a month of ice, but for now
every day has to be looked at afresh.
Camellia 'Yuletide' also deserves reconsidering. When I bought it I was impressed by its cheery floriferous bounty and its bright taunt
to the grey January sky. It was too good to be true. Like a stodgy pastry in an expensive patissiers's box, it had used all its energies on marketing
and flim-flam. For several years it grew without suggestion of a flower and I was sufficiently peeved to consider digging it out. I had nothing to replace
it, I just didn't want such an obvious blob of disappointment.
Suddenly it has started to flower again - this is the third year so I think it might become a habit. Perhaps there was something in first impressions after all.
29th January 2017
Galanthus 'Moccas' .
Snowdrops are also coming under critical scrutiny to see if they have got it. I'm not entirely sure what it is yet, but I know it when I see it.
Galanthus Atkinsii and its many selections confuse me. 'Atkinsii', the daddy of them all, is a fabulous thing that will make precise carpets.
Lifted and divided regularly it always looks crisp. 'Moccas' has it as well, a precise look like a morning frost. 'Lyn' however hasn't got it. My clump
has grown enough to squelch over the ground surface like yesterdays snow in the slushy afternoon sun. The difference is slight but telling.
I think it may come down to the way new bulbs form. I always have to dig deep to get the bulbs of 'Moccas' out of the ground while it looks as though 'Lyn'
has them bubbling up to the surface as they proliferate.
I could never have too much 'Moccas', but 'Lyn' might already have got there.
29th January 2017 Hamamelis x intermedia 'Brimstone' .
Reconsideration has been the motif of the week. I have been reading the write-up of the RHS trial of Hamamelis in their magazine and my confusion
has been untangled.
One of the first Hamamelis I planted came to me as 'Pallida' and it is a lovely thing with the palest citron yellow flowers. My plant has been
enthusiastically upright - every year I think it will start to spead out but up it goes again. It is also, dare I say it, a little too good.
I know the original plant of 'Pallida' growing at Wisley. It is a comfortable rounded shape, a lovely shrub, delightful in winter (let me heap praises upon it)
but it is a rather ordinary yellow colour. I have been waiting for mine to fill out (and possibly even let me down). The situation has been made
clear, which is one of the great benefits of large scale trials. There are two clones in commerce named 'Pallida', a short fat yellow one and one that
is tall, vigorous and citron.
The name properly belongs to the RHS plant, so the other one has been named 'Brimstone' to distinguish it, and under that name it has been given
the Award of Garden Merit. I have adopted the new name enthusiastically.
29th January 2017 Helleborus torquatus .
Years go by like trains at a busy station with little significance until the right one comes along. Most of the hellebores were planted out
several years ago in a Hellebore border. One spring the right year pulled in to the station and in they went. They have been better in the ground,
but they haven't been right. I have tweaked the mangement, added this and that to counter the perceived deficiency and generally failed to make any progress.
I underplanted it with double snowdrops, and this year I seriously considered abandoning the hellebores and letting the snowdrops take over.
It wasn't what I wanted, but it felt like a good idea.
In reality I have to sort out the problem, which is that it is impossible to keep the stinging nettles under control. It is too much to weed by hand
(I know myself better than to imagine I will even try) and the hellebore leaves are always there, so I can't use a herbicide.
Step up H. torquatus which obligingly dies away in August and doesn't appear again until late winter, giving a 'spraying window' that would
solve the problem. I need to raise a lot of seedlings and start selecting for brighter colours. Fortunately the modern hybrids have a fair bit of
torquatus blood in them anyway. Perhaps I should just lift the most special plants and spray the border regardless. Let natural selection
do the work for me. This is the year for thinking about it.