17th December 2017
Impatiens tinctoria .
I keep expecting the garden to be full of winter thrushes when I get up in the morning. The snow that hit the country last week pushed south but it didn't reach us. In front of it there is usually a wave
of migrant Fieldfares and Redwings moving south for the winter. Perhaps it just isn't cold enough yet. We have had a couple of hail showers but there hasn't been a serious frost yet
despite a few dire warnings. Impatiens tinctoria has the yellowing new growth that indicates the chill but it will collapse if it actually freezes. The Banana leaves have darkened
and I think that means they have caught the frost. There is a brown tint in the green.
If I got up earlier I could probably tell you with more confidence that there hadn't been a frost on the lawn but I'm perfectly happy guessing the weather from the comfort of my bed.
Nothing I can do about it and ignorance is bliss.
There are one or two worries around the garden. Cyathea dealbata is starting to grow away and I would hate it to be damaged - I would hate it to be damaged, but I'm not going to do anything
about it. One year it won't survive, and that's all there is to it. Leucadendron argenteum might get a bit of help. It is a tiny seedling by the side of the house and the silvery leaves
are suffering in the wet weather. It is worth finding a cover for it until it is large enough to have a fighting chance. It the frost takes it that is unfortunate, but I wouldn't like to drown it.
17th December 2017
Galanthus 'Manor Farm Early' .
With the Winter Solstice approaching the garden is getting dark. I have been digging out the route for a new pathway in the garden. It is hard work and it took me several false starts yesterday
before I got going. A half hour clearing the surface clutter and I needed to stop for a coffee. I didn't need the coffee, I barely drank any, but I needed an excuse to stop. An hour digging took me to
an early lunch. By the afternoon I was ready to settle down for some serious soil moving and I was surprised at how much was achieved in a couple of hours. I was stopped by the gathering gloom,
though it is possible that with a tired body the gathering gloom seemed more ominous than it was in reality.
With spade in hand, I wandered past the snowdrops. 'Manor Farm Early' is another that has flowered before I was expecting it. A decade ago I planted four Dicksonia sprorelings
in the bed behind it. Three of them struggled and I dug them out and moved them to a wetter position. One did really well, I think it must have hit underground water draining down the hill.
Whatever the reason, it has grown enormously and completely shades out the snowdrops underneath. Eventually the leaf canopy will rise up, the snowdrops will be revealed and everything will be fine.
For now however there is a problem. Move the fern, move the snowdrops or cut off the troublesome fronds?
I had a spade with me and I still didn't do anything, so I think the fern is staying where it is. A day digging somewhere else has answered a completely different question.
17th December 2017
Pelargonium australe .
Autumn is fading away into the pale colours of spring. The latest flush of Nerine are still colouring the greenhouse but there are a surprising number of white ones among them.
I was looking at the benches during the week with a perplexed expression. I remember the last weeks of the season turning as pink as Nylon.
During the late 1960's as a child I slept in a bed of Nylon sheets as slippery as a fish. I thought it was wonderful. They alternated weekly between acid yellow and Nerine pink. Nylon was the housewife's
labour saving choice when it came to bed "linen", and my parents were modern people. I still have an affection for the colour and wriggling in the bed like a fish still makes me laugh out loud.
Nowadays that same labour saving woman would tell her partner to change the bed. Who would have imagined that Nylon sheets were the real foundation of Feminism.
Pelargonium australe presents the winter dilemma. Save it or risk it? I am very fond of it, I like the promise of hardiness. Without that, it is just another small white
Pelargonium even though it comes from Australia. If I move it into the greenhouse it will survive very well but if I never take the risk I will never know if it is hardy.
As ever, the answer is probably to root a small piece as insurance, and leave the plant to take its chances.
It has adapted very well to our seasons, so I am confident this is the last flush of the northern summer, not the first flowering of a southern spring.
That was when I remembered. In 2014 I spent a lot of energy obtaining white Nerine and now they are flowering.
17th December 2017
Camellia transnokoensis .
I am used to the idea that cold weather triggers the development of spring flowers. Like the first frost sweetening the sprouts for Christmas, it seems to make sense.
I have been watching the buds on Camellia transnokoensis for a month now. At the beginning of November they had started to swell, the pink markings on the tips of the petals
emphasised by the white behind them. Surely this is just bravado, I have never seen it flower before the end of February.
It is about 5ft tall now so perhaps it is just feeling established. Online research suggests that it can flower anytime from December to March and mine had certainly set off before we had
any cold weather. Like so much going on in the garden, I don't think it is responding to the chill in the way that my comfortable preconception assumes. Quite by chance I have been reading a lot
of articles about the way gardens will have to adapt in the face of global warming (because gardens are going to be the big issue). They all seem to be based on the assumption
that warmer winters will inhibit flowering and I'm not quite convinced. Am I just causing trouble?
And what's all this nonsense about the dangers of pollinators dying out. Lots of scare stories, but I don't see much evidence being offered. Is it just me being mischievous or has someone got
a ton of annual meadow seed to shift?
I'm in a strange mood, feels like Christmas is coming.