18th February 2018
Anemone blanda 'Atrocaerulea' .
Last week's winter has turned to this week's spring. Neither of them particularly convincing but two days of bright sunshine have been enough to support my flowery
illusions. I woke up this morning to see another thick blanket of mist and rain rolling over the garden and I smiled at it like an old friend who has vomited in the sink
after a night out. I would rather it wasn't there but we aren't going to fall out about it.
On Friday I watched the sun slowly coax the buds of Anemone blanda from the ground. In the first light of the morning I walked past them and the hairy buds
were just visible at the surface like mouldy sultanas. By lunchtime they had lifted themselves clear of the soil and when I walked back to the house at the end of the afternoon
the rounded buds had lengthened and started to show flashes of colour. I thought I still had a couple of days to wait but they must have carried on developing through the night
because I had these flowers when the sun rose yesterday.
Anemone blanda has never attracted the obsessive interest that goes with A. nemorosa. The flower colour is variable but there are only half a dozen named forms
around. This came as 'Atrocaerulea' but the name covers a range of seedlings. They should all be blue, but that is as much as you can hope for. In recent years the bulb merchants have side-stepped
the awkward issue of names and distributed them as "Blue Shades" which is probably sufficient.
18th February 2018
Narcissus 'Bowles Early Sulphur' .
I attended a brief introduction to the new National Collection of Kniphofia recently and was struck by the range of the collection. I was told that one of the biggest hurdles they
had faced was obtaining plants that were correctly named in the trade. Their experience had been that one in three of the plants they sourced turned out to be wrong.
A week or so earlier I had visited Myddleton House, once the home of E. A. Bowles. The snowdrops were remarkable at the end of January, more numerous than I have seen them before
and also more uniform. I got the feeling that several thousand pairs of eyes had scrutinised that particular population by the time I visited. I was particularly interested in the daffodils
that grow in and around the alpine lawn. At the time I had only a few of the very earliest cultivars in flower here but Bowles garden had a whole population of (what I assume to be)
seedlings of Narcissus pseudonarcissus. All of them quite pale, all of them earlier than anything similar that I grow. It's a curious thing, because I am delighted to grow 'Bowles Early Sulphur'
and it wasn't even showing buds at home. It is up now, and a delight, so I have checked the name. My plant is clearly the same as the one registered, small, early to mid-season
and plain yellow, possibly on the paler side. It was registered by Bowles himself, fortunately he did so before 1954 though the exact date is missing. I say fortunately, he was dead by then
so it would have been inconvenient for him to do it later. The 'Bowles' part is beyond question but his garden now has earlier and more sulphurous. One right in three is a bit perplexing.
18th February 2018
Galanthus plicatus .
Old gardens have a fascination. Not so much the Elizabethan gardens where ladies took refuge behind walls from the lust of the common populace but more gardens that have grown old.
Gardens that you discover like a pair of leather shoes in a trunk in the attic, long forgotton now and worn only by spiders. Bowles garden was one such, Ellen Willmott's
magnificent example of the decay of decadence at Warley Place was another. Her garden had long since gone feral when the Essex Naturalists Trust stepped in and took it over as a reserve.
Among the trees and bamboo that had taken up residence in the remains of the house grew vast patches of snowdrops. I was given a few and asked if I could identify them
and the bulbs have been increasing here ever since. They were a mixed population of G. plicatus and G. p. ssp. byzantinus seedlings. I had a few picked out as 'Warley Place A'
etc. They have continued to spead and seed about, the original clones are now so mixed that I doubt the names have any meaning. These are my G. plicatus Warley Place Mixed.
I am slowly removing the G. nivalis forms from under the trees, they seem to want more light and more moisture in summer, but the G. plicatus forms go from strength to strength
and remind me of Ellen Willmott's forest of abandonment. G. nivalis hadn't survived there very well either.
18th February 2018
Primula allionii 'Tranquility' .
I don't think I have any favourite plants but there are one or two that are delightful but obviously not in the running. Are children the same? I don't know, I don't have any though I can understand
that it is impossible to have favourites. Still, are there one or two that are obviously not?
For me it is Primula. Magnificent, delightful and colourful, the remarkable attributes of the genus go on to enhance the furthest reaches of diversity. Barely a year goes by that I don't
discover another truly wonderful scrap of beauty in the genus. Are they favourites? Will they ever be favourites? Well, never say never, but long experience suggests that the answer will always be no.
There are some grudgingly huggable moments when the genus breaks through my resereve. Double primroses could vomit in a sink and I wouldn't say a word against them. Primula allionii is another.
It tickles me. Tickles me until my resolve crumbles and I start to sob and shriek at the litle poppets.
So I am quite pleased that I seem to have stopped killing them, at least for a time. They come in pink or white, that is about as far as diversity has spread through them. Like snowdrops, the limited
palette has encouraged the prolferation of names. They are all distinct but not very distinct. Like identical twins, you get used to differences eventually that you wouldn't have picked up at the start.
'Tranquility' was raised by Hartside Nursery at Alston in Cumbria some time before 1985 and has developed a devoted and lyrical following.