16th December 2018
Camellia sasanqua 'Paradise Blush' .
It has rained. That sums up the week as completely and succinctly as I can manage. There have been dry spells, I have ventured into the garden, left deep footprints in the
grass and ventured back to the fireside. As a result I have spent too much time sitting down indoors and that forced me to buy a new chair. The gas cylinder had gone on the old one
and I was fed up with the aches and pains it caused. I was told the cylinders couldn't be replaced, they were finely integrated into the manufacturing process (that wasn't the phrase used,
I'm up-scaling for an erudite audience). Then I discovered that they were easy to replace. You have to hit them hard enough with a hammer.
It has been too warm for that sort of exertion.
On Tuesday I found some fallen petals on the ground where I wasn't expecting them. Camellia 'Paradise Blush' was in flower. I think I have four of the 'Paradise ...' series in the garden.
I planted them all a few years ago in one of those determined moods that come when you pick something up and then can't find space to put it down again. I have no idea where they are
now, so this was a delightful discovery. I put a new label on it hastily and I may have located another. I started at 'Paradise Blush' and stomped away agrily. There is a Camellia
without a label just where I stopped. It isn't rocket science but it seems to work.
16th December 2018
Galanthus 'Manor Farm Early' .
The days have been dark, I have been walking around with a yawn that looks more like a scream. Parts of the greenhouse are warm, but they are clammy as well. Not enough
heat to dry things out. Old leaves lie around like cold sponges, then they bubble with fungal growth and turn to slime. I'm happy with the warm weather, but I miss the bright sun.
There are a few snowdrops in the garden. The earliest have come and gone, the spring flowering forms are in various stages of emergence from silvery cobbles to wispy stems.
'Manor Farm Early' is a survivor from the early autumn forms. The first buds opened in the middle of November so it has lasted in flower for a month. The first pictures show the hard
white flowers shining in the light. This week I had trouble getting the camera to focus at all in the gloom and the scene is greyish.
I am waiting for a transformation in the garden. The leaves have fallen, the garden is almost empty but it isn't bare. Perhaps what I am waiting for is a cold week to sweep in and
brush away the dust and debris of the year.
16th December 2018
Narcissus cantabricus .
Autumn lingers longest in the greenhouse, I can almost grasp it in my hand. Quite literally. I keep finding bramble thorns in my fingers. I haven't cleared any brambles for months.
Either they have been there since September or I have been sleep-weeding. Either option is a little disturbing.
Spring is also early to arrive in the greenhouse, and Narcissus cantabricus is part of an early spring rather than a defiant gesture of autumn. It is a species that I have been frightened of
for many years. N. bulbocodium is common enough with an easy reputation, but I have never been particularly successful. It is one of those cases where I know it comes from
Spain and Portugal and so I make assumptions. I know it is a mistake to make dubious cultivation guesses based on the natural distribution of a plant, but it's a hard habit to break.
For many years I assumed that N. bulbocodium grew best in dryish conditions and I have been absurdly slow to learn better. Even when admiring the large populations growing
in the marshy soil of Saville Gardens or the alpine lawn at Wisley I have held on to the stupid idea that Spain means dry.
I am learning slowly, and as I protect the N. bulbocodium forms from drought in the summer, so I am succeeding more. N. cantabricus is an adventure into
the forbidding lands of ignorance. As a teenager filled with the reckless confidence of youth, I avoided bulbs of N. c. var. petunioides when I was offered them.
Scared enough of defeat to rebrand it "cautious wisdom". Now I am filled with the reckless confidence of age, I bought it three weeks ago because there is nothing to lose from trying.
If I could shout at myself down the decades I would say "give it a go, boy"!
16th December 2018
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' .
More than anything the garden has lacked screaming colour this week. The Nerine are almost over and the flowers that are left have been there for too long. They haven't drooped
but they have drained. The brio has collapsed. There are a couple of Fuchsia flowers hanging on endlessly like the bunting from a celebration that nobody wants to remove.
The season of the summer Fuchsia is over despite the dangling denial of F. magellanica. I should be out looking for the swelling buds of F. excorticata
but I think it is dead, destroyed by the Siberian winds in March.
Colour is starting to appear among the Hamamelis. The yellow flowers of H. mollis are making a bright show but in the rain it is the red flowers of H. x intermedia 'Diane'
that come closest to meeting the need. They are just bursting from the buds, the crumpled petals unfolding with arthritic caution. Another week or so and you might think that Santa
had snagged his clothing on the bush as he passed through.
On a warm day in April I planted out a pot of Narcissus 'Kedron' in full flower. The green shoots of next year's display are already a couple of inches tall. There are round shoots on
some of the Hellebores and the camellias are plastered in fat bauble-buds, like awfully stylish Christmas Trees, giving little hints of the gaudiness to come. Spring is there in the undergrowth,
all that is missing is the bounce.