20th October 2019
Strobilanthes rankanensis .
It has been a strange week with cloud overhead and frequent rainfall. It hasn't been misty, but at ground level the air is saturated with water.
Any slight drop in temperature and it condenses on every surface. I opened the front and back doors on Wednesday to let the breeze blow through the house
while I loaded the car. When I came back there was a fine film of moisture on all of the internal walls. Time to switch the heating on.
Out in the garden autumn has fallen like a wet blanket. Plants have been bowed down by the wind and rain. Fern fronds have turned brown, the crisp precision of the spring growth now
battered and irregular. It is autumn, and not that joyful autumn where the low sun flickers through the crisp autumn leaves but the sort that anticipates torential rainfall on
Chrismas Day. That part of the run-up to Christmas that doesn't dare call itself the run-up to Christmas yet. Waiting in the drizzle at the bus stop for the Christmas bus to arrive.
So the garden has been fairly sombre.
Strobilanthes rankanensis has been magnificent, the purple trumpets fading almost to silence in the brown surroundings.
As a young plant it was rather leggy, the stiff stems growing at strange angles in the border, but as it has matured it has formed a generous mound of foliage
covered in flower. It started in September and should continue for another month or more, frost permitting. Wind and rain have not troubled it to date.
20th October 2019
Nerine 'Koko' .
If I have wanted bright colour this week I have had to go to the Nerine house where the red end of the spectrum has been bursting from the pots. If Nerine have
a drawback it is the abundance of colour. I love the deep reds and the dark purples. I swoon before the pale pinks and the whites but there are one or two
colours that I welcome more cautiously. That orange for example, the natural colour of Nerine sarniensis. I don't doubt for a minute that it is a delight in the
Western Cape, a glowing ball of wonder in a grey-brown landscape. A joyful, raucous welcoming beacon to people and pollinators.
I grow all my Nerine in a greenhouse. Trapped in a confined space the chromatic blare of orange is certainly stimulating, getting to parts that other colours
cannot reach. Perhaps it is the mix of colour that is difficult. I could move all of the orange ones into their own greenhouse but I think I might just close the
door and never go in there.
And then there is pink. Baby pink, gentle pink, soft pink like an eiderdown duvet in the morning. Delightful.
Nuclear pink is harder to face. Like bubble-gum it is endlessly
distracting without being pleasant. Notwithstanding, this week it was 'Koko' that leapt out at me. 'Koko' that I lingered over. Radiation-pink 'Koko' glowing among the orange
that dispelled the dankness of the season. It is almost frightening that it was so cheering. A seasonal paradox.
20th October 2019
Hedychium gardnerianum 'Pallidum' .
I have a large flower bed immediately opposite the space where I park. I am (rather slowly) planting it with Hedychium. Partly because it extends the 'exotic' interest
of that end of the garden. Partly because it compliments the hedge of bananas I am developing along the boundary. Partly because it allows the herbaceous border to end
with conviction rather than fizzling away down the hill. Mostly because it was an available space.
Flowering always seems to be the issue with Hedychium grown outside. The flower heads grow at the same time as the risk of frost. I don't think it really matters,
the evergreen Hedychium are most important for their bold foliage through the summer, flowers at the end of the season are an occasional extra. That said,
there are one or two that seem to be reasonably reliable and H. gardnerianum is among the best. I have a number of forms, wild collections and established
cultivated selections, that I have added for the sake of variety. As it turns out, for the sake of very little variety. In the greenhouse there was some distinction in
height, in the waxiness of the pseudostems, in the magnificence of the flower spikes. Outside they are all smaller and the distinctions are finer (to put it kindly).
I was interested to see what 'Pallidum' would do in the garden. In the greenhouse it was moderately vigorous with average size heads of yellow flowers. The colour was much like the
typical colour, possible seen through a light autumn mist, but essentially both are yellow. It may be that the slight softening of the colour that I imagine I can see
is a consequence of the orange column protruding from the flower, paler than the scarlet of some forms. Alternatively, I could be imagining it.
Flowering for the first time outside, the distinction is no clearer.
20th October 2019
Camellia sasanqua 'Rainbow' .
Summer has been crumbling in the garden for a month or more.
When I moved into this house the decoration of the kitchen bothered me. Decades of wallpapering had been plastered
over the walls and ceiling. All the sharp angles had been lost in a layered blob of papering and repainting. I looked at it uncertainly for six months and then the autumn
mists arrived, the house cooled and one morning I came downstairs to find that the whole lot had fallen in. The kitchen had shed its skin while I slept. I removed
the curious "hollow kitchen" from the room and suddenly the place was brighter, the way forward had been revealed.
In the garden, the wallpaper of summer has fallen. The weekly layers of overpasted interest have dropped away and the bare walls of the garden are being revealed.
Underneath it all, the first bud on Camellia sasanqua 'Rainbow' has opened. It is a precious thing, a suggestion of spring. A simple demonstration that the mess of summer
will clear itself away, I don't need to worry unduly.
The Hellebore beds still need to be mown, there are trees to fell, plants to move. I should have cut back the large Camellias. Some of those things will get done,
for the rest, the garden will look after itself.
I spent quite a long time looking at that Camellia.