10th November 2019
Galanthus corcyrensis .
Another week of classic autumnal weather. Things are sliding downhill and there doesn't seem to be an end. It is like one of those falling dreams where it is all process and no outcome.
Just falling, even the down-ness has to be assumed. But there is an end. The darkening evenings will start to lighten. This isn't a plunge, it is a roller-coaster. Down and then up.
I remind myself that this isn't a time for sombre reflection, it is a time for lunatic screaming. I tried it in the garden as the sun set. I wonder what the neighbours thought. I don't really care.
All sorts of small changes marked the week. A cold wind rocked the evergreens. I put on my trusty woolly hat. It blew straight off again, the knitted yarn has grown tired over the years.
Who would have imagined that a sheep might lose its elasticity. I would use a hat pin with a diamond on the end and laugh in the face of the chilling wind if I had enough hair.
The hat is a favourite thing, one of those icons of identity. I would be less of a person if I lost it. One day it will start to fray and before it unravels beyond rescue I will pop it in
a plastic bag and store it in a drawer with my ancient teddy. Too ragged to use, too precious to lose.
The year will swing upwards with a stomach churning rush and the giddy excitement of the moment will be filled with snowdrops. Perhaps that is their real charm, shouting loudly on the
roller-coaster in that giddy moment before you realise you are about to vomit into the spring.
This is Galanthus corcyrensis, a name that has now been absorbed into G. reginae-olgae. Originally it was used for a plant that flowered in autumn alongside its leaves.
G. reginae-olgae was then considered to be naked (or at least leafless) when it flowered. The distinction is trivial, only a snowdrop grower would have noticed. In any case
my stock, and many others, is leafless in flower. More importantly, this one grows and flowers in the garden which the others do not. It is the first snowdrop to appear in the open garden
this year, which feels like a significant milestone.
10th November 2019
Dahlia merckii .
The end of the year has a sense of dark dread about it and there is no good reason. There is light at the end of the tunnel, it just isn't visible from here. Perhaps in the week after
Christmas I will start to see signs that the light is returning, it will be a moment of great joy. In the meantime there is the matter of autumn to deal with. Last week I was watching
the Liquidambar, expecting its flaming foliage to gutter and fall, or at least fall into the gutter. I was wrong. Despite a weekend of strong winds the last leaves are still clinging to
the tops of the branches, a scarlet halo around the bare silver twigs.
Dahlia merckii is also waiting patiently, like a condemned man on the gallows. I have seen the lilac flowers still pushing their way through an overnight snowfall but it is rare
for them to survive a frost. The tubers will be fine, it is the hardiest of the species, but the soft top growth will turn glassy and collapse on the first clear, cold night. It hasn't
happened yet, but it is just a matter of time. I will suddenly remember all of the things outside that I should have moved under cover. At long last I have carried the Hedychium
out of the greenhouse and up to the new Hedychium garden. All I have to do now is plant them before we get a heavy freeze.
10th November 2019
Clivia gardenii 'Maxima' .
The greenhouse needs attention. Heavy weather and some other minor damage have left me with a dripping roof. Part of it is caused by an accumulation of fallen leaves, but I am not going
to remove them now. They can remain until the spring and help to keep the frost out. I have been repotting Clivia. I had far too many that have been stuck in the same pots for decades.
A gift of some seedling plants last week has stirred me into action, repotting and organising the collection. These things invariably mean that the plants will occupy more space, but
I have a few spare feet of bench available. I don't think it will be enough, but it will be enough for now. I can worry about the overspill in the spring.
Clivia gardenii 'Maxima' surprised me with a flower, though I can't think why, it always flowers about now. Why aren't there more autumn flowering Clivia hybrids, surely
there would be a market for them?
The name 'Maxima' is uncertain. It has been applied to a small population of Clivia discovered by Fred van Niekerk in the Transkei (Eastern Cape). These plants are larger than the typical form
of C. gardenii and have some characteristics of C. nobilis. My plant was raised from seed supplied as C. gardenii maxima. It isn't really any larger and doesn't seem to have any
characteristics of C. nobilis about it. The name is uncertain.
10th November 2019
Nerine undulata .
The season is balanced on the cusp between down and up. At present the balance seems to be tipped in favour of down but it is a slight thing. Some more lunatic screaming may well alter things.
The Nerine house is also balanced between seasons, in a subtler way. The Nerine sarniensis season has come to an end. I snap the flowers off as they start to fade. It is easy to do
while the stems are still green and plump, it gets harder as they grow old and they have to be cut with scissors. I drop the dead flowers on the path, I will clear them away in a few weeks
when they have dried out. I like to think that it reduces the risk of spreading virus between the plants on a blade. It is also very easy and convenient, and that counts for a lot.
The next wave of Nerine flowers are pushing up, hybrids between N. sarniensis and N. undulata. They are generally taller, pinker, and flower three weeks later
than the pure N. sarniensis cultivars. In between the two surges of flower, N. undulata itself is flowering. I have several different forms, a few wild collections and a cultivar or two
that will flower through the winter. The last of them will still be hanging on as spring takes hold. There is great variety, but this is the one that is best known. I have had it from a number of sources,
identified in a number of ways, but I think this is the form that the Dutch mass produce and sell in pre-packs of bulbs. I grew it in the 1970's and you could get the same thing today.
In this way and that we creep towards the solstice. These quiet, uneventful weeks in the garden will feel like a delicious luxury once the rush of the new year begins. Memory will put a shine
on this dank decay that can't be seen at present.