22nd December 2019
Lachenalia bulbifera 'George' .
Looking through the window this morning the sun is shining, the garden looks bright, it could almost be spring. Yesterday the rain fell, and I get the feeling that it all fell.
All in one go. I went out to buy some coal for the fire and found the assistant gloomily pushing water about with a broom, trying to alleviate the impact of a blocked drain as the tide rose around him.
In the time that my purchase distracted him, the level had risen appreciably. Yesterday was a dark and gloomy day, well suited to the winter solstice. I came away smiling.
Tomorrow will be better, and it is.
Down in the greenhouse there are a few winter growing bulbs struggling to brighten the place. Lachenalia bulbifera 'George' looks a little washed out in the poor light,
but the colour will improve now the days are getting longer. It has survived a period of nomenclatural instability but seems to have settled securely back into L. bulbifera
after a brief excursion into L. bifolia. It was a matter of getting the right paperwork, nothing about the plant had changed.
22nd December 2019
Narcissus cantabricus .
Narcissus shoots are springing up all around the garden. This year saw my unqualified conversion to the hoe as a mechanism of weed destruction. I have always
been a little nervous of it, knowing the destruction I can wreak with a sharp blade. This year I have finally admitted that a certain amount of damage is an inevitable consequence of gardening.
I have been more careful with the hoe, and caused less imediate damage as a result, then promptly stepped back onto some tender shoot and destroyed it. Some damage is inevitable.
Hoeing is easier than grubbing around on your hands and knees.
It was the daffodil shoots that have stopped me. A couple of weeks ago I sliced a bulb neatly in half with a hoe, and that was the end of weeding for the year. Suddenly the holiday has arrived,
and that is how the solstice has felt. The descent of the year has ended in a rush, a sudden break, a heatbeats pause for the stillness of winter. It won't last long, but it is a moment to savour,
just the time to put the kettle on!
Narcissus cantabricus has joined the solstice celebration. I was given it a couple of years ago when it was just a potful of grassy leaves. I was promised that it was vigorous and floriferous.
I had some doubts but it is difficult to refuse an enthusiastic gift. During the week a ghostly white bud opened unexpectedly, with many more to come. As the Nerine go over, the daffodils are coming.
22nd December 2019
Camellia sasanqua 'Paradise Hilda' .
In the long evenings I have been going through all the periodicals that have accumulated. There just isn't time to deal with it all as the summer rages,
they get put in a pile for later consideration. The pile has started to reduce, it is a good feeling. Along the way I have been reminded of all
the half-read, half remembered information of the year. It is like watching the pieces of a jigsaw slip gently into place.
The garden has a similar process. Several years ago I had a large number of Camellia sitting around in pots waiting to die of neglect.
In a single magnificent weekend I planted them all in the garden. I am sure the labels went in with them, and I kept a sketch map of their locations. Neither labels nor map have been seen since.
The hope has been that as they flower I will recognise at least some of them, so the first flowers on 'Paradise Hilda' were seen with joy. I have five of the fragments of 'Paradise ...'
somewhere in the garden, this is the second to reveal itself. The brightest pink of the group, the identification is still to be confirmed (but I can't think what else it could be).
22nd December 2019
Helleborus niger .
Small details matter in the garden at this time of the year. I have been peering intently into the hellebore bed for the first sign of flowers. I saw an early cultivar at Kew last week
so I know it is only as matter of days. I think the Kew plant was probably WALBERTON'S ROSEMARY. No buds showing on mine yet, but the earliest of the H. x hybridus
have buds showing at ground level.
The plan had been to mow the hellebore bed for a second time in early November to clear the last of the perennial undergrowth before the hellebore flowers started to emerge.
In the event, my mower decided not to co-operate on the day. The bed remains slightly ragged and its too late to do anything about it now. My earliest hellebore has a fawn-pink flower,
almost indistinguishable from the woodland floor. I have been peering into the distance looking for it, unable to walk over the bed while the shoots are emerging. Neither the hellebore
flowers not the snowdrops would easily forgive a short-sighted footfall. So I have been peering, looking for something almost invisible at a greast distance, hoping for a tiny detail.
Helleborus niger does a similar trick. I have a single plant in the garden, sole survivor of several attempts to establish it. It generally flowers rather late for a Christmas Rose,
putting in an appearance in March during most years. This year I have a magnificent display, Christmas Roses in abundance just in time for Christmas. It is the sort of tiny detail
that adds imeasureable joy to the gardening year.
And the other tiny detail? I don't expect mine to show for a couple of months yet, I had to buy these in Morrisons last week. I won't let on if you don't.