12th January 2020
Colchicum autumnale 'Alboplenum' .
As I look into the greenhouse the condensation on the plastic quivers in anticipation of the fall. The droplets are not quite large enough to fall under their own weight but the slightest
disturbance will send a cascade of them onto the head and shoulders. There is some magical sense of aqueous direction that will place one droplet onto the back of the neck to slide between
the shoulder blades and down the back without the clinging t-shirt intercepting it. It is inevitable.
That is where the season stands. Cold weather is poised, it seems to be hanging in the trees, filtered from the passing clouds. Great droplets of cold waiting to fall. But it hasn't arrived yet.
The garden is warm and things are developing at a remarkable pace. Every day seems to produce some new surpise. I went to look at the hazel catkins, sure that they would be clinging to the twigs
like the pupae of some winter butterfly, but instead they are extending, stretching from the middle as anther after anther is revealed. They haven't reached the full jiggling dangle yet, but
they are on their way.
I have been waiting for Colchicum autumnale 'Alboplenum' for weeks. I have a single bulb under a Philadelphus that does very well so in November I bought another 10 to mix in
among the 'Waterlily' under the trees. I have no patience you see. I have been waiting for the 'Waterlily' to produce a carpet of lilac through the autumn and they haven't yet got there.
Already I want more. Ten white ones will add variety. They might even produce a white carpet before the lilac carpet takes over. Whatever happens, they went in late and I have been waiting.
Two of them are up, autumn flowers in spring.
12th January 2020
Galanthus woronowii .
Spring flowers have filled the garden with white. There are other colours but they don't have the impact. On occasions through the week the sun has shone and out of the wind it has been moderately warm.
Perhaps more emphasis on the moderate than the warm but both have been true.
The snowdrops have been dangling indecisively for many weeks. The tepals on the last autumn flowering Galanthus elwesii have become glassily translucent as the flowers age. They are surrounded by
new flowers from the spring snowdrops, hard and white and sprightly. This has been the week that the snowdrops took over the garden. While I was taking the pictures I realised that I had spent more
time on my knees this week than walking around. My trousers were sodden, clinging to my legs when I stood up. I get down to take a picture and the next plant is six feet away. Do I stand up, take a
single step and then get down again, or shuffle along on my knees between them. I settled for the knees mostly. I can always change the trousers when I get in.
Nearer to the house, G. woronowii has started to flower. A decade or more ago it suddenly took over as the snowdrop of choice in all the garden centres. Imported bulbs were cheaper than
G. elwesii and a wide range of variation appeared. This is my earliest form, I grow it in a tub with another single clone. Initially both were selected for the pale lime green of their inner
segment markings but one is reliably early, the other late. They are both very vigorous and I mean to separate them when in flower, but somehow it hasn't happened.
Perhaps this year, perhaps not.
12th January 2020
Helleborus x hybridus white double .
The hellebores have also taken advantage of a warm week to slip across the border between promise and delivery. Last week I was hunting around for flowers, looking for some concrete proof
that the spring had arrived. This week I have a decent sprinkling of flowers through the border. It isn't a spectacle yet but it is more than the fickle foolishness of a feckless flower or two.
I pay close atention to the early flowering hellebores, I would rather that the border looked good in January and February than March. By that time spring will have settled into a comfortable,
colourful exuberance and I am happy to let the hellebores slip into the dull shades of maturity as the seed ripens. I look to the hellebores to sweep away the lazy lethargy of Christmas and
start the New Year off with enthusiasm and bravado. The garden centres have flowering plants in increasing numbers. I am always worried that they have been under cover somewhere, hastened into bloom
by the early sunshine. Out in the garden, I know that the earliness is real, a product of reckless genetics rather than economic opportunism. A new one this year, a single white with some muddy marks,
the first to open. This double white followed a day or so later, an old favourite. Spectacular, reliable and so far at least, completely sterile. I should trust to Darwinian evolution in the border,
cut all the later flowers off and only allow the earliest of them to seed. A job for a ruthless moment, with the glib alliteration of the times I could have a Ferocious February and see what happens.
12th January 2020
Camellia 'Nobilissima' .
The camellias have real droplets of spring hanging from the branches. The buds are clustered ready to take to the stage. Spring in the wings.
I cut a lot of the older plants down in autumn, they had grown too big and were shading too much of the garden. I want to take out some of the trees growing over them and cutting back the camellias
felt like a good first step. The snowdrops and Erythronium beneath them will appreciate the extra light for a year or two.
During the week the fattening buds have started to burst. 'Nobilissima' has manged a scattering of flowers, enough to mean that I was fairly certain I would find one in decent condition when I went
up there with a camera. Every time I look at it I am quietly delighted at the slow dawning of realisation. I plant things in the garden in the hope that as the years pass they will become familiar
enough to understand. 'Nobilissima' grows next to 'Alba Plena' and for many years I couldn't really tell them apart. Now the differences have emerged, I can distinguish them and the whole process
has barely taken three decades. At that rate I am hoping to understand the genus by my 2,000th birthday. Hardly surprising that when I look to experts for identification I find little help.
The cold weather remains poised to descend, it could appear next week or it could hold off until the end of February. When it arrives it will be an expected surprise. We all knew it was coming,
we just didn't think that it would be tonight. I have fleece ready at strategic points but it won't help.The following morning I will realise that I should have put it over things, but by then
it will be too late. The quivering anticipation of cold weather will have dripped down into the garden.
Close the door, light the fire, wait it out.