15th March 2020
Erythronium tuolumnense .
I have spent the week dodging rain showers which has created the illusion that it has been wet. However, the ground is drier. I knelt down to take pictures
and when I stood up I still had dry knees. It is been a long time since that last happened. I will admit that it isn't a very precise measure of the weather
but it has a sort of validity. I did a test and got a result. We have moved into the season of dry knees.
The garden has been anticipating this for a week or more, Flora has changed. She has also prepared for dry knees.
The Erythronium have been clustering with leaves for a couple of weeks, like painted lettuces, but now the crispy heads are filled with slender buds.
The first of the slender buds have starburst into delicate flowers. The earliest E. dens-canis forms have opened and E. japonicum came and went
almost immediately in a little huff of lilac. Now E. tuolumnense has put in an appearance on behalf of the Californians. The selection 'Spindlestone'is flowering
beside it. The flowers are a shade of chrome-yellow darker if you have enough faith and are prepared to squint at it like a mole in the sunshine.
15th March 2020
Camellia 'Lipstick' .
One of the great joys of every garden is being somewhere else. I was in the Plant Centre at Wisley last year when I had this magnificent moment.
That is exactly the Camellia I need for the garden, a deep red single with a frilly white heart. The only problem was, did I need this one
or the slightly pinker 'Marshmallow'? They were both spectacular, unlike anything else I grow. In the end I bought both, life's too short to waste it on trivial decisions.
I had no idea where I was going to plant either of them so it didn't matter. In the end I found spaces for them both last autumn, fed up with seeing them gaze at me balefully from their pots.
I wasn't expecting flowers this year, I thought that the stress might have set them back, so this lonely bloom is a delight. The character of the flower is as I remember it.
Released from the confines of a pot it hasn't burgeoned into blowsy excess but retained its teeny-tiny dichromatic lunacy.
'Marshmallow' is further up in the garden and it isn't showing any sign of buds. There may yet be a blowsy excess of pink to fill next spring with the cackling laughter of camellias.
15th March 2020
Saxifraga 'Bertramka' .
Perhaps the events of life follow a circular path, perhaps I am just pig-headed. It may be that both are true.
I had an affection for saxifrages when I was younger. Not the sort of saxifrages that look like plants and indulge in reckless habits like growing. No such luck.
I was enamoured of the sort that look like extravagant lichens and perch on impossible rocks. The sort where life and death are difficult to distinguish.
Unfortunately I live in the heart of Vine Weevil territory and they do dearly love saxifrages. Even the ones with hardy any root worth eating. I rapidly learnt that the key characteristic
of a saxifrage was not life or death but whether it was still attached to the soil or not. Eventually I gave up.
But I have returned. Actually this is the second return, the first involved a profusion of small clay pots, a certain level of mania and the pot-amplified sound of munching from the root zone.
Time has passed, the painful memories have dimmed and I am armed with bright ideas. This time the plants are growing in pure limestone chippings. None of that fluffy compost stuff that makes such warm beds
for the ravenous weevil grubs. If they want saxifrage roots for supper now they will have to sleep uncomfortably on the hard rock. And there are nematodes to control the Vine Weevil,
voracious micro-hunters of root-stuffed grubs.
As a result I have a little collection of rock hard tuffets now bursting into assorted colours in blushing gratitude. Older, wiser, pig-headed? I don't think it matters.
15th March 2020
Primula allionii 'Rachel Kinnon' .
The wonder of the week has been the pots of alpine primulas nestling under cover at the edge of the greenhouse. It is another group of plants that I have struggled to grow before.
The same Vine Weevil and the same frustrations have overwhelmed me, though in the case of Primula allionii I gave up after a very short time. I had seen the magnificent
pink and lilac domes of flower that regularly appeared at AGS shows. The connection between them and the sad, tattered fragments of vegetation that I nursed was not clear.
I put it down to climate, weevil and malicious fate.
The discovery of limestone chippings has been a revelation, they seem such an unsuitable compost but I have put my preconceptions aside. I am very pleased with the results.
For the first time I have a selection of cultivars of Primula allionii that look as though they are content. I don't have any the size of dinner plates, covered
in bright flowers but I accept that will take time. For now I am delighted by healthy rosettes and a few bold flowers. I have had this one for about eighteen months
and I think it has forgiven the indignity of being repotted into rock.
Perhaps next week the sun will come out and all the fragile alpines will fry in its rays but for now I have saxifrages, I have primulas and I have dry knees.
Life is good.