22nd March 2020
Anemone apennina Double Form .
Summer is creeping up on the garden on tip-toes. Not a whisper of it from the leafless branches, not a swallow in the sky but summer has joined the garden's game of hide and seek.
If you listen very carefully you might hear it giggling to itself from the shadows.
It is less of a flight of fancy to note that the hawthorn has started to leaf, tiny puffs of green mist line the roads as the dormant buds erupt. The Salix
stems have turned to pussy-willow and as that happens the thin tracery of winter twigs is fattening. The transparency of winter has blurred.
The double form of Anemone apennina found a home in a large plastic tub and it has prospered. I would have liked to plant it in a glorious spot beneath the trees
where the dappled sunlight could dance across the warming ground but I was afraid that I would misplace it. Years later I would unearth a label
revealing the exact location of its demise. So, plastic tub it was. The plant doesn't seem to mind, I don't think it was yearning to run unfettered through
the friable mold. It seems to have taken delight in spinning around the edge of the tub chasing its own tail in a whirl of springtime joy.
It has been there for many years now. When the summer comes out of hiding and the Anemone retreats to dormancy I should remove a few tubers from it and plant them in the ground
before the tub is exhausted.
22nd March 2020
Erythronium hendersonii .
I am, by my nature, a sleeper. The evening advances to a point where I feel the magnetic attraction of the bed beyond all other things. I have been to parties that continued
until dawn but not with me present. I have slipped away to bed long before the idea of morning starts to crystallise. There will always be those who cling on until the end,
squeezing each last drop of allure from the event until the rising sun banishes their delusions. So it is with the snowdrops. The very last of them are still
dangling with wintery intent as the summer sun rises. 'Double Charmer' has hit a peak and my late form of 'Warham' still carpets the ground with artificial snow
but they both look tired. The party has gone on too long.
In the morning sunshine the Erythronium have sprung up. E. hendersonii went in last year and seems to have settled in without a pause.
I had delayed adding it to the collection because there always seemed to be new hybrids coming along with the promise of new thrills. However E. hendersonii
has been a parent of many of the new hybrids and I really needed to have it in the garden. It has immediately demonstrated its value. The crisp flowers with their dark eye
are unlike anything else and it has the fresh ebullience of an early riser. Sometimes among a swarm of hybrids I am left wondering why we ever wandered away from the parents.
E. hendersonii doesn't really need improving, it isn't deficient. Narcissus cyclamineus (going over now) is another example.
22nd March 2020
Paeonia corsica .
The first peony must surely mark a change in perception of the season. The swelling red growth didn't appear until the New Year but as soon as the days started to lengthen
so did the shoots. Quite by chance it found a perfect location in the Agave House. I have planted a few peonies up there to keep them dry and give them
something that approached a Mediterranean climate. At the time I was convinced that I was doing the right thing. I could not have forseen that the roof of the Agave House
would develop a dripping leak immediately above the peony. The plant has burgeoned, forming a magnificent clump where other, drier plants struggle with a shoot or two.
I have noted that they will tolerate far more moisture than I had thought.
However they do like sunshine. My plants of P. cambessedesii would normally flower a week before this one but the roof above it has accumulated autumn leaves.
In the shade it has etiolated and been delayed. On the next available dry day I must clamber onto the roof and clear the mess away.
The species comes from Corsica and Sardinia and is part of a complex muddle of species from the Mediterranean. There are moves to include it within the variability of
P. mascula but the situation is far from clear and at present I am going to keep the Corsican plants distinct.
22nd March 2020
Pleione forrestii .
I have failed to grow Pleione forrestii with disturbing regularity. It certainly does not respond to cultivation in the UK with the same
cheery vigour as P. formosana which nods its cheeky head in a fake-cockney enthusiasm that would leave Dick Van Dyke breathless with
astonishment. With the determination of many bulbs sold while dormant it proceeds smoothly to flower and then dies.
I am of the opinion that we are getting the conditions wrong. I am not alone in that, I have heard a wide and increasingly extreme range of opinions suggesting a wide
and increasingly extreme range of solutions. For myself, I have started keeping it wetter. I have started keeping all of the Pleione wetter
and I think it is making a difference. Cerainly I am getting better establishment from the new plants I buy.
P. forrestii has also appreciated the change as far as I can tell. It survived the first year and has flowered again, this time with two buds on the scape
instead of the single bud last year. I am reluctant to describe it as success, it seems like tempting fate, but this is clearly a reduction in failure.
The garden is drying slowly, it is at last possible to consider a summer drought without choking with laughter. The nurseries are full of bedding plants
and the slugs are on the move. They found P.forrestii two days after it opened and chewed some holes in the corolla.
I didn't mind, I was delighted that they had the chance.