19th April 2020
Erythronium 'Pagoda' .
A week ago Erythronium 'Pagoda' was collapsing in the heat as spring sizzled into summer. The flowering had been brief but spectacular. I was beginning to worry that the
leaves would be unable to rebuild chunky bulbs for next year before the drought stopped all growth. Things changed. On Friday a weather front swept across the south west
bringing a long spell of rain and misty cloud cover that lasted for two days. The garden was refreshed and the Erythronium soaked up the water with delight.
I had thought that this year I might get a spectacular picture of them glowing in the evening sunshine, but in the event they looked their best in the mist.
The weather has brought changes to the garden. The ground is littered with the first egg shells, thrown out as hidden chicks hatch. I don't know if it was
a fortunate thing for the garden birds or not but a lot seem to have hatched as the rain passed through. Perhaps the discarded shells are just more visible when washed.
The weather has also affected the seagulls which have been fighting for space on the roof. They rarely stop here, the ground around is too wooded for them to feel secure
but suddenly they have massed. The village echoes with the sound of their cries, I daren't call it "song".
Usually they are driven inland by bad weather but in these unusual times I think it has been boredom. There aren't any tourists on the coast to pester, no unguarded pasties,
no entertainment at all. They have come inland looking for laughs and an easy meal.
19th April 2020
Bletilla striata .
I have spent the last few weeks frantically planting things out in the garden. It is the sort of job that requires a long run-up. I started last summer, determined to reduce the
number of things growing in the greenhouse. "If it isn't hardy, why am I growing it?" is a phrase I have been muttering to myself. I put as many of the Hedychium out as I could find space for.
It has made a dent in the size of the collection. The remainder might be more manageable. I was relying on a long slow spring planting season to rid the house of
a lot of other things. The rain poured through early spring. I started planting in the first gap and with terrifying rapidity the weather turned to drought, the ground dried
and I was left planting into dust. I carried on, determined to clear some space at any cost. A few things might die but they have a better chance outside than they would spending another year
I have been lucky, the rain arrived. The ground is still quite dry but things have been watered in. I keep thinking of things in the greenhouse that I can find a space for and rushing out
to plant them. Bletilla striata has prospered under cover. I have far more than I need, so the surplus have gone out, tucked in at the base of a wall in a patch of moist soil.
It should suit them well in theory but I have yet to establish the species outside in this garden, despite seeing it thrive elsewhere. Time will tell, but the extra space is very satisfying.
19th April 2020
Aristolochia pistolochia .
While rushing around the garden with a wheelbarrow, the greenhouse has been neglected. In the middle of the week I had to stop and water it. In the process I discovered Aristolochia pistolochia
weaving upwards through a large clump of grass. I would like to propagate it but it hasn't yet set any seed. Perhaps it has a very specific pollinator. Frustrated by a lack of increase
I knocked it out of the pot last year and tried to divide the rootstock. That was when I discovered that it had a single fat brown tuber, like a large potato. I tried to root one of the stems
springing from it but I had no success. I have a feeling that seed is the only way, and I might need a second clone for pollination.
It doesn't really matter, I can't imagine anywhere in the garden that it would be happy. It comes from the French Mediterranean coast where it tucks itself into the warm dry soil
and retreats to its fat potato in the heat of summer. I have some vague idea that I could plant it in a gritty mix in a raised bed but for that to work I would need a raised bed
and for the moment I have enough other things to do.
It does seem to be well adapted to the greenhouse. It is warm and sunny in there, I don't water as frequently as I should. It could almost be southern Europe and I have enough
seagulls to create a coastal ambience.
19th April 2020
Dendrobium kingianum pale pink .
Throughout my life I have avoided certain plants. There are very few roses in the garden, I just can't be bothered with their prickly inadequacies in a dank climate. People enjoy telling me that
there are some good ones for the south west counties but what they mean is that there are a few that can raise their heads above the parapet of the pathetic. I can't really be bothered with
Rhododendron though they are as good here as they would be anywhere. I like one or two, but for the most part I view them with cold distain. Bamboos are another thing. Grass you can't mow,
what is the point?
I have also spent a lifetime being cautious about orchids though for different reasons. Orchids are addictive, they will swallow up your life, casting the shreds of your sanity into the wind for the
seagulls to feast on.
Time softens things. I have a few roses, a Rhododendron or two. I still don't tolerate bamboos, but the orchids are geting a firm foothold. Dendrobium kinginum has flowered this week,
enjoying the heat in the greenhouse. The air was rich with its honeyed perfume as the sun beat down. When I bought this one it had delightful pale pink flowers but I suspect the grower had been
keeping it in a broom cupboard. As soon as it came out into the light the flowers darkened to the typical colour. I still keep it labelled "pale pink" from a sense of longing, but this striking,
sensational, scented flower is also quite ordinary.
Whatever that means. We are living in strange times.