1st November 2020
Cyclamen hederifolium .
Autumn is packed with hidden information. The garden seems to be measured not by what is seen but by what is known to be there. I cleared the last flush of weeds from the snowdrop beds,
marvelling that I could weed with impunity over one of the densest and most intricate plantings in the garden. Confidence borne of the fact that the bulbs are dormant and waiting for the spring.
There a replete satisfaction about the empty ground propped up by the understanding of what lies beneath. To anybody else it is just a scrappy bit of ground.
Years ago a branch fell from a sheltering tree onto my Cyclamen. I left it where it fell, confident that one of my larger C. hederifolium lay exactly in the angle of the branch,
where it duly appeared the following autumn, a woodland tableaux of Cyclamen, moss and bark. A tiny detail of time and position that thrilled the gardener and would have been meaningless to anybody else.
The Cyclamen bed is alive with hidden information. I started by planting individuals, bought for their leaf colour. When they flower the bed is washed thinly with pink. As the leaves emerge it
becomes an intricte web of minute detail. Establishing a bed like that is a slow process, eventually I got bored and whacked in a wholesale batch of dried tubers. Hardly anything appeared in the first year,
I assumed they had all been eaten by the rabbits and I had wasted my money. The second year I saw a few flowers and a few leaves but this year I think most of them have flowered. They aren't a great show yet
but I know they are there. I know they are going to be. I tiptoe under the trees, careful not to tread on the promise for the future.
1st November 2020
Nerine 'Tamilla' .
The rain has continued. At some point the roof in the Meteorological Office will leak and they will declare it the wettest autumn since records began. It has been a good week for
hiding in the greenhouse and enjoying the Nerine. I dodged the showers to get out there one afternoon to take these pictures and was rapidly forced back inside as the light levels
fell. Suddenly winter light levels have become the controlling factor, photography limited to an hour or two around mid-day.
'Tamilla' has caught my attention again this year. The plant makes me laugh, the attention I give it makes me laugh. I have an enculturated belief that I like simple, elegant things. I can glibly overlook the fact
that everything I grow seems to have screaming pink blowsy flowers. The svelte, rippling line of a silvery hawthorn trunk, the delicate fluttering of Whitebeam leaves. These are the joys of the garden.
So 'Tamilla' sits at the peak of the brash foolishness of Nerine sarniensis and it makes me laugh in complex emotional harmonies. On the top line I laugh at its brash delivery of delight,
I laugh at my own conflict, and underneath it all I laugh with the innocence of a small child presented with an improbably extravagant ice-cream. Much like the Cyclamen bed it is a complex,
There is also a twinge of sadnesss about 'Tamilla', it crowns the season of N.sarniensis forms. I have been snapping off flower stems as they fade. The floor of the greenhouse is
littered with them (they get cleared away once they have dried out to reduce the risk of spreading virus while they are still sappy). Their period of wonder is drawing to a close.
1st November 2020
Nerine 'Mansellii' .
Behind the true N. sarniensis forms, there is a wave of hybrids building. The transition between the two groups isn't clear but it is as fundamental as the shift from late summer to early winter.
Both periods can be covered by the term "autumn" but they are as distinct as the two waves of Nerine.
The second wave comprises hybrids of N. sarniensis and N. undulata. In general they are taller and simpler, the colour range is reduced and they have a luminous glow about them.
It could just be that they flower as the skies darken but they have the synthetic purity of pigment that underpinned pop-art and the psychedelia movement. 'Mansellii' was raised in Guernsey by
Mr Mansell around 1875 and so I take him as patron saint of the '60's. I imagine he would have been mortified.
At present these late flowering hybrids lie scattered through the collection but I have a plan to consolidate things, move them together into a block so that a spectacular wave of colour
passes through the greenhouse marking the seasons flux. It's a grand plan. Knowing that I have it adds a layer of interest to the collection that nobody else could possibly see.
1st November 2020
Liquidambar styrciflua 'Worplesdon' .
The realisation of summer is draining out of the garden. The bare stage of winter is being revealed, inviting the dramas to come. In the process one or two plants attract attention and
Liquidambar styraciflua 'Worplesdon' isn't subtle about it. During the spring and summer the leaves are quite jolly. That is to say they are green and they flutter about a bit.
There are sophisticated arboretum planters who would find that sufficient. During the winter the bare trunks have an oiled muscularity about them that has some sensual appeal. It took
twenty years for mine to reach that stage, it is a very moderate return for the time invested. Fortunately the tree slips from summer to winter with a colourful scream that matches mine
if I slip on the wet sloping paths of autumn. In both cases we end up lying on the ground wreathed in laughter. I have difficulty identifying favourite plants in the garden, a moment of
astonishment can be as telling as a year of gentle satisfaction, but if I measure by the frequency with which things appear in this blog, then the Liquidambar is a firm favourite.
It is difficult to judge the best moment, the colour improves week by week until suddenly the winds come and it goes downhill. There may be better weeks, but now things are good. That is sufficient.
The garden is wet again, planting has moved back onto the agenda. I have a late box of bulbs sitting on my desk and a greenhouse full of shrubs awaiting homes. I think it is too late to hope for
the opportunity of an Indian Summer to put them out so the time has come to evict the spiders from my wellingtons and get on with it.
Perhaps I should take a hint from the Liquidambar and start with a seasonal bonfire.