6th December 2020
Correa glabra var. turnbullii .
A cold, wet week. Irritatingly cold, irritatingly wet. It is the time of year for sulking about the unfairness of the weather. Cold air from the north should bring crisp weather and clear skies
not grey sludge from horizon to horizon. Wet weather should bring moderate nights and cloud cover and should not involve getting up in the night for an extra duvet. It's just not fair!
From a more objective point of view, the weather is still quite moderate. We haven't yet had a frost and the daytime temperatures still rise far enough to be comfortable. I'm sure things will become more testing
and it is the anticipation that is most disconcerting.
There is very little in the garden still hanging on from last season. Most of the flower is coming from winter shrubs and early spring bulbs. No sign of movement from the hellebores yet
("perhaps I have killed them all") but they will appear before long. Wachendorfia thyrsiflora is hanging on to a last flower spike, more a defiant gesture than a thing of beauty
but it reflects an appreciation for the outdoor life after years in a pot.
Correa glabra var. turnbullii suffered bady in the Beast from the East. Half of the plant survived and it is now growing away again. Every winter is likely to stress it
but it has survived very hard times so I hope it has a reasonable chance of long term survival. In the greenhouse it flowered through most of autumn and winter and it seems to be trying the same thing outside.
6th December 2020
Narcissus 'Cedric Morris' .
The winter solstice is approaching, the darkest nights will be a thing of the past and although there will be colder days, spring is just around the corner. The daffodils are making it plain that
it is coming. In the meadow the 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' have started to flower. At present the occasional bloom is matched by the occasional active slug and laced yellow flowers are common
but as the temperatures fall the number of flowers will increase and the activity of slugs will decrease - the balance will shift in the gardeners favour.
I have a small collection of miniature daffodils beside the house that would suffer more from a hungry slug. The first leaves are appearing and the most precocious are clasping fat flower buds in their hearts.
Narcissus 'Cedric Morris' has been developing for several weeks and finally opened. This is definitely an autumn daffodil, and there aren't very many of them. It seems to be a very early
and rather large form of N. asturiensis but it remains something of a mystery. Basil Leng found it by the roadside close to the village of Luarca in northern Spain. Leng gardened in the south of France
where he did not think the daffodil would prosper so he gave the plant to Cedric Morris. Morris gave a bulb to Beth Chatto and with Leng's permission, she named it 'Cedric Morris' and
propagated and distributed it. Although many have searched, it has never been rediscovered in Spain.
My bulb was suffering in the greenhouse so it has gone outside. I was worried that my unruly garden would simply swallow it up in a single bite but the plant has preferred being outside. I thought when I moved it that
the bulb was too small and damaged to flower this year so I am very happy to be proved wrong.
6th December 2020
Camellia transnokoensis .
There is a strange period of time as autumn slips into spring. Some might call it winter, I choose not to. The idea of winter seems to emphasise the cold, static elements of the garden
and it simply isn't the case here. Perhaps it is elsewhere. Perhaps there are gardens where eight inches of snow fall at the end of autumn and they don't melt until March.
I don't know, I don't garden there, I don't want to garden there. In my garden autumn gets slower and slower, the dew gets heavier, the autumn leaves get wetter and then suddenly they are pierced
by the spring bulbs pushing through. Many of those days can be edged by frost, snow is perfectly possible and extended freezing weather can happen but none of those things deserve dignifying with a whole season.
Camellia transnokoensis belongs to the spring. The delightful flower buds have been forming for weeks, each bud scale tipped with scarlet. Once they feel the call of spring they start to expand. A good
chill followed by some sunshine will speed the process. I look for them as soon as Christmas is over, I expect them in the first days of January, but often I have a flower or two
that burst in the heart of December. They are the promise of spring fabricated by a benign autumn. They are the snowflakes that deny the presence of winter.
I am very fond of it. There is a very special joy in discovering something previously unknown that delivers such abundance. There are a great many shrubs that flower at this time of year.
Some are excellent but many only get noticed in the absence of competition. I have a lot of Mahonia but I find that I walk past them heedlessly most of the time.
I have to make special excursions to see if they are in flower, tick them off the list of expectation and promptly forget them.
Camellia transnokoensis radiates a luminous delight throughout the year. Within the illuminated radius, spring has arrived.
6th December 2020
Dendrobium Angel Baby 'Pocket Lover' .
Now, there are things to be clarified. Gardens have a great many attributes, they may be ordered, refreshing, floriferous, luxuriant. They could have charm, poise, design, relaxation.
They can be packed, elegant, formal and watery. However among their many and varied attributes, gardens have madness. It isn't always visible but it is always there. Without the madness it isn't a garden,
it is a stage set or an arrangement. Even the most formal and controlled gardens have madness. There is always a gate marked "no admittance". Behind the gate there is a leprechaun with a wheelbarrow
dancing a jig around a smoking bonfire. That is my opinion anyway.
In my garden the raucous noise and motion of summer are stilled by autumn. The garden simplifies, its attributes soften. Or to put it more abruptly, the madness becomes more visible.
Dendrobium moniliforme is an example. I am totally obsessed. I go and peer at my small collection of plants simply for the pleasure of peering. I can spend smug hours watching them doing nothing
and come away feeling fulfilled. If there is such a thing as a sane garden (and I deny the possibility) then I am in trouble. Dendrobium moniliforme is a Japanese (and Chinese) species
that is cold hardy - an outrageous idea. I have been yearning for a "fix" to feed my Dendrobium madness all summer. Plants are rarely available so I started looking at hybrids, enter Dendrobium
Angel Baby. It is a complex hybrid involving D. nobile, D. moniliforme and some others. The hybrids were raised because D. moniliforme flowers on year old canes, while the very popular
and commercially important D. nobile types flower on second year canes. Earlier flowering, less cost in production etc etc.
I am interested in the hybrid because it is 33% D. moniliforme. It is compact, flowers abundantly at the end of summer, and it might be hardy enough to survive in the greenhouse.
I'm a gardener, some element of madness is implicit.