4th April 2021
Pieris japonica 'Purity'
Down in the greenhouse the last of the Nerine is flowering. I am hoping to save some pollen from it so that in a few months time I can pollinate the first flowers of the new season.
I will not be slow to trumpet the arrival of autumn when the first signs appear in July. In the same way the first Galanthus in September or October will be the first hopeful signs
of spring coming when the weather is still warm and I haven't even started wearing bed-socks. This week the first azaleas opened, the last raucous squawk of spring. Summer is upon us.
In brief, I am generally quite fast to announce the arrival of a new season. A precipitous but generally harmless excess of enthusiasm that can cheer the moment but serves little practical purpose.
However this week it has mattered.
Warm weather, the proximity of Easter and the possibility of rain all encouraged me to plant things in the garden. Any moment now it will be summer, too hot and too dry to risk planting.
Anything still left in the greenhouse will be there for another year. So I have been planting. Anything, everything, anywhere. Just get it in the ground. And I think I have succeeded, almost everything shrubby or woody
that has been waiting for a place in the garden has been put out. It is a strange feeling, the absence of apologetic guilt. Naturally it could all go wrong, the rabbits might eat everything
or it might not rain for another month but those are the risks of a garden. Any failures will no longer be my fault alone - there will have been an accomplice.
So Pieris japonica 'Purity' has gone out and I like to think that it is celebrating.
4th April 2021
Narcissus 'Lilac Charm' .
I have a long history with Pieris 'Purity', it is a part of the garden scene that owes as much to nostalgia as anything else. I grew it decades ago and lost it Not killed it, lost it.
I planted three of them out, they got moved around a few times, misplaced their labels and now I don't know which they are. They are lost. I bought this one to help me identify the originals
but I have nothing else quite like it in the garden now so perhaps I didn't lose the originals but did actually kill them. History is an uncertain place.
Narcissus 'Lilac Charm' has echoes for me that pre-date the Pieris. Raised by Brian Duncan and registered in 1973, I first saw it in the latter part of the 1970's. On an early trip
to the RHS fortnightly shows at Vincent Square it was also my first introduction to the pink corona daffodils. I liked them then and I still do. Of the cultivars on display, this was the best beyond any question.
I wanted it and couldn't afford it, so I made a little note in my notebook and moved on. It doesn't just look good, it has survived in commercial production for decades and it is just as I remember.
There is very little else from that period that I remember. Dionysia aretioides 'Gravetye' from Ingwersen's springs to mind but almost everything else is lost. I would quote my teenage opinion
of 'Lilac Charm' - you can be sure that I had one - but the notebook is misplaced temporarily.
4th April 2021
Pinguicula corsica .
Things move around in a subtle blend of convenience and inconvenience. I have been planting things in the garden even though I know that I will forget where they have gone, at least temporarily.
They will become the delightful discoveries of the next decade. I am getting better at labelling them (I like to imagine anyway). I have also started taking pictures of things when I plant them,
even if there is nothing showing above the ground. I have a picture from this week of a piece of bare soil labelled Crocosmia 'Tamar Double Red'. It records the fact that I put it in
the ground, and perhaps there is enough in the picture to show approximately where it went.
Something similar happens in the greenhouse as well. The hardy Pinguicula were scattered among the Sarracenia beds. Then I moved them to a special bench of their own, now I am planning to move them
to a sunnier bench. In the process they have seeded among other pots in several places. The convenience of having them all together has been balanced by the inconvenience of an emerging hybrid swarm.
This is Pinguicula corsica. I know that because the label still records it. I never really knew the difference between this and P. grandiflora, I think it actually boils down to origin
in which case I can trace my plants back as far as a grower in Germany, and that's what he had written on the label!
4th April 2021
Corydalis solida 'George Baker' .
All of this planting is based on the idea that in some way something wonderful will emerge over time. Many years ago I put things in by preparing a planting plan and then following it.
I was never entirely convinced by the process, it overlooks the passage of time and serendipity. My Pieris japonica 'Purity' may grow into the shape I imagine, but it probably won't.
In a decade it will have gone its own way, regardless of my preconceptions. It may not even survive and have been replaced by a shrub rose or an oak tree. Time and developement will play a much larger part
in the final outcome than my current intentions which will be revealed as juvenile, naive or megalomaniacal. Now I plant things in a good looking spot and cross my fingers. There will be plenty of time
to tweak the effect later and things are easy to move if need be, at least for the first decade or so.
It is strange that the smallest things are the hardest to reposition. Last year I planted a number of Corydalis solida 'George Baker' into the woodland. I want a shocking sheet of red. I nearly planted
the pink 'Beth Evans' because they were much cheaper but with unusual insight I realised that I wanted the brighter red. I put in far fewer than I had hoped, I worried that they would never come up,
and I feel vindicated now they have appeared. This was the colour I wanted. I can always plant a few more next year. I am very pleased that I got it right, they would be troublesome to dig up again.
I am hoping that next year they will flower a little earlier, at present they are about to be overwhelmed by the emerging bluebells which will flower as the spring light sparkling through the branches
is muted under the summer canopy of leaves. And then it will be autumn again and the Nerine will be up so
I am glad I noticed the passing of spring and spent the week madly planting things.
I noticed it because I also took some time to sit in the sunshine with a cup of coffee and watch.