11th April 2021
Magnolia 'Star Wars'
Low temperatures and a cold wind have been hanging around in the garden all week, lurking in the shade. In the sunshine temperatures have risen and it has been a delight to work outside.
I even had to wear my shorts for a while on Thursday but the warmth is fleeting, step into the slightest shadow and the chill returns.
I have spent another week concentrating on planting things out. There seems to be an endless supply of things growing in pots that are just waiting for an appropriate time or place
to be planted in the garden. If not now, then when? The sun is shining, the ground is dry. It is pleasant to work outside and before very long it will be too dry to plant things with
any realistic hope of establishment. Now is the time: Carpe ligonem (sieze the spade)!
We have had a long dry spell. The soil is still moist just below the surface but footfalls under the trees land with a distinct crunch, the litter layer is tinder dry and crispy.
I found a wilting Helleborus yesterday making it very clear that it had finished flowering for the year. Above it, the Magnolia have benefitted from the cool dry weather.
The buds have developed without damage and are opening in the sunshine. Overnight we had the first rain that has fallen for weeks. It hadn't been predicted and I don't think there was very much
but it was enough to moisten the surface. The newly planted will be grateful and hopefully the Magnolia flowers weren't damaged. I will check later.
11th April 2021
Gladiolus tristis .
Bright sunshine is drying the greenhouse very rapidly. Through the winter I relax the watering schedule which allows me to concentrate on seasonal tasks like planting things out.
The more I plant out, the less there is to water and the more time there is to plant things out. It is a virtuous cycle, the only spanner in the works is my ability to acquire new things
in proportion to the space in the greenhouse available. I am trying to be sensible and lockdown has helped. A few things have arrived in the post but they have been small and either
easily accomodated or planted straight into the garden. For now at least there is some space in the greenhouse and watering is less time consuming.
I have also been clearing out pots where plants have died. It requires a certain ruthlessness, particularly with bulbs. It is very easy to think they might come up again next year,
or to spend a happy half hour rifling through the compost looking for tiny bulblets to rescue. I find it best to put them straight onto the compost heap. From time to time something revives out there
and that is the time to consider a rescue mission.
Gladiolus tristis hated the dry summer regime of the Nerine house. It had faded away year by year until there was nothing but dead leaves. In an economical moment I recycled and refreshed the compost
for the next batch of Nerine and suddenly here it is again, recycled and refreshed. It is also very welcome because I like it. Once it dies down I will extract the corms
and find somewhere more suitable for them to grow. It is a plant that would probably do very well outside, if I had simply tipped the pot onto the compost heap it would be doing even better.
11th April 2021
Fritillaria meleagris .
Gardens act as a microscopic model of evolution in action. Complexity increases over time. For the last few weeks I have been planting new areas in the garden, adding to the existing bluebells
and ferns. Initially the ground tooks very bare and the arrangement simplistic but over time (decades rather than weeks) it becomes more complex. Some things succeed, some fail. New things are added,
seasons are extended and opportunities grasped.
I have a small meadow that covers a few square metres. Initially I planted it with Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' and left it at that. It was sufficient complexity for a small space
but it didn't stop me wanting a late daffodil to extend the season. I overplanted with Narcissus obvallaris. It was a mistake, the fading flowers on 'Rijnvelds Early Sensation' spoil the effect
of the new flowers on N. obvallaris. I dug the Tenby daffodils out. Correction, I dug most of the Tenby daffodils out. I added snowdrops, I am thinking about Camassia. I might have a small
trial to see if they prosper and if I like the effect.
In 2007 I planted 20 Fritillaria meleagris hoping they would spread with enthusiasm and fill the meadow with joy in April. It hasn't quite happened. I'm not sure why, I think the rabbits eat them
however from time to time I get a flower, evidence of the slow accumulation of complexity in a garden. This year I have two so it is possible that they are spreading with glacial slowness.
I will think about adding some more.
11th April 2021
Cypripedium formosanum .
Survival in the garden comes in fits and starts. I am amazed that I still grow Primula 'Lilian Harvey' when almost all of the other double primroses have died out. Perhaps I just found the
perfect place for the plant but I think it is more likely that it is just tenacious. I have a good display from Akebia quinata this year as well, despite repeated attempts to kill it.
It manages to wander about the garden without any help, throwing up new growth in new locations as fast as I kill the old ones. I felt rather reckless when I planted out A. longiracemosa
last week, I am hoping that I won't come to regret it.
Cypripedium are another matter, they seem to pefer dying to any of the other options. I haven't been able to keep them alive whatever clever tricks I have used. I'm not sure that I really care, I know my garden isn't
suited to them, but the repeated failure rankles and I am pig-headed about it. The only one I have managed to keep for any length of time is C. formosanum. I killed it eventully
but I am reasonably sure that was because I was frightened to repot it. It stayed in the same pot for several years because I lacked the confidence to change anything and finally it died.
It cursed my timidity, I cursed my timidity and finlly I replaced it this spring. The new plant was dormant when it arrived so I immediately changed the compost, that's one anxiety dealt with. If it survives
I need no longer worry about repotting. So far I have a first flower. It is too early to call it a measure of success but it is evidence of the absence of immediate failure. It is quite possible
that my failure with Cypripedium is entirely down to my own nervous "cleverness". My next attempt should be to plant one in the garden and just leave it to it.
If that doesn't work I can plant something else instead, the complexity increases slowly.