2nd May 2021
Cold weather and bright skies have become a familiar if curious combination. The wind has blown on and off through the week from a number of directions. Sometimes it has come from the north
and the chill has been predictable, at other times it has blown from the south and the coldness has been harder to understand. I know this because I have had a bonfire during the week. A shower of rain
revived the garden temporarily but moistened the ground enough to risk burning the last of the winter prunings. They were lying in a large pile and had become very dry. I was afraid that they were
an accidental-fire risk, burning them was the only practical solution! The moistened timber produced a bit of smoke which wandered around the garden in all directions over a couple of days.
The place looks much tidier without them.
That has been the theme of the week, tidying up loose ends. I pruned a Podocarpus that had engulfed path and then looked at the Camellia. I have a row of about a dozen plants that were put in a decade ago
to get them out of the greenhouse. I know what they all are in an abstract sense, they all have labels buried beside them and I wrote a list of the cultivars on a plan of the row. I put the list somewhere safe,
it will emerge eventually. I spent a cold evening with a trowel excavating the original labels. It was a success in the sense that I found all of the labels and finally identified all of the plants
which is the only reason that I can say with confidence that this is 'Gwavas'. A little late in the spring season for clarity to emerge, many of the plants have finished flowering, but better late than never.
I have renewed the labels and filed notes more reliably.
2nd May 2021
Ochagavia carnea .
I have also spent some time playing with the spikies. The Agave house has been too full for a number of years but the plants have continued to grow and the opportunity to do anything about it was receding.
If the leaves of the Agave became too tangled together it would have been difficult and probably painful to intervene. There was a very real danger that I might just close the door for a decade and
pretend it wasn't happening. The time had come to plant a few of the larger one out on a south facing slope with some protection. There will be casualties but I hope there will also be some unexpected successes.
A number of plants were moved that only fitted through the door under protest.
As I was clearing things out I found a tired looking Ochagavia carnea in a pot at the back of a bench. It was a bit dessicated but it will do well among the newly planted Agave, and if they all die in the winter,
the Ochagavia will provide a reliable backbone for the spiky border.
The last time I looked at Ochagavia taxonomy it had just been simplified ("They are all just forms of O. carnea"). Times have changed, there are now four species recognised. I have a handful of different clones,
the next time I get a free evening I will see if any of the available names can be attached to them. In the meantime this will remain Ochagavia carnea, a rigid, slightly green leaved clone
flowering in the greenhouse. I should probably split it this year before it becomes impossible. I can afford to spend a couple of months recovering from the Agave while I think about it.
2nd May 2021
Paeonia rockii .
I try to arrange the garden into environments. That is to say, I try to engineer habitats that will work for particular groups of plants. I like to tamper with the growing conditions so that I create
an ecosystem where the plants that I want can dominate with a minimum of maintenance. Hence the Agave house. It is sheltered, warm and dry. I use a plastic mulch on the ground to keep the weeds
down and plant the Agave through it. It works very well. It may not look like the mountainous Agave habitats of Mexico but the plants grow. I didn't fancy the
spikiness last year so I didn't do any weeding up there. It didn't seem to matter. The only problem I get is the brambles, which seem to appear by magic. Thinning the Agave this week
finally gave me the space I needed to remove them.
So a couple of decades ago I found myself with a lovely dry, sunny habitat and a collection of tiny Agave scattered through it. It seemed the perfect place to try a few other things as temporary filler.
In went a few Mediterranean peonies and a collection of Chinese P. rockii seedlings on the principle that they could all be moved out when the space was needed. Inevitably they are still there
and producing magnificent blooms protected from wind and vermin. They are too good to move and too large to stay, I don't know what is going to happen but they are delightful while I think about it.
2nd May 2021
Rosa 'Rouletii' .
I am hoping that a light shower in the week is the first sign of changing times. The garden is very dry, a serious downpour would be very welcome. I don't want the rain water to cut channels through the garden
as it flows down the hill but I don't mind doing some recreational worrying as the torrent closes on the village below.
At the same time spring is turning to summer. The evergreen azaleas have started to flower. I need to relabel them while their identities are clear. I have put it off for a few years now, another job for
a light evening.
The second rose to flower in the garden hints at the arrival of summer. The first was an odd bloom on R. x odotata 'Viridiflora' that opened at the end of January. Even I wasn't
prepared to call that one the first rose of summer.
I was told that R. 'Rouletii' was a little tender so I have been keeping it in a pot. I think I am being unduly cautious, it has never shown any sign of winter damage and it has stood outside for a few years now.
I will have to find a suitably maintainable spot and plant it out.
The forecast is suggesting that tomorrow will deliver torrential rain and then we can safely say that summer has arrived.