16th May 2021
It has been a week of showers. Between the showers the sunny sherds have moved from being comfortably warm to tolerably hot. I go out into the garden feeling as though I will need a fleece,
travel half a dozen steps and discard it. I was working in the Hedychium house yesterday, hoping that it would cool as the evening progressed. It didn't happen, it was still too hot to be comfortable
as it became too dark to see.
When the first rains fell the restful phase of spring vanished. The weeds started to grow. Every morning the garden seems fuller, the undergrowth slightly taller. Three weeks ago the red campion
rosettes were pressed close to the ground. Yards of ground were covered in their close carpet, they looked innocuous and perfectly reasonable. They looked like gardening. Now the stems have elongated,
the first pink flowers are showing, the whole thing looks like a terrible agricultural accident.
Under the trees the spring display is ending. Years ago I sowed the area with bluebell seed, knowing as I did it that there would be no going back. I was concerned that I might live to regret it
but I haven't. The bluebells come when the other spring bulbs have finished. This area is filled with hellebores but the flowers are over, the bluebells fill the space in a grand seasonal finale.
Eventually the campion will appear, the stinging nettles will grow up and the space will be swamped by weeds. Summer friends give me sympathetic looks, it is so difficult to keep control isn't it?
I smile. The ground here is so densely planted that it is impossible to put a spade in without digging up something precious. Summer visitors can't see the hidden horde of bulbs beneath their feet.
It all gets mown to the ground in September and spends the winter asleep with the innocence of a dormant volcano.
16th May 2021
Cornus florida ssp. urbiniana .
Things take time. An observation on the world that I was offered a long time ago at my first job interview. I made a mental note, but didn't really comprehend. It's an insight that can only be appreciated
once the time has passed. Shakespeare offered another in "to thine own self be true". The bluebells have been true to character and made full use of the time but the garden is filled with the interplay
of time and identity.
The flowering Cornus provide interest in the garden through late spring and into summer. I had a phase where I planted a number in the garden. They were just starting to become popular and
just starting to become available. One is the cart and the other the horse but I have no idea which is which.
The Asian dogwoods perform well in British gardens but C.florida is an American, adapted to a long, hot, continental summer. It looks good in the eastern counties but I didn't have great hopes
for its performance here in Cornwall. I had acquired ten seedlings of the species planning to grow them on and sell them, or graft something more suitable on top. Over a few years I parted with them
until I was left with just one that had grown too large for its pot. That one was for me!
It was planted in the first available space, somewhere not too obvious so that its failure to flower would never be a glaring fault. The years have passed, and I thought that the first flowers were deformed,
confirming my preconceptions that it was a dud. It was only in the second year of flowering that I realised it was the rare subspecies C. f. urbiniana, the lantern shaped flowers
are typical of a small population from the forests of eastern Mexico. It has become precious in the garden, hidden away behind a magnolia, part of the strange interplay between time and identity.
16th May 2021
Aristolochia delavayi .
The same issues come into play in the Agave house. I will overlook for now the legion of spiky Agave that may or may not be true to name. As the years pass they become larger
and start to display distinctive characteristics but they all went in as young seedlings. They were all wrapped in the satisfying promise of identities that were yet to be revealed.
It is like a small child saying that when they grow up they are going to be an astronaut. It could well happen, but just like the Agave you have to wait and see.
So let's call it Aristolochia delavayi, a rooted cutting that I bought a few years ago. Planted in the Agave house because I wasn't sure that it would be hardy. I could always
root another and try it outside. My example had roots that might be best described as "vestigial" but it had roots, clearly it could be done. It took a while to get going, has taken years
to look secure in its place but has finally established and is expressing its joy in life with the production of a single, pungent flower.
This is typical of the plant in cultivation under this name, a large growing climber with heart shaped leaves and large flowers. It is endemic to China and the Flora of China
describes and illustrates a plant that is nothing like this. The real thing (one has to assume that the Flora of China know their own plant) has herbaceous stems, small leaves
without a petiole and small flowers. This is something else. Perhaps that is a good name for a striking plant.
Aristolochia 'Something Else'.
16th May 2021
Disa Luke Edwards 'Speckles' .
Snowdrops exert a fascination that is difficult to resist. I had an attack as a young man, but I survived it. I was left with the hope that I might be immune but that isn't the way things have
worked out. Every year I try to avoid getting any more, every year I fail. This year I have finally broken the habit. No more snowdrops. Lockdown has helped, all the dangerous events were cancelled.
As a recovering galanthoholic I have been "straight" for nearly five months.
Thankfully I have orchids. I grew them in my youth and I have never tried, or managed to shake them off. The reverse is less true, the orchids have frequently, and in some cases repeatedly
shaken me off in favour of the great compost heap of oblivion. Time plays a part, perhaps I have learned a trick or two, I like to think so. Perhaps I am just less frantic and the plants
are benefitting from a calmer approach. Give it another couple of decades and I might be able to offer an answer.
Like a ancient pair of underpants full of holes, the greenhouse is bursting with orchids. The Pleione are coming to the end of their flowering season, the Bletilla
are in full flower and the first of the Disa has opened. I have been watching the bud expand for a couple of weeks, anticipating a summer of colour. I have a strict plan for hybridising this year
and with flower spikes coming up all around I can say with some confidence that I will not stick to it.
Colourful chaos is the menu for the next few months.