13th June 2021
Camellia 'Rubescens Major'.
A humid week, low cloud has crowned the hilltops. A couple of miles down the road the G7 leaders are meeting in Carbis Bay and I had images of them huddled on the beach
looking cold as the photographers lights tried to make it look like sunshine. Fortunately the sun came out for them and restored some holiday spirit to the seaside village.
In the early morning yesterday, before the sun climbed too high in the sky, I started to trim back some of the camellias. I have a short path to the side of the house
edged with camellias and backed by a conifer hedge. As the conifers have grown, the camellias have leant
into the middle of the paths to catch the last of the light. With the camellias in the way, I don't mow the path. It has been an abandoned corner of the garden for a few years now,
waiting for the time and inclination to coincide before it can be cleared.
Camellia 'Rubescens Major' had to be reduced very severely to get access, it is now little more than a stump. It will regrow, but the difficult question is do I want it to?
The space is much better without it but I hate to lose the plant. I could dig it up and move it but it would sulk for several years. Perhaps the time has come to sacrifice it.
I had reached that point when it was clearly time for a cup of tea. The crisis of indecision was put off for another day.
13th June 2021
Crinodendron hookerianum .
During the misty week, Crinodendron hookerianum hit its peak. Through the winter the evergreen bushes had started to look gaunt. Filled with flower
they look marvellous but as the flowers fade I think they will look a bit thin again. The time has come to cut them back. Fortunately Crinodendron
takes cutting back very well. If I cut them down to half the size they will fill out and be back to top form after a year or two.
I have trimmed this particular group before so I know they will respond. I have also dug them up and moved them when they grew too big for the space in front of the house.
Almost all of my previous experience suggested that it would be fine to move C. h. 'Ada Hoffman' last year, but I still did it with some misgivings. This pink flowered
cultivar of the species has failed twice in the garden, I thought that it might be a bit more fickle. My current specimen was planted in the ground in the Hedychium house
where it grew well, however that was the only sense in which it was a success. It rapidly outgrew the space, I should have dug it up five years ago but didn't. When it finally came out
last autumn I had to reduce it to a 30cm stump with an equal length of woody root. When it came out of the ground I nearly threw it straight on the bonfire,
there didn't seem to be much point in transplanting it however I had a space, in it went. I could always yank out the dead stump and plant a youngster.
This week I noticed that it has started to produce new growth. I am cautiously optimistic.
13th June 2021
Ponerorchis graminifolia .
The greenhouse has been delightful in the evening. It is too hot during the daytime to linger, even where it is well shaded by trees.
By the end of the day the paths and benches have soaked up the warmth and release it gently. It is like a warm bed at the end of the night, saturated with comfort
and glowingly accomodating. I should really put a seat in there so that I can enjoy it properly (the orchid house, not the bed)!
There are a couple of plants down there occupying my attention this year, both with frail growth. I am trying Spathoglottis ixioides for the first time.
I have no idea how to grow it, the tiny rhizome produced a small shoot like a grass seedling. It is slowly getting larger. I can't believe it will ever be able to support a flower
but it is interesting to watch.
The other plant is Ponerorchis graminifolia, an equally minute, terrestrial Japanese orchid that I have killed repeatedly in the past. Easy to grow from a tuber to flowering stage,
my problem has always been keeping them alive through dormancy. I have never kept one for a second year and I have no reason (save gardeners insane optimism)
for thinking I will have any more success this time. However I persevere, I may eventually understand its requirements.
13th June 2021
Tulbaghia leucantha .
Corners of the garden present problems from time to time. My solution is generally to look the other way and pretend it isn't happening. After a year or two the nature of the problem becomes clearer,
the solution more palatable. Camellia 'Rubescens Major' has been overshadowed by conifers. I had considered cutting them all down but standing among them yesterday I enjoyed the soaring trunks
so much that I will do without the camellias instead.
The Tulbaghia were proving equally perplexing. Something was wrong but I couldn't put a finger on it. They always looked a bit ragged and I had started to blame the plants. I thinned out the ones I didn't
want and gave myself some space on the bench. It also gave some conceptual space to consider the problem. I was growing them in the Nerine house which is watered from autumn through to spring. The
Tulbaghia grow and flower from spring through to autumn, the mis-match was obvious. I have moved the Tulbaghia to a bench beside the alpines that I water through the summer. For the first time
in a decade they are looking spectacular and in the evening the house fills with the honeyed fragrance of their flowers. Problems in gardens can look insoluble but they are often stupidly simple.
The issue is that the gardener can be stupidly simpler. There is a time when it is best to walk away from a difficulty and reflect over a cup of tea.
A very simple lesson that has turned Tulbaghia leucantha back into a joy.