28th November 2021
Mahonia x media 'Charity' .
I remember (vaguely it is true) the last few days of term at school. Everything was done. Everybody knew that everything was done but nobody was allowed to let go.
So we staggered on, students and teachers alike, filling time and waiting for release. The garden has felt like that this week. No students, no teachers
but time being filled. Those things that were fading are still fading, those things that were developing are still developing. Last week's snowdrop shoots are still shoots.
The falling leaves on the Liquidambar are still falling. At least they were at the start of the week. Since then the first serious storm of the year has blown through.
Winds were still gusty yesterday. I went down to the greenhouse to check it was still there. I could hear the branches rattling in the garden and
decided it was wiser to stay away. The last Liquidambar leaves have probably gone.
On Thursday Mahonia 'Charity' was looking good. It hints at the thin colours of winter to come. It has wonderful foliage and bright scented flowers at the darkest time of the year.
I feel obliged to like it, I wish I did. It is dutiful, staunch and reliable. It has the same passive, hopeless resignation in the face of winter as a cow in an abattoir waiting to be stunned.
I grow a lot of Mahonia and this isn't a favourite, it is just there. At least I think it is. Too large to be moved by the wind, I might find that the
brittle flowers have been stripped.
If so, I will miss them dutifully as I whistle a happy song.
28th November 2021
Nerine bowdenii 'Lipstick' .
Before very long we can put the garden hiatus aside, the school bell rings and we can all focus on the delights of Christmas. I don't really celebrate the season
but it fills the last dark weeks of the year with smiling levity and shiny things. I do love shiny things.
The greenhouse was rattling in the wind yesterday like a teenager with a drum-kit. It was wonderful and I didn't stay long enough for it to become tiresome.
Something about the enthusiastic and shameless lack of rhythm makes me smile. The latest of the Nerine bowdenii cultivars are in flower. They have long finished in the garden,
who would have thought that a sheet of rattling plastic could detain the sparking flora of autumn for so long. Perhaps Nerine like drumming as well.
'Lipstick' is a favourite of mine. I fell for it the moment I saw the flowers and it remains the highlight of the N. bowdenii season for me.
I first met it in a company of Nerine growers and it was almost universally poo-poohed. I was in a minority of one. Notwithstanding, I think it is beautiful
and it is certainly vigorous with robust flower heads. I like the pink tipped buds and tepals and can overlook the name which fits it as well as a swipe-card key in a Yale lock.
28th November 2021
Nerine 'Pink Petticoats' .
A couple of years ago I built a little extension to the Nerine house and filled it with all the clutter. All the pots of seedlings were moved to give space in the main house
for the Nerine collection. Space for them to grow, space for them to look good and most importantly space for a seat to enjoy them from. It was a good move.
Now as I walk around the garden the topmost question in my mind is "could I fit a little seat in over there ?"
In the subsequent reorganisation of the Nerine house I started to group the plants. All of the N. x versicolor cultivars, hybrids between N. sarnienis and N. undulata,
were stood together. They are the latest flowering cultivars, coming to their best in November just as the hardcore N. sarniensis cultivars fade. Once they were scattered through
the fading stems like tasty olives in a wilting salad. Now they form a bright block on their own. I sit in front of them overwhelmed by ridiculous pink and hope for enough sunshine to make them sparkle.
Did I mention how much I like shiny things?
There hasn't been much sunshine this week. Wednesday was bright and I took the chance of dry weather to mow the meadow for the last time. I got down to the
Nerine house late in the afternoon and watched 'Pink Petticoats' glow as the dusk gathered like a blanket around us. It's not a bad way to fill time before the metaphorical school bell rings.
28th November 2021
Watsonia hysterantha .
I have been worrying about mowing the meadow. It is full of Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'. With luck they will be up before Christmas and the large flowers
trounce the last vestiges of autumn and move the garden decisively into spring, neatly sidestepping the idea of winter in the process. I couldn't see any shoots appearing
yet but they may well be there. On the other hand the grass had grown quite long. I like to mow it short at the end of October and leave it at that. Unfortunately it just wasn't possible this year.
When there was time, there was rain. Even after a couple of dry days the mower struggled with the slope. Wild horses weren't going to drag it up there. My neighbours nag
peered at me with amusement over the garden wall as the wheels spun on the wet turf. I was determined, that was my one remaining chance to cut it and I didn't like leaving it
half cut in a fancy pattern. All cut, just waiting for spring to sprout.
Balanced on the seasonal cusp, the first-and-last Watsonia is in flower in the greenhouse. Watsonia hysterantha produces fans of foliage with the other species in summer
and then they die off and it grows bare spikes of flowers at the very end of the year. Alternatively it can be seen as having a short period of dormancy in autumn then bursting into flower in spring
and growing fans of foliage in the summer. It was moved out of the Nerine house when I cleared out the clutter and it has been much happier as a result. It is growing
foliage just as the Nerine are dying off for the year and as a result it was always too dry in the summer. I was worried that it might now be too wet, it has a distinct
dormant season in autumn. Fortunately Watsonia adore moisture and this one is not an exception. It is growing and flowering better than it has done for some years.
The days of marking time are coming to an end. Next week the Winter Solstice will be within view and the garden can tip on its fulcrum into spring. The festive frenzy will
heat up and I will start moaning about its manic manifestations. Except for the shiny things. I do like shiny things.