19th December 2021
Galanthus 'Peter Gatehouse' .
During the week that garden has lingered in darkness. The shadows seem to have spread along the ground, up the sides and engulfed the sky. Dark leafless twigs on the trees
have cracked the darkening clouds. It has been a dull week, exactly right for the dark days before the Solstice. I have my hopes pinned in Tuesday. I expect to
wake up in the morning with the sun streaming through the window and birds singing lustily from those same cloud-cracking twigs.
It won't actually happen like that. The mornings will still be dark, the garden will still be full of shadows and the skies will be padded with the same dark clouds.
At least they will be if the forecast is right. No signs of cold weather yet which means that at least the first half of winter has been mild. Dark, stormy, wet and mild.
Plants that depend on a cold chill to start them have been slow to get going. It is only in the last two weeks that the daffodils in the meadow have been visible.
In most years I would have flowers by now but so far only the first signs of buds.
The earliest of the snowdrops have also been late. I was hoping to see 'Peter Gatehouse' three weeks ago but the ground was bare, not even the suggestion of a busybody nose
poking into the affairs of the late autumn. A single bud was thrust up from the soil last week and has produced a flower to brighten the darkest days.
There are plenty of other cultivars pushing through the ground now, I have stopped walking on the beds as I go around the garden for fear of crushing them.
I have a feeling they are all going to come together in a rush during January and February. It will make for a stronger display but blur the differences
between the cultivars. I grow far too many and this year they may not seem to be distinct.
19th December 2021
Hedychium 'Tai Savannah' .
Mild weather is very welcome. It may make the garden dark with lowering cloud but it has extended the growing season. When the Hedychium were planted out
I accepted the thought that many of them would never flower again. It takes a very long growing season to get some of the more warmth loving cultivars into bloom.
In the Hedychium house they would still be struggling to flower by January or February and there would usually have been a strong enough frost by them to curtail their efforts.
Even if the frost didn't get them, the cold damp atmosphere meant that the flowers were as likely to rot on the plant as open.
Fortunately I like the crisp, exotic foliage and if they aren't able to flower outdoors I won't be too upset.
The "Tai" series of hybrids were raised by Doyle Smittle at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. They were raised in a climate with a warm summer, high light levels and
regular rainfall throughout the year. Winter frosts are light and occasional. I was not convinced that they would do well in a colder, darker climate so the success of some of them has been a surprise.
They flowered late in the year but they were reliable under cover. The canes grew tall in the low light levels but they weren't so etiolated as to abandon flowering
and the flimsy canes conveniently flopped over so the flower could be appreciated. Outside they have been more compact, slower to grow but the flowers have continued.
At least the yellow flowered ones have continued. I wish some of the pink ones tried a bit harder but I don't think it is going to happen.
'Tai Savannah' has produced a single head. I think a light frost would have stopped it in its tracks but it has done its job. Next week the solstice will arrive and
its cheering pale sunshine can be handed back to the cheering pale sun.
19th December 2021
Cymbidium Eastern Bunny 'Tsuki No Hikari' .
The greenhouse is filled with the promise of refuge. Safe from the storms, the winds and the threat of rain, the greenhouse promises winter warmth and security.
It is an illusion of course. Rain drips through the roof in places so that the ground inside seem to be as wet as the ground outside. As the wind howls overhead
the plastic sheeting rattles like chilled chattering teeth. I will have to get up onto the roof in spring and make sure it is secure.
Fortunately the promise of refuge is enough to fortify me as the garden is rocked by darkening horrors. A few years ago I cut down the trees shading the greenhouse.
The structure is more exposed but is isn't going to be crushed by any falling branches - a potential hazard in the rest of the garden.
Comforted by the delusion of winter warmth, I think I have finally found a place where the Cymbidium are content. It has taken me forty years, and the collection I grow now is
not the same as the collection I grew them but there are parallels. The collection is still random, still made up of plants other people no longer wanted. I have been assiduous
in not passing old cymbidiums on to innocent growers when I am fed up with them, which is the "industry standard" among orchid growers.
If anyone is going to kill them, it is going to be me!
Fortunately a long held interest in Chinese Cymbidium and a combination of dogged determination and pig-headedness have led me to moderate success. The path
to glory may be paved with dead plants but you can't see that in the pictures. Cymbidium Eastern Bunny is a first generation cross between the cold tolerant C. goeringii
and a modern, highly developed grex (Lovely Bunny). The result is a very compact, cold tolerant plant with good flowers.
Ironically although I like them for their tolerance of winter frost, in Japan they were produced because of the tolerance of C. goeringii to summer heat.
I like irony. I wish I grew more of them.
19th December 2021
Camellia 'November Pink' .
I find the last few weeks of the year dreary. The garden gets dark in the middle of the afternoon and I'm forced back indoors to light the fire and listen to the wind
rattling things around. I plant the garden to offer some cheer. Fuchsias and Hydrangeas stretch the autumn interest towards Christmas if there isn't a frost, and if
there is the early daffodils and snowdrops take over. This year neither have been really good. The Fuchsias are still going like some dinosaur-rock group
thrashing out chords to a song they can't work out how to stop and wind has battered the Hydrangeas beyond beauty like an old flag that needs replacing.
Fortunately the Camellias have stepped up to the mark. A selection of C. sasanqua forms have finally started to flower with the promise that they will be overwhelming
- eventually. Still, they have started to flower. Occasional spring flowering cultivars have produced precocious blooms. A tattered flower on 'Drama Girl'
is a cheery promise of great things to come.
The brightest star has been 'November Pink', the earliest flowering of the original C. x williamsii seedlings raised at Caerhays. I have had it growing weakly in the greenhouse
for a number of years, reluctant to release it into the garden where it has previously failed. Two years ago it finally went out and it has been unexpectedly vigorous, flowering better
now than it ever did under cover. It didn't make it for November but a flash of bright colour reminds me that it is a precious gem in a genus of precious divas.
On Tuesday the Solstice will arrive, sunshine and springtime will follow in its path and the garden will lurch forward from the clutches of decay.
Two days to go and I'm looking forward to it.