26th December 2021
Nerine 'Christmas Dreams' .
The Solstice passed almost without notice this week. As soon as it was done the pace picked up in a frantic rush to get Christmas underway while everybody still felt wintery.
According to the Meteorological Office the UK had a white Christmas. I am sure it must have happened here as well but the sparking coverlet of snow on the ground was obscured
by persistent rain. The weather at the end of the year has been strange, I am writing this with the back door wide open, temperatures outside are much the same as they are indoors.
Down in the Nerine house the last flowers of the season are bringing the display to a close. 'Christmas Dreams' lived up to its name by opening at the start of the month.
In the lower temperatures of December it has lasted well and it looks as though it has reached the peak of perfection. It must owe its late flowering to
N. undulata in its ancestry somewhere but I don't know its parentage. In my greenhouse the first generation hybrids between N. sarniensis and
N. undulata set no seed so it is tempting to suggest that the hybrid is sterile, in which case this would be a first generation hybrid.
However, it is also the case that my greenhouse is quite cold by the time they flower and it may be that low temperatures keep them from developing seed.
It would be interesting to hear if people with heated greenhouses or warmer climates ever see seed on them.
26th December 2021
Camellia 'Yuletide' .
The Solstice passed uneventfully but already the days seem longer and the sunset seems later. It is entirely self-delusion but the garden seems brighter in the resurging daylength.
I doubt the days are a minute longer yet but I choose to be cheered by it. I am always convinced that the garden responds to the subtle change of direction.
We are no longer sliding down into the dreary pit of winter, but climbing into the bright light of spring. We may only have moved a minute in that direction
but every journey begins with a single step, or with looking for the car keys. Old proverbs don't always adapt well to modern times.
The generally warm weather of December looks set to continue until the end of the year. We haven't had a frost yet so the bananas are still green, even if they have been shredded by the wind.
Plants have responded strangely to the warmth. I would expect to see some early camellias in flower by now, 'Show Girl' is approaching full bloom and there is a sprinkling of early flowers
on the cultivars of C. x williamsii. The C. sasanqua cultivars in the garden are flowering well, and have continued in bloom for a long time.
C. 'Yuletide' is also sometimes sold as autumn flowering but it has only rarely produced blooms in this garden before the New Year. This season is
the first time that I can recall having 'Yuletide' in time for yuletide.
26th December 2021
Galanthus 'Three Ships' .
The camellias seem to have been encouraged into early growth by the warm weather. I assume that their bud formation is promoted by the short days and that warm temperatures
promote the swelling and opening of the flowers. Early indications are that they are having a good season.
The snowdrops have not been particularly good this year. I think they may need a decent chill to trigger the buds into growth and so far we haven't had it.
The very earliest snowdrops that appear in early November did not make an appearance until the end of that month. The early December cultivars were delayed by two or three weeks.
Fortunately 'Thee Ships' has come sailing in promptly and looked particularly good as the carol singers coaxed it up from summer dormancy. The link between
Christmas and the winter solstice is well established - why else would anybody write a carol about an early snowdrop?
Scurrilous musings notwithstanding, 'Three Ships' is the best early snowdrop I have. The flowers have good substance, stand up well to a white Christmas or whatever else the weather throws at them,
and the bulbs increase vigorously. This clump looks well spaced because I split them up in August while they were dormant. It has reduced the density of the show
but increased the "footprint" of the clump. It also gave me some spare bulbs to scatter under the trees where they can spread to give me a more reliable white Christmas.
26th December 2021
Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' .
Meadows have had a period of favour in gardening circles, though people's expectations are sometimes elevated to heady hysteria by seeing beds of annual flowers presented as "meadows".
Perennial meadows are a much calmer affair that deliver a gentle display of bloom through the summer. It helps if you like grasses, particularly if you are happy to enjoy the
rippling summer susurration of some rather ordinary grasses.
I have a small meadow. Forty years of management have not yet reduced the vigour of the grass to a level that allows the lovely "meadow flowers" of the imagination to take root in reality.
In practise it is only the bulbs that have added to the display. They are easy to manage and reliable. I am surprised by how anxious they make me. I did a last cut
over the meadow in early November. A brief window in the wet weather tempted me out and despite some wheel-spin on the hill, the mower did a good job.
I worried for a couple of weeks that I might have nipped the tops off of the emerging daffodil buds but the first blooms opened in the week with no evidence
of mechanical truncation.
'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' is exactly that. The first bright shaft of spring to trounce the darkness of winter. This is the first flower to open but in the next few weeks the meadow
will brighten with their cheery heads and the frantic lunacy of spring will burst from the ground.
Happy days. Happy Christmas.