9th January 2022
Ambrosina bassii .
The first week of the new year has been filled with darkness and rain. The days have been longer by a few minutes but it hasn't mattered much and the garden is moving
with great dignity and glacial slowness. Most significantly it has rained. The clouds gathered darkly at the start of the week and they have remained
in place throughout, dispensing torrents of rain through the daylight hours. On the plus side, the cloud cover has persisted through the nights and temperatures remain high.
The greenhouse is dank but warm.
I have always preferred wet weather to cold and this week I have been thoroughly indulged.
At this time of year I might hope for some early Mediterranean colour from spring bulbs but all I seem to have is microscopic weirdness. Ambrosina bassii
is the smallest of the aroids and has a disjoint distribution. It occurs in Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and southern Italy and then leaps across the sea to Algeria and Tunisia.
I was uncertain of its hardiness but it has prospered in the alpine house. Freedom from summer wet seems to be more important than protection from the cold.
A cool summer seems to have suited it well, I have eight or ten of the tiny, boat shaped flowers this year compared with one or two in previous seasons.
I stumbled into the garden twice this week, more from a sense of duty than for the pleasure of it. A warm fire has had far more attraction. The camera hated the experience,
refusing to co-operate because of the low light levels, even in the middle of the day. The camellias have had their petals stripped by heavy rain and everything
has looked dark and dull. Ambrosina has been a high point.
9th January 2022
Galanthus 'Reverend Hailstone' .
Although heavy cloud cover has kept the temperatures high overnight, there have been chill winds blowing through the day. In a dry moment I rushed up into the garden to see
the snowdrops and found them all closed. The dry spell on Friday morning lasted for about twenty minutes and that was it for the day.
Another gap in the rain the next day allowed 'Reverend Hailstone' to open. It is a snowdrop I am very fond of. It was the first snowdrop I bought just because it was early.
Until then I had a few moderately early cultivars, 'Hiemalis' occasionally started the season off in autumn but more often waited until spring. 'Moccas'
appeared at the end of December and generally produced flowers in time for the New Year.
'Reverend Hailstone' appears in December and seems to develop faster in cold weather. I usually have flowers for Christmas but this year it has been delayed by a few weeks.
This has the advantage that when it did finally happen, a decent number of flowers opened at once.
Watching snowdrops open in the garden is delightfully obsessive behaviour. One early flower fuels the desire for another, it becomes an early snowdrop arms race.
'Reverend Hailstone' started me down the path to madness but despite that it remains a favourite.
9th January 2022
Helleborus odorus .
Last year I convinced myself that I finally had a management plan for the hellebore border. I have had a delightfully smug summer as a consequence,
never mind the weeds it will all be resolved in the autumn. Unfortunately circumstances conspired against me, the plan was abandoned. A quick spray
of the excess overgrowth in November helped to reduce the weed covering but eventually I had to bring out the big guns - I crossed my fingers!
It isn't the best arrangement for dealing with weeds but it seems to be working, I don't begin to understand why.
As a result I have been watching the border intently for the first hellebore buds to appear. I have two plants on the point of opening, but focussing on the border
distracted me. I didn't see that Helleborus odorus had opened in a bed near to the house until I almost trod on it trying to get pictures of Fatsia polycarpa
in flower. I wasn't very successful, and the pictures of the hellebore weren't much better. The camera flashed but wouldn't focus, focussed but wouldn't take the picture.
In the end I had to crawl along the ground, focus by hand and over-ride all of the clever electronic settings. Somewhere in a buried trunk of redundant junk I have a box Brownie
camera. If I could still get the film I would be tempted to give it a try. You pull a little lever and the sprung shutter releases.
None of this 'pushing a button' and hoping the electronics are feeling benign.
In brief, the week has been too dark for the technology.
9th January 2022
Narcissus romieuxii .
Fortunately Narcissus romieuxii has provided some bright cheer in the greenhouse. A week ago I had a flower and a few buds, now I have half a dozen flowers
and the promise of a good display to come. I also have half a dozen named cultivars, or at least I have half a dozen pots with different names in them.
Unfortunately N. romieuxii seeds itself very freely here, even though I try to remove the seed capsules as they swell. As a consequence I don't trust the names on any of my plants
and they all look much the same. This is certainly not the 'Julia Jane' that the label promises. Perhaps there are still bulbs of the real thing underneath waiting for some shining spring weather
to appear. These are just N.romieuxii seedlings, wonderful in the dark days but not exceptional.
We haven't had a frost here yet. The weather forecast is saying that it is unlikely in the coming week. All sorts of things have survived in the garden, I still have flowers on Brugmansia sanguinea
and Acanthus sennii. A little sunshine would help them to glow, even at the risk of a frost. In the greenhouse the Australian Dendrobium hybrids have started to produce flower stems.
A sharp frost or a long cold period would almost certainly destroy the buds and destroy the spring display.
I prefer the weather to be wet rather than cold but it's close.