13th February 2022
Galanthus 'Lady Elphinstone' .
The week has passed in a whirl, I can hardly remember what has happened. It is a sure sign that spring has arrived.
The weather has remained warm, for the time of year anyway. There have been a couple of days in the garden when a cold wind has whipped between the trees to
remind me that it might be sunny but it certainly isn't summer. There have also been rainy spells, the most impressive of them falling as I sat down to write this.
Earlier in the week the rain was of the undecided 'misty' variety that doesn't really fall it just insinuates itself upon you. It is welcome. It keeps the water
tanks topped up and it keeps the garden moist.
In a burst of enthusiasm on Thursday I went out with a spade and split my bananas. I wasn't sure of the timing but it seemed best to give the new divisions a month or two to establish
before they start to grow. I made a start dividing them in the autumn but it turned out to be hard work so I put it off for a few weeks. I have a feeling that if I hadn't done it this week
I might have missed my chance for the year. Gentle insinuating rain should help them to establish.
In the meadow, Galanthus 'Lady Elphinstone' is spreading. I haven't had many yellow flowers from it recently, this is the first I have seen for a couple of years.
Generally they are marked with green and I worry that m'lady is asserting her verdant obstinacy. A single double yellow flower is a good sign.
13th February 2022
Crocus 'Ruby Giant' .
The garden is filled with the charming fictions of spring. The winter clears the ground of undergrowth and strips the trees of leaves.
Almost everything else had been mowed or cut back, the place looks tidy and controlled. That isn't really the nature of gardens, certainly not of this one.
It is a temporary fiction but it is satisfying.
At the end of last year I was looking at the new herbaceous border with stoic resignation. Annual weeds had taken over and the happy obfuscation that it was a meadow
had lost all credibility. It was still full of peony leaves and things I didn't want to cut down. Last year I planted a selection of spring bulbs in the border
and if I was ever going to see them again something had to be done. Out came the lawnmower and fifteen minutes of tight manoeuvring reduced it to bare ground and detritus.
I had hoped that the annual maintenance would be simple, I was surprised that it worked out. I got it done just in time, within weeks the first tulip leaves had emerged
and a few crocus shoots rapidly followed.
A year ago I planted a hundred Crocus 'Ruby Giant' because I would like a sheet of purple in the spring. It isn't likely to happen, Crocus haven't established very well
in this garden but I'm obstinate enough to have another try. Obstinate but not overly optimistic, so the first crocus shoot was a cause for celebration. At least one had survived.
In the end I have about fifty flowers dotted around, which is a success. I will remember to cut the overgrowth down this autumn and plant some more.
13th February 2022
Freesia viridis .
In the greenhouse the incendiary colours of the Nerine ended at Christmas. I have two forms on N. undulata still in flower but the pale pink blooms only serve to emphasise
the greenness of the leaves around them. I don't have much that flowers in the early weeks of the year down there. The Lachenalia have been moved out
to a more suitable greenhouse where they will have more light (and give the Nerine more space). The only activity comes from an assortment of Freesia species
that are seeding around the collection.
The best of them is Freesia viridis which produces its strange green flowers at the end of January. I have to go looking for it in most years because I don't notice the subtle colour as I pass by.
In some years I miss it completely and only realise it has flowered when the red-brown seeds are scattered on the floor in summer. I have been waiting for the flowers so that I can
work out which it is among the many pots of Freesia leaves. I am happy for this one to spread through the Nerine stock pots, just as I am happy for some of the
Gladiolus species to spread around, but I don't want the greenhouse to become a free-for-all of weedy bulbs.
13th February 2022
Dionysia aretioides .
I have a long standing grudge against the genus Primula. I would love to grow them but it is not a mutual ambition. I have tried, they have died. It is a simple
pattern that I have repeated until it turns into a grudge. To be fair to them, it isn't a problem with culture so much as with vine weevil. Why do primulas have to be so delicious?
I started to get some success when I used nematodes as a biological control for vine weevil. It showed that the problems were not insuperable as long as I remembered to
order the nematodes in summer. Then I started to grow Primula allionii in limestone chippings and a whole new world of delight opened up. I am not free of the
curse of vine weevil, but I am free of the sense of futility that accompanied it.
If I can grow rock primulas, why not Dionysia ? It was one of those random thoughts that occur while driving towards an AGS show. I gave it a try, armed with my new-found confidence
and managed to demonstrate once more that I'm not as clever as I like to think when gripped by a new enthusiasm. I think the current tally is: dead Dionysia seven; live
Dionysia one. However, that is one more success than I managed last time I tried.
This surviving Dionysia aretioides burst into flower at the start of the week and leaves me feeling triumphant enough to overlook the seven corpses beside it. It has been slowly improving
over the last four years. When the opportunity next arises I might throw caution to the wind and try another.
Whatever the outcome, this blob of yellow is the purest distillation of spring cheer in the garden at present.