4th December 2022
Galanthus 'Hiemalis' .
Spring has been curled up in the garden like a cat on a sun lounger for weeks. It has been here and it has looked out of place, basking in the late warmth of autumn.
It is true that it has rained with incessant vernal enthusiasm, but something has been missing. This week it arrived. The rain was replaced by cold. As the week got drier
the nights got colder, and then the days got colder. The garden is full of delights, a lovely place to visit, but it is no longer a place to linger. I donned my woolly hat for the first time
this year, wandered around out there for a bit filling the air with ooo's and aaah's and then came in for a hot cup of coffee. I think that it was the anticipation of coffee when I came in
that drove me into the garden in the first place.
There are snowdrops. A few of clumps in the main snowdrop bed are just a suggestion of the sheet of white that will develop in the New Year, but they are enough of a suggestion
to make it look like a bed with intent rather than a loose assemblage of freaks standing around on a cold morning.
G. 'Hiemalis' (Hiemalis Group for the purists) is currently the best of them. It has formed a good clump and it has the charm of irregular uniformity that was such a feature of the pop art movement
(sorry Andy, snowdrops beat you to it).
Almost as exciting is the ground around the garden, glistening like frost heave or a thousand worm casts. It is the noses of snowdrops pushing up into the light, full of sniffy promise
in the cold air.
4th December 2022
Camellia sinensis assamica .
Coffee is one of the delights of winter. It's pretty good in summer as well, but in winter its enfolding warmth and dancing aroma trounce the spectral spirits of hot breath on a frosty morning.
Those mornings aren't particularly frequent here, but the thought of them is enough to make me put the kettle on.
Coffee plants are not easy to grow, but there is a trend to selling pots of seedlings as trendy houseplants. They don't grow, you can't drink them, and they don't smell of coffee.
It's a triumph of marketing. I see them in the garden centres and rejoice that humanity is still filled with feral optimism. I was given a plant once with a single green bean developing.
When it was ripe, I harvested it, roasted it and made about half a teaspoon of authentic Cornish Mountain coffee. It wasn't very good.
Tea is much simpler. I bought Camellia sinensis assamica in a pot, sold as a gimmick, "grow your own Assam tea". I have done. When it is a bit larger I will harvest a few tips and make
a cup or two of Cornish tea. It won't be very good, I don't have the experience, or the volume required to dry it into good tea leaves, but it will be a second triumph for the bush.
The first is a scattering of flowers filling the air with the promise of a scent that will not be detectable unless it gets considerably warmer.
I grow Camellia sinensis sinensis further up in the garden, shaded now and unlikely to flower this year. However, it is much larger and might furnish enough leaf
for a whole pot of China tea. Perhaps that will be enough excuse for a summer garden party.
4th December 2022
Hepetica yamatutai .
It takes a significant feat of self-delusion to imagine that spring is well underway, but I am prepared to give it a go. Before long Santa with his elves and reindeer
will dominate the attention. The garden will slip into the background for a few weeks and by the time Santa has been trounced and forced back into exile in the north pole
the winter solstice will have passed, the light will be increasing again, and spring will seem inevitable. We will all ignore the awkward week between Christmas and New Year
which only exists in diaries to give a respectable space for digestion. I like to walk around during that week, digesting and enjoying the obvious arrival of the cast of spring.
This year they all seem to have come early. I was expecting camellias, and snowdrops were inevitable, but I wasn't expecting a Hepatica. I was so not-expecting it
that I didn't go looking for it. I stumbled on it by accident. I wasn't really weeding, more moving the weeds to one side so that I could see how much work the weeding
was going to take. I was preparing myself for weeding on another day. Perhaps on a warmer day or if not, then on a day when I had a pair of gloves to hand.
It was a surprise to find a flower appearing on Hepatica yamatutai, and the appearance of the flower was a surprise. This one has a bold cherry coloured reverse
to the petals. This is the first flowering, and it could be H. yamatutai though I have never seen one as bright as this. It is more likely to be a hybrid.
A welcome, early, bright hybrid.
4th December 2022
Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' .
Through the warm autumn the grass has kept growing. I mowed the meadow three weeks ago and it has already grown a couple of inches taller. That was my last chance to mow, the narcissus have appeared.
The lush growth of grass produced in the dying warmth of autumn has become the first wispy promise of spring shoots. It will grow now until June when it will be unruly.
When I try the first cut next year the mower will snort at me in disgust. Sometimes the first cut is less of a 'cut' and more a 'drive over the top and hope to flatten it a bit'.
Meadows are a delightful nuisance, there is no easy way.
I try to keep this meadow simple. The daffodils are good, the snowdrops will be good, the bluebells will be bright. After that the mower takes the stage. Six months of interest
and six months as a backdrop to the garden seems like a reasonable compromise between ornament and practicality.
The ornament starts here. 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' has burst from the ground. I only have one in flower at the moment, but there are dozens of buds visible. By the time of the
winter solstice the low sun of the afternoon will press dark shadows from the surrounding trees. They will try to cover the meadow in sombre melancholy, but they won't succeed.
'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' will bounce a bright beam of cheer from the very heart of darkness, a glowing golden encouragement to the pallid sun.
It's spring, I'm feeling springy. Keep up, keep up.