22nd March 2015
Helleborus x hybridus 'Tutu' .
In general terms I don't interfere with the orbit of the moon and it doesn't interfere with my plans but from time to time that general sense of co-operation
is disturbed. On Friday my entire day slipped into disorder because I spent an hour wandering around the garden during the partial eclipse. Naughty naughty moon!
I say partial because the effect was nothing like the 1999 total eclipse where I threw off all my clothes and danced naked around my neighbours meadow. My only concession
to recklessness this time was to take off my sun hat for a while. It came at the end on a week of magnificent sunshine, the greenhouse was hot and the garden is erupting.
Some tree seeds I sowed in autumn are pushing up through the compost, cracking the crusty surface as though the pot was too limiting for the exuberance of spring.
I didn't get any decent pictures of the eclipse itself - none of the filters on my camera were up to the job - but I have managed to convince myself that this picture
of Helleborus x hybridus 'Tutu' captures the (slightly) purple tinged dusk of the eclipse light. This was one of the first H. x hybridus forms to be
micropropagated (rather than raised from seed) and if it had been a major commercial success we would now be drowning in identical Hellebores. Fortunately it is a perfect
match for the dull purple light and it has not quite displaced the excitement of seedlings.
22nd March 2015
Erythronium dens-canis 'Snowflake' .
For a couple of weeks the Erythronium leaves have been pushing up under the trees. They replace the snowdrops which have started to look old fashioned. Like someone
wearing a pair of trousers from the 1970's (in a non-ironic way). Galanthus plicatus is still hanging on and the green tipped forms of G. nivalis are at their
best but I do wish they would take off those stupid trousers. It is time to stop flowering, this is the age of the g-pod.
I was discouraged from Erythronium for many years by the behaviour of E. dens-canis. When I was younger it was the cheapest of the species so I tried a small
planting in all innocence. I tucked them into a shady place in the thick yellow clay of my youthful garden and they were never seen again. Perhaps it is unfortunate that
young people learn lessons so easily because it took me decades to try again and realise that it was the clay that was at fault, not the plant. Many of the species
have established in the shade of trees. E. dens-canis is one of the smallest of them and although it is still available very cheaply, it is one of the fussier
species to grow. I bought this one in flower in 2012, probably grown from a dried tuber. It has taken a couple of years to settle down again after the trauma
but the white flowers were an unexpected delight while I was not-quite watching the sun not-quite disappearing.
22nd March 2015
Anemone nemorosa 'Bowles Purple' .
I get a great deal of pleasure from the first wood anemones of the season. I have been watching the shoots emerge from the soil in the last two weeks with their tiny
green buds tucked in tight. There are a selection of white flowered forms that opened this week including many of those that claim to be pink but only manage it as
the last petals fall in April. I hoped that I might witness them opening wide on Friday morning, closing up during the eclipse and then opening again afterwards. It
wouldn't have been important but it would have been interesting. Unfortunately it was a cold morning and they hadn't opened in time to close so my great plan to
show a picture of a bud that had closed again during an eclipe was foiled.
Fortunately I have a little clump of 'Bowles Purple' on a sunny bank by the side of the greenhouse which has provided the first blue flowers of the anemone season.
I found it as I was moving the Hedychium out of the greenhouse for summer. I can't imagine a better reason for having a little rest.
22nd March 2015
Paeonia cambessedesii .
The first Peony of the year is also worth celebrating. The fat red shoots appear at the start of January when the garden is dominated by snowdrops. The tiny specks
of scarlet at ground level are astonishingly cheering. For a while it is possible to believe that the succulent shoots in the middle of winter are more delightful than
the flowers. It is a delusion that persists until the buds burst. The leaden foliage of P. cambessedesii is a perfect foil for the pink flowers, scented of
something I can't quite get hold of but which I am sure must be very expensive.
The species comes from the cliffs of north-west Majorca where it is declining. A sad state of affairs, so last year I bought myself a second plant so that they could play
'doctors and nurses' together, which they did with enthusiasm. I collected the shiny black seeds in autumn and sowed them immediately expecting the usual peony trick
of delayed emergence. The root germinates in the first season but nothing appears above ground until the second year. I was wrong. I have a small tub of tiny leaden
leaves already and I am looking forward to the day (many years hence) when I have so many flowers on P. cambessedesii that I am prepared to pick one for the house!
Flicking through the Plantfinder (alright, I admit it, I wanted to check where all the S's were in cambessedesii) I saw that someone was offering P. cambessedesii x mlokosewitschii
. My two favourite species, it is a hybrid I would love to try. Unfortunately when it comes to P. mlokesewitschii I am forced to marvel at the ruby wonder
of the spring leaves, flowers are still a distant hope.