8th May 2016
Paeonia mascula ssp. mascula
This week I have abandoned caution and cavorted recklessly in the sun. More prosaically, I have had my shorts on. The blazing heat lasts for an hour or two around mid-day
and then it's back to long trousers and thermal underwear. It has been enough to make me check water levels (falling) and find my hat. Hats are like dogs. Your own is a
wonderful thing while other peoples are just ridiculous. My own dear hat is made from dark grey canvas with a broad rim supported by a wire sewn into the margin. It shields
me from the burning sun, ventilates my head and has a certain style. I like to think of it as Australian cowboy meets bag-lady chic. Sadly it has a weak point. The perimeter
wire snapped some years ago and protrudes from the rim in a muderous fashion. It had to go. The replacement is a cheery green parody of its perfection, all starch and stupidity.
Somehow without the support of a wire, it lacks drama and is as limp as the script for a soap opera. It is practical, but it won't do.
While being dessicated by the sun and wind yesterday at a plant sale I thought of my poor peonies. The bud was on the point of bursting when I left. Some light drizzle in the afternoon was a good sign.
When I got home I took the camera up to see it, imagining a perfect globe of shining pink kissed by soft dewdrops.
Close, but no banana. No globe, no scent, no dewdrops. Just a head with a crumpled pink hat. Full marks for style, but I don't think I could get away with it. The search continues.
8th May 2016
Magnolia 'Star Wars'
Last week I was struck by a sudden curiosity about how the haunts of my youth had changed. I'm not going to do anything about it. The broad sweep of agricultural land I remember
will have become an exotic forest of 'in-fill' homes and mature Japanese cherries. Memory has gifted the landscape with much more perfection than the reality will ever have had.
There was a large Leyland Cypress stump by the greenhouse. Years ago I cut the tree down to 3m (below that the trunk was too thick for my saw). The stump had become a towering mass of ivy and menace.
I had the distinct feeling that it had started to teeter and I was right. A month ago it fell. I was struck by the transience of woodland, it seemed so permanent when I was young.
Nothing was struck by the falling stump, in what can only be descriped as a miracle. If I had felled it, one side of the greenhouse would have gone as well.
Magnolia 'Star Wars' represents my woodland gift to posterity. Behind it are the old Leylands, planted in 1983, the only thing I found that would withstand the wind on the hill.
They are less resolute now and are blown over from time to time. The cut stump is Pinus radiata, planted in a second wind breaking episode during the 1990's. I cut it down 20 years later
while it was still within my ability, thinning the tree cover to allow the magnolias to establish.
'Star Wars' was raised by Os Blumhardt in Whangarei, New Zealand. With M. campbellii as one parent (M. liliflora is the other) I am hoping it will make a decent sized tree in time.
I have some M. campbellii seedlings coming along to keep it company, my own exotic forest.
8th May 2016
Pieris 'Forest Flame'
The Pieris in the garden also come in waves as the woodland develops. 'Forest Flame' is part of the first wave. It grew in the shade of the supporting wall for an early greenhouse for many years.
Then it was moved and in a grand gesture I planted all my Pieris as an avenue along a path. The largest of the P. formosa had reached about 5m before I realised they were too big.
The whole lot were sawn down to 2m stumps, dug up and moved. They all survived it. Unfortunately, all the labels were lost on the chaos of digging, sawing and swearing. As they establish
their identities are becoming clear again.
'Forest Flame' looked so good as I walked up the hill yesterday that I had to show it, crested with fire. This side of the plant is in the shade of one of the old Leylands. The glowing scarlet
new growth looks almost cloud pruned though in reality it is clustered from the cut ends of the trunks, chopped back with a bow-saw. On the other side the foliage is characteristically yellowed
('Wakehurst' also suffers) as though a horde of red spider mites had attacked. It isn't pretty or to be more accurate, it isn't pretty from the other side but it doesn't matter. I don't have a path on that side.
8th May 2016
I have a border where I try out Erythronium. 'Try out' is possibly too grand an idea. I have a border where I plant the Erythronium that I can only afford as single bulbs. It looks
rather disjoint with random colours and young plants. One day they will all bulk up and I can have great drifts of them. Until then it is a triumph of detail, perhaps less of design.
I had hoped for some last pictures of the season, trembling pointed hats glistening with soft rainfall. Not to be, they have finished, the last petals shrivelled away with an abrupt finality.
'Kinfaun's Pink' has a last flower open but it is tired like the litter on the floor the morning after a party. Not a thing to photograph.
'Pagoda' is later than the rest, just reaching a peak under the trees. I have planted masses of them hoping for a carpet of yellow flowers with the bluebells. Every year it looks like a promisimg idea
but for the first time this year it might become a reality. By the time the magnolias are large enough to flower they will be scattering their pink petals over the yellow and blue floor. It will be
tasteless and quite astonishing, my favourite combination. I wanted to establish Lamprocapnos spectabilis up there as well, and they are trying hard but it isn't going to work. They are
growing more feeble by the year. Perhaps that would have been too much of a good thing.