12th March 2017
Narcissus moschatus .
Spring started the week like a man sitting in the cupboard under the stairs, singing to the winter coats. It has ended like a thursday night choir practice in a parish church.
We aren't in the Cathedral of Spring yet but there's a hint of it ringing through the rafters.
The RHS Spring Flower Show started yesterday. Unfortunately in the days leading up to the show, the marquee subsided into the lawn, so the displays were hastily re-routed to the education centre
which was an improvement. Better lighting and foundations.
The slightly crowded conditions also created a warmth that would have been missing in the tent. I will miss the great flappiness, but the RHS in their ingenuity are recycling it to other uses
around the gardens. I doubt I will be missing it for long. One crowded consequence was the staging of a class for Rhododendron on a kitchen work surface and the highlight, a vase of R.
'Vuyk's Hybrid' on the hotplate of an electric cooker. I enjoyed it.
Meanwhile at home, the daffodils have been improving. N. moschatus is not known as a wild plant, though the rumour circulates that it was once Pyrenean and may still be re-found
one day on a lonely mountain pass. First you would have to find a lonely mountain pass in the Pyrenees in April. The few kilometers of mountainous ground between France and Spain is packed with
adventurous northern holidaymakers as soon as the snow melts. They wear pink raincoats, shorts and hiking sandals. They carry picnic hampers and paper napkins. They take their infants in off-road strollers.
If the daffodil ever lived there (which is not certain) it has long gone. Ah, the romance of the mountains. Yodel-ay-hee-ho!
12th March 2017
Erythronium dens-canis 'Snowflake' .
The last fortnight has seen the emergence of the Erythronium leaves, as hearty and robust as the flower stems are emaciated. The developing buds are long and grey, barely thicker than the
stem that carries them, until suddenly they burst open into great Easter Bonnets of colour.
I was looking for my seedlings last week. Every year I collect the open pollinated seed and sow it among the incomprehensible confusion of the Ficaria verna collection (never let Celandines seed).
I know it is there (or am I going mad?) but I couldn't find the leaves, or even the label. Suddenly this week I have a lawn of broad leaved seedlings, elbowing the Ficaria aside.
Happiness is this promise of future display. When they flower they stand no chance of matching the wonders of anticipation.
E. dens-canis is the European representative of the genus. I have never seen it in the wild, but I have never looked very hard either. There is a wide range of colour forms in cultivation,
but they seem to be a half dozen or so selected clones. I have never grown it from seed and I don't think it is produced that way commercially. Certainly the named forms
pre-date modern knowledge (i.e. the arrival of the internet). Perhaps somebody out there is breeding new ones, but I haven't heard of it. We are all mesmerised by the trans-atlantic Trumplings.
I don't even recall seeing seed capsules form. I must try some in the Alpine House and see what happens.
'Snowflake' is pure white, except for the yellow, red and purple bits, like scattered tourists in the snowfields.
12th March 2017
Fuchsia 'Diana Wright' .
I am happy wallowing in Spring, but it is only fair to note the arrival of Autumn in the garden. I spend the later months of the year holding up the autumn snowdrops and claiming that spring has started,
it is only reasonable to hold up the first Fuchsia. It isn't the first or course, F. excorticata and F. x colensoi have been flowering for a couple of months, but they are both a bit odd.
this is the first one that really looks like a Fuchsia.
Raised by John Wright in his early work with hybrids between F. excorticata and F. magellanica. It looks almost exactly like F. magellanica var. molinae but always produces a crop of
flowers from the early shoots in spring. For the first time it is flowering while F. excorticata is still in bloom. I have transferred some of the New-Zealanders blue pollen but I think the weather is
too cold to hope for a fat berry in a few weeks time. Still, it would be interesting if it did. There is still the prospect of a hardy shrub with hanging white flowers from the bare stems in January.
Before that can happen, it has to survive the uncertain weather, hungry birds and a gardener with an unreliable memory so I am not getting excited yet.
12th March 2017
Paeonia corsica .
It would be impossible not to get excited by the peonies. I bought my first new plant of the season yesterday, with a little concern that I would have to write a label for it when I got home.
Paeonia (cambessedesii x mlokosewitschii). I did it as soon as I got in. It's the sort of job that becomes more intimidating the longer you put it off.
Fat buds in the Agave house last weekend announced that the first flowers on P. cambessedesii were imminent, but as the week has progressed P. corsica has shot up
to flower just ahead of it. The early pink Mediterranean peonies are all quite similar, and the distinctions between species are not always clear however they are all geographically isolated
and that is the best basis for dividing them. "Where did it come from" is only second to "what does it say on the label" when it comes to identification.
P. corsica occurs in Sardinia and the Ionian Islands as well as Corsica and the plants I have known are all shorter than P. cambessedesii (from Majorca) when in flower.
My plant doesn't have the same delicious perfume as the Majorcan endemic but I only have one, and it may not be representative.
In the morning sunshine I went to see my plants of P. mlokosewitschii. It is worth the annual expedition just to see the scarlet new shoots pushing through the soil. Every year I hope
to find one crowned with a fat bud. Every year I am disappointed. Last year the plant embarked on its second decade of frustration, why does anybody grow peonies?
Ah yes, I remember!