8th April 2018
Paeonia cambessedesii .
Through the winter it has felt as though the rainfall would never end. Even the cold spells were snowy. The ground had been sodden for months.
There are moles everywhere, leaving their little mountains over the lawns. I'm sure they have evolved gills, their tunnels must be
under water much of the time. The sludge hasn't changed but the temperature has gone up. I went to a spring garden show this morning and they were using a tractor to tow people
into the field for parking. By the time I left the sun had dried a light crust on the mud and I got out easily. Those who leave it until the end might have
a better story to tell over a pint of whiskey.
Gardening can be a frustrating occupation. Mud is not a happy medium it is like a frightened kitten, a bit too clingy. From time to time things work out unexpectedly well
despite my best intentions and I have taken to enjoying the moment and ignoring the strange path that led to it. Take the Agave house. It should probably have been named the
Mediterranean Climate Zone but who can be bothered with that sort of thing? The Agave act as a shorthand for the contents, and (mostly) by chance that has included some peonies.
P. cambessedesii started flowering at the beginning of the week and has banished all thoughts of cold weather. Once I have peonies in flower, the seasons have clearly moved on
a step. There are rather more peony buds swelling in the Agave House than the name implies but I am happy.
8th April 2018
Soldanella 'Sudden Spring' .
There is a charm about Soldanella that I don't always find in the Primulaceae. I will overlook a current fixation on petiolarid primulas
and a tendency to collect P. allionii forms, generally primulas leave me cold. Double primroses - well, they're double they probably don't count.
Soldanella have a reputation for sleeping away the winter under a blanket of alpine snow, emerging just as it melts in spring to flower in spectacular
isolation in a crystalline lasndscape. There is something engaging in the whole idea. In reality they do well in a pot in a cold greenhouse
and the best plants I have seen have always become rampant in large pots. The lilac or purple fringed flowers appear just as the ice melts
and this year that is exactly what they did. A couple of weeks later ant they are in full flower.
'Sudden Spring' is a seedling raised from a hybrid between S. carpatica and S. pusilla named by Robert Rolfe. It grows vigorously and
does best when I remember to feed it. They all suffer a bit from slug damage, and vine weevil love them but the fragile flowers dispel
the dullness of winter.
8th April 2018
Arum creticum 'Karpathos' .
I have a warmness towards Arum that matches my coolness to primulas. The Araceae is a fascinating family full of character and complexity, the Primulaceae
are all pink fluff and dizy spells. As a consequence I have Arum scattered around the garden and the greenhouse ready to pop up and be enchanting
as soon as the season allows. I have considered putting them all in one dedicated space to get a better perspective on the state of things but I'm
not sure I need an Arumarium. It just seems wrong.
I have a few species mixed in with the Arisaema in "Araceae corner" where they get far too dry in winter and don't prosper. I have moved them all together on a bench
by the greenhouse door where the air is cooler and they are watered more frequently. I think they would all be better outside and that is probably the final destination.
Arum creticum is unusual in the genus in having attractive yellow flowers said to be scented of lemon. Mine aren't. Either the flower or the nose is lacking something essential.
It comes from Crete, neighbouring Islands and nearby Turkey.
For a long time people hunted down a good yellow form in cultivation that had been awarded a First Class Certificate by the RHS when exhibited by Kew. I have always grown it as the 'FCC Form' -
there is one under a Rhododendron in the garden that flowers from time to time. Eventually the clone was named 'Karpathos' (the location of the original collection in 1953)
and under that name I have it in a pot in the greenhouse. A welcome touch of pale yellow appearing in the thin summer sunshine.
8th April 2018
Paeonia corsica .
Cold weather in the middle of March held up the developing spring. We only lost a few days, a week at most, but plants are about four weeks behind. Everything is rushing to get back on schedule.
I would expect Paeonia cambessedesii to show buds in January and flower in February. I would expect P. corsica to arrive three weeks later as it was fading. This year they both opened
on the same day as a fanfare for the summer. Before we know it there will be swallows in the sky again.
P. corsica is found on Corsica and Sardinia with outlying populations on the Ionian Islands. The taxonomy of the peonies from the central Mediterranean region has been complex
and contradictory in recent years so this may not be the correct name, either for now or perhaps in the future. The arrangement of names and distributions may change but I follow a simple approach.
P. corsica comes from Corsica.
It isn't very fussy about soil conditions and it doesn't mind being grouped in the greenhouse with the Agave.
It was planted up there because I assumed it would prefer a dryish rest in the autumn and winter but by chance I planted it under a drip from the roof and it spends the dormant season
a bit wetter than I had intended. It hasn't minded.
It hasn't set seed yet either. Perhaps I haven't encouraged it with enough vigour or maybe there are too few pollinators in the greenhouse. I should leave the door open more often.
I certainly want to grow more peonies, they are the markers of a very precious season.
The not-frightened-about-the-cold-weather-any-more season.