27th January 2019
Narcissus 'Bowles Early Sulphur'.
The year is punctuated by important dates that become insignificant the moment they pass. I have just got back from the Myddleton House snowdrop sale, an important date in the calendar
partly because I get to look at some lovely snowdrops and spend too much money. The most significant point of the sale for me is that it kicks off the year of interesting events.
It also serves as a fixed point to look at the weather. A warm season, the snowdrops were in full bloom and the selection of woolly hats worn by attendees looked slighty ridiculous
for the wrong reasons (it goes without saying that a woolly hat should look slightly ridiculous in itself). This year the hats had the poise of a polar bear up a palm tree.
The origins of 'Bowles Early Sulphur' are dusted with the cobwebs of historical confusion that attend all the best plant cultivars. There may have been an original plant and this may be it,
alternatively this may be a later collection from the garden at Myddleton House to which the name has become attached. Whatever the origin of the plant, or indeed the name, this is a pretty little
daffodil. It flowers early and it is yellow. The descriptive accuracy of the name is beyond reproach. The connection to E.A. Bowles will be taken on trust.
I took this picture last Thursday in my 'early' Cornish garden. Looking around Bowles garden at Myddleton House on Saturday there were a number of other tiny daffodils growing that
were clearly earlier than this, and more sulphurous. With a wisdom that I might have purloined from the pages of romantic fiction, I'm not going to let the facts spoil a good story.
27th January 2019
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' .
The Hamamelis started to flower here well before Christmas. I was slightly irritated. I stamped my foot on the wet leaf-mould beneath them with petulant ferocity.
Hamamelis serve as a signal to me that the shortest day has passed, the decline of autumn has ended. Whatever disruption the season brings, the garden is looking up to the stars
not face down in the gutter. The pale yellow flowers that appeared on in the early days of December were feeble, premature and unwelcome. It took me a few days
to realise that I wasn't looking at H. mollis at all, but flowers on the suckers of the H. virginiana rootstock. It presents a quandry. I don't grow
H. virginiana and I would like to. On the other hand, I only have one plant of H. mollis and it is the best species of the genus. I know what will happen in the end,
I will cut off the grafted H. mollis and rejoice in its American cousin. Partly because I think I would prefer it, partly because I can replace the H. mollis easily
but mostly because I don't think I will be able to stop the suckers now they have started.
It would be a more complex decision with 'Diane'. The red flowers inject an essential shot of colour into the dark days of January. In a moments bright light I even caught them
standing out against a background. Neither the light nor the standing out can be relied upon.
27th January 2019
Helleborus x hybridus 'Mrs Betty Ranicar'.
I am celebrating Hellebores. As the beds became unmanageable I resigned myself to the slow demise to the collection. Fortified by fatalism, I attacked the bed with gusto last autumnm.
More than gusto, I attacked the bed with a ride on lawnmower and a sprayer full of herbicide. It was a cunning plan, to cut the foliage off at ground level with the mower
once the Hellebores had stopped growing new leaves, wait for the regrowth from the weeds, and then kill them with the herbicide. I thought that the potential for catastrophe was huge.
I had formulated a plan to bulk up the naturalised snowdrops in the bed and pretend it was deliberate.
Spring arrives and I think I have got away with it. The Hellebores have come up and they don't seem to be showing signs of damage. The weeds have been reduced. I didn't solve the problem
with stinging nettles but there aren't as many. I haven't solved the problem of annual weeds but it is more manageable. All it needs now is a good feed.
H. 'Mrs Betty Ranicar' is a double, white flowered seed strain developed in Tasmania from a plant discovered in a garden. The best forms are quite compact, mine are later
and more upright than is typical because my original stock was two rather leggy plants, the last in the batch to sell at a garden centre. I should grow more of them, it
is the perfect shape and colour for the dull light under the trees.
27th January 2019
Galanthus 'Sibbertoft White' .
The weeks weather has been undecided. Occasional showers have disturbed the days, the grass has been wet with dew. On the other hand, I left the house at dawn on Friday and
the ground underfoot was warm and dry. Unexpectedly good weather for visiting gardens, but then I drove through a storm on the way home that would have been a challenge
for Prospero. I stopped for something to eat and let it blow over.
I have seen a lot of snowdrop varieties over the weekend. They are all different but they have difficult criteria to meet. They must be distinct, but not so distinct as to be unrecognisable.
I was looking at the selection of green snowdrops on offer. I grow 'Rosemary Burnham' but 'Green Tear' is slightly better. I decided I didn't need it. My plant is almost as close to green as
I want it to be. The next significant step will be a snowdrop with a grass green flower and I'm not sure that will still have the charm. On the other hand, my favourite Venus' Fly Trap is
a cultivar called 'Rose' that doesn't produce any traps. Perhaps a snowdrop with no flowers on the scape would be equally amusing. 'Sibbertoft White' goes in the opposite direction,
losing the green marks on the flower. It doesn't have the confused shape of the "poculiform" cultivars, it is just white. I like it. I like it more every year.
Forecasters continue to hint at the chills to come. There's a monster under the bed you know, but you mustn't look. Oh no. You mustn't find out. You just need to know that it might be there,
it might be waiting to get you the moment you drop your guard. The forecasters warn that the bright colours of spring will be submerged in the snows of February and the problem with monsters
under the bed is that they linger even when they aren't there. I note that I have started with bright colours and then allowed this week to slip into white.
I don't think I'm foretelling the future. I hope not anyway.