The pace is picking up. The sun is shining, the flowery stuff is really starting to kick off. I’ve sowed more seeds, taken the first Fuchsia cuttings and finished chopping down all of last years dead herbaceous growth. In the autumn I sowed lettuce and potted them up in the greenhouse; we’ve had a couple of pickings, not bad in February and a first for me. I have tomatoes and cucumbers germinated and potted up, plus seedlings of onions, leeks and a few other bits. Lot’s happening, just have to narrow it down a bit.
That said, horticultural highlight of the week without a doubt goes to the Hampshire Plant Heritage group Zoom meeting on Thursday with Dan Hinkley, talking direct from Windcliff in Puget Sound. He has a website, it looks to have good things on it, I shall be returning.
In the meantime, to business, six things in the garden now this minute:
Cyclamen. The garden centres are full of these things in the autumn and there’s a lack of information around how hardy they might be. In autumn 2019 we bought several and planted them in the garden amongst species cyclamen. Big mistake, they looked hideous. (IMHO) Fortunately, it seems that only one survived to come up again in autumn 2020 and I quickly dug it up and potted it. It’s done fantastically well in the cold conservatory and would have looked hopelessly out of place if it had been half as good in the garden. We planted six in a big pot out the front and they’re alive but have no flowers and don’t look happy. Not an outdoor plant is my conclusion.
Several years ago I selected the three best of a bunch of seedling Camellia reticulatas and gave them names just so I would know which I was taking pictures of or whatever. One I named after Sue. That is to say I called it Sue _ _ _ _, and now it doesn’t seem quite right to be bandying her full name about on the big bad w.w.w. The buds were beginning to show colour before last weeks cold weather and it’s done a little damage but even so, it’s really not bad. The blooms get to 5 inches across then drop off and are a pretty fierce pink.
Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii. When you see the range of colours of primroses grown in gardens it’s a wonder the wild populations of our native primrose haven’t been polluted beyond recognition. It’s not unusual to see the odd pink one but they’re mercifully uncommon. Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii is a subspecies occurring sporadically east of Greece in which yellow is the rare form, it usually being pink to purplish-red. I grew this from seed in 2018 and it has been slow to get established, not least because the plants were infested with vine weevils in the autumn when I planted them. It looks less robust than our primrose, with smaller, softer leaves and my few plants all have these small, pale lilac, somewhat translucent flowers. They’re going to get overtaken by Dicentra shortly, but hopefully will be happy in the shade it will provide. I Googled it, seeking more information, and found it in abundance in the blog of one John Grimshaw, John Grimshaw’s Garden Diary: Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii , who is also lined up as a zoom speaker by Hampshire Plant Heritage on 14 March.
Erythronium ‘Susannah’. Last spring this was swamped by Geranium palmatum and I feared that it might have suffered a setback as a result. It obviously hasn’t, in that it has double the number of shoots coming up, now I’m worried that it won’t be happy in full exposure. I notice when I was checking on its progress that there was a large chrysalis right beside it, seemingly alive, as far as I can judge. It is presumably an elephant hawkmoth larva, so I moved it into leaf litter under our biggest fuchsia, that being what the caterpillars feed on. I will keep an eye on it, it would be a treat to see the adult moth, I don’t think I ever have. ‘Susannah’ is described by Paul Christian on Rare Plants as the best yellow hybrid raised to date. I ain’t arguing with that but at £18.50 a bulb I’m not planning on buying any more just yet.
Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ (?). These were unexpected, in that the pot had Persicaria runcinata spilling out of it all last summer and I’d completely forgotten it had ever had anything in it earlier. I think the Persicaria is dead, so something else will fill it for this summer, the daffs may as well stay.
Which brings me to number six. Number six is always the tricky one, a choice between several or scraping the bottom of the barrel when you really ran out at four. In this case it’s a choice between four Camellias and the winner is: ‘Annette Carol’. Probably my favourite still, after many years. On the RHS website it says last listed 2014, which would be the year I finished working. The two things are not unconnected.
There’s double the level of anticipation in looking forward to spring and summer this year and it seems like the weather has perked up to coincide with early positive noises around the vaccine program. Πολλὰ μεταξὺ πέλει κύλικος καὶ χείλεος ἄκρου, or as Wikipedia paraphrases it, “there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip”, so there will be setbacks, but it’s nice to indulge in a bit of optimism that doesn’t feel delusional.
Optimistically, I’m confident that optimism is going to be a recurrent theme in everyone’s sixes this week. Spring is in the air and in the case of The Propagator, in his step too.