There was a time I might have played “Late November” half a dozen times back to back; that’s Sandy Denny for you youngsters. 1971, on vinyl, which I still have. Where the hell did that go! The time, not the record. Her song, “Who knows where the time goes?” is even older, 1969. Unhalfbricking, great album. Still got that too.
I digress; things have moved on, there are computers, mobile phones, tablets, the internet, global warming and a pandemic. And six on saturday, the thinking person’s antidote to all of the aforementioned. So, six things in the garden, like, happening now. What would my 18 year old self have made of it?
Salvia corrugata. A lot of salvias leave it very late in the year to flower, I’d almost given up on this. We need to take cuttings earlier, overwinter larger plants under cover and maybe get flowers a bit earlier than November. It’s good when it finally makes it.
Tucked away behind a rapidly collapsing Begonia grandis is this Aspidistra elatior ‘Variegata’. Looking it up on this new fangled internetty thing I find it described as an indoor house plant, a variegated bar-room plant, a variegated cast-iron plant and so on. It was terribly old fashioned when I was listening to Sandy Denny so it’s probably the coolest kid in town now. Who knows, who cares? And what is a “bar-room plant”? It’s grown a bit while hiding behind the begonia. An improver, perhaps.
Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’. Somehow I’d got it into my head that this grew about three to four feet, so I planted it at the front of the border by the path. It’s over six feet and I’m always a little cautious pushing past it because grass blades are called that for a reason. Anyhow, it’s had a good year, it’s even flowering, but I’m planning to move it back a couple of feet, so next year may not be quite so good.
Penstemon ‘Blackbird’. In the past we’ve grown Penstemons quite a lot, but maybe just got bored with them. This year we put a few back in and especially in early summer, before the Dahlias and annuals really got going, they were great, not that they let up after that either. This is not the only one still flowering but it is the best.
I make no apology for repeating last week’s Camellia sasanqua ‘Cleopatra’. Lots more flowers are now out, the Campanula and Geranium at its feet are having a last flutter and when the windows of the conservatory aren’t obscured by rain on the outside and condensation on the inside, it does just what it was meant to do which is to make me happy without going outside.
Whether or not I’ve saved the best till last depends on your taste in plants. I can tell you that Keith Rushforth had brought along a big pot of it to impress the Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group meeting three weeks ago. I was feeling smug because I’d had a plant of it since the Tregrehan Plant Fair in 2020. It was collected in North Vietnam, probably on an expedition in which both Rushforth and Tom Hudson were members. In the garden I would expect it to be hardy but herbaceous and given that it’s only just started flowering, if it had to start from ground level each year I think all I’d get would be leaves. Oh, the name, Impatiens balansae.
That was pretty shameless name dropping but there’s a serious side to it too. The extreme northern tip of North Vietnam is one of the world’s great biodiversity hotspots and it’s getting systematically trashed to grow cardamoms as a high value cash crop. Ex situ conservation isn’t really enough because it can’t conserve sufficient genetic diversity to save a species in the long term but who are we to be telling impoverished people that they shouldn’t be trying to improve their lot? Good outcomes look very thin on the ground. And perish the thought that the North Vietnamese might be suspicious of our motives if they think we’re trying to tell them how to behave; the Vietnam war still had a few years to go when I was listening to Sandy Denny.
Having reminded myself, I just played “A Sailor’s Life” for the first time in years. Wallowing in nostalgia. Talking of which, I discovered they’d remastered Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album. “A Case of You” didn’t need improving, but they did it anyway.
That was a good rant and I feel better for it. If you’ve reached this far and don’t know already, there are multiple links to other sixes to be found in the comments of Jon the Propagator’s post. Most will keep to the subject too.