The weather was perishing cold today yet I can take any low temperature provided the sun is out which it was as we set off for a walk in nearby Nostell Priory. Arriving there and drinking my usual caffe latte outside we had dark clouds and rain. The intended long walk was shorter than intended. Driving back the sun came out. Hellebore niger 'Verboom Beauty' graces our porch. It was bred specifically to flower at Christmas and indoors. The cool porch is perfect. So is a plant one may enjoy whatever the weather.
Not the time for sowing seeds one might expect and I have been intimidated by alliums self seeding as pernicious weeds underneath our beech hedge. Still, in for a penny, in for a pound or rather less in this case. Allium carinatum subsp. pulchellum, or more mystically witch's garlic, is a late flowering, exploding firework of an allium, photographed here on 27th August at Wentworth Castle Gardens. What the image does not do is capture the bees and hover flies that thronged the tiny, bead-like flowers. Truly it was an entrancing sight in the summer sun and despite no label displayed I chased up the name to discover this flowering onion from Mediterranean climes, perhaps the latest in flower of its type. This is not an expensive bulb if rather hard to find. However there was some straggling growth discarded by the tidying gardening team on a visit there last week. Hence today's seed sowing as the winter light faded. I read that there needs to be some frosting for the seed to be viable. There was much more about propagation complete with diagrams and figures which I disregarded. As my beech hedge garlic is illiterate yet still plagues me mercilessly, I hope for similar fertility in this case. Something to look out for in the spring after what promises to be a damp squib of a Christmas.
One of the most difficult acts in gardening is to discard a beautiful plant and yet there are times when it is time to say goodbye. You might fancy a change, it may simply be in the wrong place, or it has outgrown you. I have had to make some tough decisions this year. Too often in the past I've let sentiment get in the way of practicality. Take the early flowering climbing rose, Rosa banksiae 'Lutea', that graced our south facing patio wall. Note, dear reader, the past tense. 'Lutea', photographed here on 21st April, is a stunner. I bought it a few years ago in imitation of Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire. There the yellow laden, thornless tentacles leap up to the tall towers, a truly magnificent sight so early in the year, or anytime come to think. Frankly on our modest wall the plant was too much of a good thing. When not bathed in eye-catching, fresh, tightly bunched, clusters of flowers I was forever pruning it. Windows, guttering and roof were fair game. It had to go to be replaced by a modest clematis. I'll miss it in spring. If you have a stately home do give it a try.
|Renishaw Hall - 'Lutea' climbs to top of centre tower!|
I can't let bad news on Covid, narcissus fly losses and me griping about paying excessive prices on ebay (when no one is forced to part with their money) pass without offering something positive. So here's a little poem for the shortest day.
Snowdrop - Ted Hughes
Now is the globe shrunk tight
Round the mouse’s dulled wintering heart.
Weasel and crow, as if moulded in brass,
Move through an outer darkness
Not in their right minds,
With the other deaths.
She, too, pursues her ends,
Brutal as the stars of this month,
Her pale head heavy as metal.
As the globe has 'shrunk tight', predators weasel and crow struggle to survive in winter's dark, the mouse hibernates in the earth and, like stars in a cold sky, the snowdrop flowers, albeit 'pale' and with 'metal' for petal.
A chastening, unpleasant image today as I reveal the murky secrets of the Narcissus Fly larvae. They make a home out of a nice plump snowdrop or narcissus bulb that serves them as food and shelter through the winter. This little dwelling is or was 'Pieces of Eight' - a warning for those who fork out lots of cash for the latest varieties of snowdrops. For the record, it is possible for a bulb to survive although in the case of smaller bulbs, and this one, I rather doubt it. I live in hope. Whatever, from top down: bulb, grub, adult fly. Pretty things aren't they. There does not appear to be a pesticide on the market to deal with the pest. Prevention is better than cure I read though how one might practically whack every passing two winged bumblebee (real bees have four wings) is beyond me.