March 26, 2011

Spring gardening


I had six boxes of mail-order plants on my front step this morning.  And so the rush begins.*  This afternoon I spent feverishly slamming things in pots and potting-on trays—and sighing prospectively over this year’s meconopsis—er—meconopses?   Blue Himalayan poppies.  I occasionally manage to get a breath-stoppingly fantastic blue flower out of one but several of them apparently have to die first—the meconopsis god is a savage one—and I have yet to keep one over to flower again the next year.**

            But speaking of cranky things in pots:  you’re told (fiercely) by snowdrop specialists, of whom there are an awful lot around, that you mustn’t put your snowdrops in pots, they don’t like it.  I didn’t mean to put mine in pots, I just . . . well, they send you snowdrops ‘in the green’ because unlike most bulbs (tulips, daffs etc) which you’re sent and you plant dormant, snowdrops prefer to be moved while they’re growing.  Mine were busy coming into flower, and since I couldn’t immediately decide where I wanted to put them*** . . . I put them in pots.  Given the all-the-plumbing-in-Hampshire aspect of my cottage’s garden, pots are always a good choice anyway.  They flowered nicely.†  And then I was . . . vaguely . . . going to get them in the ground because you mustn’t grow snowdrops in pots but where?  Because the thing about snowdrops is they’re little and they droop, and this is not only a tiny garden it’s a tiny untidy garden.  So I kind of didn’t get around to putting them in the ground.  And they died back, the way snowdrops do . . . and I forgot which pots they were in . . . because of course the labels had come out, which is what labels do, supposing I’d remembered to make them and stick them in which in this case I had . . . and I found the labels trampled into the ground, but as spring-bulb pots go over, I shove them back against the walls and pull forward the things that are coming into flower.  I have learnt the hard way not to disturb apparently-empty pots shoved against the walls, because they can be assumed to contain bulbs that I’m expecting to come again next year.††  What is in them frequently comes as a surprise. . . . †††  I thought crossly about my double snowdrops, because I don’t like killing things because I simply don’t get around to doing what they need—as opposed to helplessly failing to give them what they need, as with all those meconopses—and also because they were, as plants go, modestly expensive. 

            So imagine my delight when long strap-like snowdrop leaves started coming up in a couple of those not-empty pots in January.  They’re not only alive, they’re increasing.  By next year—the gardening gods willing—I’ll have to tip them out and split them up.  Maybe I’ll finally get a few of them in the ground.  But I like them in pots:  I can put them on the front porch stairs, where I can see them easily.‡

            I still want some Himalayan blue poppies. 

* * *

* And then there’s the rant about the reality of mail-order plants.  I love being able to order on line and have the things appear as if by magic^, and the fancy named nurseries (mostly) do an amazing job.  But the 4,673 marigolds and a free giraffe companies—the ones that are pretty much your local garden centre, only a lot bigger—and who aren’t really interested in plants, but in moving product . . . they’re something else again.  In the first place, I don’t want 4,673 of anything^^, and I never want the free electric popover kit.^^^  I realise that I and all my gardening friends are supposed to get together and plan what to order together . . . in some other life and probably on some other planet.  So perhaps it’s all part of the system that at least half your marigolds are going to arrive in a previously-living condition.  One of those boxes today held six geraniums.  The box was too big, and the container inside the box that has individual slots for the individual baby plants was also too big, and the slots were too big.  So some clever person had run some tape down both sides of the slots, which hadn’t stuck very well . . . and five of the six geraniums had come loose and toppled round in free fall, scattering leaves, stems and roots as they went.  Geraniums are generally pretty tough, and I expect three of them are recoverable.~   And I don’t actually need more than three—I’d rather’ve had three, it’s just six is what they were offering.~~  But . . .

^ Not by magic, mutters my credit card

^^ Probably not even roses.+

+ I wonder how many acres you’d need for 4,673 roses . . . ? 

^^^ Except very occasionally when it’s the free rose-gilding device+ that is the only thing I do want, and then I have to order the 4,673 marigolds to get it.

+ Gilding the lily is so old 

~ Of course I planted all six.  You never know. 

~~ And a free cheese grater.  Shaped like a hedgehog.  Mmmm.

** I had three last autumn, two that hadn’t flowered last year, and one in its second year of life, that had—you’re supposed to not let them flower their first year which in my experience only means you end up with even fewer flowers, since it doesn’t, in my experience, slow the death rate at all.  Aaaaaand I’m pretty sure all three of them are now ex-.  What a good thing I ordered more.  Learning from my experience.  Now, do I let the new ones flower—supposing they survive and produce flower buds?  Or do I let myself be swayed by the myth about letting the plant have a year to get strong?

            Peter had a glorious blue poppy last year.  I was so jealous.  If it flowers again this year I may have to emigrate to the Antarctic.  Where I will keep a plastic cactus on my bedside table.^ 

^ And I really will have to knit hellhound booties.  

*** This is mysteriously a much harder decision in a tiny garden than it is in a two and a half acre garden. 

† I’m pretty sure I hung photos of them, didn’t I?  Two different doubles?  I think it was only last year.  It might have been two years ago. 

†† I no longer even try to keep most tulips going.  They flower, I pull them out, I buy more next year.  One of the advantages of a tiny garden is being able to afford to do this.  Barring the little species ones, which mostly do come again without fuss. 

††† . . . and a reprimand.  There are also always lots of little pots that get shoved so far back that I forget they exist, and they don’t get watered or fed or anything.  It astonishes me how tough many bulbs are.  I have an unexpected and undeserved forest of small fragrant daffs and striped and white grape hyacinths that I discovered when I was clearing out a larger-than-usual heap of leaf litter—larger than usual because it was a drift over a collection of forgotten pots. . . . 

‡ Not to mention the slight swank factor of having some slightly unusual double snowdrops.


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