It’s the third of frelling May and I am planting stuff out. And we’re not going to have any more frosts, okay? Yes? Okay?
I’ve also taken the plastic sheet off the Winter Table over the hellhound crate in the kitchen, and I’m going to ask Atlas to take it DOWN on Monday.*
They have seriously not liked the last fortnight or so of still being stuck in their potting-up pots. I am hoping they won’t waste a lot of good growing time sulking. I bought a different range of sweet peas this year and I’m going to have no idea how they measure up against previous standards because it’s been such a weird, not to say bloody-minded, year so far.
The clematis they will be climbing through is just old basic durandii, but some of the old basic ones of things are the best. She is herbaceous–not clinging–so you do have to give her string to drape herself over, but she produces cascades of that clematis dark indigo-purple coloured little curly flowers. Although this brings up a little problem with the sweet peas. There was a Terrible Accident soon after delivery and while I know what sweet peas I bought I have no idea which is which. This year’s colour scheme may be a trifle unusual.
You can’t tell much from the photo but since it’s me you might hazard that the long bare stem in the big round pot is a rose. Yup. Mortimer Sackler and she’s almost as good as her hype. She might possibly do with more leaves however (I mean even after she gets going) and last year was adorable with sweet peas climbing up her. Barring accidents of a colour variety, as referred to above, I hope to repeat the effect this year. The clematis in the pot at the back is Fuji-musume and has the most amazing big flat blue flowers: the catalogue description is ‘Wedgewood blue’. I’ve never seen anything like it on a clematis.
I love double primroses, of course, because they look like rose roses. I have a lot of doubles. I also have a million volunteer cowslips, including, this year, two rusty-red ones. I thought wild volunteer cowslips were always yellow.
And if you have to move them, or if you just think to dig them up, you can break them gently in pieces and have several primroses. I’ve got half a dozen clumps of yellow around the garden and they’re all from a single original. Oh, and the naked (rose) stem in this picture is the Herbalist.
You may correctly gather that barring frelling roses I do tend to have a lot of what is happy to grow around here. Although this is considered a good rose-growing area, roses may always take some persuading.
Berenice Perfection, if you’re counting. Camellias are an enigma. I treat them all the same, and they either thrive like mad or die. I have no idea. I do know that if you have a dry end of summer you’re likely to lose a lot of next spring’s flowers, but I’ve usually forgotten by next spring. It must have been okay last August because most of my camellias are flowering exuberantly. I’m going to try to get a few more pictures, but thanks to the beastly weather a lot of the flowers have been frosted. Berenice happens to be both huge and in a corner so she has more flowers and more shelter.
We had this one at the old house and she’s one of the first to flower and I always loved her but I got the idea that she was hard to grow and I dithered for years before I bought one. This is her third year and she . . . looks pretty happy.
And because I have one photo slot left, let’s have another Markham’s Pink. (Note that she is a very purple pink, but she is definitely pink. Pinker than these photos.) Looking at her and primroses and unfrosted petunias** and sweet peas makes me smile. It’s a good day: both hellhounds ate dinner.
* * *
* Although this also has to do with hoping to find a better hellterror solution at the cottage than what I have at present. She should have a view.
** Next photo post. I planted some of them out today too.
Wall wall WALL WAAAAAAAAAAALL!!!!!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLL!! WALLWALLWALLWALLWALLWALLWALL!
WALLITTY WALL WALL WALL WALL WALL.
::happy dance:: Happy happy happy happy, happy happy DANCE!
. . . Er. Well. In its small but in-my-face way, the wall story has been rather TRAUMATIC. Now . . . I’ve already had the other piece of that wall rebuilt by Atlas, I think the first year I was here; opposite that now entirely replaced wall is Phineas’ house, the third wall of my garden is my house and the fourth wall . . . I hope that wall stays up because I’m pretty sure those neighbours and I would have difficulty seeing eye to eye about things. Ahem. Life in a small town. It’s wonderful. Here’s to walls. YAAAAAAAAY. WAAAAAAAAAAALL.
Hellcritters and I took a fast sprint to a local(ish) garden centre this afternoon. The point about taking critters along, aside from giving them a change of scenery, is that they FILL UP THE BACK SEAT so there’s a limit to the damage I can do.** Also we went late, so I didn’t have a lot of time to look around before the shop closed. I needed compost: my little all-the-plumbing-in-Hampshire garden is putting Westland’s frelling shareholders’ children through university, I buy so much frelling compost for all my pots. And while I was there I was going to look for snapdragons.*** Which means going into the plant area. Noooooooo . . .
I did very well. I bought three trays of snapdragons . . . rather too many little diascias† because they come in such good colours, a few pulsatillas†† which is another of those can’t-kill plants that keep dying on me, a pansy or two, a couple of hanging-basket liners and . . . a King Edward flowering currant.††† Which will grow seven or eight foot before it’s done. Arrrgh. It’s just . . . well, I have no self-control.‡ And we had a flowering currant at the old house which I loved, and it’s been on my list of Things to Replace for . . . eight years. And it called my name, okay? How are you supposed to walk away from something that knows your name?‡‡
And I got home and realised I should have bought more compost.
* * *
*Which is to say before Souvenir de la Malmaison went in. Generally speaking you worry about your plants when someone is stomping over their beds and digging ditches through their roots and filling those ditches up with cement and so on.^ In Souvenir’s case you worry about anyone loose in her vicinity, however well defended with spades and scaffolding.
^ I would be very sorry to lose Golden Spires+ and Brother Cadfael++ but at least I could replace them. I’m holding my breath about my apple tree. Not only is it some kind of old—I’ve been here eight years and it was already stooped and wrinkly when I arrived—but I have no idea what sort it is, so I couldn’t replace it, and it produces fantastic apples. It’s leafing out now. So far so good.
** Actually there isn’t. This wretched garden centre delivers locally.
*** Individual colour snapdragons. Major pet peeve: mixed trays of bedding plants so you have no idea what you’re getting till they flower. So you plant a mixed tray of snapdragons/busy lizzies/begonias/bedding dahlias/whatever under your old-fashioned lavender-pink roses and they come out scarlet and orange. THANKS EVER SO.
‡ However I flatter myself I’m not a complete fool. http://www.manufactum.co.uk/terracotta-tile-clematis-root-protector-p1443402/
What. The. Frell. I’m supposed to spend twenty-three quid on a broken pot? I have DOZENS of broken pots sitting around waiting to be recreated as further-broken-up bits in the bottoms of other pots.^ If I wanted to do it that way I could erect an Eiffel Tower of terra cotta pieces. Furthermore, what a waste of opportunity: most of my clematis have clusters of littler pots of things like geraniums and pinks protecting their roots from sunlight. When there is sunlight, of course. Feh. Oh, and burying terra cotta in the ground? That is so doomed. ‘Frost resistant’. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
^ I know, they’ve proved it at least annually for the last several decades that shards in the bottoms of pots do not improve drainage. Well, yes and no. They do prevent the drainage holes from getting blocked. They also weigh the pot down: most pots flare from the base. Tall thin pots do well to have a nice stabilising layer of stones or pottery pieces in the bottom. And when you’re potting on I’d much rather untangle overexuberant roots from loose shards than from impacted soil—plus you have a smaller rootball to transfer. I still put something in the bottoms of pots before I put the soil in.
‡‡ And there’s always Third House. Third House’s garden has several Largest _____ You’ve Ever Seen which began life with me at the cottage.
Having the ME come roaring back in the wake of the flu is perversely proving to be rather good for my poor neglected garden—because I’ve essentially cancelled everything and am staying home and . . . sitting around is not my best thing even when I feel fairly deathlike I’M NOT DEAD YET so in this shockingly spring like weather with the SUNLIGHT and all the accoutrements like gentle breezes and bumblebees, I’ve been going outdoors and poking things with a trowel. Although this is the time of year that I usually do try to make an effort to establish some kind of . . . well, let’s not get carried away and call it order, but some kind of rough beating back of the jungle* outdoors, while I’ve got last autumn’s disgraceful plant over-orders relentlessly arriving in the post in instalments what feels like every day.** But spring is also when, as you clear off/out the AMAZING amounts of rubbish you haven’t dealt with since . . . oh, August or so***, you get to see what’s alive† and what isn’t . . . as well as look for where the doodah you’re going to PUT all the stuff arriving in the post. ††
Two more boxes of plants in the post today, one of them petunias, siiiiiigh . . . we’re supposed to have more frelling frost over the weekend. My sweet peas, having rejoiced at finally getting outdoors and off the Winter Table over the hellhound crate in the kitchen, are now starting to get cranky again: sweet peas don’t like their roots messed with and they’re starting to punch through the pressed whatever-it-is-not-peat plant pots that you plant as is, and the roots grow through it and the pot disintegrates (more or less). An old experienced (professional) gardener I often see out walking his dogs says plant ’em out now, they’ll be fine. Ummmmmm . . .
The second box . . . is wider than it is high. It is, however, vividly and generously labelled THIS WAY UP with helpful arrows on all four surfaces suitable for this direction. And when I opened it . . . the single plant within is lying on its side because it is TALLER than it is WIDE and this is the ONLY WAY this particular plant would FIT in this particular box. Said plant is a pitcher plant, so it is planted in what amounts to a small piece of marsh which of course has poured all over the bottom floor of the This Way Up box. ARRRRRRRRRRGH. Nursery mailroom FAIL.
I didn’t get the petunias potted on today which is maybe just as well if the touch of FROST TONIGHT††† is true since a small tray is easier to wedge indoors than a large tray‡ but I would have got all the new roses planted . . . if I hadn’t bought two more yesterday when I was buying a BIRTHDAY PRESENT for a FRIEND. Thus do thoughtful gestures screw you up and make extra work. ‡‡
PS: Staying at home is also good for my knitting.
* * *
* Souvenir de la Malmaison, I’m looking at you. Actually there’s a whole dangerous little gauntlet right there. Souvenir is the worst, but Little Rambler who is not little is rioting on the other side of the path and Agnes, who as a rugosa should probably be categorised as a dangerous weapon anyway, has eight-foot stems looking for trouble just beyond Little Rambler. Abandon Hope All Ye Who Are Dumb Enough to Try to Enter Here. I’ve also decided that I don’t mind the bleeding freely nearly as much as I mind having one of the three Evil Sisters grab me by the hair. BEHAVE OR I’LL PRUNE YOU.
** The mornings I’ve had a bad night and haven’t lumbered out of bed yet are inevitably the mornings when one of the new, young, timid or letter-rule-toeing pains in the ass postpersons can’t just leave the frelling box(es) but has to KNOCK ON THE DOOR AND GET ME TO ANSWER IT.
*** It’s very good for wildlife NOT to have a tidy garden. You’re supposed to leave all the brush and dead stuff standing, okay? I am very wildlife oriented.
† CLEMATIS FLAMMULA. YAAAAAAAAY. http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=4415
She keeps dying on me. Now that this one has survived a winter I’m afraid to pot her on. . . .
†† Furthermore I have frelling Alicia visiting on Monday. I could have said no. I could at least not have offered her Third House to stay overnight in. Sadly I would quite like to see her. What’s the matter with me? She is not only a gardener with a proper functioning greenhouse^ but she’s lately done all kinds of extensive and exquisite remodelling on her house and . . . um . . . ^^
^ Continuing AAAAAAAAUGH on this subject. Although I hear a rumour that Atlas is over his flu so he can perhaps have shovelled out the worst Monday before she gets here. Not that even at its best my greenhouse could fairly be described as functioning.
^^ Note that Alicia reads the blog. Hi Alicia! ::waves::
††† We had a hailstorm yesterday which took out one of my baby cosmos and ripped off a few geranium stems—but they’ll regrow, and I think the cosmos is toast. WHO WANTS TO BE A GARDENER. Fool.
‡ Although the Winter Table, which exists to support the indoor jungle on chilly overnights, is presently covered with rose photos mostly cut out of old calendars . . . remember the new refrigerator? Remember that my Dwarf Appliances thrust themselves in an unsightly manner into the centre of the room? Well, the back of my new refrigerator needs decorating.
‡‡ Like offering friends with better control of their lives and environments a place to stay overnight.
I hope he has an indoor job too. Bookbinding or something.
YAAAAAAAAAAY. And I am LONGING to get the greenhouse put back together. It’s not like it’s ever tidy but for example I’m planting roses and my bone meal [fertilizer] has disappeared. The greenhouse may not be tidy but I can find stuff.* And if I don’t get my potting table back soon I’m going to need a kidney belt.
But I need Atlas to put the shelf back up, re-line the wall that is shared with Theodora’s summerhouse, and heave the table back into place—at the moment it’s sitting next to/under Souvenir de la Malmaison, who is beginning to stir out of her winter sleep and will engulf the thing if it doesn’t get moved soon.**
So what happens? That selfish ratbag Atlas chose to get FLU this week. How thoughtless can a man be?
Meanwhile, in another part of the forest. . . .
Cottage front steps. And the daffs are Tete a tete and they smell. It’s like, you know, spring.
And those adorable purple and orange pansies . . . spent the winter in the plastic trays I originally bought them in. Bad me. I fed them a couple of times–clearly–but only potted them up last week and they’ve all gone like WOW. Now, speaking of my bad luck with pansies, these are just common-or-garden variety garden centre pansies–and spent the winter in their shop trays. What are we betting that they’ll have taken over the front of the house by next year?
In the stair picture, if you were standing on the left of the photo facing the house, the fritillaries are in a little mostly-empty planter (which will have a great throbbing dahlia in it later on if all goes well) to the right of the daffodils.
Maybe I’ve got it all wrong about pansies. Maybe they like being neglected and left to cope in heinous conditions and all this careful soil mix and good drainage thing is inaccurate and misguided.
* * *
** She’s already practising for atrocities to come by making small dangerous snatches at me as I try to sneak past her.
I’m still pretty haunted by yesterday’s news* but it’s been another mild spring day, remember those?, we used to have ’em, and I’ve been out in the garden for the second day in a row.** It completely baffles me why some things live and some die. Take pansies. I adore pansies and I can usually rely on getting one good season out of them . . . but my record on keeping them going is PATHETIC and only slowly improving. I’ve finally got a mat of those ‘wild’ pansies with big heart-shaped leaves and little toothy faces growing in a big pot in a corner whose main element has died, and I’m afraid to disturb the frelling pansies by putting something else in. It took me about three tries to get these things going—and they’re supposed to be tough as old boots and will grow and thrive anywhere. No. Wrong. This lot is dark pink which is, of course, excellent, but I’d have their pale-pink sisters too . . . but I think I’ve given up. Rebecca*** is a big favourite. I have four of her in a big pot. One of them is insanely hearty. One of them is not too bad. One of them is a weedy little thing. One of them is dead. WHY? IT’S THE SAME POT.
On the other hand my eremurus robustus† is still alive. WHY? They’re frelling tricky plants†† and I was out of my tiny mind to buy it in the first place—they’re also not cheap. I did try to plant it correctly but, eh, I can’t even get four of the same pansies in a pot to flourish simultaneously, why should a notorious ratbag do anything but croak at the earliest opportunity? It didn’t flower last year but it grew. And then it disappeared over the winter and I thought yup, right—and was thinking about putting a rose in that big pot††† when today . . . IT’S ALIVE. And I was absolutely thrilled to discover that my clematis Arctic Queen‡ IS STILL ALIVE. She has kept getting buried by the frelling gigantic Fantin Latour‡‡ which I moved up to Third House this winter, but Fantin wasn’t delighted with the experience and the ground she came out of got pretty torn up. I wasn’t expecting Arctic Queen to have survived. BUT SHE DID. So I fed her and put a copper ring around her to discourage slugs, which adore young clematis stems above almost anything but your lettuces and strawberries, and did a small not-ground-disturbing dance of joy on what passes for the path between the beds.
There are a few advantages to ghastly cold springs. The slug population is not what it should be in mid-April. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY. But my real triumph, not that it has anything to do with me, it’s just the luck of circumstance: I haven’t seen a single horrid red disgusting lily beetle AND MY GARDEN IS FULL OF FRITILLARIES.‡‡‡ Pretty much for the first time ever, in the eight years I’ve been at the cottage. First I had to get them established—which in this case was not that difficult—and then the lily beetle scourge settled in. But apparently lily beetles don’t like the cold. Now that’s worth disturbing a little ground to dance for.
* * *
You know one of those three people who died was an eight-year-old boy who was there to watch his dad run? And that his mother and his six-year-old sister are ‘seriously’ injured, which probably means they had bits blown off. Imagine what it’s going to be like for that family now.
I was sitting sadly on my stool by the Aga this morning, which is where I usually do my first praying (as well as tea-drinking) of the day, and thinking about Boston, and feeling useless. Ask me in six months or ten years, but it seems to me that prayer comforts the pray-er partly because if you manage to make contact with the prayer-space (and it’s not a given that you’re going to, every time: sometimes all you can do is go through the motions—and I’ve been told this by people who’ve been doing it a long time, so it’s not just my inexperience) you know it’s all one, that the great mystical Oneness is true. Because you’re there. It’s like walking into a tree. Wham. Yup. Tree. Bark. Leaves. Feet in the dirt, head in the sky. You’re not going to argue about it. And your praying itself—my praying anyway—becomes less a doing something^ than a being there, another witnessing, I suppose, as you might sit by the bedside of someone who’s ill or hurt or dying, or walk the dog and pick up the post and bring cups of tea and not say useless things to someone who’s grieving. Which is a doing without doing, if you like. What you want is to be able to fix it, whatever it is. You can’t. But you can be there.
Still. Being there for hundreds of people you don’t know who are three thousand miles away feels like a fairly tall order. And then I remembered that St Margaret’s has a prayer chain. You can ask for stuff to be prayed for. So I rang Lotte and she wrote it down and then said, in the same gentle voice she’d used when she’d pointed out I’d be eligible to become a member of St Margaret’s if I wanted to, Would I like to become a member of the prayer chain myself?
Oh. Yeep. Yes. Yeep, but yes.
Well, that’s going to make me frelling focus. . . .
^ Although that’s another big plus for the pray-er. When you want to do something and there isn’t anything you can do, for whatever reason . . . yes there is. You can pray. And while I realise this in itself isn’t going to convert anybody this is a very great thing—as every member of every religion that includes prayer knows. Helplessness, uselessness is totally the worst.
** AND THERE IS PROGRESS ON THE WALL. I forgot to bring my frelling camera with me today when I went back to the cottage from the mews after lunch. Arrrrrrgh. But there WILL BE PHOTOS.
*** Who looks like this: http://www.perryhillnurseries.co.uk/Catalogue/Perennials/images/Resized_ViolaRebecca.jpg
They’re big magnificent-looking things. But these look white which they aren’t. Here’s a close up that gives you a better idea of the colour:
†† If you read the gardenersworld.com description you’ll notice it says ‘skill level—experienced’. Chiefly I’m experienced in being ripped to shreds by roses^, and watching things die.
^ I was thinking again today, while bleeding freely, why do we DO it? Why do we grow frelling roses? Why is it WORTH THE PAIN? Dunno. But I wouldn’t be without them. I just scream a lot.
††† I seem to have more roses to find places for.
‘Skill level experienced’? Piffle. Most clematis are easy. They like their feet in the shade and their heads in the sun, and you must not muck about with their roots, but beyond that if you keep them fed and watered they’ll do fine. We won’t, however, get into the, you should forgive the term, thorny question of pruning categories.
Here’s a better idea of the bush
All the Fantins I’ve ever seen have been substantially bigger than what they tell you on the rose sites. Mine had easily six and a half foot stems . . . in several directions.
‡‡‡ http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardens/Rosemoor/About-Rosemoor/Plant-of-the-month/April/Fritillaria-meleagris Love love love. I have a few white ones too. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/sep/07/plant-offer-snakes-head-fritillary