I am beginning to think I have broken the back of the work in the island bed, and might get it finished given another couple of sessions. This is just as well, since I need to carry out skirmishes, if not open new fronts, in the conservatory, the herb bed, the shrubs around the top lawn, and the gravel garden outside the Systems Administrator's blue summerhouse.
In the course of weeding I made a gratifying discovery, three strong new shoots at the base of the single stem the Romneya coulteri carried last year, which by now is resolutely dead. Romneya coulteri is the Californian tree poppy. There is a fine one in the gravel at Beth Chatto's gardens, between the lavatory block and the entrance to the plant sales area. When happy it is a wonderful shrub, with grey leaves and papery white flowers like a poppy, and suckers and runs about vigorously. Note the qualifying phrase. It is notoriously difficult to establish in the ground, whether from a pot grown plant or a root you have begged from a friend who already has one in their garden, and this is my third attempt at getting it to take. I had told myself, firmly, that if it didn't succeed this time then that was it, since my normal limit is that if something has failed to establish twice running it obviously doesn't like my conditions, and I should grow something else that does. I bent the rules for the Romneya, given that they are known to be so tricky, and are so beautiful once they get away, and if it would just take it should like the free drainage and sun in our garden. We are only a mile as the crow flies from the Chatto gardens.
The shoots are not even two centimetres high yet, and things could still go wrong. They could be frosted, or something could eat them, or the Romneya could change its mind about the whole thing. However, three chunky shoots at ground level the year after planting is better than I have ever achieved before, and I'm quite bullish. I found some small but solid looking shoots as well which must belong to a couple of seed raised Amsonia I planted out last year. I was beginning to wonder where those had got to, and if I'd see them again, or if the long winter had done for them. The rich blue flowered and slightly tender Salvia guaranitica has new growth at the base, buds still held tight to the ground, but there are no signs of life yet from its pink flowered neighbour. I don't understand why there is so much earth mounded over its base, and hope that doesn't mean there is an ant nest directly underneath.
Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Ballerina' has opened. It has white flowers held in short erect racemes, if you are a botanist, and looks as though a cloud of white butterflies had descended on it, if you are a romantic. The flowers are larger than those of some of the wild species Amelanchier, and although I love 'Ballerina', I sometimes have twinges of doubt when I look at the flowers of A. canadensis as to whether I chose the right one. Amelanchier canadensis has a charming wild naturalness to it which I covet.
The season is marching on. I had to clear away the pots of hyacinths, which were well and truly over, and found that two or three pots of tulips were ready to be swapped over with them for display in the Italian garden. The olive tree has made it through the winter, and I'm beginning to dare think it might have escaped being cut back, though there's always next winter. There are no signs of green on the Aloysia triphylla at all. This is an ungainly shrub with slightly negligible mauve flowers, and leaves that smell deliciously of lemon. It is always late into growth, and this is a late year, but even so, I am not entirely confident it is alive. We'll see.