Monday, 29 February 2016

doing what you can

My cold has reached the rich, bubbling stage, and I have hit the evening slump.  I went out to do some gentle weeding and tidying once the frost had burned off the grass, as there was real heat in the sun and the wind had dropped away.  I managed a couple of hours before lunch, then another measly hour and a half afterwards, before I began to feel chilly and it seemed time to retreat back into the house.  A sad waste of perfect gardening weather, alas.

The flower buds are starting to swell on the Osmanthus delavayi.  This is an evergreen shrub with small, neat, dark green leaves.  I have seen them growing unpruned in light shade, where they make quite open shrubs, but mine is in full sun on the corner of a bed grown as a clipped ball, a punctuation point I pinched shamelessly from the writings of Christopher Lloyd before ever visiting Great Dixter.  There is an inherent tension in growing O. delavayi as a trimmed specimen, since its great glory is the scent of its flowers in spring, and keeping it cut to a tight ball risks removing the flowering wood.

Mine is still not so tight and close as I'd like it to be or as the Great Dixter ones are, probably because I am not so ruthless about trimming it as I should be, but also because Christopher Lloyd had a head start of several years.  I gave mine its main trim last year straight after flowering, then a second less stringent tidy in the autumn, and it looks as though the remaining twigs are set to flower to their tips.  It's grown a little whiskery again, but every twig removed between now and April will be a spray of flowers lost, so the time to prune it is later.

One of the recent frosts has slightly singed the new growth on some of the Cistus and the Romneya coulteri.  I noticed the last time I was at the Beth Chatto gardens, which must have been in the first week of February, that they had cut their plant down quite hard.  I have left mine untouched until now in the vague help that retaining the old stems on top would help protect the bottom, and today I only reduced last year's growth by around a half, thinking that if another frost nipped the ends there'd be more left below.  It took me three goes to persuade R. coulteri to grow, and I feel rather protective of it.

I found a few shoots emerging of Coronilla varia, which I decided last year was simply too rampant to be given house room in that bed, or indeed anywhere in the garden.  I can see situations where it would come in useful.  Stabilising the embankment of a new bypass, perhaps.  It blooms for a very long time and the bees love the flowers, so it has its positive points, but it is too vigorous to be allowed in a domestic garden, even a large one.  I tried to trace the shoots down to their origin, but didn't manage to unearth any meaningful bits of root.  It has infiltrated the roots of a Yucca anyway, and I'm not digging that up.  I am resigned to a long, slow war of attrition, and to be pulling out the odd strand of Coronilla for years.

And then it began to get cold, and I started to feel really not awfully well, while my nose began to run as if somebody had turned a valve, so I tottered inside for a mug of tea and an armchair in front of the fire.  It's all rather a waste.

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