Wednesday, 17 February 2016

small bulbs

I am still working my way along the long bed.  You haven't lived until you've hand weeded a large patch of grape hyacinths, and the weeding is a mere prelude to coaxing a fresh dressing of mushroom compost down among their leaves and topping them off with Strulch.  I'm not honestly sure how I'm going to manage that, but mulched they must be or the problem will only be worse in three months' time.  The creeping grass has got in among the iris, and will be back.  Even if I lift the iris and dig that part of the bed over, the grass is in among the roots of the ivy.

In the back garden and the wood the snowdrops are looking very good, absolutely at their peak if not a day past it.  Their flower stems are starting to elongate and the first few petals have turned faintly brown, while there are not many tightly furled buds left to open.  I could have a longer season if I grew different varieties instead of sticking with plain Galanthus nivalis, but I'm not sure I want one.  An intense burst for two or three weeks is enough.

The crocus in the lawn are good as well, though they only open out when it's warm enough.  In the spirit of scientific enquiry I ought to put a thermometer by them and see what the trigger temperature is, but sun on the flowers is not sufficient by itself.  I went to look at them yesterday morning once the worst of the frost had melted from the grass, and although the sun was shining brightly many of the flowers were still held shut.  It makes sense from the crocus' point of view, since why expose your valuable pollen to the elements when there are no pollinating insects flying? I fear the grass is too thick for them to seed very much, since while individual clumps get fatter from year to year they don't seem to spread themselves around.  I read with envy those magazine articles in which people with sheets of crocus airily claim to have planted 'a couple of dozen' ten or twenty years ago.  I have been planting an extra couple of hundred every year or two for a good decade, and still don't have a sheet.

My pots of Anemone blanda are sitting outside the front door while I reconsider what to do with them.  Excited by the prospect of getting a hundred tubers for twelve quid, I ordered a hundred from Kevock, and at five knobbly little black corms per nine centimetre pot I now have twenty pots.  They feel like an absolute bargain when garden centres charge over four pounds for a single pot in bloom, and I was going to plant them in the ditch bed among the snowdrops and primroses. But it has to be admitted that previous plantings of Anemone blanda along the ditch have not lasted well, and I wonder whether the mice are eating them.  I used to have a lot of Crocus chrysanthus in that border, then over the course of a couple of seasons they almost totally vanished as something ate them.  I knew the crocus were being eaten because I saw the evidence of digging, and the nipped off leaves left abandoned on the soil.

It seems silly to spend twelve pounds and go to the trouble of planting up twenty pots in order to provide mouse food, so maybe the Anemone blanda should go in the gravel in the front garden.  In this country they always seem to be used as woodland garden plants, but they come originally from Turkey, Syria and south-eastern Europe, and are supposed to grow in any well drained soil that dries out in summer.  The gravel certainly does that.  Wikipedia says they rapidly colonise any favoured location, and as they have signally failed to colonise the ditch bed I should probably try them somewhere else instead.  I should have thought about it all more carefully before buying a hundred, but bulb catalogues are so enticing, it is easy to be swept away into visions of loveliness.

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