Thursday, 31 March 2016

bunny and magnolia sightings

The cats do not go on bunny patrol at night, if last night's footage of the cat door is anything to go by.  Our Ginger popped out at nine yesterday evening, sat on the front doorstep for approximately one minute and went in again.  The short indignant tabby went out at eleven, but was back two minutes later, out just long enough to have performed her natural functions in the gravel.

Our Ginger went out again shortly after eleven, just after we went to bed.  At this point the camera record is incomplete, or he knows something about how to get into the house that I don't, because there is no photograph of him going in, but at quarter to four he comes out again.  That time he is out for all of a quarter of an hour before climbing back in through the cat door.  And that's it.  No dawn bunny patrol.

We spotted the solitary rabbit on the far side of the lawn as we drank tea and ate chocolate biscuits (on special offer in Waitrose) in the conservatory.  Our Ginger slunk out of the door to the edge of the deck, and waited stock still and very patiently for an amazingly long time, trying to work out how he could get to the rabbit before the rabbit reached cover, but the answer was that he couldn't.  I saw it again at dusk from the bedroom window, but by then Our Ginger had given up for the day and was curled up in a cardboard box in the study.

My anxiety that there didn't seem to be many Scilla siberica was premature.  They are now up in a blue wash in their quadrant of the gravel around the formal pond, so the first few plants that I noticed days ago when I wondered where the others had got to were merely the vanguard.  In the wild they have a huge natural range, so it wouldn't be surprising if some forms in cultivation were earlier than others.

The Magnolia stellata 'Waterlily' in the ditch bed is opening.  I have not had great success with magnolias overall.  Most of our soil is not right for them, either far too light or too claggy, I have tried to squeeze them into spaces where there was not really room for another shrub, and those planted in the meadow were overwhelmed by weeds and drought.  'Waterlily' has been in the ground for a dozen years, and is still barely taller than I am, but quite broad by now so that it is starting to make a proper display and not just three flowers on a twig.  It grew away quite vigorously after I planted it, flowered each spring, then after about its third flowering the top growth died.  Before I got round to digging out the roots it sprouted again from the base.  I have heard of other magnolias pull the same stunt, so if you have one that seemed to start off well then went sharply into reverse you might not want to be too swift in exhuming the remains.

Magnolia campbellii 'Charles Raffill' is without flowers for another year.  It was planted in 2003, so for the past couple of seasons I have started daring to hope that I might, this year, get one or two flowers.  I'd like one just to reassure myself that I have been sold the right thing.  It is not unknown for labels to get mixed up on magnolias, as out of flower one variety can honestly look very like another.  I chose 'Charles Raffill' partly because I admired the huge, pink goblets, and because among the tree magnolias it is supposed to flower at a relatively young age, maybe even from ten according to the most optimistic sources.

My plant must have been a couple of years old by the time I bought it, so it should be coming up to fifteen.  The Millais Nurseries website says flowering may be delayed until fifteen or more, while Bluebell and Burncoose don't even mention the matter of delayed flowering.  Perhaps they don't want to put prospective customers off.  Ah well, good things come to those who wait.  Our tree has grown hugely, my only other magnolia success, shooting upwards in a space I found for it towards the end of the wood.  At least its growth rate matches the description for 'Charles Raffill'.  I'd like to see just one big pink flower, though.

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