The Chatto garden was still looking as defiantly wintry as ours, except without the piles of abandoned prunings, pick axe and step ladder. Their grass if anything was muddier, but that's what happens when you open to the public in winter. There were not very many other people walking around the garden, despite the SA's anxieties about it being Mother's Day, which I had over-ridden with the argument that it was cold and most mothers wouldn't want to walk about outside. There is a fine specimen of Camellia 'Donation', grown to truly tree like proportions, which was in full flush, and a reasonable sprinkling of daffodils, but nothing that stopped me in my tracks thinking Why don't I grow that? The SA asked whether I had really expected that there would be, but hope springs eternal that there are new and interesting plants just waiting to be discovered. We could probably usefully grow some more of the variegated leaf arum. Actually, I'd have more if something didn't periodically dig my plants up and eat the roots. Anyway, it was nice to get out. There were no pink anemones.
Meanwhile I have been indulging in some retail therapy. At last year's Chelsea I greatly liked the display of violas by a young couple who won Silver Gilt at their first attempt. They trade under the name Wildgoose Nursery, having taken over the business of Bouts violas who used to exhibit at Chelsea. I thought I would buy some more varieties of Viola cornuta, a great ground covering plant with a long flowering season and a pleasing knack of winding its way in among other plants, but by the time I got round to ordering they were sold out of some of the varieties I wanted. They only despatch plants between late March and late June, so I made a note to get my order in sometime in early 2016.
I have chosen half a dozen traditional violas as well. I love the flowers, but my previous attempt to grow them many years ago ended in failure, the plants fizzling out to nothing in the face of drought and competition. This time round I plan to keep them in pots by the front door (or possibly the back door) where I can keep an eye on them. Magpie like, I have only ordered one of each variety, including the cornutas. One viola will not go very far in a garden of this size, but they are supposed to be easy from cuttings. August is the time, according to my book on violas, and if I shear my stock plants back after flowering they should produce lots of bushy new shoots which I can then use as propagating material. Well, the nice young couple have to make their plants somehow, so why shouldn't I? If it all works according to plan and the violas do not succumb to aphids, vine weevil or mice then I can buy some more varieties next year.
I also put in an order for some auriculas, and some recycled antique three inch long tom pots to grow them in. I adore auriculas, and every year at Chelsea say we must grow some, and do nothing about it because the flowering season is just over and then I forget. I've got a slightly motley collection of border auriculas in pots, grown from seed, and they have lasted enough years to make me think that buying some more might not be a single season wonder. I went to Drointon Nurseries, who exhibited at last year's Chelsea. They are relatively new kids on the block in Chelsea terms, and their website is user friendly. Lockyer have for several years staged the most wonderful, traditional auricula displays and appear at Chelsea wearing their florist's bowler hats and I have nothing but respect for their plants and growing skills, but they don't seem to offer any kind of online retail faciltiy, and he who waits for the customer to send off for a paper list is increasingly lost.
Wildgoose have gone one better, and place a little tick against each variety in the main catalogue as you select it. I'd worked out what I wanted in the old fashioned way with paper and pencil before I started shopping, but it is nice being able to see what you've chosen and consider the balance of colours as you scroll up and down the screen, without having to open your basket.