My order of reckless plants arrived. That is how the great post-war garden writer Margery Fish says an old country gardener she knew referred to auriculas, as 'them reckless plants' and the phrase stuck with me because it is difficult to imagine a less reckless plant than an auricula, with its neat rosettes of leaves and tidy flowers so perfect they scarcely seem real. They do not run at the root nor do they seed incontinently, and nor are they especially prone to die.
They were beautifully packaged in boxes just large enough to hold six small square pots, with slices of expanded polystyrene tucked between and around the pots to stop them shifting in transit. Each plant had a piece of tissue paper carefully tucked around the crown, secured to the pot with two pieces of masking tape. Masking tape actually seems rather a brilliant thing to use, since it is designed to stick but also to peel off easily. The instructions (with apologies in parenthesis to experienced growers) said to stand them somewhere cool and shady for a few days to recover from their journey, following which it would be OK to repot them at this time of year. If destined for the open ground the growers suggested waiting to plant them out until the soil is a little warmer.
Mine are going to go in pots, and since the pots haven't arrived yet I couldn't pot them immediately anyway. Instead they are standing in a tray in the space in the cold frame vacated by the rotten daffodils. Once potted I shall try them on the deck above the conservatory, where they will be open to the sky but shaded from direct sun. If that turns out to be too dark for them I'll have to think again. I was going to make them a shelf out of a plank and some old bricks, since I have planks and bricks. The catalogues at this time of the year are full of dinky purpose built plant stands, but it will probably have to be the plank for now. I would rather like an auricula theatre with an arch above it, painted in Victorian fairground style and proclaiming Them Reckless Plants, but I have nowhere to stand one and my graphic skills aren't up to much so I couldn't do the paintwork.
After cooing over the auriculas I cautiously and experimentally weeded in the turning circle for an hour before lunch and another couple of hours afterwards. I tried yesterday, but decided fairly quickly that it was simply too cold. It is supposed to be warming up by the end of the week, which will not be a day too soon, though I suppose on the downside that then the weeds will start growing. As it was I made the unwelcome discovery that the underside of a mat of prostrate thyme was coated with root aphid where it sprawled over the paving. I'd have hoped the cold weather would have put a stop to that. I inspected every pot as I brought it into the greenhouse last autumn, and any infected plants were either thrown out or dosed with Provado systemic insecticidal drench for roots, but what's the good of that if there's a reservoir of infection right on top of the paving? The compost the auriculas came in already contains vine weevil treatment, good for the next twelve months.