I have just got back from my garden club. Tonight's talk was by a local gardener who has spent thirty years creating a wild flower garden out of a paddock. I hoped that some of his experiences might be relevant to our garden, though once he'd said in his introductory remarks that the garden was largely damp and on extremely fertile loam with a neutral pH I realised that his practises weren't going to translate directly to our situation. But it's always interesting to hear how other people do things, and after missing last month's talk on growing exotics with the help of microclimates it was nice to be out and about again.
My gardening friend from Writtle was there, who had to cancel our proposed snowdrop visit to the Chatto gardens because she had a cold. She was still a bit chesty, and told me that the bug had torn through the entire family with the exception of one son-in-law. Some had sore throats, others blocked up ears, her toddler grandson had a temperature, and everybody had felt ill for weeks, with odd days of remission raising their hopes periodically before they were struck low again. It sounded like the same thing that the Systems Administrator and I have had, and she and I both found it something of a relief to hear that other people had had it too, and we were not imagining it or uniquely sickly.
Although our soil is not very like that of tonight's lecturer, I could certainly borrow his method of raising snake's head fritillaries on a practically industrial scale. He sowed 7,500 seeds and ended up with 3.500 usable bulbs. At Peter Nyssen's rate of £12 for a hundred that comes to four hundred and twenty pounds' worth, though they probably do a discount for size, but home grown bulbs could be planted directly in the green, instead of going to the labour and expense of potting them first. Trying to cram 3,500 bulbs into our lawn would be a case of more is less, apart from the fact that I couldn't face planting that many, but I'd like to raise a few hundred instead of two measly pots full.
Tonight's lecturer saved his own seed, which I could do on a larger scale than I did last year, and sowed it in rectangular storage boxes from a DIY shed with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage. The advantage of using a tall box is that mice cannot climb into it. The way to deal with moss and liverwort growing on the surface is to top dress it in the autumn with fresh compost. As the bulbs grow they are automatically buried deeper. The box lives outdoors all year, and the one key piece of care it needs is that it must not be allowed to dry out in the spring.
The club had arranged a visit to his garden for the third week of April. I put my name down for it, then the date was changed to the last week of March because with the warm spring it looked as though the fritillaries would be over before the visit. I stayed signed up to the new date, which was the day after my woodland charity talk in Chelmsford, then when it came to the day I could not summon the energy to drive, or navigate, or walk about, or talk nicely to strange people about gardens or anything else. I sent my apologies, then a couple of days ago got an email to say they were doing a repeat viewing this week for those who missed the previous trip (including two members of the committee who were on holiday for the revised date, and it seems hard lines to do all the work of serving on a committee and then miss the outings). We will not get the splendid tea that was served last time, but since the weather cooled virtually the same day the date was changed there will be about twice as many fritillaries out.