Sunday, 2 April 2017

flowering cherries and daffs

The Great White Cherry 'Tai-haku' is out and we are trying to remember if it is earlier than in some years.  It is a beautiful tree, holding its branches out horizontally, and for a few days every year it is smothered with flowers, and humming with bees.  The young leaves open a nice shade of bronze before turning green, and the autumn colour is good though not especially long lasting, and it is altogether an excellent tree.  Flowering cherries enjoyed massive popularity in the middle of the last century and you will see them in numerous mature gardens and lined up as street trees.  The predictable backlash followed, and I have heard them excoriated as boring, shapeless trees with only one season of interest, but this is mere prejudice.  You still don't generally find them as specimens in the sort of modernist garden beloved of upmarket garden magazine editors and trotted out at the Chelsea Flower Show, though I have noticed something of a vogue in recent years for planting avenues of them.  Never mind.  Garden fashions come and go, and I predict that in a few years having a small grove of white stemmed birches crammed into your suburban garden will be as badly out of fashion as flowering cherries have been in recent decades.  Meanwhile, having resolutely ignored fashion and planted 'Tai-haku' twenty years ago we are now enjoying it in its prime.  Japanese cherries are not generally the longest lived of trees.

We equally couldn't remember whether the daffodils were early, or going over faster than usual. It's probably a bit of both with the warm weather.  The white 'Thalia' are fully out and I have snipped off the first dead heads.  There are still some buds left to open on the soft yellow 'Pipit', not many, but the bright yellow Narcissus obvallaris finished a few days ago.  It's only the second of April, and that does feel early for the main daffodil display to be ending.  The fritillaries in the bottom lawn are pretty much full out, and I'm pretty sure that they were still blooming for a party we held for my father's birthday some years ago, which would put them in the middle of April.  I have tried keeping records of when things are out, but I always get bored and give up.  It varies, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I planted some pots of N. obvallaris into the daffodil lawn to top up the display, now that they and the ones already in the ground have finished flowering.  I deliberately held off until they'd gone over and I could dead-head them, because I like to plant them deeper than there's room to in their pots, and the brilliant yellow flowers look odd closer to the ground than the existing stock, plus it is difficult to get the leaves and stems to look entirely relaxed.  Once they are just bundles of plain green foliage you don't notice.  I've got some more 'Pipit' to go in as well once they've finished. 'Pipit' has a strong, sweet narcissus fragrance and would be worth doing in pots for its own sake.  As it is I enjoy the scent each time I go near the greenhouse.  'Pipit' seems to last well in the grass in fairly meagre growing conditions, on light soil and partially shaded by the eleagnus hedge and the little oak tree.

I passed on the opportunity today to go on a Plant Heritage daffodil workshop.  Part of me thought I should go.  It would have been enjoyable, and what keen gardener would voluntarily miss the chance of a day's tuition with a former Sissinghurst head gardener?  And it was remarkably cheap. But there is so much to do in the garden at the moment, and after trying numerous daffodil varieties in practically every bed and border I know from bitter experience that most of them don't persist in most places, and since I can't alter the fundamental soil type or the rainfall, and am not going to materially reduce the amount of shade or thin out the herbaceous planting in the borders to suit the daffodils, it seemed silly to go and get myself too excited about a group of plants that I know don't do especially well here.

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