Some of the things that are not growing are simply natural late starters, like the little oak tree that is only just breaking bud. I'm not worried about the little oak tree. It will get going in its own good time, along with the coppiced Paulownia and the Rhus. Some things, on the other hand, need feeding and I am more concerned about them. The witch hazels in pots that were looking rather sparse last year, the dahlias that were not so green as they should have been, the hornbeam hedge on its diet of miserable thin sand, the tired looking pots of Dianthus on the terrace (or patio) and the frankly disgraceful pots of what were supposed to be box balls, but look more like Before photos in an advertisement for some kind of rescue remedy plant food, the unhappy roses in the front garden that are not nearly so leafy as the ones in the back that are on stiffer soil to start with and have had a dose of blood, fish and bone this year, all of these need feeding, and they need feeding now because now is when they will make their rush of spring growth, not in August.
Today feeding won, and I weeded the potted shrubs in the back garden, the Hamamelis and Acer and the one solitary Camellia and single Hydrangea, and gave them all a dose of Vitax Q4. I don't like the pellets, I really don't. It is so much easier to judge the amount and get even cover with granules. I wonder whether the Q4 is really better than blood, fish and bone, or if I should go back to using that for everything?
I used to have more Camellia in pots. I must have been up to six or seven ranged outside the study window, and they did reasonably well there in semi-shade, but the pots always blew over in gales, especially the bigger plants. Then came the two successive cold winters and all except the largest plants died. I planted them out into a border, where one took immediately and the other turned chlorotic yellow and lingered at death's door for a good two seasons before regular watering and doses of special camellia food persuaded it to rejoin the land of the living. It is not easy moving large plants out of pots into the ground, and if I were buying in a garden centre to plant out I would always go for the smaller specimen given a choice. In fact, growing Camellia in pots is not that easy. I say mine did reasonably well, and they did in the sense that they had leaves all over and flowered, but they never looked nearly as glossy and luxuriant as three growing in a nearby border, that were equally exposed to the wind but had the luxury of their roots in the ground.
I had a vision this morning of how the Hydrangea could and should look, going along the riverside walk in Wivenhoe with my parents. The houses along that stretch look out on to the river and have no front gardens as such, but apparently own the land to the river with merely a requirement to keep a two metre walkway accessible to pedestrians, so most have put tables and chairs outside and many have pots. The pots range from the tragic and neglected to the thoroughly excellent, and the most impressive were two massive, fat, bronze leaved hydrangeas in big pots. They were bushy. Boy, were they bushy, bursting with health and new growth, and the owners must have got them like that by loving care and diligent maintenance. I have never seen hydrangeas that big offered for sale by any garden centre or nursery, ever. In contrast my purple leaved hydrangea in a pot has more of the form recommended for a correctly pruned apple tree, in that you could throw a wellington boot through it.