Thursday, 4 January 2018

an afternoon in the garden

As I peered hopefully out of the bathroom window this morning it did not seem to be raining, but when I got downstairs and went to let the hens into their run it was drizzling.  It went on raining thinly until midday, while looking as though it might stop at any minute, and so I sat at the kitchen table in my gardening clothes while Mr Fluffy and Mr Fidget took it in turns to go out, and come in again five minutes later with fur beaded in moisture and irritated expressions.

I used the time to put my seed order in to the Special Plants Nursery.  There were many more varieties listed online than in the printed catalogue, and it took some self restraint to keep the order to a sensible number of packets.  My admiration for Derry Watkins grew apace when I saw that every plant description in the seed section of her website includes its germination requirements.  That is so much easier than having to keep a sheaf of empty packets (generally compost stained) in order to be able to refer to the instructions printed on the back, or having to search through your books and take pot luck from the advice on the internet because the seeds didn't come with any instructions at all.

Eventually the sun came out in a watery and uncertain fashion, and the cats and I escaped into the garden, which was soggy underfoot.  A sweet, spicy, pervasive smell told me that the Daphne bholua had opened.  I grow two forms, the pinky-mauve 'Jacqueline Postill', and the white one, which is not so vigorous.  The white has opened slightly ahead of the mauve, and the whole shrub has flopped over rather irritatingly since the snow.  I shall have to get a fine tree stake, and very carefully see if I can get the top of it more upright so that it doesn't stick out over the lawn, without yanking at the roots.  They make upright plants, except when they flop over, taller than I am, and 'Jacqueline Postill' suckers enthusiastically.  They would like shelter, some sun, and that mythical moist but well-drained soil we keep being told so many plants want, when it is so scarce in our gardens.  My daphnes have hit the sweet spot at the bottom of a bank where the water table does normally keep them reliably moist but not saturated.  An Edgeworthia further along the same bank was not so lucky and drowned, and a rare shrubby honeysuckle took years to recover after the last wet winter.

The scent of Daphne bholua is definitely exotic.  If daffodils are innocent, daphnes reek of experience and intrigue.  I love them, and would grow more if only I had more places to their liking.

I am not entirely sure it was a good idea to include honeysuckles in the rose bank.  The scent when they are in bloom is lovely, and last autumn they flowered on late into the year, long after the roses had finished.  They are very rampant, though, twining themselves around the roses, mounding themselves up, and making a break into any small tree within reach.  I always have to disentangle the Amelanchier at the bottom of the rose bank from their choking embrace, and see that this time they have surpassed themselves and made a leap up into the Prunus 'Tai-haku'.  I am being stern now and removing a lot of honeysuckle shoots and stems while there are no flowers or buds to distract me from what needs to be done.

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