Tuesday, 23 January 2018

armchair gardening

The only gardening I did today was in my head.  I am halfway through Dan Pearson's Natural Selection: a year in the garden, a collection from his Observer column over the past decade.  I liked his Chelsea show garden based on Chatsworth very much indeed, and his thoughts on gardening make a pleasant distraction when you aren't going outside yourself.  He is very keen on Tulipa sprengeri, which seems to get more mentions than any other plant in the book.  I did think it was unwise to include a glowing tribute to ash in an early chapter, presumably published in The Observer before ash dieback reached the UK, and then not follow it up with a post-dieback essay (I checked the index and there isn't one), since readers wouldn't know if they could still safely plant Fraxinus ornus and F. americana or not, now that our native F. excelsior is a no-no, or at least only to be planted in a spirit of scientific enquiry to see if by any chance it will be resistant to the dieback disease.

Then there were garden projects to be looked forward to once my nose has stopped running and I dare put my head out of doors.  Maybe this will be the year I finally manage to get the vegetable beds going running again, in which case where is the best place to buy some scaffolding planks to edge them?  Should I splash out on some more Colchicum?  I thought about it last year, but time and the gardening budget ran out.  Catalogues for autumn flowering bulbs seem to arrive earlier and earlier, in a sort of mail order bulbs arms race, and the one from Pottertons arrived a week or so back.  Their cyclamen were very good, but it feels mad to be ordering bulbs in January for despatch in September.

Or perhaps I should get some more blue glass danglers to go in the crab apple by the blue shed.  The tree has grown since I bought the others so that there aren't really enough to go round.  I like the glass decorations, and felt rather crushed when I sat fairly recently behind two other gardening ladies of a certain age at a lecture, and they were discussing some garden they had both visited.  It had glass danglers, and both considered them very vulgar.

There will be room for some small trees along the side of the wood where we have removed the great expanse of evil white stemmed brambles, and the Bluebell Nursery website provided useful reading.  The site is fairly sheltered, gets partial sun, is on the acid side of neutral, and is well drained to the point of being dry in a hot summer.  Perhaps a relatively drought tolerant form of Acer?  I used to fancy magnolias, but their big leaves are very smothering of the ground level plants when they drop, so much so that Peter Smithers, diplomat and politician, who made a great woodland garden in Switzerland, had to adapt his design for the ground planting below his magnolias because the interweaving medley of shade loving plants he imagined could not cope with having magnolia leaves dumped on them.  It's true that with only one or two trees and not a whole hillside of them I could in theory pick the leaves up, but it would be another thing to do, that might not get done.  Acer leaves are daintier and better behaved.  And a drought tolerant Acer might be easier to find than a drought tolerant magnolia, though Lord Blakenham persuaded them to grow on top of his hill outside Ipswich, which can't have been the dampest place.  He died recently, poor thing.

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