The talk at this month's garden club meeting was about snowdrops and other small early flowering bulbs, by somebody who has been growing them for nearly fifty years in the sort of garden that gets written up in national gardening magazines. It looks lovely in the articles, and he opens for the National Gardens Scheme, only Beccles always seems a long way to drive and especially in February.
I learnt some useful things. The grey leaved Galanthus elwesii is content in sunny places and to be baked in summer, unlike the familiar common snowdrop Galanthus nivalis. The bulbs should be planted deep, though, and may pull themselves down to a foot below ground. And the name is pronounced Ell-wess-ee-i. It's one of those names I've seen written down often enough in books and catalogues without ever actually knowing how I was supposed to say it, and whether the second syllable should rhyme with tress or wheeze.
Snowdrops can be fickle. Sometimes a patch that has done fine for years suddenly dwindles to nothing. That makes me feel better about the way that some have vanished from our garden. Lifting and splitting them is not a sure-fire exercise. Sometimes they fail to take when replanted and you have killed them. That makes me feel better about buying a box every few years when I want more, rather than trying to be self-sufficient and digging up my fattest colonies to spread them about.
He passed pots of bulbs around for us to look at and admire their tiny perfection and individual differences close up. Pale yellow aconites are much, much more beautiful than the normal brassy yellow sort, which I am not awfully keen on, which is just as well as they will not grow for me. He said that quite a few people found winter aconites impossible, and he thought it was down to the soil conditions, and that they would not take sand and needed a moist, organic soil. But the chairman spoke up and said that they seeded themselves in her gravel. The speaker was not offended. They know each other, and both are experienced enough gardeners to know that what makes plants happy in one place and not another is mysterious. The palest aconite he sold was called 'Pauline' and really was very beautiful, only at eight pounds a bulb I am not going to buy one.
Yellow snowdrops tend not to be good doers. A few years back somebody paid a thousand pounds for a single bulb of 'Wendy's Gold', thinking they would bulk it up and make a profit on their investment. To get identical plants you cut the original bulb into slivers and put them in a warm, dark, moist, sterile place until new little bulbils form on the pieces of the old bulb. 'Wendy's Gold' died.
If I were to plant Cyclamen repandum I could extend the cyclamen season into June. The colour range is not as great as with C. coum, mostly reddish purple with a few white ones, but it's a thought. I like cyclamen and the shady areas of the garden have mostly run out of flowers by June.
I came home with envelopes of cash and assorted cheques for the upcoming garden visits, so very soon I will need to count them and pay everything in to the bank. I still haven't had the bill for hall hire for the past two meetings, but I do now have the phone number of the hall's treasurer written down on a paper hankie.