We wandered down the back garden this afternoon with our mugs of tea to see what was happening. It was a mixed picture. Some of the shrubs have sailed through the snow, no problem. The buds of Magnolia stellata 'Waterlily' have opened in the past couple of days and the bush is smothered in pristine, double, snaky-petalled flowers. You would not guess the Beast From the East had been anywhere near it. Corylopsis sinensis var. sinensis has been putting on a fine show for a few days now. I can see it from the bathroom window, since it has grown much larger than I was expecting. The RHS gives its ultimate height and spread as anywhere between 2.5 and 4 metres so I can't say I wasn't warned. It goes under at least two synonyms, Corylopsis willmottiae and Corylopsis yunannensis, and I think I must simply have got in a muddle. Most articles about Corylopsis start by reassuring the reader that they are medium sized shrubs. It has dangling racemes of pale yellow flowers, produced in huge numbers, and is a pretty thing. But large.
Poor old Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is another case entirely. Immediately after the cold spell many of the leaves fell off, and I hoped that this was merely a spring moult, since some varieties of D. bholua can be evergreen or deciduous depending on the weather. This afternoon, though, the twigs had a shriveled air, and I didn't like the look of them at all. If I lose the top growth perhaps it will shoot again from the base, since it has been suckering merrily around the bed and some of the suckers at the back look fine, but it is a pity it looks so poorly. It was a very fine specimen.
At ground level the multi-coloured polyanthus are fine, and the hyacinths are having a superb year. The latter are all relicts of past displays in pots, the bulbs salvaged and planted out in the borders after flowering. Hyacinths make very long lasting plants in the garden. The polyanthus are a cheerful mishmash of plants raised from seed, and bought from here and there, B&Q, garden centres, and a plant stall outside a bungalow near my former Pilates teacher's house. There is no colour scheme to speak of, beyond being more mauve at one end and more yellow at the other, and some of the individual flowers are big and brash. They would not pass muster in a garden of impeccable good taste, but I like them because they chime with my childhood memories of polyanthus, and the Systems Administrator likes them because they are colourful and in the SA's book you can have too much Good Taste in a garden. The SA has not yet learned to share my enthusiasm for small green flowers, for example.
The evergreen foliage of the clumps of Libertia grandiflora and Watsonia pillansii is badly browned and scorched, and altogether the garden still wears a rather shabby and shell-shocked air, between the isolated bursts of colour.