March and April saw the UK in a state of stasis for most of us as the car was left on the drive, shopping delivered by van, family greeted from a distance and we were allowed only a fifty minute walk from the home. Luckily we enjoyed almost unprecedented warm weather in which to bask in glorious sun for those lucky enough to have a garden. I set about redesigning it, clearing out shrubs and trees. But this image sums up that period of stagnant personal freedom at a time of burgeoning growth. In a patch of land awaiting development a self-sown crab apple had the most intense red buds and our daily walks gave us time to observe its daily development as intensely as we might in our own garden. Sadly the fruits never developed to a standard required for the orchard but in that time it was special indeed. As we re-enter lockdown I fervently hope I’m not tracing its progress as winter 2021 turns to spring.
Trips from cruise ships can be a formulaic exercise, fun but, well, formulaic. Our January 2020 visit to Jean Renwick’s garden on the fertile island of Grenada in the Southern Caribbean was certainly slickly organised as a convoy of minibuses sped up the hillside, avoiding those earlier minibuses speeding down. The drivers chatted together as we clambered out to be greeted by giant tortoises and Jean’s son, ‘Randy by name, randy by nature.’
The garden was first landscaped in the early 1990s and wrecked by a hurricane in 2004. The reliable rainfall, summer temperatures and rich volcanic soil are the aces in the pack. Everything grows profusely so initial planting and subsequent recovery were easier than in a less agreeable climate. But Mrs Renwick had the perfect eye and determination. She told us how in the early days she had smuggled, er imported, plants and seeds to the island. The result is a lush paradise.
Our guide explained the medicinal qualities of the plants; annato or lipstick plant, the seeds used to rouge the lips of little girls and, as we discovered for ourselves, visitors; and citrus fruits, palm trees and a myriad plants we can dream of.
Again formulaically perhaps but the climax of the visit was a drink of rum punch on the veranda and welcome indeed. Though as pleasurable was a little glance at Jean’s delightful home. More precious was an opportunity to chat to the lady herself and congratulate her on a garden that surpassed expectations and the cruise formula.
And finally …
Last year at this time we were preparing to set off for Central America and the Caribbean for five weeks of welcome sun. A year previous to that I’d lost several snowdrops and many labels and pots as torrential rain, wind and pathetic carpentry completely collapsed two display benches strapped together for mutual support. Anyway the support failed, ended in divorce and I’m still counting the cost as I’ve been unable to identify or locate prized specimens. Which brings me to this unnamed pot. On January 3rd 2019 when we said goodbye to winter and set out for summer in a taxi it was as it is when photographed this very morning before the snow came down and covered the weeds. I never did discover what variety it is. And now is almost the moment, the denouement. What will it be? The excitement is too much to bear. Meanwhile I’ve done two things with potted snowdrops: heavy terracotta pots for bottom shelves, plastic for the top. No more collapses. Oh, and I’ve planted far more snowdrops in the borders and mislaid lots of labels as herbaceous plants throw them about like jetsam. Keep checking in for the big reveal. Will I be able to attach a label?
I once read an article about the threats posed by bright, modern daffodils encroaching on the traditional more subdued flowers of Ullswater, immortalised in William Wordsworth’s poem. ‘Corby Candle’ is too bright for the Cumbrian lake. A hybrid from the Northamptonshire enthusiast, John Gibson in 2003, this is a vibrant highlight in the Spring border. John is very active in the Daffodil Society. Indeed, should you require a copy of the latest RHS Daffodil, Snowdrop & Tulip yearbook, John is the port of call. One of my favourite modern narcissus.
Apart from the obvious blessings of grandchildren and son-in-law hiding behind the hedge I’m posting this to remind me of how our garden looked in early July. So, the rowan tree got a fatal fungus, the Juniper ‘Skyrocket’ simply rocketed too far and the other conifer whose name escapes me got too dense. The roses to the left were transplanted where possible, though not the red one sadly. However Rosa ‘Cliff Richard’, a glorious pink rose, remains in situation. Looking at our now expansive front lawn I’m loathe to post a photograph as it all looks so bare, requiring spring warmth to blend turf and existing turf together. Our glorious family are blooming of course.
Colchicums lighten the garden as we move into winter. I have quite a collection. These are not in any order because I’m no authority but ‘Purpureum’, ‘Byzantium’, ‘Autumnale’ and ‘Dick Trotter’ are shown flowering today. They were photographed in pots but are now planted in the borders and mixed in with daffodils, snowdrops and spring flowering crocus. Friends dropping a parcel off this afternoon commented on the size of the front garden now the central bed is missing but had most to say about the autumn crocus. When flowers are so flamboyant at this time of year their membership of the lily family is clear to see.
Galanthus nivalis Sandersii Group is an odd name for a snowdrop. It doesn’t trip off the tongue. Essentially it is the yellow equivalent of the common snowdrop. Trust me, there are lots of versions on sale. If they have the sulphur yellow colouring they are to be welcomed. Mine, I’m led to believe by the original seller some seven or so years ago, comes from Howick in Northumberland from the original clone. I bought it on Ebay so it must be true and, knowing something of the seller, it is as original as can be. For a vastly inflated sum you can buy Galanthus nivalis Sandersii Group ‘Golden Promise’. It promises to be sturdier, more stable, more yellow, more compact and, crucially, more expensive. I’ll stick with my dependable, yellow, compact little charmer from eBay. They are pretty little plants, those bright yellow ovaries brightening up the winter gloom. The photograph was taken on the 22nd February. I should say by explanation of my lack of snowdrop 2020 posts that for eight weeks we were in the Caribbean, my first time away from our winter garden. Glorious experience but not to be repeated. I like winter here. Quite a clump of these charmers were waiting for us when we returned. Then Covid …
The Harlow Car hybrid primulas (they spell it like that!) are a showy hybridisation of Primula bulleyana, P. beesiana, P. japonica and P. pulverulenta that occurred naturally in the boggy soil some years ago.
The wisteria, hostas, Matteuccia and maple catch the eye plus the perfect blue of assorted Meconopsis. The gardens hosted the national trials of the latter some years ago and one is in in poppy heaven either side of the stream. There are colours here other than blues.