I went over to Laura’s last weekend anticipating an omni-gossip interspersed with bowls of soup and cups of tea, but was summarily appointed to the dreary duty of pulling manky little leaves off dismal-looking auriculas. Laura does go in for this type of dainty treasure – fascinating in their own way, but more self-regarding than Donald Trump in full …….trump. I imagine Auricula as the kind of insufferable little girl at school who always had the shiniest shoes and boasted about the nicest holidays, but was frankly too much of a princess to have friends. Now a truly classy plant – and one that performs in January is Louise’s brilliant Great Plant this Month – it gets a 9/10 rating in the Cotswold Garden Catalogue – no easy feat. When you see it, you’ll want it.
Of course there are other jobs that need doing in January or February – pruning wisteria is one of them. If you chop back all of those long wavy growths that the plant made in the summer and autumn to two or three buds now, you will get far more of those glorious racemes of flowers later. And I always like to prune back all of the bush and shrub roses now while they are dormant; I go for any dead or crossing bits, and anything heading relentlessly for the centre of the bush. Everything else gets trimmed back to about half its height to an outward-facing bud.
But we have two rose hedges as well – one of robust rugosas which act as a windbreak, and one of glorious pink ‘Alnwick’ roses – and they both get much tougher treatment: sliced back to about two-thirds of their height with a hedge-trimmer. And honestly, they seem to thrive on it. What a gorgeous thing ‘Alnwick’ is, producing flush after flush of sweetly-scented cupped blooms….now that’s the kind of princess that I DO like to have in my garden – low-maintenance, a good mixer, knock-out beauty – not unlike moi in many ways.
Yes well no one could ever accuse Elaine of hiding the light of her personal attributes under the proverbial bushel – but really I don’t know why she was so sniffy about being asked to pull off a few withered Primula auricula leaves when she seems quite happy to spend her winters hacking back her shrub roses with a chainsaw (or was it a hedge trimmer?)
Coming very recently to married life I have so much to learn from Laura – I bought my husband a magazine subscription, what was I thinking of? If you clicked on the link in Elaine’s blog, you’ll know I was recently buying auriculas at Abriachan Nurseries near Inverness. In particular I chose ‘Glenelg’ – the placename of a magical Highland village near Skye – to give to one of its natives and my top tier friend, Margaret. Abriachan’s Hamish Davidson told me the stock had come from a Mrs Mary Robinson, (friend of the legendary Scottish botanical artist Mary McMurtrie), who had lived at Glenelg and who, having created this beautiful little flower, bequeathed her collection of auriculas to Abriachan – a family run nursery above the shores of Loch Ness.
By valuing this deeply personal provenance I feel I am transferring my reputation for being shallow and blingy to Elaine and her ‘shiny shoes’ prejudice against auriculas. However on the subject of prejudice – I can’t get see the attraction of those whippy willows and dogwoods that E and L eulogise over for winter colour. Useful for brightening up a roundabout on the A1 – but in your garden? Really? Unfortunately I know they have more to say about them in our next blog.
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