So here we are, we’ve reached Christmas again, and despite our very best efforts, our gardens are STILL not perfect…(for perfect look at Louise’s wonderful photo of her Great Plant this Month) As we systematically run out of options in the Brexit quagmire and England’s bowling attack in Australia, I think we should all turn joyfully to studying our gardens with a clear eye as to what ‘worked’ last year, and what didn’t.
The wonderful series The Detectorists has just finished and it got me thinking about why a programme about metal detectors has struck such a chord with folk: it’s about a hobby, and we Brits are great hobbyists, it takes place in the countryside, the participants are generally patient people, and most of all, it’s driven by hope over experience. (Oh yes, and there’s a lot of digging involved.) All these qualities could be equally applied to gardening, so how can I get closer to my ‘pot of Roman gold’ in the garden next year?
First and foremost, I MUST be more ruthless about plants that are not thriving – it’s appallingly easy for a soft-hearted gardener to end up with a patch full of Anates cataces, aka Lame Ducks, defiantly not actually dying, but limping on with a mocking smirk. I must dig out a ‘Graham Thomas’ rose in my Eastbourne garden for instance – it has been reminiscing about past glories for far too long. Ditto, a scraggy old Teucrium fruticans in France – anything that you have grown from a tiny cutting is that much harder to bin, isn’t it, infanticide has a tricky moral dimension.
And then there are the things I need more of (apart, obviously, from Whole Nut chocolate and a crisp dry white). I must divide Geranium ‘Rozanne’, for one, and spread it around. I know it’s a cliché, but what a plant! In glowing flower for months and months, never a nuisance, beloved by insects. Its only vice is that it looks EXACTLY like a buttercup root in the spring, so please be very careful not to yank it up in errror.
Now what has worked for you this last year, dear sisters, and what in your gardens, is going to get a steely-eyed New Year scything?
My plan for 2018 is to grow more and more plants that no one has ever heard of. I would like my garden to be more ‘botanical collection’ and less ‘Butlins-on-sea’. So no more bedding out, no repeated planting themes, no matching colour schemes – it’s going to be all obscure and understated oddities from now on (E and C would probably point out at this stage that a garden’s character reflects that of its owner, and whilst Elaine’s garden is all vivaciousness and colour, and Caroline’s is a triumph of grit against adversity, mine will just be weird….)
I sent poor Caroline on a mission to Glendoick near Dundee a few weeks ago to collect the last remaining rooted cuttings of this wonderful nursery’s Vireya Rhododendron
collection before they ceased production of this line of dwarf subtropical rarities and tending these little gems in my glasshouse is giving me inestimable pleasure. So all effort in the coming year will be devoted to my growing collection of South African Proteas,
Maderian Echiums and tender rhododendrons.
Unfortunately this means that anything commonplace, even out in the garden, is going to get short shrift to make room for these other worldly incomers in my dystopian garden vision, and if I was an innocent sweet hard working Geranium ‘Rozanne’ I would be applying for a transfer to Elaine’s garden quicker than an England batting collapse.
What with Elaine eliminating her struggling perennials like a pre-menstrual Kylo Ren (you have seen the latest Star Wars film, right?) and Laura resolving to grow things purely on the basis that no one has ever heard of them, you do wonder how I ever turned out so pleasantly normal drawing from the same gene pool.
Like, I suspect, most people reading this blog I just cherished everything that had the guts to give it a go in my garden this year – not everything did. Casualties from my windy, salty, Scottish corner (2017) included: Actea ‘Brunette’ which did not turn out like the one in our feature photo at the top, but went blonde and died; Echinops ‘Arctic Glow’ prompt demise in East Lothian I thought a bit rich given its promising name; and the Mediterranean Cynara cardunculus which clearly thought its new home a complete joke and voted with its stem.
Conversely others showed balls of steel – Kniphofia ‘Tawny King’;
Diascea personata, plus two Geranium macrorrhizums ‘Galgenveld’ and ‘White Ness’. Their low centre of gravity coupled with British Grit were worthy of the dam-busters theme tune…..thank you Cranesbill Nurseries.
which both contributed lovely scent; foliage and flowers in that little haven, together with (and wait for E & L to flinch) a trailing nasturtium and some streptocarpus with I bought as plugs from Chelsea, drawing a reaction from Laura that she reserves for four-year-olds and me. I’m sorry girls but they were jolly cheery and I’ll be growing these again in 2018!