22 October 2020
One of my favourite ever lines in a TV drama was when Maggie Smith, playing a vicar’s wife in Alan Bennett’s excellent ‘Talking Heads’ uttered bitterly:
‘If you think squash is a competitive sport, you should try flowering arranging’.
My Mum was a keen and very skilled arranger of flowers so I have witnessed this from the sidelines, albeit a few years ago now. The same can be said of many pastimes, and I admit that gardening is one of them. In a kindly way though. I’m a self-confessed obsessive plantswoman and a fair bit of plant snobbery is contained in that description of me. How does this manifest itself? Through having to have that unusual, trendy or rare plant, beautifully grown, in your garden. Visitors will hopefully look on curiously and with admiration and ask the plant snob the question that warms their heart: ‘wow, I haven’t seen that before, what is it?’
But there is a downside. Some plants may look good in a catalogue or at a garden festival (remember those?) but they are bloomin hard to keep happy and thriving. Here are a few I may decide to throw in the towel with:
Salvia Amistad: I know this is THE trendy plant at the moment. But it flops around a bit and only flowers really well if conditions are perfect: that is well- drained, rich soil that never dries out and is in full sun. How on earth you are supposed to conjure that set of requirements up is beyond me;
Amica zygomeris: this is a tall shrubby thing from Mexico with small heart shaped leaves and weird yellowish flowers in early Autumn. It look a bit like a pea plant on steroids and wouldn’t look out of place on the set of a horror movie, such is its charm;
Paulownia tomentosa, the Foxglove Tree: This has grown huge very quickly, currently standing at 4 metres with very big heart shaped leaves (see photo). The rather lovely flowers are supposed to arrive early before the leaves appear. In the several years it has lived in our garden, guess how many flowers have appeared? You’ve got it, none;
Hymenocallis or the Peruvian daffodil: Massive, strap like leaves and a pretty, scented white flower more like a fancy iris than a daffodil in my opinion. This year I warned them that, if they didn’t produce more flowers, they would be compost. So I got 4 scraggy flowers in a very large pot. To add insult to injury, slugs have munched through them as well.
If you’ve succeeded with any of the above plants, I’d be pleased to hear from you how you did it!
Having said all that, I may give them all another chance, there is always next year. Have I learned the lesson and will I stop buying rare plants? Unlikely!
It’s bulb buying time. Daffodils can be bought and planted now. They don’t want to hang around too long or they will dry out. Tulips need to go in a bit later or they won’t thrive, the end of this month or even November is fine. I get mine usually from de Jager in big quantities, but they are in garden centres locally now. Just make sure the bulbs are fresh and plump, if they are looking desiccated and are trying to shoot give them a wide berth.