So there I was this morning – all chirpy and free like the birds, with a day to spend in the garden. All is going so well down there – things shooting that I never expected to see again, plants establishing nicely with the warmth and a drop of rain.
Lots of things ticked off my open days ‘to do’ list – forget about clipping the box, visitors will have to experience it wild and woolly! (I got nervous about clipping it because tightly clipped box is more susceptible to box blight. Little did I know that was the least of my worries!)
Cheerfully I went down, weeding bucket in hand, to attend to revamping my delphinium and aster border in the cut flower garden.
That was then, and this is now, with me sitting in front of the computer on a still bright April evening. Not my style. How did that happen?
I’ll explain later – first I want to record (as much for my own sake as anything) a few of my ‘favourite things’ over the last four weeks. (Note to self: blog more frequently … and more briefly!)
I haven’t many different daffodils in the garden, but I do treasure the ones I have. First to flower is always the Bon Viveur’s ‘Jet Fire’.
He develops obsessions with particular plants (two peas in a pod?) and so in it went, first in 2014, and another 10 in 2017.
Then there are the Jennys – ‘Jenny’ and ‘Peeping Jenny’. ‘Peeping Jenny’ starts before ‘Jenny’, in March. Gazing up in search of something … it is all that a daffodil should be.
‘Jenny’ is my favourite, much shyer and with a paler trumpet. A little confused, with all the little heads looking in different directions. Where is danger coming from? Is it the voles today?
‘Mount Hood’ was a new addition this year, although I’ve grown it in the past when it just kept on giving and increasing. The Bon Viveur bought the bulbs when he was in Ireland last summer – they came from our previous home in West Cork (where we never grew it!). If you like white daffodils, definitely give this one a go.
Narcissus ‘Actaea’ is amongst the last of the narcissus to flower – with a delicious scent.
‘Actaea’ is followed by Narcissus poeticus ‘Recurvus’, the wild poet’s narcissus. It comes into flower at least a week later and is still going strong here, down in the wilder shrub area I’m trying to create in the Hornbeam Gardens.
Another new addition (which I don’t recall flowering last year, although it was planted in Autumn 2016) is ‘Goose Green’. Also in this Narcissus poeticus group, I love it for the pronounced green inside the little coronet. But I’m a sucker for green in flowers.
And the tulips – ahhh … will I ever get enough of them?
The first, flowering from about 8 April, was ‘Sweet Impression’ in the Rose Walk.
There were three little species tulips in the Rose Walk as well. A dainty little Lady tulip, Tulipa clusiana, called ‘Cynthia’ …
Tulipa tarda …
And Tulipa batalinii ‘Bronze Charm’, which was still flowering this morning.
Tulipa saxatilis ‘Lilac Wonder’ was on the go in the Hornbeam Gardens just before before Narcissus poeticus ‘Recurvus’ started into bloom. When I first planted them in 2016 I had only leaves – this year some flowers!
I always eagerly await ‘Queen of the Night’ and ‘China Pink’ in the Rose Walk. These were planted because they persisted in a previous garden. However, after much thought, I’ve decided that the persistence of a tulip depends on the soil: that previous garden was on clay too – but not as heavy and the garden not as hot as at Chatillon. The Queen and ‘China Pink’ have to be topped up every year in this garden if I want a decent show. The message seems to be that just because a tulip is persistent for someone else doesn’t mean it will work in your garden!
On the other hand ‘Sorbet’, which hasn’t been planted since 2015, comes back in fairly satisfying numbers each year. It’s a very nice surprise, indeed, when it arrives.
This is what I love about the Rose Walk at this time of year. I have been equally entranced by stitchwort growing in long grass on road verges – I could look for hours. It’s the allium buds that have me spellbound here.
I have some rather good ‘West Point’ and ‘Flaming Spring Green’ in the Long Border, which reappear and have done so since planting in autumn 2013 – and I don’t think their number has ever dwindled.
As planned, I took the ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Aladdin’ (which I had in the Knot Garden in 2017) down to the Long Border this year and they’ve been quite a treat, especially as I managed to plant Euphorbia polychroma (an old favourite of mine for the spring contrast it makes to tulips) last spring. I really love this plant – it’s as delightful in the same way as that old trouper, Alchemilla mollis.
In pots I’ve also been enjoying a NOT ‘Queen of the Night’ on the Mirror Garden in my blue pots. It’s really charming, but definitely not what I wanted. Any ideas?
And on the supper terrace are two pots full of dear little cheapies from Lidl – ‘Greenland’. I adore the Viridiflora tulips. Again that passion for green in flowers …
And so – in the Knot Garden this morning I met my nemesis (for the next year or so, I reckon). I was admiring the individual charms of purple-black ‘Paul Scherer’ …
teamed with the fringed violet of ‘Blue Heron’ …
… while swearing also that such a dark tulip as ‘Paul Sherer’ should never be planted in the centre of the knot again – it disappears – and regretting the fact that pale yellow ‘Cistula’ hadn’t shown up at all (I’ve never complained to a bulb merchant before, but there’s always a first time).
And then I noticed some suspicious webbing on the box plants. Yes, it’s here – box tree moth caterpillar. In fact I suspect that it was lurking last year, but I was in denial at that stage because 2017 saw me in a bit of a Greta Garbo phase!
I have now trawled over the entire garden and it is everywhere – not a single hedge or plant is untouched (and I have a few hedges).
XenTari has been ordered, and sprayer from Amazon (XenTari is a Bacillus thuringiensis biological control which gets a good press). All arriving Saturday. But I fear the fight to save the box will prove too costly, both in time and money. In my head I’m already planning their replacements. I think lavender would be nice for all the terrace edges where we have box at present. But what about my sweet little dumplings in the Mirror Garden?
Ilex crenata might look to be a good idea, but I don’t think holly is very happy on our heavy soil. And apparently the only other plant that box moth likes is euonymus … so my back-up plan to replace box with Euonymus japonicus ‘Microphyllus’ is out of the question.
I’ll be afraid to go out into the garden tomorrow morning – will all the box be dead already? Will I spend another 2 hours (as I did today) hand-picking the little blighters?
At times like this you have to go a bit Scarlett O’Hara don’t you?
Otherwise you’d be as sombre (and not as beautiful) as a black tulip.