Each To Their Own

Tags

I needed to know if these Nemesias were better than those on sale at the other nursery, fifteen miles in the opposite direction. Attila was bored with constant mental comparisons which were really outside his area of expertise. I’ve dragged him around the locality, looking for tender annuals for containers and hanging baskets. I know that one vendor will have perfect Petunias and another will offer faultless Osteospermums. The success of my summer courtyard display hinges upon making crucial decisions now but after several days of shopping, my spouse’s patience was at a dangerously low ebb.
Net's rose, possibly “Bleu Magenta”
Net’s rose, possibly “Bleu Magenta”

The lawn was a different matter. He found the scarifier at the back of the shed and applied it with a will, so that what was lushly green with clover is now balding badly. I used a water-in weed ‘n’ feed and did that job myself to avoid recriminations, should something precious be killed while the dandelions thrive. I donned a ski headband whilst carrying out the operation. That’s a deeply unflattering garment; I caught sight of myself in a mirror and realised that I looked like a startled angora hamster caught in a wind tunnel. He sprinkled lawn green and grass seed, having read and ignored the instructions. The hose was dragged to the front, connected to a curly extension. Attila cleared off on some arcane masculine pursuit, leaving me with directions to shift the sprinkler on a strict half hour schedule. The strange plastic spiral was designed to catch on the brick edging during the move, giving me a cold shower every twenty seconds. I managed to follow his commands whilst involuntarily entering the wet t-shirt competition and the saintly grip on my temper contest.
Allium schubertii (ornamental onion)
Allium schubertii (ornamental onion)

This is the moment when the garden has done the spring thing. Everything seems to be holding a quivering breath, drawing its skirts about for summer. Decisions have to be made regarding the leaves of daffodils and tulips, which are flopping about the borders like actresses in a melodrama. Are they dead enough to remove yet, or could they slurp up another week’s sunshine, to big up next year’s blooms? The hardy perennials are making their bid for the space. Thugs like Phlomis russeliana (Turkish sage) and Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae (Mrs. Robb’s bonnet) require harsh discipline to keep them in some order. I am a tough tyrant and tear out the unruly with no mercy. My partner is a softy, who would leave more wambly specimens to be subsumed by the brutes.
Front garden annuals
Front garden annuals

Nematodes have been applied for biological control, where the slugs are carving impertinent paths through that which is most prized. The good critters are active in the soil where snails don’t congregate, so the latter are left largely untouched. I have dosed the Auriculas with vine weevil drench; the sudden loss of perk to their leaves indicates the presence of the fat, greasy white grubs which do all the damage. I use systemic Provado, a horrible yellow opaque liquid that reminds me of Granny’s indigestion cure which had the same viscous quality, but pink. The blue tits are nesting in the trees and under next door’s roof. The season is responding to the sunshine with the twitter of the birds, the tootle of an ice cream van and the gentle, heartfelt groan of the unaccustomed gardener.

A Passion For Prickles

Tags

If I collected old bicycle frames, 1950’s corsets and empty crisp packets, everybody would be worried and asking each other “What shall we do about Mother?” Documentaries would visit the chaos briefly and my obsession would be the subject of scorn. As it is, my fixation is for curating botanical specimens and spectators compliment me on my single mindedness of purpose. My family buy me rare examples and still wonder what to do with me. Wherever possible, I lure my kin into my mania. So it was that Cineraria and Angelica went with us to the North West Cactus Mart in Manchester, having given their sports fiend partners the slip. Basil said that wandering around in concentric circles looking at plants was the worst possible pursuit that he could think of, then settled down to watch the Formula One car racing. Attila received a straight line trip from the woman in the satnav. For once he had no complaints, apart from her insistence on taking us through every red traffic light in three counties, because we were running late for the start.
Frithia pulchra (baby toes)
Frithia pulchra (baby toes)

Daughter Cindy has developed a taste for pert, bulbous, round ones. Angie celebrates all different shapes and wants as much texture and variety as she can cram into her bijou sun trap. Spouse admires succulents and I’m looking for something utterly unlike anything I already have. I promised my husband that I probably wouldn’t spend any money and he was right to look sceptical. We arrived amongst a seraglio of cactus flesh; endless tables of perfect, plump examples of plants all buffed to flawlessness by proud vendors. Sellers were knowledgeable and enthusiastic, keen to share hints and tips for cultivation. Old hands like us carried trays in which to accumulate our prizes, since clasping balls of spikes to your chest is a game that quickly loses its charm.
Rebutia heliosa on a graft
Rebutia heliosa, on a graft

The four of us scattered to follow individual fascinations, crossing paths to swap notes on particularly excellent stands and rewards gained there. I bought Attila a Crassula “Carolita”, vastly fetching but small enough for him not to notice in the wealth on offer and amid the scrum of customers. He acquired a Mammillaria spinosissima for me, which was positively hazy behind a cloud of spines and we exchanged gifts with arms entwined, like honeymooners sipping champagne but with much more care.
The cactus collection
The collection

On the way back home without time constraints, the lights were all green but our boxed director of maps knew nothing of a new road and two recent roundabouts. We were all talking about where we had been and what we had found, so took three wrong turns. We didn’t really care. Anyone who says that they don’t like cacti, I’m prepared to push earthworms in their ear until they change their mind.

Living The Dream

Tags

,

The garden was singing a siren song and I found myself helpless in its grasp. I was supposed to be spring cleaning but went out for a brief wander, before I got down to work. I spotted a dandelion, then a jack-by-the-hedge and that turned into a three hour session. No duster was sullied, nor scrubbing brush smeared around but if I get an early march on the bastards and try to eradicate every weed that I find, then summer is more relaxing. I don’t spend the season sprawled on a lounger, getting the more inaccessible bits tanned. Every time that I sit and scan the greenery, I spy something that requires attention. If I break the back of removing the uninvited plants now, there are simply more casual assaults on them later, in between enjoying the company of welcome guests.
Aquilegia vulgaris “Black Barlow” (columbine)
Aquilegia vulgaris “Black Barlow” (columbine)

I ambled about soaking up the atmosphere and noticed that the wall trained redcurrant had slipped some of its ties. Half an hour with scissors and soft string saw it sorted. Whilst trussing I observed that sawfly larvae had started munching the leaves, consuming the soft parts and leaving behind the stark naked veins. I waited until the bees were all in bed, before spritzing the plant with Provado. The breeze kept shifting, sending gusts of insecticide down the gaps in my dressing gown, while the dew soaked my slippers and moistened my toes. Ah well, at least I won’t suffer from greenfly, whitefly or mealy bugs, although rising damp could present a problem.
Physocarpus opulifolius (ninebark)
Physocarpus opulifolius (ninebark)

The lilies were infested with scarlet scoffers. I would be happy to share if they just took a nibble but the greedy beasts would eat leaves, stems and flowers if I let them have their fill. The air was rent with my shrill cries as I plucked them from the bosom of their favourite restaurant, threw them to the ground and crushed them thoroughly to a very briefly palpitating smear. I can recognise the giveaway spot of red from a considerable distance. If they are busy bonking, they are twice as easy to see and their thoughts, if any, are elsewhere. They winged their way to eternity as happy as possible in the circumstances, to my unladylike cackles of delight. This was better than sex.
Viburnum opulus “Roseum” (snowball tree)
Viburnum opulus “Roseum” (snowball bush)

Viburnum beetle was making a mess of the snowball bush. The shrub has grown so large that the only way to get good coverage was to lean out of my bedroom window and spray systemic bug killer from a height. Under cover of darkness, I thought that the neighbours wouldn’t notice. Anyone who saw as they wound their way home from the pub, would be accused of having consumed too much beer. Some woman dressed in pyjamas hanging out of an upper casement, wild haired and ranting wouldn’t be believed. What a ridiculous story. Not in this nice part of town. Must have been a nightmare.

Pushing The Boundaries

Tags

The elderly lady next door is of a combative and possibly unhinged frame of mind. She fights with all of her neighbours, indeed having started a few skirmishes with me on occasion. I’m too idle to scrap, unless the topic is of vital importance. So it was that Thistle Britches arrived at my gate with her eyeballs rotating, to tell me what him on the other side had said. Apparently he thought that the trellis she had attached to his wall had acted as a sail, contributing to the destruction of the crumbling edifice during the last storm. Mrs. B. said that she had to have a screen to give her privacy. I suggested that she sunbathe in the nude, then they wouldn’t look.
Mathiasella bupleuroides “Green Dream”
Mathiasella bupleuroides “Green Dream”

During one of the periods when Thistle wasn’t talking to me, her Eucalyptus tree died. I used to weed beneath its creaking overhanging branches, with one eye on the ground elder and the other looking up for parting timber. I presented a peculiar sight. I tried not to think about the Australian name for them as “widow makers”, since if a piece were to fall on you, your worries would be over. When we offered to pay half of a tree surgeon’s fee, she nearly took our hand off. My friend Gary the Buddhist repaired his fence without thought of touching up the resident next door. When the job was done, he complimented him on the lovely finish and offered Gary a lump of cash as his share. When this was politely declined, the neighbour put the money on the wall and said “Well, I’ll just leave this here then, it’s yours if you’d like to take it”. A nice way to tackle it, I thought that improved his karma considerably.
Aconitum napellus (monkshood)
Aconitum napellus (monkshood)

All around us, the cherries in adjacent plots are flowering their socks off. The Japanese say that the blossom is three times beautiful, on the tree, in the air and on the ground. Since the ordinary brown boles are taking up someone else’s room, I get to enjoy the show at my leisure. It’s an old horticultural trick, to allow greenery beyond your fortifications to extend the sense of space. Beyond my bottom wall, they have an impenetrable barricade of greenery, including a magnificent Taxus baccata (yew). The whole lot forms a wonderful backdrop to my hardy perennials and I am most grateful. I keep an eye on some of my plants which have less than well mannered behaviour, since I don’t want to fall out with anyone.
Tulipa “Ronaldo”
Tulipa “Ronaldo”

When Attila worked in an office, I made him a cactus garden for his desk. After a few days, his fellow computer jockeys complained about the tiny airborne flies that plastered their monitor screens, committed hara-kiri in their coffee and zoomed up their nostrils at moments of high stress and heavy breathing. The compost gnats had hatched in the extra warmth and made their presence known as far as they could flap. Although appreciative of my gift, spouse smuggled the bowl full of bugs back home, without telling his compatriots who was to blame. I agree; keeping your mouth shut is a big part of keeping the peace.

Guerrilla Gardening

Tags

, ,

I’m up early with the wind at my back and the entire garden in my sights. Right you rotters, you’re all for it, no-one will escape my vigilance today. I marched into the conservatory and commenced hostilities by dragging the Cymbidium (boat orchid) out of its foxhole. This year’s bloom was a poor sad spindly thing which festered and died without any of its previous glowing amber beauty. I hauled it squeaking out of its cramped quarters and chopped it into three chunks with a steak knife. I removed bits of dead pseudo bulb with my exceptionally sharp implement, taking care to leave my thumbs intact, then re-potted each piece in fresh soil. Thereafter, I moved containers around in the conservatory in a complicated form of gardener’s chess. The pots have to tessellate, to fit the maximum possible number of specimens in a given space. A couple of depressed looking cacti caught my eye, so I made up a batch of gritty compost and re-homed them, getting stabbed in passing for my pains.
Primula auricula “Spring Meadow”
Primula auricula “Spring Meadow”

Outdoors then, to start a campaign of weeding the borders. I pulled up huge amounts of borage, putting the greens onto the hot box. I cut off the bases to go to the care of the council’s green bin. The stalks were prickly, micro mincing my poor hands. The nettles were making their bid for world domination as usual. I regard them as a dastardly foe, since their roots enmesh themselves with the most desirable plant that they can find. Mercifully I’m not as daft as I look and I wore tough leather gauntlets for the job. Regrettably, the enemy is sneaky, allowing any millimetre of exposed flesh between jeans and t-shirt to be lashed with stinging leaves. They threw themselves into the trench warfare with more enthusiasm than I would have credited. This early in the season they are full of juice and can inflict injury with chemical weapons through sturdy clothing. A number of shifty rear attacks left me with red welts and unpleasant itching in unbelievable places.
Rubus fruticosus “Oregon Thornless” (blackberry)
Rubus fruticosus “Oregon Thornless” (blackberry)

Rubus fruticosus (blackberry) requires attention every spring; my variety is “Oregon Thornless” which has large, abundant fruit with a wonderful flavour and no barbs, spikes or bristles. The job of cutting down old stems and tying in the new is a pleasure. Unfortunately the self-sown seedlings which crowd the ground are thorn more, thus making up for their parent’s sweet nature. Their removal is a process full of hurt and my paws were raw from work undertaken. This was going to smart in the shower.
Dicentra formosa (bleeding heart)
Dicentra formosa (bleeding heart)

While I underwent my horticultural agonies in stoical silence, Attila attacked the Dahlias. Without protest, he buried the tubers in record time, refraining from breaking emerging lilies or subsuming the poppies. He dug out finished compost from the bin and spread it over the bed without complaint. Then he forked across two bays stuffed with rotting vegetation, lightly larded with horse manure. He moaned, bleated and bitched throughout the entire operation. He did such a brilliant job, I let him.

The Easter Story

Tags

I’ve sold my baby, my beautiful car. Although I got more for her than expected since she is a classic, I still feel like a traitor. I waved the cash proceeds at Attila and demanded something tangible to show for my thirty pieces of silver. Off to my favourite hardware stockist then, for winter pots. Much like my adored automobile, the old terracottas have seen loyal service for many years. Since I never throw anything away, these have been emptied of finished back season bedding. Violas are vile things. To heck with your heartsease, I’m tired of pandering to pansies. I’ve watched the last ones that I shall ever buy, expire in a purulent heap of stringy stalks. The pots have been scrubbed and set aside for re-filling with tender annuals, as soon as these can be trusted with the weather.
Enkianthus campanulatus (ten years of leave and no flower, until now)
Enkianthus campanulatus, ten years of leaves and no flower, until now

The new models are shiny go-faster black, frost proof clay to accord with the gloss painted woodwork. I’ve filled them with lime green Choisya x dewitteana ‘Aztec Gold’ (Mexican orange blossom), two Juniperus squamata (flaky juniper) “Blue Star”, a Pieris, an Olearia (New Zealand holly), Photinia “Red Robin” and some variegated ivies in dusky shades, amongst others. I’ve put them in a sunny spot for the summer, so that they can put down some roots. I’ll sprinkle the arrangement with miniature spring bulbs when they become available. I’m thinking pale blue Iris reticulata and Muscari armenaicum (grape hyacinth), ‘Valerie Finnis’ perhaps. Maybe tiny daffodils and dwarf yellow tulips, “Tarda” for preference, that sounds lovely. In the autumn, I shall drag the display to the front door, where it will light up the corner with a discreet dollop of colour. With a little luck nothing will die by inches or fester in unattractive sodden lumps, since there won’t be a pansy in sight.
Jasminum officinale & Camellia japonica “Nobilissima” in the conservatory
Jasminum officinale & Camellia japonica “Nobilissima” in the conservatory

With the containers corralled temporarily, I can blitz the porch with weed killer and disaccommodate the grass which grows between the tiles. If I can find the tin of brick acid in the shed, I’ll give the surface a birthday it will never forget, at least until next year. While I’ve been fiddling about with my small scale gardens, my right hand man has shipped huge bales of compost to the garage and discovered that the building needs a complete reorganisation, in order to fit them in. Whilst in pursuit of the caustic to enable me to clean the floor of the portico, he found a tin of white paint and remembered another job that needs doing. Therefore he’s been rushing around anointing all of the windowsills, along with anything else that holds still for a moment. Propping up a spade and lost in plans for my miniscule landscapes, I’ve had a couple of close shaves myself.
Akebia quinata (chocolate vine)
Akebia quinata (chocolate vine)

We retired to the kitchen, me with sore knees from crawling, Attila with an ache all over. In recompense in part, I made him cock-a-leekie for dinner, the broth fragrant with vegetables and a bouquet garni made of parsley, bay and rosemary tied with thread. He was so bushed that he ate the herbs, string and all. He was so weary, that he didn’t complain that the strange garnish got stuck in his teeth.

The Enemy At The Door

Tags

Beware of bear’s breeches. I was enchanted by the idea of a plant that would relish the conditions I offer of sand, drought and poor sustenance. Perhaps I should have been more stingy with home-made compost, seasoned with fish, blood and bone fertiliser. My generosity was rewarded by one year’s long season of magnificent spires of bloom in white and steel grey. That was it. Thereafter, the rich, classical leaves turned sickly Kermit frog green, flavoured with unhealthy dirty brown blotches. I gave it twelve months to redeem itself and when it failed, dug it up. Where there was one huge clump of Acanthus mollis, now there are a dozen sturdy sprouts. “You’ll never get rid of that” said Botanical Barbara. I asked her if she would like some. “No thank you, definitely not”.
Primula auricula “Purple Pip”, ten year old plant
Primula auricula “Purple Pip”, ten year old plant

The rather more desirable relative is Acanthus spinosus. The name give you a clue, it does what it says on the tin. The plant stays in a discrete tuft, refusing to proliferate. It goes without saying that the unusual species, the most prolific blossom and the best scented varieties do not spread wildly, or seed themselves about with unfettered abandon. The flowers are similar to A. mollis, with the added excitement of needle like spines embedded amongst the petals. I discovered this for myself, pushing aside a heavy bud to get to a nettle beneath. The stem bounced back and I was assaulted from behind with a blow to the buttock which felt like a mailed fist. My shriek of indignant agony echoed the length of the street, rattling chimney pots and causing twitching curtains as far as I could see through watering eyes.
Sorbaria sorbifolia (false spirea), highly invasive
Sorbaria sorbifolia (false spirea), highly invasive

It is worth noting that if someone offers you a clump of a good doer from their garden, they have found it a pest of plague-like proportions. The Sorbaria (false spirea) is suckering outrageously; If I had known about such a nasty habit, I would have kept it in a pot. Cerinthe major (honeywort) has sent seedlings into the lawn and everywhere else. Borage is a heartless brute that knows no bounds. A friend, and here I use the term loosely, gave me some of the pink Persicaria bistorta “Superba” (bistort). This hardy perennial has infested the front border, swamping the sexy Kniphofia “Ice Queen” (red hot poker) and making the Lilium longiflorum regret the day that it was born. Occasionally, a piece of the beast is requested by one who I hold dear and I hand it over with a caution as to its rowdy disposition. I do hope that they listen.
Euphorbia mellifera (honey spurge), seeds itself freely
Euphorbia mellifera (honey spurge), seeds itself freely

We’re getting ready for summer, weeding frantically. Attila is ordered into the big back bed with remorseless regularity, although he fears that we’ll never beat the wildings. I crawl around, removing hairy bittercress, henbit and plantain on hands and knees. I like to think of their removal with roots intact much like pulling the heads off with their spines attached. I’m only sorry that they don’t squeeze out a blood curdling scream. My husband threatens dandelions and dock from an upright position. When he complains about the repetitive nature of the job or the backache entailed, I clip him lightly around the head with a spade and tell him that the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Gesundheit

Tags

,

It’s time for the man in my life to stick cold medicine all over the kitchen worktops. Why do partners always appreciate quality in cookware when they’re burning the ass out of your favourite saucepan? They do not necessarily recognise excellence in dresses or superiority of manufacture in shoes. Too weak to scarify, Attila has baked many beans and watched a lot of soccer to build up his strength. He plies his handkerchief like a thunderclap, frightening cats and children. When he sneezes in the house, he cracks the plaster on the walls. If he coughs in the conservatory, he shakes the spiders from their lurkims in the rafters, where they are too high for me to reach. Once grounded, they may be corralled in a glass and ushered outside.
Jasminum officinale in bud (common white jasmine)
Jasminum officinale in bud (common white jasmine)

His malady has done him no good. I’ve chased him up a ladder to tame the Acacia dealbata (mimosa) which has finished flowering and is pressing against the ceiling in the garden room. There is always a place for pruning like a man and Attila has hacked and chopped like a cyclone. The climbers and creepers are looking chastened and despite his proximity to Death’s Door, he’s cleared up his debris behind him. The sitting room windows look out over the tropical assembly. Sometimes I regret not commanding a view over the outdoor borders as others enjoy. Then, in spring, I watch the fresh leaves of Agapanthus (Nile lily) growing noticeably by the day. The Jasmine is peppered with buds, awaiting that burst of blossom and tsunami of perfume. The Passifloras are still a dream of summer.
Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island date palm)
Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island date palm)

I have been re-homing, moving the most needy specimen into my Xmas present mega pot. Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island date palm) now looks fabulous in the company of a self seeded fern and this years’ exhausted Hippeastrum (amaryllis). The bad hair Billbergia (friendship plant, queen’s tears) is in new quarters, propped on top and I’ll see how it settles. The sharp pointed leaves of the palm used to stab me in the eye as I passed, causing pain, tears and expert swearing. Raised in height by twelve inches, it is now ideally placed to rake exquisitely along the parting in my hair. Please don’t worry, I have a suitable word to hand whenever that happens. Once a huge container became empty, I started working my way through the collection, transferring each plant on to the next size up, as it became free. The Lantana (shrubby verbena) now has some leg room and the Orchids have been re-organised. On the smallest scale, I’ve lost a couple of cacti. Their bulbous bodies have rotted from within, so I can’t tell that they’ve snuffed it until I prod them with a cautious finger.
Just waiting for summer
Just waiting for summer

After a day’s hard graft, my spouse retired to his bed of pain in the company of his fifth favourite football team. He’s using beer as an anaesthetic, with a helping of Bombay mix under doctor’s orders. Every mouthful is well deserved, although the chilli is making his eyes water. I have hauled my weary carcass out of my crunchy trousers, regretting for once that my mental vacations consist of reading books on horticulture. I’m so tired, I don’t think that I could lift a lentil.

The Devil Is In The Detail

Tags

,

After a smattering of sunshine and plenty of rain, the entire garden is going berserk with everything heading upwards. If I turn my back for a minute, the weeds grow by another two inches. There’s so much to do. The roses require pruning and perennials need the old growth clearing, since I left it intact for any wildlife that could make use of it. Lawns are desperate for a little attention and grass in the paths must be eradicated without mercy. Really, I should be mounting a determined campaign of destruction.
Hyacinthus orientalis “Delft blue”
Hyacinthus orientalis “Delft blue”

Instead, I retrieved recently purchased Dahlias from bags all over the kitchen. I took them into my cosy shed and matched them up to plastic pots just big enough for a close fit without stuffing. Ideal roots are plump, generous in size and sturdy. They should be undecorated with mould, slime or other gruesome marks. Single tubers are unlikely to grow, unless they have an eye where a shoot has started or will develop. This does not stop me from collecting them in a spare pot, just in case. I bedded them in with compost, leaving visible heart warming splodges of leaf buds within reaching distance of the surface. Each was labelled with precision, although I’m aware that a season outdoors with weeding, mulching and deadheading going on all around, will scatter the tags like cherry blossom. When they are hardened off and thriving, I’ll take stem tip cuttings which will strike easily and make the parent plant more bushy, with better flowers. More Dahlias and increased blooms, that sounds like a plan.
Pieris japonica “Variegata”
Pieris japonica “Variegata”

Spring is the time to acquire Hellebores. Buying them when you can inspect the petals means that you know exactly what you are getting. Alright, I know that I have a large collection but this year, I found picotee and anemone types. Attila said that he would need a magnifying glass to see the difference but he’s a learner gardener. Give him another twenty years and hopefully, he’ll understand. I had to joust with another wily plantswoman for possession, using umbrellas as lances. I’m happy to report that no blood was spilled and although I emerged from battle with a limp and a few bruises, I won the prize. I shall get them settled in next week with a helping of bonemeal fertiliser, when I can see the perfect place in which to site them.
Mini greenhouse
Mini greenhouse

Along with the Dahlias, seeds that I threw into trays of soil in autumn, have sprouted in the care of the cold frame. There’s a long way to go before admiring the adult specimen, healthy, bug free and laden with blossom but I can see the end result if I close my eyes. If I was to recommend a single piece of kit it would be this, which has been a Godsend for germination, growing on and close supervision. Oh, I love my lawn mower, strimmer and heavy loppers. My secateurs are so sharp, they could slice through time but they are essential. The mini greenhouse is a toy but if I were you, I’d sell my soul to get one.

Unchain My Heart

Tags

By way of a gift, Basil and Angelica have given me a magnificent bonsai. Residing in an elegant china dish complete with practical matching drip tray, Zanthoxylum piperitum (Japanese pepper) requires a cool spot indoors. Sufficient light is a must so the kitchen is out of consideration. Frequent irrigation with a modest amount of water is a prerequisite, meaning that I cannot put it on a windowsill where I might forget to pander to its whims. Being scared of a plant is not a familiar feeling.
Primula auricula “Maggie”
Primula auricula “Maggie”

I’ve settled on the hall as being the best pitch. I think that the long window will allow enough light and although I’m mostly asleep as I stumble to or from my bedroom, I should notice when a spritz from a spray gun would be welcome. I keep other houseplants in the area, so adding just one more specimen entails a major reorganisation if I want to open the front door. I’m not a judgemental person but push has come to shove. Time to earn your keep. Get out and walk, you pay no rent. You can tell that I’m mixing my metaphors and girding my loins. Ctenanthe setosa “Grey Star” (fishbone prayer plant) I’m looking at you, kid. The parent plant has been languishing and dying in slow motion for so long that I tore off a chunk and stuffed it in a fresh pot. The infant is making a cautious bid for life, while the original is still sulking. I took the latter to the conservatory to complete its demise, where I can’t see it or feel pity.
Corylus avellana “Contorta” (corkscrew hazel)
Corylus avellana “Contorta” (corkscrew hazel)

Billbergia nutans (friendship plant) is an epiphytic bromeliad, getting its common name for the ease with which you can rip off a lump to share with other masochists. It squats ominously in its pot, a rat’s nest of scrawny leaves, with a recalcitrant teenaged look about its face. Other growers have left theirs in the garden. Serves it right. Allegedly the plant can suffer down to fourteen degrees of frost but doesn’t like it. Good. It’s also called queen’s tears, from the drops of nectar that weep from the flowers. Supposedly it blooms with arching tails of pink, yellow, purple and green. I wouldn’t know, since after decades of tender loving care, it has given me nothing but bad hair days. I can make better use of the space, so likewise it goes to the mortuary ward.
Zanthoxylum piperitum (Japanese pepper)
Zanthoxylum piperitum (Japanese pepper)

I found the marble table which is the focal point of my display. I was dropping off a trailer full of prunings for re-cycling at the tip and spotted the stone ware, awaiting a strong arm to heave it over the barrier. The gentleman in charge was only too pleased for me to save him the job and I bore it home in triumph. After extensive renovation, the top wobbles fearsomely on its metal skeleton despite the application of many tubs of filler, so it is sited where there is no pedestrian traffic to cause an upset. The handsome miniature tree is now installed in pride of place, where I may admire it in passing, or sit on the stairs to gloat at my leisure. I think that I’m in love.