Some years ago my son and daughter left our house, to live in flats in the city. Despite the difference in their ages, they moved out in the same fortnight. This left me to roam my empty halls and vacant bedrooms weeping, moaning and otherwise reprising operatic grief. I made Medea look like an amateur. Their new homes were attractive but bijou. Cineraria had a tiny courtyard which she filled with pots of shrubs and climbers, to magnificent effect. Basil wasn’t interested in a plant unless it could be smoked or he could get a tune out of it. Recently, both have been negotiating their first mortgages to purchase their latest dwellings. My money is on me and Attila having to hitch up the trailer and pack up a D.I.Y kit to assist both of them in the same week. Two new gardens for me to play with. Good.
Anthemis tinctoria (dyer’s chamomile) ‘Sauce Hollandaise’
I’m leaving my spouse to count his rawlplugs and check on the shelf erecting gear. I’m busy outdoors, looking for treats to pot up and pass on. I love my children, despite their manifest shortcomings. Therefore, I shall not inflict Alchemilla mollis (bear’s britches) or Persicaria (bistort) which are notorious spreaders, unless they insist. I have been grubbing beneath the leafy skirts of the hellebores, rounding up their seedlings. When I tell Cindy that the wait for maturity and subsequent flowers will be worth every moment, she replies with a curled lip of youthful annoyance. I have taken softwood cuttings of some of my favourite rarities and assured them that in a decade’s time, the display will be astonishing. I can see from their faces that impatience is their master.
Paeonia lactiflora (peony) ‘Bowl of Beauty’
Since they want instant results, I have been splitting hardy perennials. You can get away with doing this now, although it is a little early in the season, provided that everything is kept well watered. I’ve pulled chunks off Epimedium (barrenwort), Achillia (yarrow) and some ornamental grasses. Sempervivum (house leek) grows like outdoor spineless cactus, roots easily and is forgiving of novices, provided that it doesn’t get too wet. I never irrigate my extensive collection, so those given to greenhorns will withstand a great deal of neglect. By the time that they have unpacked the last box of books, there will be some good sturdy plants for my family to play with.
Centaurea cyanus (cornflower) ‘Black Ball’
I keep Pelargoniums in an enormous sunny trough, “Ruby” and “Tom Cat” for their velvet burgundy colour. “Attar of Roses” is my preferred variety for perfume, since it has insignificant blossom but smells deliciously of Turkish delight. “Tomentosum” has trivial tiny white flowers but the silken, silver furred leaves make a perfect contrast to aforementioned plum wine tinted blooms and bear a heavy scent of peppermint. I don’t care whether or not my children want to grow them, they are easy to strike. Take top shoots about three inches (8 cm) long, cut just below the joint. Strip off most of the leaves and push four stems into clean compost, against the sides of the pot. Don’t use hormone rooting powder and refrain from putting them in a polythene bag; humidity is your enemy and will make your green babies rot before you can say “Bugger me, where did they go?” Go easy on the watering but don’t let them dry out completely. In a few weeks, you could be up to your ears in Pelargoniums. Well, certainly my offspring will.