Have you got any unwholesome secret addictions that you want to share with me and the uncountable millions on the Internet? We won’t tell on you, grass you up, as it were. I’ve given up most of my unsavoury habits. Having children does that for a reprobate; I live in fear that they are going to tell their school teacher and destroy the innocence of a class full of tiny tots.
Iris reticulata (dwarf iris)
I have a naked compulsion to grow lilies. They thrive in my dry soil and the bulbs are cheap to purchase. They are for sale as I type and a little careful shopping could fill a garden with indecent colour and lewd perfume this summer. I shall perjure my soul and spend the housekeeping on as much as I can conceal from Attila, both with vegetation and the amount of money spent. You don’t have to pay through the nose for a terrific show, although I’m not advocating shoplifting or kleptomania. Home Bargains are selling tree lilies for £1.49 for two or eight “Starlight” borders at the same price. Bigger bulbs result in more magnificent blossom. By all means buy cheap tiddlers from Aldi and Lidl but be prepared to wait while the plants bulk up enough to flower.
Corylus avellana “Contorta” (corkscrew hazel) catkins
I discovered how to make expensive varieties go further by accident. After a mammoth planting session I was tired and not paying attention to the placement of my feet. I tripped over my trowel and landed hard on a costly bag full of Lilium orientalis “Tiger Woods”. I smashed them to a purée whilst rolling on the path clutching my battered knees and shouting “Ow bloody ow”. When the crisis had passed, I pushed the mashed remains into the soil in a filthy temper and was delighted later to see them sprout a forest of tiny leaves. The more accepted method of propagation is to pull off a few scales close to the base. Put them in a plastic bag with a 50:50 mix of compost and perlite, dampen slightly with water, shake the bag, fill with air, seal and label. After six weeks in a warm dark place, bulblets will appear and may be potted on. Stem rooting examples will form bulbils in the leaf axils under the blooms. These will detach easily when ripe and may be pushed into compost to root. With either method, take care not to overwater and remove any material that starts to rot. These are slow processes requiring time, vigilance and patience like geology before you see any petals but you rarely get owt for nowt.
Cyclamen hederifolium (ivy leaved cyclamen)
With any form of cutting or splitting, this is asexual reproduction. The procedure results in a clone which is identical to the parent. Botanical Barbara managed to get Lilium longiflorum to germinate from seed but every last bit of her is green, whereas I have only verdant thumbs. Seedlings are the result of cross breeding and will not necessarily resemble their parents. This is an ideal place to open a discussion on the facts of life with the maturing child in your life, who is showing some curiosity on the matter. Good luck with that one, too.