I’ve spent months trying to make honest women of Antirrhinum “The Bride”. I managed to get the specks of seed to germinate and since then I have bathed and nurtured the pathetic prima donnas in the hope of seeing them in frothy dresses. Upon visiting my daughter Cineraria, I found a huge healthy white snapdragon glowing in a sunbeam, making a corner its own. I asked Cindy for the secret; apparently it just appeared out of nowhere. No trays of compost at carefully controlled temperatures, no farting about with cold frames, lowering the lid on cooler nights, no massages, manicures or breakfast in bed. This is an example of a specimen growing in the right place because it made its own choice. Bastard.
Galega (goat’s rue)
Basil’s plot matches the house that he bought. The building has been neglected for many years and the garden is in the same state. He seems to be curating the national collection of horse tail, which is an ancient species upon which the dinosaurs dined. The plant was giving them indigestion long before flowers evolved, so it spreads by dropping tiny pieces of itself and forming roots thereon. I’ve told my son that herbicide will have scant effect and suggested that he save the old carpets that he’s ripping out. Placed over the Equisetum for a year or so, the terrible weed will be hindered by lack of light and should die. The ground elder, dandelions and jack-by-the-hedge will be deprived likewise. Mostly.
Dierama pulcherrimum (angel’s fishing rod)
In my garden, Cerinthe (honeywort) forms clumps of azure blue, in pleasingly natural drifts of colour. Occasionally it sprouts in the lawn but it is only being rude. Aquilegia (columbine) is a trollop, who crosses with all comers and strews love children far and wide. I’m grateful for such indecorous manners, since my spring show leans heavily on their blooms appearing amongst the tulips. Myrris odorata (sweet cicely) multiplies to make a silken spread of green filigree dusted with cream umbellifers, which belies its delicate appearance by duffing up much of the competition. Atriplex hortensis (red orache) fills the dahlia bed until the bulbs and tubers take over. It propagates brazenly but is easily recognised and simple to evict. Fancy Digitalis (foxglove) such as “Elsie Kelsey” and “Camelot Cream” also fraternise with their neighbours so shamelessly, it’s a wonder that the paparazzi don’t turn up for photographs. Since the named types are carefully acquired hybrids, the shades and patterns of their offspring will be anyone’s guess. Unexpected combinations of forms will happen without a plan. Self seeders are both free and exciting.
Phygelius capensis (Cape fuchsia)
In the front, I had a towering stand of Eryngium giganteum (giant sea holly). After a few seasons of astonishing passersby, they vanished without trace. The variety is also known as Miss Willmott’s ghost, because that Victorian lady used to throw handfuls of seed around other people’s gardens which she considered dull. After half a decade, I thought that my specimens had gone to join that cantankerous old woman in the great allotment in the sky. I’m happy to be proved wrong, since it’s sprouted a soaring batch of prickles by the gate, just where it can startle the postman in his shorts on warm days. Possibly the old girl is up there watching, occasionally letting out a filthy chuckle.