Last Saturday’s opus went out without email notifications. When I find out why this happened, people will be blamed. Punishment will consist of their being lightly beaten with stems of Margarites (distinctive, clinging smell) or a week of compost turning (ditto). If this is the second ask, I apologise.
How could you? After all the love and care, the drips of moisture and preferential share of rare daylight, to quit after ailing over three months in hideous time lapsed slow motion. Davallia tyermanii (white hare’s foot fern) has turned from three bright shreds to a trio of crispy stalks over the winter. I showed the corpse to Botanical Barbara, who said that it flourishes so well for her, that she’s trying some in the garden. The worst of houseplant offenders is Adiantum (maidenhair fern) which is a diva of the worst water. This is a miserable bag of green spleen which shrivels at the first hint of neglect. The plant is astonishing only in the fleeting moment that it takes to turn to a stiff ruff of withered curls.
Pieris japonica “Variegata” (ready for action)
The secret, of course, is paying attention. All the book learning in the world will not help, if you take your eye off the object of your obsession. I read the label with care, mooch through my volumes of instructions and quarter the internet for hints and tips. No matter what I do, pansies fail to thrive. Wet, dry, cold, warm, sunny, gloomy, I’ve tried them all. They die without more than an early sprinkling of colour and that due to the efforts of the nursery of their birth, not me. This enables my next door neighbour to lean over the wall with a pitying smirk at my ineptitude. I can produce rhubarb by the hundredweight, dahlia blooms as big as your head, lily flowers so redolent with perfume that it makes your teeth itch but because I can’t get on with violas, I don’t feel like a real gardener.
Hardy ferns (obviously trouble free)
I know about sticking to the right plant for the right place, still I’m aware that outrageous success may result from chancing your arm. My soil suits bulbs down to the ground, perennials prosper and shrubs are sensational. Nevertheless, I hanker after the ones that get away. I long to supply spinach for the kitchen, without seeing the crop bolting before I can get a harvest. I crave obelisks covered with Clematis or sweet peas, I’m not fussy which. I want racemes of scented Wisteria hanging over the front door. No matter how much pruning, fertilising, watering and mulching I undertake, victory eludes me.
Davallia tyermanii (white hare’s foot fern)
Perhaps television holds the answer. The experts stroll about their vast estates, dishing up directions for cultivation with casual élan. They present their glowing clumps of blossom, usually grown from seed with record breaking speed and so heavy that the camera operator has to assist with lifting the pots off the greenhouse bench. Their foliage is so profuse that they have to part stems in order for their grinning faces to be visible to the audience. I end up swollen with indignation, shouting at the screen. “Well,” says Attila, hiding a smile, “they’ve got to be told”. Upon close inspection of my much maligned indoor fern, I find a tiny sliver of new growth and leaves the size of pinheads. I feel like the love child of Gertrude Jekyll crossed with Christopher Lloyd. Perhaps I should tell someone.