The weather forms a major part of British conversation, since this is an island where it’s always too cold, hot, wet or dry but rarely a bit too perfect to be comfortable. A heat wave has been promised for this week, which no doubt presages a month of tiddling rain. A burst of gunk from the sun making the Northern lights widely visible, just increases the likelihood of murky skies. The meteorologists will be sniggering down their barometers at the jolly fun they’re having, yanking our chains and tugging our leashes. If good gardening conditions arrive as assured, I’ll eat my hat.
Clerodendrum bungei (glory flower)
I shouldn’t moan. When we opened for charity this summer, we had a lovely, balmy day just right for wandering amongst the flowers. Across town, my friend Jasmine totally rinsed the refreshments. No matter how many lemons I minced and mashed into cordial, I couldn’t compete with her iced Prosecco served with strawberry scones. Several visitors viewed my plastic cups of sticky citrus juice with a jaundiced eye and despite the garnish of mint leaves, demanded to know where the plant sales were. I took note of the specimens that attracted most attention and where possible, I shall try to propagate the same. Yes friends, in order to maximise funds raised for a worthy cause, I’m prepared to flog some of my favourites. If I manage to part with them without a twinge, I shall consume my belt, buckle and all.
Malus sylvestris (weeping crab apple)
I have taken cuttings of Santolina (cotton lavender) “Lemon Fizz” and Phygelius x rectus (Cape fuchsia) “Moonraker”. I snipped strong, healthy soft tips of each and stuffed them into sandwich bags in haste, in order to stop them from desiccating while I meandered towards the potting bench. I find that sterile, dampened seed compost is the right medium for maximum success. I cut each 3 inch (7cm) stem just below a leaf node, stripped off most of the foliage, then dipped it in water and rooting hormone powder. Then I placed each shred of green hope against the side of a plastic pot, along with three of its comrades. Fully badged in case of lack of mental retention on my part, I placed many pots full in trays with polythene covers. I put them in the mini greenhouse, out of direct sunlight. If they all grow, I’ll swallow my shirt.
Under glass, cuttings & seedlings
Last year’s Dierama pulcherrimum have germinated well and are far more numerous than I need, unless I’m starting an angel’s fishing rod farm. If they survive another winter I shall pot them up, label laboriously and sell them. I’ll grub out all of the Hellebore seedlings as they appear under the skirts of their parents and split up other perennials such as Phlomis russelliana (Turkish sage). I’ve cut the seed heads off the Levisticum officinale (lovage) and shall plant half now, the rest in spring. All of the authorities advise sowing five weeks before the last frost, which is a fatuous thing to say. If I could predict that, I would be reading the forecast after the news. I shall give it my best shot for shelves full of exciting produce and if all goes according to plan, I’ll devour my big boots, complete with mud and laces. Looks like I’m going to have a lot on my plate.