Something important 

7 Jun

I’m nervous. The general election is tomorrow, and although the polls have consistently shown that Labour aren’t heading for disaster, the experience of the last few years leads me to fear that they are wrong. There was the surprise of a conservative majority in 2015. Then there was Brexit. Then there was Trump. On all of these, the polls were wrong, and on all of them I voted (or would’ve voted) for the losing side. 

You don’t have to be left wing to see that not everything should be run like a business, or that the Tories’ “difficult decisions” are exactly what they want to see happen, or that David Cameron, with his gigantic state borrowing and his restive Scots was a failure even on his own terms. You don’t have to be left wing to see that a vote for the Conservative Party is a vote for static, misanthropic misery. You don’t have to be left wing to see these things, but it helps. And the United Kingdom is not known for being left wing, at least not for these past four decades. 

The other question is how this country sees itself. I, for one, don’t think it sees itself as a country at all. That is, we have no genuinely shared sense of belonging. Our national beliefs are shopping . . . and shopping. The culture of individualism rules supreme, at least within the tight bounds of being able to spend one’s money as one sees fit. Beyond that, I don’t know about individualism. It has all the appearance of a fad. Our capacity for self-improvement ends at the exact point where the money runs out. For example, terrorists committed mass murder here in Manchester the other week and the people responded. How did we respond? We responded by tattooing ourselves with the image of Mancunian toil – the bee. There’s a specific, approved design to the tattoo. And we gave ourselves a pat on the back for labelling ourselves as having joined in. To me, it seems that a visitor from another planet would find imponderables in our behaviour, which at one and the same time places individual autonomy on a pedestal, yet is clearly bonded to a medium of cultural and economic value-beliefs which it denies has any kind of agency.

In this environment, it makes perfect sense to vote Conservative. In this scheme of ours, the value of personal freedom is beyond question. Specifically, it is beyond any questions related to its inherent speciousness, existing as it does in the amoral, avowedly apolitical vacuum whereby it lacks any kind of societal or economic context. That’s what Tories expect me to believe in: loneliness. Loneliness is the poverty of a condition in which everything and anything I do is a matter of “personal choice”, i.e. is of no consequence whatsoever. I’m not lending my support to a political party whose core belief is “you’re on your own son, so you’d better get used to the idea.” A vote for the Tories is a vote to hug misery tight and never let go. 

Old seeds

2 Jun

When moving house, everything gets turned upside down. One finds unexpected things in the process. Things like this box, which i’d used to stow away spare seed in.

Look closely and you’ll see the legend “this package contains seeds that require immediate attention.” Hopefully I did that at the time, rather than six years down the line, i.e. now. They weren’t all from Chiltern Seeds. Some were cast offs from other people and some i’d collected myself, such as cerinthe, nicotiana and cobaea. It’s taken me a few hours to cast them about. There’s cerinthe, schizopetalon, two varieties of night-scented stocks, calendula, eucalyptus and caesalpinia sown in various spots in or out of the greenhouse. 

Cardoon, artichoke, clianthus, acacia and gleditsia got the hot water treatment yesterday. The last three have already swollen and sprouted inside of twenty-four hours. The lot are sown in pots in the greenhouse. I didn’t have an opportunity to use a sterilised growing medium so I mixed a little alpine grit with the crumbliest garden soil I could muster. Let’s hope they don’t damp off en masse.

Adlington Hall Plant Fair

1 Jun

This took place a couple of weeks ago. I came away with thirteen plants, tree seedlings in the main. Some i’ve grown before, but most i’ve no prior experience of. This weekend I potted them on and the children helped me write the names on the pots.
Me: “This one’s called Metasequoia glyptostroboides, otherwise known as the dawn redwood.”
Alex: “Why don’t we just write that then?”

Finally, Aeonium ‘Velour’

The blue garden

31 May

I’m hoping this will quickly escalate into some kind of Ganna Walska scenario. In the meantime, please bear with me. 

On the other side of the garden from the greenhouse there’s an area which receives more sun than anywhere else. During the longer days the morning sun beams in around the north end of the house, rises quickly enough not to cast shade across the full depth of the house and stays in direct line of sight until dusk. Seeing as blue/silver/glaucous plants tend to like sun, this is where they are to go. Here’s what it looks like now

Those are astelias at the front. The greenhouse is a long term project. It was here when we bought the place. The only other things we’ve kept are a cockerel wind vane and – inevitably – the weeds.

Only two trees here so far, Cunninghamia lanceolata ‘Glauca’ and Eucalyptus nicholii, the latter is one I grew from seed, the former was an expensive buy

There’s a gravel berm at the back roughly 12′ across. The main feature is this nice selection of Agave ovatifolia. It was grown in Somerset, from seed, provided with only a roof to keep the rain off. It’s planted at an angle, tipped to the southeast in a deep layer of gravel. It’s also big. I reckon it’s got as good a chance of success as an Agave can have in this climate. If summer turns out to be a total washout, then I have a clear plastic tent that fits over the full gravel berm. It bloody better had succeed given it cost nearly two hundred quid.

I broke up my Opuntia macrorhiza and plonked the pads into the gravel. They’ve sprouted afresh, mostly. This looks suspiciously like a flower bud. Talk about not being fussy about how it’s treated.

No part of Aloe striatula fits the colour prescription, but it’s a succulent and i’ve got them so I might as well use them.
Trichocereus terscheckii, which should be fairly hardy. Abbey Brook Cactus Nursery felt it was worth a go, given where it’s from, and i’ve seen it said of the genus that they can cope with a bit of rain and cold.

Echeveria glauca and another, NOID Echeveria, flowering away. I enjoy the look of hot coloured flowers from glaucous plants.

The berm took two and a half tons of gravel. Some of the remaining half ton is scattered in front of the berm, thoroughly weeded (or so I thought at the time) and cast with seed. I used a selection of opium poppy from Special Plants near Bath that they call ‘Boudoir Babe’. It’s a dark, richly coloured double. That’s in the middle. At the front end is cast ladybird poppy. At the back end, in front of the big Agave, I sowed Glaucium corniculatum, which I especially hope comes good, as it’s one I haven’t tried before. So far, it’s the only one of the three that hasn’t come up, sadly. (Feel free to ignore the bins and building materials in the background. As for that creeping buttercup, I offed it just this morning.)

That’s your lot for now. I won’t be making any grand purchases soon. This area needs gravel mulch, grading and weeding before it needs any more plants. Plus, the seeds will do their thing in the near future.

The woodland border

30 May

The shadier side of the garden, which has a fence and established trees to the south side i’ve planted mainly with woody plants from the aralia family, underplanted with some of the more charismatic perennials i’ve laid my hands on. I always had a fancy for an area made up of plants from the Araliaceae and Araceae families.
The appearance of it is helped by having been mulched. Mulch gives it more of the look of a forest floor and provides something like the leaf mould that many of the plants would prefer to grow in, but which I don’t have available. Instead, the mulch I used is the remains of the privet hedge once it was cut down, shredded in a machine and left to compost for a few months. Surely feeding a Schefflera or an Arisaema has to be the best use a privet hedge can be put to. It definitely beats what most privet hedges get up to, which mainly involves invading half the width of the pavement and collecting discarded crisp packets. But I digress. Here’s an overview

Magnolia laevifolia flowered well. What a beauty

It barely rained in March or April, which was weird. It was no good at all for unestablished thirsty young trees, especially when the temperature this month got up to 25c. Add to that the three consecutive frosty nights we had in April, and the Spring foliage leaves something to be desired.

Schefflera alpina looks quite well

I wonder what’s been eating Magnolia macrophylla 

Tetrapanax has dealt with all the weather. I notice now how much thicker the trunk is than other woody plants of the same height. Chunky.

Kalopanax septemlobus v.Magnificus looking good. I’m not sure what I think about the leaves growing all the way up the stem though.

Cardiocrinum taking the usual beating from what seems like all of the garden pests. I’ve two Cardiocrinums. One flowered last year and the other is elongating, ready to flower this year.

Arisaemas unfurling, Lilium lancifolium in the background

Blechnum chilense and the Illicium are just starting to get going despite the dryness. I water them, but it doesn’t have the same effect as a few hours of drizzle.

In the greenhouse

29 May

It’s time for a week of updates from around the garden, showing good and bad as it is very much a work in progress. The greenhouse is of a large enough size that I can use it for permanent planting as well as propagation and winter storage. Permanently planted are tender plants which I previously went to the trouble of planting out for summer before stowing away in pots, in the old greenhouse, for winter. It was a bind to dig up, pot up and move the puyas, for example. What’s more, they won’t suffer from the heat in there, which touched 40c in the couple of warm days we had last week. 
Trichocereus bridgesii is putting on new growth

A trio of variegated Agave americana 

Aloes striatula and x spinosissima

Graptopetalum paraguayense

Caesalpinia gilliesii was defoliated during winter, despite it being quite mild again and being planted under glass, but it is growing well now

A NOID Agave grown from a packet of mixed seeds. Any idea what it might be?

On to things in pots, the Bromeliads are suffering from the wild swings in humidity. It becomes very dry in there when hot.

Ricinus communis ‘New Zealand Purple’ is a bit slow this year due to my rusty gardening techniques

Nine Agave parryi var. parryi and five Hesperaloe parviflora

A battered young Agave which I am trying to nurse back to health due to its fearsome teeth. While is it too dry for the bromeliads, it’s too humid in winter for the agaves and so fungal infections spread rampantly among them

This Solanum laciniatum volunteered itself in the dirt floor of the greenhouse. It must’ve lain dormant for a couple of years at least, hidden in the soil of a pot I took with me from the old place. I’ve potted it up to grow on.

All in all, i’m pleased with how established it already feels in there. It’s a big, flexible space that will offer me much more in future. I hope you enjoyed today’s tour. 

Delivery from Roseland House

24 May

Roseland House is a Cornish nursery specialising in climbers, especially Lapageria. The thing I was after was something to climb up the big atrium window, inside the house. I bought the following from them, all of which are growing on nicely at the moment:

Passiflora actinea

Passiflora antioquiensis x parritae 

Hoya carnosa

Jasminum sambac