It was tough – with the ground frozen solid, and then under 8 inches of snow – to find anything much to do in the garden during the last couple of months, but as the snow receded my snowdrops emerged in full bloom, quite unblemished. It is the same story with Helleborus x hybridus – for such delicate-looking flowers they have remarkable powers of recovery. It was a relief to see them, and to look forward to everything that is just around the corner, but it has been interesting to see which other plants have stood up well to this cold winter. I am lucky that I have a walled garden close to the centre of a city, so I escape the lowest temperatures (a minimum of -6°c), but those weeks just after Christmas (but before the snow) were the most prolonged cold spell I can remember in ages.
No surprise good old Iris foetidissima is near the top of my list. I split my old plants three years ago, and they sulked for a bit, but now they are terrific – just the right size (before too long they get a bit tatty) – and with several split pods showing plump orange seeds. They grow in some rotten dry shady spots, too: one of my best is by the base of an old Viburnum. I do have the rarer yellow-fruited form but its seeds are never as impressive.
I am impressed also with a similar-looking but more exotic (and tender) plant: Dianella tasmanica ‘Emerald Arch’.
Its strappy leaves are a similar rich green to the iris but longer and elegantly floppy – looking a bit like a small Phormium cookianum. This is its third winter and it is in a sheltered, shaded spot below an old cooking apple tree. New shoots have been frosted in the past but the mature foliage seems pretty tough, although on a couple of mornings I found the leaves quite curled up – poor thing, the planty equivalent of shivering, I suppose, although it has shrugged off the snow with ease. It is one of a whole raft of different Dianella now available and its success makes me keen to try others.
Tucked in a corner against the house wall is a plant I know as Pseudopanax laetus but which the Plant Finder tells me should now be called Neopanax laetus.
I never expected it to survive outdoors in Peterborough, indeed I thought after the night of -6°c it might be done-for – it went that nasty blackish-green colour – but it has pulled through. Sprawling below is Vinca difformis Greystone Form: a white-flowered selection of this tenderish periwinkle. I still love the pale blue flowers of the plain V. difformis, but on this cultivar the blooms seem to open sooner and are held above brighter green foliage.
Unusual evergreens were an important element in the balcony that The Garden displayed at the revitalised RHS February London Show. Putting it together was a challenge and required a surprising amount of effort and time, even on this tiny scale. Assembling it has certainly given me greater insight into fantastic efforts put in by those who build the gardens at the larger summer shows. As we are employed by the Society we are not awarded, although we have been told by the judging committee that the balcony was of Silver-Gilt standard – that is, joint highest. Not bad for our first effort (and, if I may say so, considerably better than a certain rather uncharitable horticultural journalist might have you think, as avid garden-blog readers will no doubt know).
Snowdrops were as ever a big draw at the show, with enthusiasts visiting from near and far, and indeed there were some remarkable ones on show, such as Galanthus ‘Green Tear’ shown by Avon Bulbs. Selections such as this with green markings on the outer petals (tepals, in fact) are highly sought-after and many sell for frankly mad prices.
So imagine my delight, just the day after the show, as I walked past our local market stall and spotted among plants of green-leaved Galanthus woronowii something rather special: a flower with its outer petals marked clearly with green. Inside, the green patch is even stronger, and although the flower is a little smaller than usual, it is a really pretty thing. Best of all, it cost me 70p! Galanthophile friends tell me it is a good one and unlike anything they have seen before.
Hopefully I can keep it going and in time bulk it up a bit – I presume the other bulbs in the pot will have the usual white flower.