Monthly Archives: June 2013

Plants with ‘provenance’

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Over twenty years ago Aunt Monica gave me three paeonias that I chose from the Kelway’s catalogue. “Plants should have provenance” she stated. They are still with me, a part of the garden’s personal archive. There are plants that are associated with places or gardens that have been visited and that feebly echo the work of great gardeners. Other plants that grow differently because they are not in Cornwall or dry Essex, and which therefore, never quite replicate the memory.

 It is the plants that have been gifted, that indeed have ‘provenance’ and therefore provide the most satisfaction. In particular, the annual flush of pleasure one receives as they enter their season of especial beauty. Ownership is never quite transferred and the plant remains as ‘Marilyn’s salvia’, ‘Father’s violets’ or ‘June’s acer’. Tending these is a particular pleasure.

There are other gifts however. Those that turn up their roots, shed their leaves and whither in an embarrassingly short space of time. Some even come with greenfly. Others develop with unexpected vigour and their sturdy roots crack the decorous pot in which they were presented. Such plants do not want to be an incident but a major feature, even, a problem to be dealt with. Friendship can be complex. The identity of the giver becomes fused with the plant. Be careful of the plants that you give to others or you may be remembered as a rampant, mildewed monster or as something with disappointing flowers.

I have, for many years, owned a cycad, given by THAT friend. This dominates our tiny conservatory. It is raised over four feet from the ground so you can, more or less, get underneath it. The fronds brush the cobwebs and the cycad believes itself to be a noble tree fern, rather than a primitive relic of ancient times. Identities can indeed become blurred.

Susan A. Tindall

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Aquilegias

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The back garden seems suddenly full of flowering aquilegias. This is the love part of the love-hate relationship I have with these enchanting vagabonds. When they embark on their annual insouciant floral romp across my garden they are amazing. They stand tall, each plant a feature with its own unique flowers.

This all started with a couple of modest blue-flowered Aquilegia vulgaris. Then I bought three black and white ‘Guinness’ varieties and three pretty little McKana hybrids in pink, yellow and white. They interbred with avidity and their offspring try to take over the whole garden. Now  I move from plant to plant and delight in the variations: pleated doubles in shades of blue, near black and pink, airy spurred varieties in white and pink, and deep red.  The odd aristocratic ‘Guinness’ still stands proud and distinctive.  For the rest of the year the pretty emerging foliage sprays appear everywhere as they seek world domination. I disentangle them from the roots of treasured plants. Sometimes I even grasp mature specimens and wrench them from the earth, expecting them to squeal like a mandrake root. Every year I vow to dead head promptly, and fail.

Looking over the fence I notice their spread into neighbouring gardens and admire their more distant charms. Sometimes I contemplate buying in a few more exotics to spice up the mix. In the front garden I planted the sweet and steady Aquilegia ‘Nora Barlow’. She is pretty in ruffled pink and white. I thought she spent her life crocheting bed-socks. However, this year  a larger aquilegia has arisen beside her, with a bouffant deep pink flower that’s obviously of mixed parentage. Even old fashioned Nora likes a change from her crochet hook.

Susan A. Tindall

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