Portia is a daffodil snob. At this time of years it pains her to even step outside the house – motorways are a nightmare. A plague has descended. Everywhere she looks there are banks of grim, bright yellow trumpeted daffs which actually hurt her eyes. Her sensibility is even more pained by her neighbours, who in addition to the jolly yellow fellows, has window boxes full of dwarf narcissi in curious shades of peach, a fake wheelbarrow overflowing with gaudy primulas and a strange concrete shoe is brim-full of vile, common looking dwarf conifers surrounded by giant, shocking pink hyacinths. She dreads to think what lies in store for summer – serried rows of loud begonias planted between the standard tea roses are a given, but what fresh horrors will be introduced into the artificial wishing well come June? She thinks that hanging baskets make a house look like a pub.
Portia insists on only having the choicest spring bulbs in her garden, nothing loud and certainly nothing in unnatural colours. Every year she scours the catalogues from expensive suppliers for heritage bulbs. Her rule of thumb is that if Helen Dillon doesn’t have a particular plant in her garden then she won’t either. She loves the early daffodils, narcissus ‘tête-a-tête’, ‘February Silver’ and February Gold’, pheasant’s eyes are acceptable in the banks along her drive. Her snowdrops are her pride and joy, Galanthus ‘Arnott’, along with ‘Merlin’,’Mighty Atom’ and ‘Schalockii’. Erythroniums and trilliums also abound in her garden in springtime, planted amongst Brunnera ‘Jack frost’ and Penstemon ‘David Ward’. In late spring she is repelled by the heavy scent and bright colours of the cheap wallflowers and will only tolerate Bowls Mauve. She drives away; sunglasses firmly in place on her way to the specialist garden centre and is horrified to see Mrs Dillon packing the car outside with a crateful of jolly looking cactus flowered dahlia tubers.