Looking through old notebooks and photographs I am astonished at the number of plants that I have loved, lost, given up on or who have dumped me in favour of the great compost heap in the sky.
Plants go in and out of fashion in the same way that clothes and hairstyles do. Once upon a time I only had time for grey-leaved plants – which I still love – but some were truly duds. Artemisia Powis Castle was hugely in vogue for a time and I just had to have it; it turned out to be a rather smelly, shabby looking plant which went brown and woody after a while. It had nasty little yellow flowers you had to pick off to keep the foliage looking silver and now I can’t think why anyone ever liked it at all. New plants are always tempting to gardeners, so I immediately had to have June Johnson, a dusty, pinky brown verbascum – turned out to be a drippy, floppy non-starter unike fellow newbie, Papavar orientalis Patty’s plum which I still adore, but which annoyingly decided to up and leave me last year. Salvia argentia was another silvery ex love. I grew it for its huge, furry, blue grey leaves which are lovely for a few weeks; then the flower spike develops and it smells overpoweringly vile, has an ugly flower and the base goes woody. Grasses became super hip about a decade ago and I ran out and bought Pyllostachys nigra – a black bamboo which I went off rapidly, lovely bright yellow green Milium effusum which was far too effusive – spreading everywhere and insinuating its way into the middle of prized herbaceous plants. So many of the grasses are just too invasive for the small garden. Melianthus major won its way into my heart with its gorgeous, sharply divided glaucous foliage and I grew it successfully for a few years until it just became too unruly and floppy and it had to come out. Another unruly devil was the weeping pear which I thought would look lovely in the centre of the front garden. No matter what I did it grew with an ever-increasing sideways list which made it look very silly indeed. Also, unless you are prepared to be ruthless and vigilent about twice yearly hard pruning it goes completely bonkers, which is fine if you have a lot of space, but it was just too much for me. Heuchera was once a demure little innofensive plant until at some time in the 90s nurseries began experimenting. I loved and still have the very dark purple ones – black beauty and obsidian – but they now come in the most revolting range of gaudy hues and variegations which I have no time for.
Other plants which I have remained loyal to despite their popularity waning amongst smart gardeners are dark leaved dahlias, Crocosmia Lucifer, the much derided gladioli (lovely for cutting), and plants with white variegations (definitely not yellow), to grow in pots. I have yet to successfully cultivate and keep lily of the valley, Dicentra specabilis ‘alba’, Eremuris bungii and delphiniums (too attractive to slugs), but one of these days I shall surely succeed – probably as soon as they go out of fashion.
Ok, I am officially driven demented – one week to my garden visitors and the bloody bastard gastropods have eaten all my gorgeous, new, expensive lupins from Camolin, the little fecker of a dog is still digging for Australia, weed on my box turning them brown, pulled the irises out of the pond and pulled out and broken several plants, the lawn is still bare and muddy and it is lashing so can’t get out to weed the thousands of seedlings which appear overnight and the back wall still hasn’t been painted. On top of all this anxiety I am trying to edit my book to an horrendous deadline, give up smoking and go on a diet. I look like a wild woman (a fat, aged one) and my house is a tip and we are financially ruined. I am going to have to make all the box into little standards, which will probably look bonkers, but I can’t leave them the way they are, they are an invitation to leg-cocking little blighters. To be fair to poor Mr P, the foxes all do a lot of the damage, but he is in the frame for most of it and I caught him bang to rights this morning as he was pooing on top of a knautia.
Added to the litany of gripes above I am suffering from the most dreadful bout of garden envy: I am hopping mad that my sister’s red geums are all about half a metre high and full of blooms – mine are pathetic and the red one is just a blob without any flowers. She only lives around the corner and her garden has exactly the same aspect as mine so this is a mystery (am thinking of sneaking over in the middle of the night and digging hers up). Likewise my friend Caroline has persicaria purpurea which are at least 1.5 metres high while mine are a piddling 50cm. My old pal Karen in Bedfordshire has been posting the most nauseating pictures of her garden – blazing sunshine and beautiful plants in bloom all arranged with enviable artistry in her acre of countryside. Feel horribly ignoble pangs of jealous rage when I look at them. Meanwhile Sarah has just returned from Wales where she visited the wonderful Crûg nurseries and bought a car load of delectable choice plants and my mother in law Janet’s garden looks, as my auntie Gladys would say ‘like something out of a magazine’. Oh humbug!
Have decided that I need to invest in some good flowering trees and shrubs to fill the garden and give it more depth and structure, Daphne – though I have never had much success with it, Viburnum opulus, Abelia and Hydrangea paniculata perhaps. I need to browse my garden books and have a good think about it (and possibly win the lotto to pay for it all).
Here’s hoping that the next week will be baking hot and gloriously sunny to put off the slugs and encourage growth. I’m off to buy some slug pellets.