Sunday, August 18, 2013

A wet spring weekend

Magnolia 'Sweetheart'
A wet weekend at this time of the year seems like a bit of a waste for the home gardener.  The imminent arrival of spring means all sorts of things are starting to move, and there are a few chores that need to be carried out.
I have been aware that the shepherds purse – Capsella bursa-pastoris to give it its Latin name – has been flowering in my iris beds, and this little member of the brassica family has many, many seeds, all of which will lie dormant in the soul to smother next early spring’s growth, so I knew I needed to get in and weed them.  They grow so quickly that leaving them for a week or two was simply not an option, so I grabbed the chance in between showers on Saturday afternoon, and got onto them. 
I was distracted in the work though, as our Magnolia ‘Sweetheart’  is just starting to flower.  It has been heavily budded for a while but the recent warm weather has made it rush out into flower and it looks outstanding on our back boundary.  I love the tree magnolias in general, and the pink shaded ones most of all. This variety has deep pink flowers, upright facing, with lusciously creamy interiors.  The flowers are medium sized (some varieties have very large flowers) and fit this tree perfectly.
I was also distracted by a planting of some new bulbs.  This year I spent my birthday goodwill on a selection of new bulbs, and they are just coming out now.  Two in particular have really impressed me, a soft pink hyacinth and a bright yellow lachenalia.
I have come to like hyacinths late in my life – I think I always regarded them a slightly fussy, overly formal plants, and associated them with the precise bedding the Dutch are so fond of, or the potted specimens you see in the supermarket.  One of my boys, after giving his mother a potted blue specimen for Mother’s Day, told her it reminded him of Dame Edna’s wig, and that image stuck with me, I suspect.
But we were given a handful of bulbs by my sister-in-law a few years ago, a mid-pink variety of great vigour that has slowly expanded and taken over a sizable container at our back door.  It looks fabulous at this time of the year with a succession of pink spires of flower giving great colour.
Over the past few years I have planted more varieties around the garden, and have a lovely yellow form (more like cream to be perfectly honest) called ‘Yellow Queen’ in the back border but this year I planted the softest pink flowered form called ‘China Pink’ and what a beauty it has been, with flowers of porcelain-like beauty of the softest cool pink, all with a lovely fragrance. 
Just across the pathway, in a bed filled with South African bulbs, is a new planting of the “Cape Hyacinth” (they are not actually that closely related), one of the new African Beauty lachenalias, ‘Romaud’.  This is a new hybrid and has flowers similar to the old fashioned ‘Pearsonii’ which has been grown for many years in New Zealand, with yellow tubular flowers, with a waxy texture, hanging from a strong stalk.  The difference is in the size – ‘Romaud’ is slightly taller but also much stockier, meaning you get a much better floral effect from the plant.

I also grew the blue form called ‘Rupert’, and I have to say that neither of these new forms are as hardy as the old types, so do not expect them to increase quickly in the garden, and give the mass effect that the old red form ‘Pendula’ gives in the garden, but they are stunning plants.

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