I was particularly glad that in the north we escaped the bad weather this weekend; the funeral of a close relative last week left me feeling exhausted and demoralised, and desperate to get out into the garden, and it was with a sense of relief that I woke each morning to sun. Despite a cold wind that limited work on the vegetable beds (netting broad beans in a high wind is a thankless task, but the thought of all those pigeons waiting until I gave up kept me going) a reasonable amount was achieved: the tomatoes now stand in regimented lines in the greenhouse, accompanied by aubergines and peppers, while trays of salad leaves have been sown. The intention is to keep not just the family supplied with leaves, but those voracious eaters of greens, the chickens.
The enthusiasm of sons for gardening is limited to edible plants, but they can be persuaded into a certain amount of heavy work, so I managed to mix compost for various pots and containers so that I could at least start the planting of pelargoniums, fuchsias and annuals for summer colour. I am pleased with two strawberry pots, one of which contains a convolvulus cneorum in flower above what will become a froth of dark blue lobelia (the convolvulus will be long over by that time, but its arching silvery branches are attractive in themselves). The other pot has more of the lobelia, and a single sky blue brachyscome, or Swan River Daisy, at the top. Not very showy, which is how I prefer it – I'd rather fill pots with a single species as a rule, but that doesn't work so well with strawberry pots, and OH has a tendency to bring home trays of mixed plants. I think I talked my mother into pots of white osteospermum this year (I love the darker underside to the petals), but couldn't get any myself, only some rather brash orange ones which I passed up on.
By today, the Bank Holiday, though, my energy had run out. I feel as though I've been through a wringer, for those old enough to remember such things, over the past couple of weeks, and the thought of being chilled for another day had lost its appeal, so I decided that reading about plants would be enough. I have a book to review, Salal by Laurie Ricou, and am amazed to discover the extent to which a plant I had barely heard of is being grown commercially in British Columbia. As well as being offered by nurseries as a native plant for groundcover (it has lovely deep green leaves and black berries) it is used in huge quantities by florists, who like particularly appreciate the way its foliage will display a bunch of roses). It can cause problems in southern England as a garden escape, apparently, though I don't think I've ever seen it there. British gardeners may be more familiar with its close relative Gaultheria procumbens, the wintergreen. The book is unusual in choosing a single, relatively unremarkable, plant as its subject, and three chapters in I'm intrigued to see where it will take me next.
Heartsease, May 2008