Saturday, 16 June 2012

Plant rescue

I’ve collected a few waifs and strays over the past week, with the intention of bringing them home and nursing them back to rude health. Whether or not their actual fate will see them consigned to an obscure corner of the garden and left to fend for themselves only time will tell, but the intentions are honorable, and the chances of seeing the thing through appear better than average as they’re all plants I’ve been keen to introduce here anyway.

Plant number one was not so much a waif as a child of cruel neglect, rescued from an otherwise very good nursery in Maidstone where I found it nestling between specimens in finer fettle. It’s a hardy geranium, a cultivar of the dusky cranesbill Geranium phaeum, the Mourning Widow. A native of European woodlands it’s quite happy in dry shade, which makes it useful as well as attractive. Geranium phaeum ‘Samobor’ sports mid green leaves with a dark port wine stain. It’s notable for tall, delicate flowers on which, unlike most hardy geraniums, the petals are reflexed – held backwards – exposing the rude bits of the flower to all and sundry. Inappropriate behaviour for a mourning widow you might say, but each must be allowed to deal with grief according to their own fashion.

Dead heads and seed pods

The specimen in question had flowered and was busy diverting its attention into producing seed, doubtless one of the reasons it looks so ropey, with scarcely a leaf, although this doesn’t explain why it appears to have outgrown its pot. I suppose I should have haggled for a discount, but I’m not very good at that kind of caper, and it was only three pounds fifty. Tough as old boots, these things, so having dead headed it and given it a good drenching of a seaweed based plant tonic I fully expect it to be loutishly romping through the borders in no time.

Patients two and three came together, rescued from the compost heap at the site of a border I’ve been clearing for replanting. They will be be considered most ordinary to some, but closer inspection reveals them to be rather wonderfully constructed, even if they do grow with unabashed vigour. Firstly, we’ve the perennial cornflower Centaura montana, with its beautiful delicate violet blue petals and decorative filigree work beneath. Grows well just about anywhere that isn’t waterlogged, and will even put up with a bit of shade. A useful and, again, tough old thing, not dissimilar in that respect to the red valerian Centranthus ruber, with its generous purple red flower heads and slightly fleshy leaves and stems. Although it will grow happily in reasonably rich soil of a garden border, it seems more than happy to grow in and on walls and self seed quite liberally. However, unlike something like Corydalis which enjoys similar positions it has a tough, woody root, so you might want to keep an eye on established clumps to avoid any damage to the mortar.

Which just leaves me to be a sort of horticultural Florence Nightingale, I suppose. I shall need a lamp.