Friday, 19 April 2013


Spring rushes in wearing an expression of apologetic tardiness, a picture of windswept dishevelment. Better late than not at all and, now that the worst of the frosty nights seem to have passed, we can get on. On with rejoicing over meetings with old friends, and on with remembering the new ones you’d forgotten you’d invited. I have no recollection of planting Chionodoxa last year, but they’re here now, where they weren’t last year, where I was expecting crocuses which I seem to have planted further towards the back of this motley ensemble. The effect is harmonious to the extent that I begin to believe I had a sensible plan at planting time, albeit one which I’ve since forgotten. Appropriately then, forget-me-nots will join swarthy self-sown spanish bluebells and grape hyacinths Muscari in completing the late spring cerulean spectacle, though these last two will quickly become thuggish and require careful management. In May they’ll be succeeded by the white blooms of Paeony lactiflora ‘Shirley Temple’ and a pair of Dicentra aurora, while Corydalis ‘Purple Leaf’ with its tubular neon blue flowers and deep cut foliage will complement the dicentras and the ever-present ferny backdrop. Each of these has recently declared itself a survivor of the winter months, unfurling fresh, vibrant foliage above the well-mulched soil. I’m particularly excited at the prospect of watching this small section of the garden unfold this year.

Corydalis 'Purple Leaf' peaks out from behind the bluebells

The blue-green foliage of the dicentra emerges from a winter slumber

It’s at this point I realise that something is amiss. A californian lilac, Ceonothus ‘Concha’, presides over this corner of the garden, clothed in May with light blue liquorice alsort flowers which, in slowly deteriorating, clothe the ground below in baby blue confetti. Only right now it’s not looking quite as perky as it should. In fact, it’s looking decidedly – and there’s no gentle way of putting this – dead. Shrubs of this genus are often not particularly long lived on our heavy Kentish soils, and it’s not unheard of for them to croak after five or six years. This particular specimen, although in a corner and sheltered from the coldest gusts from the east, could be exposed to winds from other directions which would seize its top heavy growth and rock it about in spite of our best efforts to stake it securely. Well, no matter – I wasn’t overly convinced by it in that spot (truth be told, I find its leaves rather too small and ungenerous) and its loss presents an opportunity. What to put in its place, now...there’s the question.