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December 2011

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Crocus, Yoshino cherry, kousa and Algerian iris

It's been a funny old year - things bloomed out of season and I don't think I ever remember an earlier autumn. Here, at Narrow Meadow, it was the sound of the chain saw and the root extractor that dominated autumn. Now, that all the dead and frost-injured plants have been removed, I am not dwelling on the losses. I am going to tell of the exciting replacements. 


In the process of choosing roses, I finally settled on Rosa ‘Noble Antony' and Rosa ‘Miss Alice'. They were both picked for their perfume, disease-resistance and repeat-flowering. ‘Miss Alice' was favoured further, by the fact that I met the Alice after whom it was named a number of times. It was always a delight to be in her company and if the rose is the same, I will have chosen wisely. Between the roses, Ralph planted 405 crocuses. These were a mixture of the cultivars ‘Cream Beauty', ‘Blue Pearl and ‘Barr's Purple'.

Next we planted a Yoshino cherry, Prunus yedoensis, that will eventually reach about six metres in height and about ten metres in spread. From pink buds on arching stems, it opens single, pale blush pink flowers that soften to white and it has great autumn colour. Under this we put Crocus ‘Tricolor' and ‘Goldilocks' In another gap we put in Hamamelis intermedia ‘Primavera' also with crocus underneath and backed with Hydrangea paniculata ‘Early Sensation'. Parrotia persica ‘Vanessa' will add much-needed autumn colour to what up to now has been an uninspiring corner.

I really wanted to have the species Cornus kousa, but after listening to a plantsman much wiser than me, I was persuaded to go for Cornus kousa ‘Teutonia'. It will, I'm told, be more reliable in flower and have good autumn colour. Its white bracts fade to pink, and this was the one requirement I would not have compromised on. After seeing Hydrangea ‘Pinkie Winky', with its pink-suffused white foamy flowers, in a garden I visited this year, I had to have it. A space near the cornus was the perfect spot. The cornus and the hydrangea should be great together, especially if the cornus sets fruit. The pink of the fading hydrangeas and the pink fruit of the cornus should be sensational.

I grew some sarcococca plants from offsets of the ones in the garden. They made good plants and I have planted them in large pots to put at the front door, to provide a fragrant welcome for guests arriving at Christmas. I was hoping to have Iris unguicularis in little bowls on the table. I'm not so sure this will happen. I often have flowers on this iris, commonly called Algerian iris, at Christmas. However, this year it has been flowering since early September so maybe it will be exhausted, like the rest of us, by Christmas. If I have no irises I will definitely have a bowl of snowdrops. Galanthus ‘Castlegar' never fails to come up for the festive season and I will certainly raise a glass to my great friend, the late Dr Keith Lamb, who found this beautiful snowdrop in a field in Co. Galway.


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