Friday 9 February 2018

Thinking little

If I do precious little in the flower garden, that little is directed
towards providing for what will give us the maximum reward
for the minimum effort over the longest period, 
and into that category come bulbs, 
particularly because from bulbs come all those really early, 
brave forerunners, by many weeks, of spring.
Last year I ordered a huge quantity, 
intending to cram the garden with them.
When they arrived it was blustery and cold 
and I spent a horrible couple of afternoons 
on my knees, with a trowel and my nose too close to the soil, 
my hands throbbing and smarting as I worked.
I loathed those little wrinkled, warty bulbs 
and there were a very great many of them,
and they were all very small. . .
But one of the eternal laws of gardening 
is that suffering and labour are rewarded,
and from January to April we had a succession of flowers
 when everything else was black and bare and depressing;
tiny iris reticulata, with their spotted, recurving tongues, 
in darkest purple and an amazing Cambridge blue;

a special, creamy early crocus, and another the colour of sea-lavender. . .

So far, so Magic Apple Tree, but Susan Hill goes on to list 
tiny narcissi, two or three inches high, with fragile, nodding heads
and names like Angel's Tears and Hooped Petticoat,
blue drifts of Grecian windflowers, anemone apennine, scilla, tritelia.
I clustered the bulbs anywhere, between shrubs, in the grass, under fruit trees
and when they came up, they were perfect,
and it was one of the most successful gardening jobs I have ever done.

It is possible that there are bulbs out there that I have forgotten about
and I shall be pleasantly surprised if they appear, 
and I do know I planted some new tulips, but drifts -
no, I have never managed drifts of anything.

I am reminded of the well-meant encouragement 
given by certain celebrated gardeners 
to enjoy planting a garden even if you only have a window box.
This was once particularly poignant as I struggled 
to keep a pot of supermarket basil alive one summer
after watching one of the aforementioned presenters
wheeling away a barrowload of the stuff to turn into pesto.


  1. Beautiful little iris, and I'm a big fan of cream crocuses as well. Worth the effort of putting them in! CJ xx

  2. 100 Thalia in pots ready to interplant when the others show themselves! a little kernel of excitement on this murky wet day...

    1. Do you sink the whole pot or divide them up?

  3. THe only crocuses that have survived here ... the rest all drowned ... are yellow . Very yellow .

  4. Nice to see your hard work rewarded. The tiny iris are so lovely.

  5. I have tiny Daffodils waiting to spring open, the Bluebells are putting up their leaves and the Hyacinths are showing too, not long to wait now.

  6. I always mean to plant more bulbs and somehow never quite get round to it... I did make a special effort with some crocuses I was given a few years ago - most of them went into pots which was good because the only ones in the ground were squashed unceremoniously by a large duck's bottom.

  7. Alas, I lack the gift of drift as well. I did manage a drift of thistle one summer after a storm destroyed my garden and forced my attention elsewhere. When I finally found time to attend them, there were hundreds. Apparently I have a green thumb, but only for weeds. You've inspired me to try some snowdrops.