July 3, 2007
‘TIME’, SAID SOME PHILOSOPHICAL WAG,‘is nature’s way of stopping everything from happening at once.’ Until this spring, that
was, when something went wrong with the mechanism. A month of near-summer weather, and not a drop of rain in six weeks, had this garden (and certainly this gardener) seriously disoriented. Tulips and roses together upset my sense of propriety, not to mention colour. Fauve is the word for the cerise of Rosa ‘Zéphirine Drouhin’, the red of a tulip called ‘Bastogne’ and the bright amber-brown of my favourite wallflower.“Go back in and wait your turn,” I said to the rose. But no.
After six weeks the rain came reluctantly, unable to cure the chapped and ravined clay. Rabbits could still get their paws trapped in the cracks. At one point you felt horses had better watch where they
put their hooves. Don’t think I’m complaining. Blossom has never been more bountiful, nor early May a more sensuous moment. When hawthorn fills the hedges round magnolias in voluptuous bloom all is well. I have been going out daily at dusk to marvel at the Staphylea colchica I grew from one of the seeds in a purloined ‘bladder’ years
ago. Bladdernut is the purportedly common name of this estimable bush, now 15 feet high and weighed down with intricate bunches of white flowers. Poppable green bladders follow. Dusk is its moment (it is for all white flowers) because then, I have discovered, it transmits to the maximum its creamy gardenia smell. I didn’t know anything else could do gardenia.
The colour theme now is searing spurge green. Did I intend euphorbias to take over? You might think so: a chlorophyll surge has that effect. Brightest of all
spurges is Euphorbia palustris – which
also offers orange leaves in autumn. Box hedges join in as they put on new
Staphylea colchica’s gardenia-like growth, and I seem to have let the
brilliant green Alexanders (Smyrnium
perfoliatum) get out of hand again. Two years ago 300 volunteers were needed to scour Kew of this menace to the luebells. Perhaps we should put it back on the menu, as it was before we had celery.