A spot of triage Posted on January 7, 2023

Someone asked Christopher Lloyd, the gruff guru of Great Dixter, when was the best time for some garden operation. ‘When you have the time’, he answered, brusque as ever.There’s lots of time now, with the world seemingly asleep. So what shall I go out and do?

In a garden prone to serious cold it might not be a good idea to start snipping, or even to tidy up too much. The hydrangeas are provoking me; their green buds prominent and prime, you would think, for a spot of triage. As I see it, you can decide whether you want big flowers or lots of smaller ones, leaving a longer shoot for lots or cutting right back for few and big. Indecisive as ever, I do a bit of both.

Gossip (which to my mind always holds an element of malice, or at least scandal) is not Trad’s scene. But it can be fun to see surprising connections – especially about public figures. Such as our new queen. Being a gardener with a taste for wine I enjoy the fact that her grandfather, Morton Shand, wrote an excellent book about wine, and her first husband was the grandson of the author of classic gardening books, E.A. Bowles, who is remembered for such plants as Bowles’ Mauve wallflower, a crocus, a snowdrop, a phlomis, a golden grass and a periwinkle. More plants, in fact, than any other amateur I can think of. His garden, Myddelton House at Enfield in the Lee Valley, has been almost miraculously preserved. Will the Palace, I wonder, reflect these two most civilized preoccupations?

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