Cold at last Posted on January 20, 2016

Bengal Crimson - in January?

To the Chelsea Physic Garden for their annual snowdrop show. I’m afraid they have been blind-sided by the weather: it has been so mild that they had moved the date forward by two weeks, only for the long-awaited cold to descend just before the new opening date. So no carpets of 10, 000 snowdrops, just the earliest species and a lot of promising little spears. The best part was the sales tent, where a room was ingeniously separated and blacked out for a little theatre of the best varieties lit by ultra-violet light: a pretty conceit.

I was happy to find an old friend for sale, too: Hardenbergia violacea, a little Australian climber that produces its racemes of purple flowers at snowdrop time, and for weeks before and after. It was a principal mid-winter decoration in our old conservatory. I shall have to be quite severe with it in our tiny greenhouse, but it might as well have the roof-space now filled with Jasminum polyanthum, which can’t even keep up with the one flowering fit to bust above the wall outside. I wonder why. Perhaps because it feels undernourished in its 12-inch pot.

The outstanding plant in the C.P.G. yesterday was Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ in the border by the fern house, a shrub now twelve feet wide and nine high. There is no need to walk over: the scent reaches across the lawn. Is there any plant of recent introduction to beat it? (And who, by the way, is or was Jacqueline?) The Rosa odorata, near the Tangerine Dream café, was even more fully in flower than last year, covered with a hundred little light-crimson butterfly-like blooms and their fragile fresh leaves, pale green flushed red, as though it was May. I still prefer the old name R. spontanea ‘Bengal Crimson’, but I hardly dare say so.

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