You might think, if you followed my recent entries, that I was seldom at home. The truth is different; the trouble (my trouble, that is) is that home these last four months has meant desk and screen. I have been in the throes of composition. My books, down an awful lot of years, have been long, intricate, densely composed of text, pictures and captions. I promised Mrs Trad I wouldn’t go there again, not in this intensity. And yet here I am. It was tolerable (actually, very satisfying) while winter dragged on. Everything changed as the deadline came alarmingly close and spring suddenly tooted its horn.
April is when the conservatory goes wild. So many plants have been ticking over; some still dragging out last year’s achievements, most launching a whole new programme of growth and flowering. The list this morning is an intoxicating mixture of debuts and encores and long-running lists.
Oranges and lemons have the longest runs, fruiting and flowering together all through the cold weather – or do they? What about these salvias that slowed down but never gave up all winter? The dusky red brown ‘van Houttei’ has been going since mid summer last year; so has my old blue friend S. guaranitica. The extraordinary Pelargonium ‘Apple Blossom’ should be relabelled arborescens: it has reached eight feet by the door, flowering non-stop.
Camellias, of course, are at full blast. The soft purple of the Australian mint bush is a cloud behind the tiny oranges. Orange clivias are opening their trumpets like fledglings in green nests. Jasmine is crowding into the roof light and making the air almost too thick to breathe. My ancient potted rose ‘Maréchal Niel’ hangs its tired-looking (are they overweight?) flowers from the wall, and I am excited to see the wide pink blooms of ‘La Follette’ come out among its new red-stained leaves.
‘La Follette’ is the first rose out on the Côte d’Azur, scrambling through silver olive trees as though a great couturier had just ordained pink and silver for the season. (The designer was Lord Brougham’s gardener at Cannes). And the show-stoppers, the full-dress pelargoniums, are breaking open their heavy buds among leaves that proclaim much more vigour to come.