Hormones in action Posted on May 1, 2018

Appropriately glacial tulips in Holland Park

 

 

Just when we gardeners are cajoling our friends (who are doing likewise) to come and admire our magnolias/camellias/tulips/wisteria the weather turns round to bite us. Is this a rehearsal for the Bank Holiday? Then what was that heatwave at the beginning of May?

Plants can’t exactly back-pedal when their spring hopes are dashed. Some can put the brakes on, but once the bracts are off, the petals are on their own. Even the blackthorn has mistimed its winter, the high point of its not very exciting year. It flowered in a warm spell; I wonder how many sloes there’ll be this autumn.

My excitement just now is watching and measuring the progress of a newly-planted clematis. C. armandi is remarkably deliberate and predictable. It sends up a leading shoot with two opposite arms at the base, each ending in three leaves curved inward like grappling hooks. When one (or both) finds anything fixed to cling to, one or two of the tender young leaves try to encircle it. When it senses a firm hold the leading shoot has the confidence to extend. If both arms find a purchase they remind me of an athlete hoisting himself on parallel bars; up goes the leader at double speed, to repeat the process. Anything that damages it at this stage seems to discourage the whole shoot, and possibly give a boost to another. The whole thing is a vivid demonstration of hormones in action. Like spring itself.

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