Even for a garden caught at the edge of competing weather systems, the reversal from summer to winter over the past ten days has been spectacular. Hot sun and shirt-sleeves a week ago; driving snow and thick gloves on Tuesday. Follow that with seven degrees of frost on Wednesday night – and the devastation is complete:Apart from the inevitable frustration that goes with seeing the spring colour wiped out overnight, it’s interesting to see what is robust enough to withstand the extremes of climate. Alpine plants, on the whole, rapidly bounce back, while many herbaceous plants such as delphiniums and peonies pull themselves together again with a resigned shrug. It’s mostly the rhododendron tribe that suffers – presumably because once the frost has gone from the lower slopes of their mountainous native habitats, they don’t expect to see it back. Which is why they flourish on the frost-free west coast of Scotland, but struggle here.Some plants just get on with life. Primula rosea (again), enjoys the flood that follows the snow melt:And the tougher shrubs are unaffected. The catkins on salix hastata wehrhahnii always look good at this time of year.You often find this sold as a ‘dwarf’ willow – but it’s more a medium-sized shrub, quite capable of growing to five or six feet if you let it. It’s an extremely useful space filler, very attractive in its bowed growth habit, and with pretty, fluffly young foliage. Cuttings taken in autumn root like weeds, so you never need purchase more than one plant. The only thing to watch out for is an infestation of willow beetle – plants can be stripped of their leaves very rapidly.
Update on Veronica wormskjoldii: In this post, I queried whether I had the correct name for this summer-flowing creeping plant. The nursery that sold it to me now agrees that whatever it is, it is not wormskjoldii. Wrongly-named plants which are passed from grower to grower and sold on to gardeners are a real irritant (I constantly see wrongly-named primulas for sale). Few nurseries appear to have the time or inclination to verify the names of their stock. Short term, it may not matter, but in the long term it leads to confusion. I’ll try to get the Edinburgh botanics to identify the veronica and report back. Meanwhile, I see Google has put my photograph into its image bank…..does anyone know how I can get it removed?