In the chiller

Since my last post about two weeks ago, spring has come to a halt. It’s true that the South of England has had more rain than Scotland ( there’s always a certain schadenfreude on the rare occasions when that happens), but here it has been much colder, with temperatures rarely above 7 degrees, and several light frosts too, to hold things back. This happens in a north-easterly airstream, and we have been stuck in one for about three weeks. I have never seen the trees so late into leaf.

May 5th is always a critical date, because we often get  a final, killer frost on that day which wipes out the mid-season rhododendrons and any young growth going. And today, the skies have cleared. It’s good to see the sun, but I’m not sanguine about staying frost-free tonight.

So, while the going is good, here’s a picture of rhododendron yunnanense just coming into bloom. One of the few that makes it to tree height in this part of the world.The sun has brought out the spring gentians. This is gentiana verna. A wonderful, electric blue. I’m always seduced when I see this plant  for sale, and I usually have to replace it every year, as it appreciates neither the Scottish winter nor the acid soil. This one has managed to survive into its third spring, however, with the help of a few limestone chippings, although it is not bulking up – just hanging on.

Gentiana acaulis ought to do better, as it grows on acid soils. And indeed my young plant is showing every sign of being happyAcaulis is an oddly temperamental plant however. It spreads easily enough, as you can see, by thrusting out new shoots just under the surface. But sometimes it just refuses to flower in the spot you have chosen. Dig it up and shift it – even a few feet – and it may suddenly decide to flower after all.  Also its trumpets are just too big and heavy for the stems, so the flowers tend towards the horizontal….not ideal for the pollinators. But still, those great blue flowers are welcome, whatever their position.

The bank of whin (gorse) by the house is now approaching maximum yellow. It’s another irritating plant – extremely prickly, a terrifying fire hazard, leggy with age, lies down and dies if it gets any weight of snow, and seeds everywhere except where needed to regenerate itself. But that warm scent of vanilla and the bank of colour – well, who would be without it?


12 thoughts on “In the chiller

  1. Some nice stuff growing there Kininvie. That’s about as big a rhododendron as I’ve ever seen, and the gentians might have come from the intergalactic plant nursery. I’m glad you are okay with digging up the horizontal gentian and moving it a bit– moving plants is such an important part of gardening as you know. I just checked the online weather and it looks like you may escape any freeze this week so perhaps you’re home free.

  2. That almost electric blue of the gentiana verna is absolutely stunning; it’s a shame it doesn’t want to spread out more.

    As for the “annoying, but I don’t want to live without it” gorse, sometimes a plant just needs to be in the garden, regardless of its draw-backs.

  3. You see Mr K, that is the difference between us. I only have sorrow and regret and sympathy for your extended period of cold weather and the ever-present risk of late frosts. Your misfortune certainly doesn’t give me pleasure … or make me smirk. But then I’m a very, very, very nice person. Your gentians are gorgeous. I have two in plastic pots (I have no idea what variety/species) tucked up behind the greenhouse; waiting. Waiting for me to do something with them. But I never do and they continue to sit, year in, year out and they always flower. Quite shaming really. Dave

    • Dear Very Nice Dave,
      It is probably true that years of struggle against mud have embittered me, but my curmudgeonly temperament is not improved by BBC announcers who remark on the lovely weather they are having in London when it’s pi**ing down outside!

  4. Your gentians make me wish I had acid soil! I just love that blue and always want to be a bit wierd and pair it with a rich and vibrant orange.

    We might be getting a frost this weekend so there’s more schedenfreude for you! 😉

    • No, it’s only the sun/rain split that causes any joy. I hope your plants survive the frost – …
      BTW Gentian verna likes calcareous soils – so it might be worth a shot? Equally, it’s a very good plant for a trough, where you could give it whatever suits it.

  5. I love Gentians. There aren’t many plants that can match their blueness. I know someone up in Aviemore at the moment and they keep posting on facebook stunning photos of the sunshine and snow clad mountains. It’s incredibly annoying for those of us developing trench foot here in Wales but I suppose he’s providing a public service, some of us need reminding what the sun looks like !!! It isn’t warm here either but I think light levels are the main problem. Some lettuce I planted out at the allotment 4 weeks ago have not grown at all. It’s meant to get even colder this weekend.

  6. The plus side of all our rain and cold is that my meconopsis and scottish primulas are very happy indeed!! Have tried Gentians a few time but really, I can’t kill any more so will just enjoy them in your garden!

    • Hello Pauline,
      Any flower buds on your meconopsis yet? I usually get the first flowers around May 12th, and they keep going for about a month. One of my two beds is not looking too good this year – I think the tree roots have got in among the plants.

      • Yes, my first flower opened yesterday, with lots of buds still to open. Looking at last years photos, we are a month behind, due to our cold weather!

  7. I didn’t know what a gorse was, so I’ve checked on Google. It’s a ulex. We have a different species here in Italy. Yours looks very nice, even though I can understand your perplexity about the plant, which misbehave here as well. Did you know it is Bach flower no. 13? It seems good to solve deep desperation cases. You may need it in case the winter is still holding up in May! 🙂

  8. You have just reminded me of the gentians I planted in the troughs last year…where are they?
    Talking of electric blue our mecanopsis sheldonii are flowering. I never tire of them. Another plant to dig up and move when we flit?!

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