Those we have loved and lost…

Well. After complaining about the drought, I got my wish, as we’ve now had a good dose of rain. Sadly, not confined to the evening as I’d been hoping, and even more unwelcome was the wind which has made a wreck of my poor roses (petals scattered everywhere), made the remains of my daffodil leaves flop over looking very messy, and worst of all, one of my precious alliums snapped off (those bulbs cost £7 apiece, you know!) – at least that I could rescue and it’s looking very nice in a vase on the kitchen table.

Seeing the garden struggling in the heat, followed by rain and wind, has reminded me of some of the plants that have failed me over the years – some that didn’t take off full stop, and some that showed promise but for whatever reason, perished.

I am a dogged and stubborn gardener by nature (and in the rest of my life too, I suspect), so when something dies on me, I have often stuck my heels in and planted the same thing over again, determined to make it grow come hell or high water – but sometimes you have to know when to quit, if a plant just isn’t working out for you.

Here, then, is the roll call of those I have loved and lost.

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Late lamented jasmine

Who doesn’t love jasmine? The smell is heavenly, and the white starry flowers against the dark leaves are beautiful – just perfect, I thought, for the shady corner at the bottom of my garden, imagining the white petals would glow out from the shadows to pleasing effect.

It was one of the first things I planted and it grew profusely that summer – beginning to cover a dead tree stump and trellis – but at the first sign of winter it turned up its toes and died. I had always assumed jasmine was hardy, but evidently not, and I decided not to replant it, as it would be so frustrating to start training a new plant up the trellis only to lose it again the next winter – so in its place, a honeysuckle AND a clematis are thriving.

Lily of the valley – don’t even have a photo of this, it grew so briefly. I’ve tried it a couple of times, picking out shady damp spaces you would think would be perfect for it, and the first time it did flower once, but it never reappeared and I’m not sure why, as it’s a perennial. The second time, slugs did for it, so I admitted defeat and have not tried to grow it again. One to try in my next garden, perhaps…

Sweet pea – honestly, I thought any idiot can grow sweet peas, surely? Not me. The first time I planted them from seed too late, and they never really got going. Second summer I bought established plants from the garden centre (cheating!), built a wigwam and got a fairly good result, although the flowers were nearly all burgundy when I was hoping for pale pinks, purples and whites.

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Burgundy is boring!

Last year I decided to be organised and planted sweet peas from seed indoors, watered faithfully and planted them out – but the tray I’d cultivated them in was shallow and the roots weren’t deep enough, so they struggled to climb the wigwam and I eventually waved the white flag. This year, I haven’t bothered planting them at all. Bah, humbug!

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Mexican daisies RIP

Now this one I am really angry about. I discovered Mexican daisies growing in a posh Dulwich garden on an open gardens day, and immediately decided I must have them in my garden – how adorable are those pink and white flowers, and how funky compared to an ordinary daisy? (not that I don’t love those too).

So I planted one at the end of my garden where it grew at the bottom of the wall in a cranny that was almost perfectly designed to take it – then I got the garden wall rebuilt. I gave the builders strict instructions that the plant was to be retained, and came home to find it had been dug up and thrown away. I was most displeased and had a good old whinge about it – but it was gone for good.

I finally replanted it last autumn as close to the original spot as I could, but it doesn’t appear to have survived the winter. Perhaps it’ll be third time lucky, but maybe I’ll save this one for my next garden.

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Pinks before they got ragged looking

Pinks (dianthus) are rather garish – I think this variety above was called Raspberry Ripple – but we grew them in my parents garden and I’ve always thought they were a cheap and cheerful way of injecting some lively colour into a garden, often with attractive silvery foliage too.

This one looked perfect when newly planted, as did the pale peach one with pink edges to the flowers, and the white one – but within a matter of months they started to look ragged and messy. The foliage turns brown, and the buds go rotten and wither without even opening. Was I over-watering or under-watering? Too much sun or not enough?

It didn’t seem to matter whether they were planted in shade or sun, in pots or in beds, they looked ugly and straggly, and yet didn’t actually stop growing, just kept limping on and producing buds that never flowered. I ought to give up on them, and yet I have just planted a new pink. Triumph of hope over experience – either I am too stubborn or too easily swayed by a bargain (they are so cheap!) to resist. Let’s see whether this one finally works for me.

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