Friday, 16 March 2012

Flowers in the House
and Signs of Spring

Every year I have this dream that this will be the one where I manage to keep flowers in the house all year around. Invariably I fail, but this year I seem to be doing better than previous ones and particularly at the moment. Cut flowers, often wild, will come in season, but for now the time belongs to pots of spring bulbs and other early flowering plants. Of course the well organised would plan ahead, potting up bulbs the previous autumn in preparation for the coming spring; always thinking a few months in advance. These are skills that I am trying to foster (last year I even got so far as buying the bulbs), but still this year I find myself resorting to pots of things I find at the nurseries.

So far we have had daffodils that for a few weeks gave us a much needed lift, before becoming rather pale and leggy in the low light of the living room in late winter. The best of these, and still in situ spreading its wonderful scent, was Bridal Crown. A tall variety with white double flowers and short leaves that, simply potted in a white bowl, had an almost Japanese arrangement feel about it.

Narcissus Tête à Tête' is a lovely daffodil,
although there is huge variation between
plants - the more compact the better.
Another pot of Tête à Tête, more compact that the one before, has just been given to us and has replaced the leggy ones. You see so many creative ways of potting daffodils and next year, when I really will be planting my own bulbs, I will try different bowls and tins, but for now everything goes into the wonderful old worn terracotta pots that we found.

Another treat were the stocks that were on sale at the nursery at the weekend. Traditionally of course they are bedding plants, but a group of three - each in its own pot - make a wonderful display and the scent is gorgeous; rich and sweet, like candy floss, which of course is exactly what they look like. Not bad for 30p each.

Although scentless the crown at the moment belongs to the ranuncula, again a bedding plant but one that is just so stunning that it can easily stand up to being used as table centre piece. It is related to the buttercup, which is one of those facts that makes you go 'oh yes, of course', when you first hear it. The sculpted curved petals open out from the middle in a way that makes you think it will never end. And for us it all started this morning; at 8am the plant was just showing signs of releasing its tight grip on the flower bud and by 9, a crown of petals had broken away. But come tea time it had almost opened fully, the dark edges giving way to pink petals - but still with the darker ball centre. It is just so beautiful.

Signs of spring

For mid-morning tea I wonder up onto the balcony, where the sun is warming on the back and could easily lul me into thinking about reading or writing up there. Luckily every few seconds a slight breeze drifts past and whispers 'it's only mid-march', causing me a slight shiver as though acknowledging her maternal warning. But its warm enough for half and hour or so.

I potter, just looking for the early signs of spring. There are no jobs to be done. Well, there are, but I don't intend doing them. The batch of tulip and daffodil bulbs, that I bought last autumn and left in a cupboard and which I only found and planted a few weeks ago, seem to be making up for lost time. They are behind those in the ground of course, but they'll come good. I planted them up in medium terracotta pots so that I can decide where to put them when they come into flower. If the weather is nice on the balcony they can be moved to a suitable spot, or else we'll bring them into the house. 

Matthiola incana 'Stocks Legacy Mixed' with their
amazing scent and candy floss flowers

Where as the ranuncula's unfurling can be measured in hours, almost minutes, the fig and grape vine are taking a more leisurely approach, although progress can been seen every day now. The rosemary is coming into flower, a spectacle so small that at almost any other time of year it would be missed, but in these very early days of spring even such a small flower is a treat. For a few years I have been meaning to collect some seed and sow up some fresh bushes, but invariably I forget and so just take a few cuttings of the new growth.

A few weeks ago I sorted out some of the old cuttings that had been lying around and threw out any that looked as though they hadn't taken, discaring them and the old soil in the main bed. But looking down now I see a thin twig poking out from under one of the lavenders, I would never had noticed it, except that a fresh bright green leaf is breaking out from the top. It is a current of some kind or a gooseberry, we'll find out in due course. Such dogged defiance is one of natures finest qualities and should be an inspiriation to us all.

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