Absence makes the plants grow faster

Next to sunshine and warmth, the best thing to help a growing garden along its way is not to constantly watch it, or so I’ve found in the past few weeks as I’ve dashed straight from Derbyshire to Portugal to Cumbria with barely a second to draw breath or do any laundry. In those frantic few hours between destinations I just about managed to water my seedlings, but apart from that, almost three weeks had passed before I was able to spend last weekend in the garden and take a proper look at progress.

And quel progress. The sunshine had been working hard during my absence, and the plants, far from dying pathetically without my unremitting attention, had instead shot up, bloomed, spread, and be-decked themselves with leaves, without any supervision from me at all.

Crocosmia sprouting

The crocosmia, which I divided up from the large potted specimen in our rented back garden, after a hesitant start, is sprouting healthy green blades from its new position by the hedge and the gate. I am intending it to grow up and over to flop slightly across the edge of the path. Indeed I am hoping for a lot of general plant-flopping over the edge of the path in order to soften the edge somewhat and create a less formal, more casual, romantic look.

Hosta Devon Green
Hosta Patriot

The hostas, Devon Green and Patriot, which I despaired of ever seeing, are at last visible. I adore shining, healthy hostas and am so thrilled that mine are both arriving. I can’t wait to see what they will eventually look like. These are both on the shady side of the path where again I hope they will soften the hard line of the edging.



Hurrah for my Primula denticulata, the drumstick primulas! They are the most cheerful thing in the garden, these uplifting, gravity-defying lollipops, and I just adore them for all the healthy, vibrant colour they have supplied throughout this recent time of sparsity when I had little else going on bloom-wise. Imagine: this lot were originally a single plant, which I divided last autumn, and this year I should get another two or three plants from further divisions. Wonderful things.

Hydrangea macrophylla

This hydrangea is weeks behind everyone else’s (I do a great deal of glancing over other people’s front garden fences as I walk along; don’t you?) as it was a rather sickly thing when I bought it on the sale shelf of the garden centre. But it has been persuaded out in to leaf by the recent warm weather and I hope that a year of love and attention will stand it in good stead for lots of future blooms, which I believe will turn out to be bluey-white.


I am very pleased with these fat, healthy muscari, which fade from Delft blue to palest sky at the tips. Not bad for a Homebase impulse buy. You may have noticed from this and all my pictures that each plant is rather lonesome in its area of bare soil. I have plans for the bare patches, in short my white cosmos, delphinium Pacific hybrid, and aubrieta seedlings, and some dark ‘Black Paeony’ poppies which I will sow directly into the soil next weekend.

‘Denim’ primula

This odd little ‘Denim’ primula was a novelty Easter gift from my mother last year. It stayed outside all winter, alternately drowning and parching, and I am quite amazed that it has forgiven this treatment so generously by coming back into bloom here at the edge of the path. It is a funny-looking plant, but I am quite fond of it.

Morello cherry, with developing blossom buds just visible.

Now here is one of my most exciting horticultural treats: a morello cherry tree. One of the things I most wanted was to look out of the front window and see blossom in the spring. This tree, presently about 4′ tall, is planted in the furthest corner of the garden in a position calculated to overcast as little of the precious bed space as possible, the garden being shaded enough by buildings and large trees as it is. The morello cherry is one of the few fruit trees that will tolerate shade, and since the front garden receives only about 4 hours of sunlight in the summer (almost none in the winter), this was an easy choice. I am delighted that blossom is developing on the spindly branches; you can just about see the buds in the lower of the two photographs.

Bearded Irises: ‘Dusky Challenger’ and ‘Frost and Flame’

These bearded irises ‘Dusky Challenger’ and ‘Frost and Flame’ were chosen to contrast against one another. They are planted in the sunniest patch just behind the edge of the path.

Helleborus x sahiini ‘Winter Bells’

Hellebore season is somewhat over now that so many other plants have advanced onto the stage, but I should mention this ‘Winter Bells’ of miniature blush-and-coffee flowers that I bought on sale from Crocus and planted near to the cherry tree, where it has settled in very well. It is so cheerful and I am looking forward to seeing its charming blooms next winter when little else is on show in the garden.

Bergenia Eroica

Another triumphant, cheerful display here from my Bergenia Eroica, bought at the garden centre at Bodnant Garden in Wales. I have just flicked back through my blog to remind myself of its name, and in doing so saw from the photos I posted in March’s End of Month View how much everything, including this, has grown and spread in just this short space of time. The ability to photographically track these week-to-week developments is one of the many advantages of garden blogging.

Acanthus hungaricus

And here comes my Acanthus hungaricus, which I bought to compensate for the death of the self-seeded acanthus that was growing out of my mother’s compost heap and which she gave me last summer. I was so taken with her acanthus, with its striking, tall flower heads, that I knew I had to have one of my own. The hungaricus is slightly more delicate in colour and habit than the more usual mollis, I am led to believe.


And is that a tulip ‘Menton’ flower bud just coming through? I am looking forward to seeing these in bloom very much, having planted them in a panic very late in January. Tulips are probably my favourite spring bulb, and the ‘Menton’ should turn out to be the most elegant, pretty apricot pink colour.

Potato bags

Finally my potato bags. I’m afraid I cannot tell you the name of the potatoes I am growing inside these bags because I am typing this 130 miles away in Cumbria instead of in my office at home in Edinburgh where I keep the tags from all the plants I buy, ready to be organised into a file. But they are sprouting well and being earthed up, and watered too (hopefully) by The Brazilian, who is being a good egg at keeping the garden extremely well hydrated in my absence. I have been in Cumbria all this week and weekend, and won’t be home till next weekend, so The B has promised to send photos of the tulips and cherry blossom should they come out while I am away. And I of course will post photos of the garden next weekend for my End of Month View.

13 thoughts on “Absence makes the plants grow faster

  1. This is really coming together now; can’t wait to see the End Of Month view next week. You needn’t worry about things flopping across the path, they will, they will. Think of the lavender Granny gave me, at the top of the steps, which I planted 18″ into the border. It’s claimed at least half the path, but leaves an empty patch of brown soil which it was supposed to hide. I think hostas are particularly good as path edgers, softening without aggression. I look forward to seeing yours.
    Watch the grape hyacinth. They are very pretty but self-seed like mad and get into everything. Mine are completely out of hand and have made it to weed status, along with the mallow and the yellow sisyrinchium. (I have a sweet little purple sisyrinchium – idahoensis, I think, which behaves perfectly, despite the fact that I could happily tolerate it spreading a bit.) I have white muscari in the vegetable garden among the cutting tulips. These come up each year and don’t spread. But no use if you want blue. You can also get (but won’t want) yellow muscari, an odd-looking flower; another sort – an exciting fluffy mauve thing called m comosum I think, is one I’ve tried several times without success. Aunty K says she can’t grow it either so I have regretfully given up.

    1. I really like white muscari and will add them to my wishlist. Don’t mind things seeding everywhere at the moment, it’s just what the garden needs, in fact.
      Do things flop over paths if you WANT them to, or just when you don’t?!

      1. I don’t want too much path-flopping because of needing to keep the brick path reasonably weed-free. But I don’t want the hard brick edge showing either. There aren’t many plants which won’t oblige. One is a little pink geranium that seems to be indigenous. Some years it doesn’t appear at all, but this year I can see its titchy leaves in at least two places and love it for its tenacity. As summer progresses something bigger will swamp both the geranium and the path edge.
        As for muscari, do you remember passing the Manse on the way to school? The Minister (Congregationalist, I think) didn’t have much time for gardening but was blessed with a good sized front garden laid to crazy paving with a large oval bed in the middle. In the centre of this was one standard rose surrounded by muscari in spring followed by a delicate plant with ferny leaves and a yellow flower which grew up and covered the dying muscari foliage. This lasted all summer, then died back tidily. A neat solution. I forget the name of the yellow thing. It grows on the walls here but I don’t tolerate it as snails love it as a hiding place.

  2. It’s all go there now – I can feel the excitement in your writing. Speaking as a fellow Edinburgh gardener things are very slow this year and the lack of rain seems to be aiding and abetting their shyness.
    How lovely that your OH is keen to take pics for you should there be a chance that you miss out on any blooms, what a sweet man. Enjoy the remainder of your trip and I look forward to reading on the progress pretty soon.

  3. You have some fabulous plants in your garden. Beware crocosmia though.. once you have it, you’ll always have it. Everywhere. I have been digging it out for three years and still it does not surrender!

  4. How can you bear to be away?! I love the colour of that hellebore. The Iris, “Dusky Challenger”, has been on my wish list for some time. Its dark blue-black flowers are supposed to smell of dark chocolate! It’s all filling out nicely and I love the sound of the additions you are planning. Sounds like a lovely rich colour palette of blues and purples!

    1. I can hardly bear it. The torture is extreme. The Brazilian just told me on the phone, ‘nothing has grown at all and I think your cherry tree has died,’ and I screamed before realising he was winding me up. Looking forward with great anticipation to the scent of dark chocolate wafting around the garden – I’ll report back!

  5. Looks like a lot of progress here. I agree with Rusty Duck on the Crocosmia though. It really needs digging up every few years or it will turn into a solid mass of brain like matter under the ground. See my post
    End of Month View November

    1. Goodness – your crocosmia was a venerable old beast! Still, I am not sure how long we will live in this flat for so perhaps it will be some other poor person’s problem when that time comes. I will take your advice and keep an eye on it.

      1. It was certainly old – I can’t remember how long it has been in – at least twenty years! It is a wonderful plant though – so vibrant! I hope you enjoy yours.

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