Monday, 10 November 2008


Raindrops on Chrysanthemum 'Innocence'

No sun, no moon, no joy, no deal!  Black skies, rain, rain, rain, gales, gloom, dark afternoons, dead plants, claggy ground, clammy dead leaves everywhere - and  it's all absolutely m-a-a-a-h-velous!   This wonderful time of decay, death and despair, made all the more poignant, this year by economic doom and dead bees. Ooooh, the 'carrion comfort!'  Delectable!  For anyone who likes Wagner, Ibsen and the poems of Wilfred Owen, November is the month.  So chuck your optimism into the foot locker, don a sack cloth, find Strauss's Four Last Songs on your iPod and contemplate death.  And a happy Liebestod to all!

Eerie light and a sudden stillness, after violent rain, tempted me to pull on the wellies and go into the garden a little while ago.  The brightly lit raindrops were a joy to behold, particularly where they caught the colours of the petals on which they hung.  The dahlias may be history but late chrysanthemums are still showing jolly colours, despite the earlier frosts.  Korean kinds do best for me and I particularly love the plummy pink button blooms of 'Mei-Kyo,' as well as all of its colour sports.  The single-flowered, spray types are top whack border plants, too, lasting well in the wet and shrugging off the frosts.   I was given the variety 'Innocence' after delivering a lecture at Reading, a couple of years ago, having been told that it was rescued from the brink by the NCCPG.    Whatever its history, I love it for the pearly pink, greenish-yellow centred daisy blossoms.

Lots of buds on the witch hazels, too, but not a bloom yet, whereas the scorpion vetch or crown vetch or punchily named Coronilla valentina ssp. glauca var. citrina (picture above) has come gloriously into flower.  The fragrance is complicated, just on the cusp between sweet and sickly, but the flower colour, against the glaucous foliage is sublime.  And now that flowering is properly under way, it will be in good colour until next August at the earliest.

Back to the NCCPG.  What a lot it has achieved, since its early days back in the 1970s!  But what a long way further it must go, now that technology has presented us with so many more opportunities for improved plant conservation.  'Eh?'  'Do what?' I hear you cry.    Well its obvious, innit?  The internet, an obsessive nature, computaphilia and extreme nerdiness  are the most vital keys to success in conserving all those plant varieties which nobody wants to grow anymore, but which we'd all be sad to see disappear.

There are gazillions of us planty folk out here,  who are vaguely computer literate, and who could all contribute to conservation, simply by keeping in touch and reporting on which threatened plants we've managed to kill, and which - despite our inept husbandry - are doing OK.  We need a central body, like the NCCPG - but with a much, much more open mind to new possibilities - to start allowing us amateurs to build up a whacking great database.

That way, we'd, we'd all be collection holders; that way, it would be easy to pinpoint exactly how every known cultivar is doing.  Those unfortunate varieties which are run down to the last few recorded locations - probably through every fault of their own, largely because they are likely to horrible or disease-ridden plants - would become candidates for Special Rescue Schemes, where volunteers would agree to allow them in their gardens, to propagate them and to find other volunteers willing to take on the progeny.  

Mind you, I can imagine some of the ugly ducklings which no on would want!  The rose 'Masquerade'  - who could possibly love flowers that look like blood and custard.  Rose 'Tequila Sunrise?'  - even worse - like a broken egg containing a  half-developed chick embryo. Snapdragons mutated so that the flowers won't snap - what's the point of those?  The border phlox 'Norah Leigh' which looks as though someone has been sick over it - that would have to go, along with any plant which has the variety name 'Harlequin.' 

But conservation is not about likes and dislikes.  It has to be holistic, and a modern, techno-based initiative would be an excellent way to take things forward.  The plant world deserves it, particularly as new introductions come so thick and fast, nowadays, only to last a season or two before being abandoned for more novelties.  So let's get on with it.

Finally, BIG thanks to those who commented on DEFRA.  The bee petition at  has been signed and details forwarded to as many of my friends as possible - well, to both of them!  If you haven't yet signed it, and you like honey - get online at once!  What?  Oh, of course you're already on line. 
Sorry, and bye bye!



  1. Agree about the pursuit of bizarre cultivars, what's it all about? Blue Roses are my biggest turnoff; to my eyes they are just plain wrong!

    As for the Bees, I think somehow we need to muster a serious campaign, or we will all be contemplating death whole scale!



  2. I didn't even know there are such things as blue roses!

    Nigel - I hope mentioning you on the latest post of LOOSE AND LEAFY (11th November) is ok.

    If not, let me know and I'll change it.


  3. I signed the bee petition :D

    I edit the newsletter for my local NCCPG group, and I can tell you that they're a long way from catching up with computers and the like. Some groups I know are really computer-savvy, but among our membership more than a third don't even have computers, let alone email.

    I think the first thing the NCCPG needs to do is work out how to get younger supporters interested. And by younger, I don't mean very much younger - pre-retirement age would be a good start.

    It's an outstandingly good cause, and one of the few to which I'm willing to give my dwindling spare time - mainly because, as you say, it's the last bastion of making the most of what we've already got before we come up with the 20 millionth new petunia/rose/annual rudbeckia cultivar. When you think about the tiny percentage of plants available in this country which are actually grown in people's gardens, it's mind-boggling. So anyone who's doing anything to make sure that good cultivars which aren't widely grown are preserved in case someone, somewhere should take notice of them again - then they have my wholehearted support.

    Right, I'll get off my soapbox and go do some work now.