Tuesday, 24 February 2009


Crocus tommasinianus  - a selected form, unnamed but lovely.

Oh the shame of it all!  The horror!  The appalling neglect!!  I thought I was only a week late but discover that there has been not an entry on this blog, not a single one, since 10th February. How can I live with it?   How can I make amends?

Excuses?  Well, I've got a couple.   First, family illness struck, when my father, who'll be 93 next month, was suddenly hospitalised.  That means much mileage, since I live a fair distance away, and of course my mother, who is also frail and unwell - though mentally, she's a veritable Titan - needs extra support.   Many a happy hour, therefore, spent on the M25, A1, M11, M2 and all the other bastard Motorways.

I've also had a rush of work - I mean actual paid work - since I'm taking up the regular pen for a certain National Daily as of this coming Saturday.  And there was extra copy to write there, too, so that one could be ahead of the game.

But enough of all that.  Let's move to something gardenish at once.  Brrrrrhhhhhh - mmmm! Pull yourself together, AT ONCE!    Now then, off we jolly well go!

Part of the Alpine Display House at Wisley.

I had to go down to the the RHS Garden at Wisley a week or so ago and since we wanted to do a little photography in the Alpine department, I was permitted to wander about behind the scenes. 

What a magnificent collection it is, and what a perfect time of year to see the plants.  While remnants of snow still lay outside, there we were,  looking at all the exquisite little treasures nestling in their sandy plunge beds and flowering con brio.  Cyclamen were there, amazing South African rarities such as Massonia, intense blue Tecophilaea, saxifrages, hoop petticoat narcissus and, firm favourites of mine, the crocuses.  

Crocus sieberi, a form which grows on Mount Vardousia, in the Pelopponese.

First to strike me was a magnificent form of Crocus tommasinianus. (top picture)  Like nothing I've so far spotted, and infinitely superior to the widely grown C. t. 'Whitewell Purple,' this one positively glowed with the sunlight shining through the translucent tepals making them light up like neon. 

Then there was the soft, lilac blue, rather floppity and creased up Crocus sieberi, gathered from the Pelopponese.  I've seen its close relatives on Mount Parnassos, before, piercing the snow to flower as soon as the white has crept a little further up the mountainside.  Nearby, beneath the firs, we found Fritillaria graeca and Scilla bifolia - but that was all a few years ago.

Romulea tortuosa subspecies tortuosa - a South African native.

Romulea is another genus of surpassing beauty which, like gladiolus, occurs both in the Mediterranean and South Africa.  The black and yellow flowers of R. tortuosa ssp tortuosa of seemed almost like shellac or enamel, especially when one looked closely at the individual petals.  These are plants of the sandy flatlands in the Cape, flowering in September, over there.

Detail of Romulea described above.

Most startling of all was the colour of another somewhat floppy crocus whose tepals were a pure, pale Cambridge blue - never a trace of mauve or purple there, absolutely in the precise blue spectrum but pale, like a gentian that has been mixed with whitewash.

Crocus baytoporium - a pure shade of blue not seen in other crocus species

The beauty of such things helps one to forget sick fathers, angst-ridden mothers, the vagaries of newspaper editors and the absolutely mind-boggling, exasperating, staggering, gobsmacking level of nincompoopery that seems to have affected everyone in the government, banking or industry.  We're all doooooomed, I tell you!  But why worry, when there's  Crocus baytoporium to wonder at?  And when the smell of Daphne laureola is calling from the woods round here?

This day last year  I was poring over my presentations for Green With Envy - the show I did with James le Chapeau.  We had some good laughs on that job!  The apotheosis of our theatre career was at Barrow in Furness where the nuclear subs nuked James's computer.

I'm reading Martin Chuzzlewit - yes, still!  About 40% through and it's brilliant!!

I'm listening to Wagner's last music drama Parsifal.  Well, I'm in that sort of mood.

Sorry to have taken so long to post.
Toodle ooh!  Stay well everyone!!!


  1. Lovely to see you back, especially with crocuses as a peace offering.

    Best wishes for your father's speedy recovery.

  2. I love the Romulea - they look like butterflies.

    Hope your father gets well soon

  3. I had been thinking that it was a long time and beginning to feel a bit sad about it... Hope your dad is feeling better, and that your back survives all the driving.. ("bastard motorways" made me laugh).

    We want to know what paper to buy!!!!

    I love that Wisley alpine house. Last year I went when a lot of tiny species gladioli were in flower and they were incredibly exciting. I think, essentially, I am just monocot through and through.

  4. I am glad to see a bit of regret: you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself. Such neglect could result in your Blog being taken away from you and put into council care.
    Hope your father is okay.
    I have always been a bit sceptical about alpine displays as they seem a bit like exhibits in a provincial museum but I am coming round to them.
    Must be getting old.

  5. Sorry to hear about your father. I don't think the love middle-aged children have for their parents is ever taken seriously enough apart from the people who do the loving. Best wishes to you and your father and your mother as well.

    Like Patient Gardener, I immediately thought of butterfly wings when I saw the Romulea . . . and think the ones at the very top of the page are stunningly beautiful.

    Not sure about the Cambridge Blues . . . they look a bit washed out.

    Unlike James, I haven't grown to like displays of this kind (yet?). Crocuses need (I wish I knew how to do italics for 'need') to be out in the open, in great swathes, with trees. Otherwise, they look a bit sad.

    I also think they should be planted closer together than is recommended when you buy them in packets. I've seen quite a lot of horrible, widely spaced, stunted little things this year passing for crocusses. (In rows! Oh!)

    But, most important - best wishes to your parents.