Friday, 15 January 2010


First, a question: Has anyone tried Dog Rocks? If you have, you'll know what they are. And if you have, did they work? Please let me know - for reasons to be revealed on a later post.

Rosa 'Guinée'

Second, a delectable little irony. Our Christmas tree never looked prettier than earlier this week when snow followed cold rain and sweetly garnished every branch and needle with perfect white crystals.

I had dumped it on the terrace, after Twelfth Night, but was too idle – and too depressed by the dismal non-freeze-non-thaw limbo we were in – to shred it for the compost bin, so for once, indolence was blissfully rewarded. The Photographer General came over all wistful, saying 'if only we could plant it.' But she knew it was doomed, cut off above the roots and jammed into a log for stability. Nice little swan song, though.

Sutton's 2010 plant catalogue turned up this week. On its cover, the most lurid-looking Himalayan blue Meconopsis I've ever seen. Why do they do that? The natural colours had been so pepped up and distorted that the flowers looked more like a corsage for a concubine than the exquisitely delicate thing that a blue poppy is. You can see it here - but the web colours look a little less lurid.

And leafing through, on page 21 I discover a quarter page shot of 'The first truly yellow geranium!' Well, I dare say the petals have a certain creamy, not quite buttery tinge, but since the whole picture has a violent yellow cast, it's hard to know exactly what colour the flowers really are.

This prompted me to look at other catalogues, to hunt down untruthful pictures. From memory: clumps of Amaryllis belladonna with alien leaves; barrels of potatoes which suggest that a single plant will feed India; jostling forests of Arum italicum berry spikes, when you know that only two or three ever appear, and when they do, the birds gobble them all in an afternoon; horrible little standard buddlejas with staggering masses of flower spikes sticking out in all directions making them look like old mops and a Salix melanostachys with catkins that would look as though they'd outdo magnolia grandiflora blooms.

The most dreadful of all lying pictures, though, belong to the roses. Let me spell this out: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A BLUE ROSE. You can call a dirty lavender one 'Blue Moon' if you must, but it isn't blue. I grow a fab rambler called 'Veilchenblau' but it's a lot more veilchen than blau!

Actually, I'm pretty sure nobody wants a blue rose. Why would you? (I'm particularly sensitive to this issue because when I was adolescent, my mother decorated the bathroom with wallpaper depicting huge blue roses and installed a blue bath, bog and basin. I had to pluck up courage, every time I entered.)

So I thought I'd do a couple of little introductions here. All you have to do is look at the pictures.

Rosa 'Blue Fandango' (AUTCRAP) - an exciting new colour break in this cultivar developed by rose breeders David Automobile and having the 'old rose' look but with an exciting new hue. (Protected by PBR and marketed in the USA as 'Blue Movie' and in Australia as 'Dinky Di Blue')

Galanthus nivalis 'Blushing Pedant,' a remarkable new discovery from the Rev. Tweedly-Stale's garden in Smackton-under-Clothes, Gloucestershire. Bidding on eBay for a twin scale of this cultivar has already reached £3,000 and rising. The Rev says, 'this colour break is heaven-sent. I can now retire in comfort.'

I'm listening to Way Down In The Hole by the Blind Boys of Alabama. (We've been watching the first series of The Wire which is largely incomprehensible but the title song is - well - try it!)

This week's film was Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. Being interested in the Mayan civilisation, I thought this might be worthwhile. Oh, what a mistake! The cinematography was absolutely superb, but that's about it. The plot was thinner than a supermodel but significantly less intelligent. Credibility shortfalls happened regularly and there were two classic Deus ex machina cop-outs, one with a kids comic book style total eclipse and the other even more preposterous, near the end. With one bound, people were free from lethal situations and the dialogue - through subtitles, since the thing was spoken in the ?Yucatec?? Mayan language - was wooden. But what I hated most was the unrelenting, gratuitous violence. We got the point that they were a violent lot. The body piercing was a bit of a give-away, on that, but spouting blood, decapitations, rape, pillage - on and on and on and on it went, until one felt physically sickened. The whole thing even begins with a gory hunt for a tapir. The Mayans were a remarkable people with unbelievably sophisticated abilities in maths and architecture - but not in this film.

This time in 2007 I was preparing pictures for Garden World Images and we ate Jambalaya for supper - obviously made with the remains of the Christmas ham.

Have a lovely week end y'all!


  1. I used to do some gardening work for someone who had one of those tri-coloured hibiscus syriacius plants, well 3 plants grown together actually which never flowered together as that bible, the catalogue, showed.

    It's been a long time since I heard anyone call a lavatory a 'bog'. You need to start a trend.

    We started watching the 1st series of The Wire last night. I must look to see if sub-titles are available!

  2. Arrrrrrgggggghhhh! The quest for a blue rose et al. is truly one of my pet hates. If I want something blue I'll plant a Delphinium or such-like. Your esteemed colleague, Graham Rice also points out catalogue inaccuracies so frequently I've given up believing them.

    I got rather cross about 'the world's first striped Fuchsia' last year. It was more blotched than striped in the photo and also implied it was new, which of course it wasn't. You can read my rant here

  3. By 'kids comic book style total eclipse' I take is that you are referring to the climax of that great classic Tintin story "Prisoners of the Sun".
    A great moment never to be eclipsed by anything since (Geddit??!!)

    We finished the last series of the Wire last night. Gripping stuff but made simpler half way through series 2 when we realised that there were subtitles available if you poke around a bit.

    The worst plant catalogue bits are when they compose an entire border from bits of cut out paper so you get the most unlikely flowering combinations and a remarkable contrast of sizes.And you can see the joins.

  4. I can understand how they 'enhance' the colours oof the flowers but how so they get those shrubs to appear with so many blooms - they do look unnaturally prolific

  5. You need a pair of sunglasses to look at Parker's catalogues. And whilst I feel that tapirs should get more screen time than they do, a tapir hunt isn't what I'd have in mind.

  6. James - absolutely Tintin. And yes, we discovered the subtitles for The Wire. I've been rather snooty about subtitles, since being fitted with hearing aids, but something like The wire needs them. Why oh why, then, does the equally watchable - but admittedly more formulaic - House not have subtitles.

    A tapir, Happy Mouffetard, should have a place in everyone's hearts. Not sure the Asian ones aren't prettier 'cos they've got a big central stripe, like a saddleback pig. Speaking of which, as an obvious tapir lover, you might also enjoy a babirousa?

    VP - your rant duly noted. Glad you pointed out that Lady Boothby was pre-war, too. Not a lot of people know that, thinking it a 'new climbing fuchsia.'

  7. A babirousa is better than nothing. Red River Hogs are better, but tapirs are just wonderful. I like all manner of animals whose young look like stripey humbugs.

  8. You've hit on one of my pet peeves, the serious color distortions of catalogues and the staging of flowers in them. Makes me want to shout "Fake, fake, fake!" One thing I love about blogs is that frequently, someone will post photos of a plant seen in a catalogue, and the blogger will try to present the plant as accurately as possible and list all its attributes and drawbacks. I've learned to understand catalogue-speak too, such as vigorous = rampant/invasive, and blue = mauve or pink, colony-forming= takes over the whole garden by means of underground runners.

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  10. Those roses are of the same picture, you just changed the colour. what's up with that? I do not believe this to be legit :-D

  11. Good photoshopped and fantastic stories
    Keep dreaming and fooling