Monday, 14 May 2012

"You Can't Always Trust the Label"

Ever had one of those experiences when you buy something that is not in flower on the basis of it's label, then find it comes up a different colour altogether? I encounter this quite a bit when planting out new gardens, and I've had many people tell me that they have bought "white" agapanthus, for example, that have come up blue.

Here's another example of this annoying phenomenon.  See this? Clearly labelled "Chaemomeles speciosa Nivalis" and the label continues "pure white flowers April-May".  As they say: What is Wrong with this Picture?

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't call those white flowers, would you? Coral, possibly - Peach, maybe, possibly even Pale Apricot, but certainly not white.

This particular plant has a sad and sorry history anyway: it was bought by one of my clients about three years ago, and we planted it in the narrow but sheltered, south-facing front garden of her house. It faces the road, and is not particularly sunny, but the vine does well there, and we have always been careful to regularly add compost and feed for the various plants there.  The Hebes are huge, the roses are quite wonderful, and in early spring the whole area is thickly carpeted with bluebells. OK, most of them are spanish ones, but you can't have everything, and they do come up in blue, white, pink and shades of lilac....

This plant, however, stubbornly refused to grow, and refused to flower.

Earlier this year I was instructed to rip it out: it had had it's chance, it had failed to perform, and was consigned to the bonfire heap. It came out without even a struggle - the roots had barely made an effort to expand beyond the "pot" shape of the original compost. But somewhere between the front garden and the bonfire heap, I softened towards it, and instead of binning it, I took it home, potted it up, and left it in the yard where it received no attention at all.

Then a couple of weeks ago, it started to flower! Just like that. Covered in flowers - of the wrong colour, of course - as cheerful as you like.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it: three years of careful attention: nothing. Three months of neglect in my windy yard: full flowering.  How maddening!

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