A North Wales Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: February 2018: entry no. 69
Now is the winter of our discontent...
My first thought, on St David's Day, is that this is the first time for many years that I would not be able to go out into the garden and pick our customary bunch of daffodils to celebrate our patron saint; all are frozen, some blasted by the Siberian wind in full bloom, others caught in the act of opening, just a few later types likely to escape the worst of this '10 year' late winter event. It is certainly the coldest spell during the 26 years we have lived in this house, the pond frozen to a depth of c. 5 cm so that the only frog it has to offer when it should be alive with noisy amorous courting couples is the one shown in the accompanying illustration! I can already see that many of the tender plants that I love to brag about in these pages are severely damaged, probably fatally in some cases, but we shall have to wait until the spring finally arrives to know which, But tis an ill wind.... and I guess nurserymen who specialise in such things will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a profitable year ahead providing replacements. As gardeners our only consolation is that deaths in the garden can be regarded as opportunities, freeing up precious space for things that we may have wanted to try for a long time but for which we have not had the room.
Even the snowdrops have finally submitted to the biting E wind that has tormented us for a week, bowing their heads to the ground, only those with protective snow cover being likely to recover when we are finally delivered back into climatological normality. Galanthus plicatus 'South Hayes', one of my absolute favourites, being a distinctive inverted poculiform with bold eyecatching markings outside and in, strong-stemmed and long-lasting - what more could one ask - it is still going strong after 5 weeks in flower. Another that I have really taken to is the vigorous yet graceful and delicately marked G. nivalis 'Cowhouse Green'. Of the several 'yellows' (forms of G. nivalis 'Sandersii'), the latest here are one that I had from John Richards as 'Howick Yellow', and the seemingly more vigorous 'Blonde Inge', a German variety discovered in 1977 which, unlike most 'yellows' normally has a green rather than yellow ovary. Finally, and latest of all of the ones I have here is my very own G. 'Bod Hyfryd' (named for our house) which turned up here a few years ago among a clump of G. 'Little John'; it does not have the interesting strong 'X' marking on the inners of that splendid early G. elwesii hybrid and if it was not so late coming into bloom would probably pass unnoticed. Anyway, it is one of my 'children' so I love it!
G. 'South Hayes'
G. 'Cowhouse Green'
G. nivalis 'Howick Yellow'
Galanthus nivalis 'Blonde Inge'
Galanthus 'Bod Hyfryd'
This is the only yellow grape hyacinth that I have grown (are there others?) and until this year I kept it in pots, but as it had multiplied well I decided to plant some out in a poor scree (it grows in rocky places in E. Crete and S.W. Turkey), little expecting this ferocious late blast from the east. Anyway, it was in full flower when things turned nasty and although it still looks ok, though a little blasted, only time will tell if the bulb has been turned to mush. As well as being attractive the flowers are honey scented, but a bit of warm sun is needed to appreciate that.
Precocious peonies: I hardly dare check!
Several of my treasured tree peonies were already advanced in their growth, some including P. ostii and P. ruprechtiana with well expanded buds, when the frosts set in; they will probably be severely damaged but are unlikely to be killed outright. I suspect that damage of this kind to soft growing tissues is a sure route for infection by Peony blight (Botrytis paeonia), which as you will know if you follow this blog, is a real problem in this garden, so extra vigilance will be required with the spraying regime this spring and summer.