Some random thoughts

As rain lashes down and wind thrashes the tulips and daffodils against each other, I am glad I popped out the other day and took a few quick photos. I even remembered to take a (poor) photo of Vinca balcanica (more properly called Vinca major subspecies balcanica. I bought this several years ago but it sat, rather dejected, in a pot for too long before I finally planted it out. Like many groundcover (or invasive) plants, it hated being restricted and leapt into other pots where the trailing stems rooted. So I ended up with several plants with no effort.

I know many people are nervous of vincas – I am too – but I do like them. I grow Vinca difformis ‘Jenny Pym’ which I admire for the soft pink flowers but I don’t so much grow it as curb her growth. It leaps around like an excited springer spaniel puppy and is even more destructive. This spring I have accumulated a collection of Vinca minor cultivars and am musing about where to release them. Vinca major spreads fast but will grow in sun or part shade and is useful – in the right place. There are several variegated forms and all are lovely to look at (possibly somewhere other than your own garden).

My Vinca balcanica is in two rather rough areas, and the piece planted under a Viburnum tomentosum, among lamium (and some weeds) has gradually made an impact. Quite how it differs from the plain species is hard to discover, apart from reputed increased hardiness, and it comes from Serbia, Kosovo and Albania which, at least, makes sense!

The leaves are deep green and the flowers are rich blue/purple. They are rather strappy and propellor-shaped with narrow blades. Like most vincas, the flowers are produced from spring to summer, with a few every now and then through summer. Most of the flowers are produced on the young, short shoots produced in spring.

I am definitely late posting about Pulsatilla vulgaris which I always know as the Pasque flower, named after the French word for Easter, itself derived from Pesach or passover. My plant is in one of the raised beds to give it the perfect drainage it requires. This is a European native, usually on chalky soils, growing in short grass, that is obviously related to anemones. The foliage develops after flowering and is grey, carroty and hairy. The flowers open for several weeks though most of mine have failed to open this spring, being soaked with rain and rotting rather than opening. This is a shame because the regal contrast of golden stamens and purple petals is really rather grand. There are other species that are smarter and many varieties with other colours and some with semi-double flowers but the plain species has plenty of charm.

The ‘soft’ spring, dominated by wet and wind, has not suited me well. I crave some sun so I can frolic in the bright light along with the tulips. Even the fox that visits daily looks fed up with the rain as he looks at me through the window, hoping I will feed him. But it does hold some promise for the fruit trees. The apples are yet to open but the pears are trying. More crucially, the plums have flowered well and, by hanging up CDs in the trees, I have managed to keep the finches off the blossom. The Japanese plum ‘Lizzie’ opens before the others, far too early to be sensible, but there are tiny green plums (and I mean tiny) on the tree. I brushed the old flowers and most dropped off, having failed to ‘set’ but there are some that are hanging on and show that there may be a crop.

There are four other plums and they have flowered brilliantly. I would expect nothing less since they are now fairly mature at 4 years old and they were stripped of blossom by the birds last year. This is their first chance to fruit. And the petals are dropping without the stems and calyx so it is looking promising. We are not there yet but…

Of course, if there is a good set then I will need to thin the fruits assiduously so they don’t put too much strain on the trees. Otherwise they won’t make new growth and there will be a poor crop next year. So-called ‘biennial bearing’ is a common problem with plums. But I am getting very ahead of myself now. So far there has not been a single plum from five plum trees (and a damson). But I am sure you can understand my excitement!

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5 Comments on “Some random thoughts”

  1. Jaye Marie and Anita Dawes
    April 12, 2023 at 7:54 am #

    Nature does her best to teach us patience, and for that alone I am grateful…

  2. Paddy Tobin
    April 12, 2023 at 5:32 pm #

    I wouldn’t rush into planting a vinca here but admired a beautifully dark-flowered one in Mount Congreve the other day where it was growing in a big circle around the base of a tree.

    • thebikinggardener
      April 13, 2023 at 8:55 am #

      That sounds like a good place for it – confined by mown lawn – should be constrained then

  3. Meriel in Wicklow
    April 12, 2023 at 7:57 pm #

    I saw that Vinca years ago on a bank in Wales. Unfortunately I couldn’t get to it or I would have had it much sooner! About 5 years ago when visiting a lovely garden in Bray I spotted a huge thicket of it in a very small wood at the end of the garden. The owners were very obliging! I planted it in an area just outside the garden and there it’s spreading well and gets comments from the occasional passer by. I did my best to I D it and it seems I was correct, many thanks. It’s a shame it’s so rampant as the flower is exquisite. Except my hair is a bit thin, I would be pulling it out with this weather – snow on the Sugarloaf this AM ! FingeRs XX for your frUit to set.

    • thebikinggardener
      April 13, 2023 at 8:54 am #

      I am glad you have it too and yes, the flowers are really pretty. I will keep an eye on it but I have places where it can ramp as much as it likes for a while. I know what you mean about the weather – it has been brutal. It picked up a wooden bench yesterday and smashed it into a pot of tulips – which was a shame! No snow that I can see though.

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