Sunday, March 4, 2012


We have a funny, contradictory idea about nature. On the one hand, we admire it for simply being there - for being 'natural'. On the other, we can't quite trust it. We worry it will take over. We worry it will die! Both! So we tend it and water it and prune it and . . . sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

In my garden, the 'doesn't' rules ok. I'm too erratic to keep things in good order. Never able to keep the right 'term' in mind. Whether it's short, or long or medium that's needed - I'm bound to be looking at the ones which aren't.

Upshot - on the whole, my garden looks after itself.

These tiny Tete-at-tete Daffodils are growing  in a pot with a . .
 bother, can't remember it's name.
This is their third year but I'd forgotten about them
- until they came up!

Poor garden. Not only does it have to look after itself because I forget to be doing anything when it 'needs' me but there are also times when I consciously leave it to its own devices. It's interesting. I like to go round and see what happened while I was looking the other way.

This post is a mixture of 'goods' and 'bads' and always (to me) 'interestings' - things which happened while my back was inconsiderately turned.

This is a collection of pots that I put on a wire stand in the autumn..
The Sedum cape blancas were, at that point,
 bits which had been broken off their parent plant by a cat which likes to walk on it.
They've rooted!

These little sedums have done well on their own but, lurking out of focus is a tiny parsley which is not happy at all. I know I should be hanging my head in shame but I'm not. I'm being impressed. It's alive!
Wherever there's earth, free-wheelers are likely to drop by on the off-chance. The little green plant shoving one of the sedums aside may be a cowslip. It might be a foxglove. Either way, I'll tenderly lift it out and give it a home of its own.

That's what I did when a little balm seedling arrived last year - I put it in its own pot. Erm . . . and forgot about it. It remained small. (This is a very tiny pot. Pictures can decieve!) It had no room for roots, it shrivelled. I thought it had died. It hasn't. There it is  - small, determined, healthy leaves - and a clutch of fox-glove-or-cowslip babies have moved in too.

The Canterbury Bell is a 'spare';
an understudy to the ones which I planted out in the autumn.

These three inch pots are too small for the cowslips in them. Terracotta pots look nicer than plastic ones and, I would guess, are better ecologically, but earth in them dries out quickly. With virtually no rain or root-room, these little cowslip plants have gone into suspended animation. They don't die but they aren't growing either. I'll re-pot them soon. Promise.

Here's another example of wonderful resilience.

These two leaves belong to two, very small cyclamen plants - the kind which have tiny white flowers towards the end of summer.

When I was digging in the autumn, they fell away from a clump I was moving so I sat them on the earth in a pot . . . and they are growing. 'Course they are! It's what plants do!

Over the winter, all sorts of things drop in by chance.
Leaves, of course. Snails - often!
And, in this garden - baycorns.
(Like little, brown and speckled, chocolate eggs.
See the one here?)
Hellebore seedlings

But not everything is left to chance.

Last year, I bought a hellebore. I was excited. I'd been enchanted by pictures of hellebores on other garden blogs. But when my hellebore flowered, I decided hellebore flowers are rubbish. If I had a true sense of aesthetic, I would have thrown this one away - but I'd heard that hellebores easily self-seed . . . so I put the flowering plant in a pot, filled a tray with potting compost, put the pot on the tray and left it there . . . and it has been there ever since - looking odd but . . . I can now confirm, hellebores are happy to self-seed. Now, of course, I will have to work out what to do with a ready supply of plants I don't like! (Fortunately, I think I'm alone in disliking them so they will probably find welcoming homes!)

My friend the lupin!

Not, of course, that all these hopeful extras which drop into flower-pots and seed trays are prepared to co-exist with what's rightfully there. This was a wonderful, over-wintering lupin. Slugs have treated it like a cut-and-come-again salad source. You can see the poor thing's scars. You can see its energy and determination to survive too. Yet another replacement-leaf is unfurling!

Sometimes, of course, plants really do die. The rhubarb which came up excitingly early last year succumbed to moluscular attrition. It couldn't get higher than a few inches. It stopped trying. It died. It rotted. I dug it out and threw it away . . . except for a piece which was under nasturtiums at the time.

It's laughing at me!

I could explain why I left these bulbs here . . . but . . .

Nature, I am pleased to say is tough!

(Which is just as well - in my garden!)


Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

You will rarely see me baby a plant. It has to be able to survive tough conditions from nature and me...although with starting seedlings, you do need to baby them as I am doing growing flowers and veggies from seed indoors right now. Hopefully they won't need too much care. My veg garden isn't too terribly needy once I get it set. I don't remember plant names many times either...your garden is certainly growing...nice to see it

Cro Magnon said...

What wonderful photos; probably the best I've ever seen in Blog-World.

Mark and Gaz said...

Enjoyable post as always! Sometimes, to a certain degree, leaving a garden to its own can give pleasant surprises too! :)

Esther Montgomery said...

Thanks Cro Magnon. I appreciate your comment very much - especially now I've checked with you that you really do mean it! Was a bit worried it was a flattering hoax! A bit overwhelmed. Thanks!

Hello Mark and Gaz. The words 'to a certain extent' are crucial. We all of us have different tolerance levels. Mine is, of necessity very wide. If I were a brilliant garden designer or had better soil or more time or energy (and money!) I think my standards would be very different. But I happily tailor my coat to fit the cloth I have and gain a great deal of pleasure simply from seeing things grow - whatever they are!

Donna@GWGT said...

What you don't find when you least expect it! Nature certainly does have a way of persevering. You did discover some interesting finds out and about your garden.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

My garden is very much a neglected experiment, and I am fascinated by the resilience of nature. I thought my Laburnum tree has died, and only today I found a new spur is growing about 4ft from the ground. Though it may be too late to save the whole tree...

Kate said...

Hi Esther. You and I garden in the same style. I love random and spontaeous occurrences of plant life. I loved this post.

Cat said...

Yes, I absolutely agree...thank heavens nature is tough. I found a bog plant that I tossed behind the garage (I was going to get around to putting it back in the water, I promise) that is still alive! I tossed it back there during the worst drought on record! I'm amazed and thrilled...

There is also a potted sotol (a spiky, prickly mean plant) that has become home to three little volunteers of plants. I guess the squirrels and birds couldn't get in there to gobble up the seeds!

Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Everyone. I hope you think answering late is better than not at all!

Donna - absolutely! Nature is certainly persevering. Not necessarily, or always, in directions we want it go - but it doesn't 'arf keep going!

Looking for Blue Sky. How is your Laburnum doing? Laburnums are lovely trees. For some reason they are not grown much around here.

Hi, Kate. I find it fascinating, watching to see what will turn up next without (much) human interference.

Cat - it's good to concentrate on these fine outcomes and forget the times when plants have died due to our neglect. After all, plants managed themselves for a long time before humans came along.

Esther Montgomery said...

Everyone . . . you may like to know I've just published a new post. It's called 'What you can tell from a garden snap' . .. And there's a lot of plant endurance in that post too!

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