Monday, 16 April 2012

Gardeners' Question Time

Stars in the Garden - in Daylight

In the final question posed to the team on this week’s Gardeners’ Question Time on Radio 4 the members were asked, if they had to save just one plant from their garden which would they chose? Aptly, for this time of year, Pippa Greenwood chose magnolia stellata.

Magnolia stellata
Ideal for small gardens, I have one which reaches to the top of the summer house where it gains some protection from the spring frosts. The charming, spider-like white flowers have a delicate perfume and give a succession of blossoms from March onwards. I have to prune it back quite severely in order to paint the summerhouse in late autumn but, nothing daunted, it doesn’t bear a grudge but greets me each spring with yet more of its elegant blooms.

Magnolia stellata flowers

The magnolia family are all, without exception, glamorous additions to any garden and I also managed, unkindly I fear, to squeeze a magnolia soulangeana with its goblet-shaped flowers into the right-hand border. Unkindly, because this magnolia, which could grow into quite a substantial and spectacular tree, has to compete with other shrubs in the border and thus its growth is stunted as it reaches precariously towards the lawn to try to gain extra light. I must treat it with more respect this year and give it proper support with a strong stake once the flowers make way for the later leaves at the end of April.

The well-known Independent garden columnist and tulip specialist, Anna Pavord, when appearing at the Hexham Book Festival last year, told the audience that when she moved house and had to leave the garden which had been 30 years in the making, the only plants she took with her were the snowdrops given to her as a present by her mother when Anna first began to create her garden. I can understand why. Many plants in my garden were given to me by keen, local gardeners whom I remember each year when the plants make their annual entrance – yellow loosestrife, courteously of Mrs Wilkinson; pink Japanese anemones from Neville’s father, Jack Alderson; southernwood via Pauline’s father, Mr. Harness; an asparagus fern from Margaret’s father, Vesta, whom I never met yet the fern allows me somehow to ‘remember’ him with both affection and gratitude. Those friends are long gone yet will live on forever in my garden.

The radio 4 question put me in mind of George Bernard Shaw who, when asked which painting he would save if he were to be in The National Gallery were it to catch fire, responded with his usual wit - The one nearest the door!’

Keep smiling.

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