The snows vanished almost overnight, and mooching around at some leisure is again a delight.  The hellebores, flattened for weeks, are regaining their composure.  The cold tolerant flower buds of winter jasmine and viburnum nudge out through the battered remains of ones that tried out the season a few weeks earlier. Iris unguicularis (see this article’s header), is showing a few still furled buds

This was the aconitum I had to have....

This was the aconitum I had to have….

But I’ve been mooching down by the shed garden, where there are ranks of pots, each sown with seed that needed some bursts of serious winter to help them germinate.  No show yet on clematis (there are several pots of seed from a powder blue form of C. macropetala called ‘Columbine’, the parent flowering at the same time as our apple trees, and through one of which it climbs).  No show yet for lilies, or irises, or paeonies, But the aconitum pots show a thousand new beginnings: a very deep blue Aconitum carmichaelii that I simply had to have, and a few of whose pods fell mysteriously into my pocket at a garden whose name I won’t reveal; a pot of white aconitums from a plant here, and one of an almost black one, with wildly jagged leaves, and which a nurseryman dumped in our box for free because the plant was in such poor shape.

Another pot with at least a hundred new beginnings has me wracking my brains.  I always think I am going to remember what such and such a pinch of seed came from, so writing on their envelope to what plant they belonged seems, in the rush of gardening, irrelevant.  Of course it isn’t.  The pot’s label has nothing more than ‘?’.  I must have known that the tiny orange-brown seeds needed overwintering outdoors.  Everything else is a blank.  Maddening.

In any case, in a garden so small that a single plant has to stand in for a whole drift, it’s hard to know what to do with the beginnings once they’ve truly begun.  You see, it get’s worse.  Rummaging underneath the blackcurrants I discovered that the clear plastic containers that once held supermarket croissants, and in which I placed various fern fronds (see the article ‘Sowing Seeds for Winter’, Dec 2010).  That was two whole seasons ago, and since then, they’vehad absolutely no attention since.  Last spring I did notice fernlets growing, but then forgot all about them.  The plastic containers have acted as perfect mini-Wardian cases, and are now filled with hundreds of proper young ferns, many with interesting fancy frills and curlicues already showing.

Finding it hard to throw any seedling away, and with a dozen things I have to have not yet even sown, horrible murderous problems arise.  Perhaps otherwise hated snails will save me, or a roadside stall or farmers market.  OK, Alec has a couple of gardens but two of those already rival Amazonia for density, and the third… Ah, the third…  Empty, hardly visited, perhaps that…  I can see it now, tree paeonies in ambers and yellows, drifts of cut-leafed ferns, soft pink lavateras, aconitums and clematis all in blues to rival the sea beyond, more ferns, and…. And.


About david stuart

garden writer and journalist, and occasionally a designer, with a garden in the Scottish borders, and his pal's gardens in Edinburgh, London, and Lincolnshire. They keep both of us very, very busy. Books I've written listed on my website, and dozens of articles and garden and plant pictures. Currently working on several new projects. One of these was to return to painting - see the blog - and which is proving exciting! or, more fun, have a look at
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2 Responses to BEGINNING AGAIN

  1. James Sagmiller says:

    It sounds very much like you are just near the end of winter. I am in Palm Springs, California and the weather is lovely right now. I spent the day potting up rose cuttings; got a good take on ‘Lady Mary Fitzwilliam’ an early British Hybrid Tea, one of my favorites. I have some Hyancinthus o. albulus in pink and blue that are budding. I am excited to see and smell them! I very much enjoy old, antique plants and collect them. By the way, do you still have your nursery of antique plants? Yours truly, James Sagmiller P.S. The aconitum shown above is beautiful!

    • david stuart says:

      Hi there… thought i had replied to your earlier comment, to say that we closed the nursery fifteen years ago! However, sometimes toy with the idea of doing it again, in a less stressful way! lol.
      Glad you liked the aconitum.

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