Virginia Barton

19 August 2013: Border talk

19 August 2013

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No apologies for being repetitive. It was Christmas cards last time, but now the garden catalogues have come!

I do love a good garden catalogue, even if the need has dwindled to a handful of bulbs to tuck into a flower-pot already overfull with other things. The promise of a cheery spring is irresistible and the brightly coloured images (why are my iris never as blue as these?) tempt from every page.

Restraint is called for this year: space is limited, muscle-power halved and the budget is tight. (Quite a change from my days as an Honorary Gardener: click here). Let us select just enough to mix in with the ornamental grasses, pachysandra, and dear little cushions of perpetually flowering white flowerets whose name I have, alas, forgotten. Sturdy daffs to naturalise should do the trick.


narcissus_actaea_(pheasant_eye)Ah, here’s what is listed as a “Pot Luck Collection”: “A broad mixture of 50 our narcissus varying in height and flowering through March to late April.” I bet that won’t include Actaea, my all time favorite Pheasant Eye, late flowering, the poet’s narcissus (right). Must have ten of those. That’s £20.50 not including a few essential Scylla sibirica, to set off the whites and yellows.

Can we stretch to a few tiger lilies to replace the ones lost last year? No, absolutely not. That’s almost thirty pounds you’ve spent including post and packing. But for 70 bulbs and a recurring springtime bed of colour and joy, that’s a pittance!

So the argument goes on in my head until I put the catalogue aside, order the bulbs, and forget about them till they come in the post. Let’s hope neither squirrel nor mouse get at them for dinner.


I love the intimacy between gardeners. Each knows instinctively that the other would love a little slip of this, a few precious seeds, or a cutting of that. Even the authors of the catalogues share in the conspiracy: “This is a dandy little border favorite, always a winner.” That’s exactly what I need to hear! Let’s have a couple!

Each to his own private passion. Possibly you like to lay down another case of best Bordeaux every year, or invest in a stack of new books from the winter list? Maybe fashion or antiques, miniatures, or another gizmo are your bag?

There is no difference between us bar a matter of taste; me and my bulbs, you and, perhaps, your baking accessories. Bring your cake round and we’ll admire the garden while eating it!


(Incidentally, the plant, tree, shrub and rose catalogues have not yet come, so there may be more of this…)







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