Sunday 31 December 2017

Plant of the Year 2017: Narcissus 'Thalia'

Narcissus 'Thalia'
In selecting plants of the year my usual thought has been to nominate something that gives a long season of interest, but this year I've selected a plant that on one gorgeous April day caught my attention and provided a lovely set of images. Not that Narcissus 'Thalia' is ephemeral - in most years one will have flowers for several weeks in April, though in this year's fine weather they didn't last as long as they can do.

'Thalia' was raised by the breeder Van Waveren in Holland pror to 1916, so it must be classed as an old daffodil now - and like the early hybrids it retains an elegance and charm that so many lack. Its vigour is seemingly not significantly reduced by the virus load it carries, evident in the streaks and mottlings of yellow or paler green in the foliage and stems, though it would be nice to see what clean stock could do.  In the past few years we have planted many thousands of 'Thalia' in the Yorkshire Arboretum, especially on the low eminence known as Bracken Hill. Here a cap of sandy soil sits above the clay, providing ideal conditions for this descendant of Narcissus triandrus, which is planted in the grass below the trees - young oaks and birch especially.  No other daffodils grow with them, the impact of the display coming from the serenity of thousands of white flowers, though as they fade Camassia leichtlinii 'Caerulea' comes into flower and carries the display into May. The images below were taken there.

Narcissus 'Thalia' on Bracken Hill in the Yorkshire Arboretum.

Seeing this display on such a day reminded me of a line from Tolkien describing the passage of the Elves as 'a swift shimmer under the trees, or a light and shadow flowing through the grass.'

Potted 'Thalia' on the arboretum's cafe terrace.
Every year I plant some large terracotta pots with 40-50 bulbs each of 'Thalia' stuffed in cheek by jowl in two layers of bulbs. The pots live in a cool, frost-free shed until roots are well-formed and the shoots advancing and are then placed on the arboretum's cafe terrace where they never fail to attract attention. The elegance of the individual flowers is perhaps subsumed in the mass, but the effect is splendid.

Saturday 30 December 2017

Garden People 2017

Proud 'parent': Bill Baker with Roscoea purpurea f. rubra BBMS 45, his introduction from Nepal in 1992.

Absorbed: Keith Rushforth leads a discussion on Sorbus and other Rosaceae. Hugh McAllister on right.

Jurors: Maurizio Usai confers with other members of a jury panel at Murabilia, Lucca. Rosie Atkins left centre.

Garden visitors: Sue Gray, Ann Fritchley, David Barnes

Author: Bobby Ward, Raleigh, North Carolina

Director: Mark Weathington, with Lagerstroemia fauriei 'Fantasy' at JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh

Botanist: Kris Fenderson, in the Green Swap Reserve, North Carolina...

...teasing a Venus Fly-trap. Seeing Dionaea in the wild was my botanical highlight of the year.

Uber-plantsman: Tony Avent, with new 'urbanite' crevice garden at Juniper Level Botanic Garden, NC

Doyenne: Nancy Goodwin, creator of the garden at Montrose, Hillsborough, NC

Right-hand man: Neil Batty, Operations Manager at the Yorkshire Arboretum, with new Gator

Mentor (and pupil): Ken Burras with JMG, plus Sciadopitys umbellata donated by Ken to the Yorkshire Arboretum