Now I love a cryptic crossword, but am absolutely rubbish at them and only made any progress at all when I had my mother by my side. I still remember the day we completed The Telegraph cryptic crossword on a coach trip to Great Dixter – a red letter day for me as I have never completed a cryptic before, but probably much more of a red letter day for my mother, who got to flirt with Christopher Lloyd who happened to be sitting in the shop.
Sadly it was the eighth anniversary of her death on 11th March, but coincidentally, I’d spent the day before back on the cryptic, on another journey, with another ‘wise one’ (my boss, not much of a gardener, but you can’t have everything). And the challenge? The Times new ‘Quick’ Cryptic Crossword, and, with the ‘wise one’ by my side we managed to finish it in about half an hour, and I’m delighted to say I solved 3 down, the answer being ‘combinations’ (I’ve forgotten the clue – sorry).
Consequently the word’s been with me ever since, partly because it was a word my mother taught me, as she apparently used to wear them (according to Wiki: “a type of underwear that combines a vest or camisole with trousers or drawers”) but also because it’s of perennial interest in gardening.
During spring 2013, when winter seemed to go on well into April, my carefully planned daffodil (Sinopel) and tulip (Spring Green) succession in the ‘grass bed’ all bloomed together in a very unexpected combination (see below). The poor tulips also got very wind battered and consequently looked rather disheveled almost from the start. At the moment the only things flowering in this bed are a few wallflowers and the forget me knots. It’ll be interesting to see whether the tulips succeed the daffodils this year, and if so, whether it’s anything like as attractive as the mad scene last year.
Another planned combination which didn’t quite go to plan this year was the trough planting. The stocks (Matthiola incana) were grown from seed and didn’t flower last year but there are buds showing now and the plan is that the scent will be apparent from the table on the decking above. Where it’s all gone a little awry is with the Narcissi. I thought I was planting Narcissi ‘Cornish Chuckle’, but what I seem to have is ‘Minnow’, which is lovely, but not what I expected. Perhaps Bloms thought they knew better.
Another planned combination this year is more ‘Minnow’ with the Wallflower ‘Ivory Giant’ in the ‘drive bed.’ I saw the wallflower on Gardeners’ World and eventually tracked down seed from Seedaholic and grew them for the first time in 2012. They now seem to be returning happily for the second year after I chopped them back quite hard in the autumn.
And lastly, a completely unexpected combination – the flower (first ever to my knowledge) on my Melianthus major ‘looking’ at the chicken.