I am really gutted. I had grown this Fremontodendron californicum from a tiny 0.25m stripling to such a big tree, which was a bit of a shock so we had to lop it back a few years ago. It was one of the first plants I bought when we moved here eleven years ago, and it was a Spring show-stopper, absolutely covered in these vibrant, custard yellow, waxy flowers in Spring. It was in a hot, south-facing position, and although it was never that fond of a wet Spring, it had always come back fighting. Not this year. It is definitively dead, and we will need to chop it down as it is the height of the house, say 7m. Las Pilitas, the nursery in California on the link above, hints at sudden death syndrome in garden conditions, but my stony, poor soil should have been ok for it. Who knows, and as with small babies, you have to learn that things happen and knowing the reason why is actually of no help at all.
So, although I will have to try a bit of a bodge to beef up the soil situation, I am tempted to try out one of my wilder purchases in the Fremontodendron’s place. On a whim, I bought a tree dahlia, Dahlia imperialis, on ebay last summer, and I have been nursing it through the winter with leaves on in our cold hallway near the back door. It is only a sproglet, but look at what Louis the Plant Geek has managed to do with his. I love his blog. It manages to combine botanical accuracy and scientific advice with a loopy sense of humour and trenchant words on occasion. So, that is my current plan, to be executed in May when I can really 100% confident of no frost, and once we have committed the dead thing to the wood heap.
On the plus side, all my seedlings of Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Xanthos’ are up and away, on the sunny window ledge of our sitting room. I have been rubbish with annuals in the past, but this time, eating humble pie, and instead of winging it, actually reading and using the excellent detailed instructions from one of my favourite seed sites, Seedaholic, I have had success. ‘Nuff said.