Like Alys….me and euphorbia

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Euphorbia myrsinites, Tostat, March 2016

I always enjoy Alys Fowler’s gardening column in ‘The Guardian’, though I am sure that she writes less frequently than before, and all of the articles are refreshed much less often than a few years back.  I am by no means such a veggie as she is, but I keep vowing to try harder.  But this week, her column concerned the ‘Euphorbia’- which was just a tiny bit spooky as I had already taken the photographs for this blog a couple of days before.

I have loved- and hated the Euphorbia over the years.  In fact, I am back in a loving moment with them right now.  This is really their best season, when the lime-green bracts sing out against bare ground and a few, brave bulbs.  The Big Daddy of them all is Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii– which was a huge delight to me when we moved from Scotland.  Willing to put itself almost anywhere in our stony, dry areas, growing like a rocket, self-seeding and being generally gorgeous in early Spring, for all these reasons I loved it.  But these were also the reasons that I came to hate it, pulling handfuls of babies out when critical mass had long been surpassed.

But, what I have come to understand is, that it does what it does and I have to maintain the population balance that I want.  It won’t do it for me, and no amount of me cursing is worth the time and effort.  I just have to roll with the punches and keep a beady eye on it.  One  of the reasons that I am back in love with it, is that it will literally put itself anywhere.

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Euphobia characias subsp.wulfenii, Tostat, March 2016

And here it has self-seeded right on a tricky, rocky corner of the New Garden, and leaning out from the wall, it catches the sunlight and is brilliantly luminous. I would never have put it there, but it looks great.  Across from it, in the dry, hot New Garden, it is verging on a takeover, but right now, makes a great repeating pattern of lime-green and yellow, when everything else is only just waking up.  I will yank some out in a few weeks before the seeds start exploding round the garden, but now they have my blessing.

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Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii, Tostat, March 2016

At the top of the article is a small, but dogged Euphorbia, Euphorbia myrsinites, which creeps along the ground, in the hottest, driest spots, holding up its rosette-shaped heads just a little above the ground. I adore it.  It is so cheerful.  It needs the sun and sharply drained poor soil, but then it is as happy as Larry.  This one does not spread itself about prolifically.  I wish it did.  So you need to be careful where you step, as once broken, it takes a long time to repair itself.

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Euphorbia seguieriana, Tostat, March 2016

Euphorbia seguieriana is a modest player.  With an almost fern-like foliage, and pinky new growth, it flowers later than the big beast, wulfenii, but it slowly bulks up to about 0.60 x 0.60m. It will take the driest, sunniest spot you can give it.  I got this one very small from Beth Chatto’s nursery three years ago, and it only limped along for the first two years. So, give it time.

And my last entrant in the ‘Lovable Euphorbia’ competition would be the Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’.  In my semi-shaded damper part of the garden, it is sprinkling itself around with modest abandon at this time of year, just creeping about under the tree peonies and hydrangea.   The gorgeous copper-coloured new growth catches the sun and makes a stunning statement, while later in the year, it just blends in with whatever else is happening. This is it’s time.

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Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’, Tostat, April 2015

 

Doctor, doctor, I keep talking to my plants…

It’s like this, you see. I find myself in the garden, looking closely at plants, and then I hear myself talking to them. Mostly, I am saying congratulatory or encouraging things, or passing on a compliment. Occasionally, there is the pep talk, something like ‘Now look, you’ve got all you need, so up and at it’. Actually, come to think of it, that’s got quite a parental feel about it, a bit too Critical Parent, if you remember Transactional Analysis. But there is also the serious telling-off to the last-chance saloon plant, the one that’s had two strikes and is on the last one. After which, the compost heap is the destination. I have to say, it’s taken me a while to not keep trying to save plants from the compost heap. I have learnt to admit that I change my mind about liking plants, and that is my prerogative.

No less a gardener than Vita Sackville West says so too, in 1968,

“…I feel that one of the secrets of good gardening in always to remove, ruthlessly, any plant one doesn’t like… Scrap what does not satisfy and replace it by something that will.”

And, for more moral support on this matter of liking, idea, taste and follow-through, Anne Wareham, a fiery gardener who famously hates gardening, whom I would love and dread to meet, nevertheless speaks the kind of sense I like when she says this of what a garden is,

“…A garden, designed and planted to give delight to the eye and the realisation of a fantasy about what could possibly be made with the shape of the land, with plants, with the work of the seasons and the weather. This is the point of it all and it is worth all the rest – just. I think. Maybe. Yes…”

Mind you, for all that Anne Wareham is fiery, her garden at Veddw is absolutely on my list to visit, and I love the fact that she isn’t afraid to take a tilt at accepted ‘wisdoms’…

And I came across a post from another blogger, Tepilo, who had a sharp piece entitled ‘Being ruthless in your garden’

So, these are the plants in my garden that were being talked-to this week by me…

Wild violets, Viola papilonacea, growing in the paths, March 2015. I am saying, 'You look lovely, but this is FAR enough. I will take you out..'. Apologies to Liam Neeson.
Wild violets, Viola papilonacea, growing in the paths, March 2015. I am saying, ‘You look lovely, but this is FAR enough. I will take you out..’. Apologies to Liam Neeson.
Euphorbia characias subsp.wulfenii flowers emerging, March 2015.  I am saying, 'Love the way you look as if you are praying...'
Euphorbia characias subsp.wulfenii flowers emerging, March 2015. I am saying, ‘Love the way you look as if you are praying…’
Unknown single Helleborus orientalis, white and pink March 2015. I am saying, ' Stay apart...no messing'
Unknown single Helleborus orientalis, white and pink March 2015. I am saying, ‘ Stay apart…no messing’
Iris reticulata, Feb 2015.  I am saying, 'Doing beautifully, not to self, put some more in there in the Autumn'
Iris reticulata, Feb 2015. I am saying, ‘Doing beautifully, note to self, put some more in there in the Autumn’
Euphorbia March 2015. I am saying, 'I think you're mutants, what's going on in there?'
Euphorbia March 2015. I am saying, ‘I think you’re mutants, what’s going on in there?’