Saturday, November 13, 2004

Bittersweet symphonies

16th-22nd November 2004.

The thinnest yellow light of November is more warming and
Exhilarating than any wine they tell of. The mite which November
Contributes becomes equal in value to the bounty of July.

- Henry David Thoreau


This time last year I visited the Turner prize at Tate Britain to see the work of Anya Gallacio, in the confines of the pristine gallery walls was autumn. The exhibit of Gallacio had all the looks and smells of the season.
Anya Gallaccio’s work I can admire and connect too, she works with organic materials that decompose over time which she has no control over. The work is both beautiful and paradoxically ugly in general terms. One piece ‘I’m nobody, who are you?’ was constructed with some ilex twigs with delicate tiny glass berries a vivid red and shouted out from its quiet corner, She seemed to capture this fragile time of year, in the garden things are beautiful in mid autumn’ at last dance’ and to experience and sense this is one of the BIG benefits of that I do. With garden design I always have this sense in mind of all seasons, I feel that plants can provide an Ecocathedral above our own understanding which in turn creates a paradisiacal situation for everything, It’s a lot like art in the respect of what it does to the person experiencing it! .

Primula

Auricula
From the mountains of northern Europe this wild flower has covered some ground, It is thought that auriculas may have arrived in England in the 16th century by the Huguenot silk weavers who where forced to flee France, It was the gardener of Charles 1st who recorded growing and improving them, and real popularity in these plants came in the 18th century and have been developed on since.
The auricula is almost completely artificial and a manifestation of the lives and work of the growers to show them for competition, The artificial is not something I usually warm to but the auricular was the plant that started my fascination with gardening and plants, As a child I had an auricula theatre of my own, having a nine year olds knowledge of gardening I did better than I knew! Growing some great varieties such as ‘Dusty Miller’,’Cheyenne’and Mikado which all flowered and survived my neglect, However three years ago I visited a spring garden show and purchased seven different types including the above hoping to recreate this childhood experience and nearly all of them died within a year without a flower, one or two that made it through and were planted at jobs as a ‘Get rid of tactic’ Last week on November 11th (By default,) ‘the bastard flowered at the wrong time of year in someone else’s garden. So with the law of sod on my side my fascination with this Faberge of flowers has been resurrected. You can not appreciate the floriferous auricular without having seen them first hand, the delicate flowers sit on slender stems have a velvet texture and beautiful old fashioned scent their is also the trademark powdery coating which is dusted like icing sugar over the plant. Auriculas belong to the primula family along with Cowslips and primrose’s and are well worth a try. Not being an all in expert of auricula cultivation it may be worth taking the advice below with a pinch of salt!

Growing.
The big problem is watering less is more! (Never let them dry out)

I use a mixed compost = one part leaf mould – one part John Inn 2 , also adding some grit for drainage and fish blood and bone as feed.

Best planted in clay pots that can be moved to light and partial shade, and protect from heavy rain. They seem to rot very well when to wet, so a cold frame in winter is ideal. And no water between October and February.

It is well worth visiting a local Alpine nursery as they will be both enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and with small independent nurseries on the slide they will need all the sales they can get.

On the right hand side is a photograph of my Auricula, Also to see more photographs click on ‘more’ at the bottom of this photo set.
You will also notice some links on the right these cover interesting garden and eco sites from around the globe !
Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning