When you grow up somewhere different, in my case the south of England, there are some things you miss even though you would never turn back the clock. I have been surprised by the things that have lodged in my heart and that I still pine for. One of the most surprising is the sound of church bells. The dour toll of a single bell that I hear in Highland parishes is not the same as the joyous uplifting music that good church bells can make. My last home had the address of 21 Church Street and along from my house was a fine example of a Saxon Chapel. A little further along the road was Holy Trinity built in 1150 and there they had a fabulous peel of bells. I had a friend who was a bell ringer there and she told me that along with diminishing congregations, bell ringers were also hard to find.
A close second in my list of Things Missed is the colour of herbaceous borders full of hardy perennials. I am able to rectify this yearning more easily. One way I do that is to grow some delicious flowers in pots. The sort of plants that would not survive in our acid, wet and poor soil.
The two species I concentrate on are Tulips and Dahlias. I’m sure there are other species we could try but these two are easy for me to master.
I learnt how to grow containerised tulips from my sister Sarah Raven. Because of the habit of tulips to force themselves out of the soil to gain the warmth of the sun in order to subdivide (their form of vegetative reproduction), you can discourage this behaviour by burying the bulbs deep. We fill our pots with four layers of bulbs, separated by a rich compost enriched further with blood fish and bone, thus making a much showier display. However, the bulbs are not very healthy afterwards and until recently we threw them into the compost heap. Last year our mutual friend, author and gardener Linda Coggin (who has a gardening business Plants of Desire, based in Wiltshire) suggested we moved them from the decorative pots we use for display into an ordinary plastic one to be kept in the working area and used for cut flowers to decorate the rooms for their second season.
The reason for this post is that it’s bulb catalogue time. We have our copy of Parkers Wholesale on the dining table and I will be ordering next years bulbs over the weekend. Planted in September, they will stand in their pots under the Magnolia tree and then be moved into position outside the Garden Studio when the green growth appears next spring.