Somewhere along the line the botanical purist meets the gardening hedonist and the ambivalent fundamentalist emerges. In the garden there is not too much of a conflict of interest as I am quite content to grow pure species, subspecies, hybrids, geographical and horticultural varieties, plants of doubtful parentage or even clones. The growing conditions in the cottage garden dictate that I can’t be too fussy, if it survives and does not upset my sensibilities too much, it stays. However, I’m not over fond of doubles and varieties which produce little pollen or nectar for the insects. Otherwise anything goes, even the odd thug is temporarily welcome.
There is, however, a little “pushing and shoving” in the bulb collection. This territorial dispute is not at all lady-like and it would certainly not qualify as intellectual debate. In theory I grow only species and geographical varieties (i.e. a subspecies from a defined geographical area), however, there is a tendency for hybrids and selected forms to seduce me. The gardener covets the pewter leaf forms of Cyclamen coum, the botanist frowns and insists the C. balearicum has very attractive leaves and the dispute flounders completely over Cyclamen graecum ‘”Glyfada” which originated from wild collected material and has pewter type foliage.
The discussion over cyclamen is really just a warm-up round, by the time we get to narcissus, it is probably time to call in the U.N. In the garden it is irrelevant whether it is a jonquil, bulbicodium or a tazetta cultivar, which is fortunate as although the name of the breeder maybe known the botanical parentage is often obscure. So Jack Snipe is allowed to mingle with Minnow, Hawera, Little Witch and N. caniculatus to create a range of forms and to extend the flowering period. The situation among the smaller species grown in pots is more fraught, as it can be difficult to decide whether a named form is a selected variety or a geographical variant. Although, in theory, a selected variety will not “come true” from seed. In the spirit of harmony, the gardener has agreed that, as space is limited, her alter ego is allowed a small triumph. Moreover the occasional “straying from the paths of righteousness” is only greeted with a wry smile, particularly when it come to reticulate iris.
So treading with great delicacy, I arrive at the snowdrops and here the fundamentalist is transcendent. The genus Galanthus comprises some 20 to 30 species and that is enough for me. I confess that I grew a number of the cultivars in my last garden and they gave me enormous pleasure. However, I now struggle to grow them in the garden and the prospect of growing even a few of the 2000 named varieties in pots induces a yawn. A reformed galanthophile? Well I confess, I grow G. nivalis “Flore Pleno“ for sentimental reasons!
Sagely the Head Gardener does not get involved in this cerebral trivia and grows what he fancies!
With a nod to Mohsin Hamid for inspiration.