Flowers

Flowers

Thursday, 15 January 2015

How about a tulip called 'Bob'?

I've just finished planting my tulips, which - as ever - was a task that was well overdue. It's the same every year. I order tulips (and narcissi) in early autumn, they arrive, they languish in the shed. Sometimes they get planted by the end of February, sometimes not.
The trouble is, I find the bulb catalogues irresistible, with their fabulous colours and promises of a gorgeous display. Then life intervenes, and just at the moment when I should be planting the darned things, I find that my time is taken up with other projects.
This year, I had a rush of blood to the head and decided to order some "Rembrandt" tulips as well as the white 'Purissima' which are one of my favourites. "Rembrandt" is the name now given to any tulip varieties that have streaks or flames. These are not the old "broken" tulips, which were the result of a virus, but modern cultivars that are bred to look like the antique varieties.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I'm now wondering whether a garden full of stripy tulips will look a bit strange. Never mind - most of them look as if they will tone in with each other (at least according to the catalogue pictures), and I have ordered some plain varieties as well.
As I potted them all up (I grow them in pots to stop squirrels digging up the bulbs), it occurred to me that in future, I should base my tulip choices on the length of the name rather than the colour or the stripes or whatever. Trying to fit Tulipa 'Flaming Spring Green' or Tulipa 'Veronique Sanson' onto a 5ins plastic plant label when you have large handwriting and a thick marker pen is no joke.
Of course, one can resort to abbreviations, but I wonder if, come May, I shall look at a squiggle that says something like T. Rime Fantasist and remember that it marks a pot of Tulipa 'Rems Favourite'? Why can't they call tulips something simple like 'Bob' or 'Ted'?


White 'Purissima' tulips growing in a pot in on the terrace last spring. Behind are the purple blooms of Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve', which in my garden is never out of flower.


Tulipa 'Apricot Beauty' in flower last spring with Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve', the new spring foliage of Sedum telephium 'Herbstfreude', the white broom Cytisus praecox 'Albus' and the lime-green flower heads of Euphorbia characias subs. wulfenii

It isn't only in the garden that my good intentions turn to dust. I always vow that I'll be ready for Christmas, and it very rarely turns out that way.
Some things went according to plan this year, mainly because other people were in charge of them. The Christmas lights on my house were on by 1 December, thanks to my friend Ollie who sorts them out each year. Why so early? Well, Ollie had to go to Moscow at the beginning of December to help set up an exhibition commemorating the Sochi Winter Olympics (he'd worked on the opening and closing ceremonies), and it seemed only fair that he should see the lights go on before he went.
My daughter did the Christmas tree, which looked beautiful, and both my children and their partners devoted their time to keeping their grandmother amused and ensuring that no Summerley Christmas traditions (such as watching Morecambe and Wise, playing cards and charades, and doing jigsaws) went forgotten.
One of the highlights of Christmas in Bibury is the Boxing Day duck race, which raises money for charity and for the local cricket club. To our amazement, my mother was the winner, with duck no. 15. (Look at the bottom of the list, and you will see Rufus had a bet on duck no. 26.)
The winner doesn't actually win anything, but has the honour of deciding which charity the money should go to. My mother, who has a narrowboat, chose the RNLI, the Lifeboats charity.


The word "race" is a relative term where the Bibury duck race is concerned. I have seen paint dry faster. It must be the only race where you hear the starting pistol go, and then have to wait about an hour for anything to go past 100 yards downriver.


Part of the fun is watching the real ducks (see the one on the far left?) react to a river full of decoy ducks.


A closer view shows that it is actually quite easy to spot the decoy ducks - they are usually upside down.


The main duck race is followed by the yellow duck race, which has a cash prize of 100 pounds. However, my mother was thrilled with her "win" and she is looking forward to presenting a cheque for more than 2,000 pounds to the RNLI at our local pub, the Catherine Wheel, on 23 January.