Saturday, 20 November 2010

Winter Jasmine (20 NOV 2010)

I inherited a number of shrubs from the previous property-owner, Dorothy. I only met her twice when I viewed the house. As this was my first venture into house-buying, I had various anxieties but her calm approach to the process put me at ease. Even though many houses satisfied the short list of criteria in my head, there were criteria in my heart which were more difficult to define clearly. Apart from the usual considerations, the view of Dorothy's back garden from her dining room and the connection I felt with her were major contributors to my final decision to buy. The garden was neat and tidy though she admitted she hadn't been able to give it much attention in recent years due to her arthritis.

One of my favourite books as a child was The Secret Garden and I now I have my own. The weedy, paved front area can hold two cars. Initially there were two stone pots planted with spring bulbs parked there. I emptied and moved them to the back because I wanted the front to be bare, not giving a clue that the house with a cracked fascade was owned by a gardener. I can't remember the exact day when I started calling myself a gardener, maybe it was in me all along just waiting for a garden to need me. It was tempting to buy new plants to fill the beds and create an impressive display, but that would have been too easy. Instead, the back garden is a work-in-progress of my experiments with plants.

I relished the challenge of resurrecting the neglected garden. I decided to keep the original structure, the broken fish-shaped bird bath and all the plants that Dorothy left me. Last year I just weeded around them and dealt with the wisteria strangling the cherry blossom, which I didn't detect until I saw lilac flowers cascading down from the cherry blossom branches. I hacked back the wisteria so hard that I thought I had killed it. It only produced one stem of flowers this year but at least it's still alive and now under control. This year I started pruning, dividing and re-positioning plants to distribute them more evenly depending on their size and seasonality. I can't believe how forgiving they are, there hasn't been a casualty yet, including this plant which I have classified as winter jasmine. Looking up photos of yellow-flowered plants on the internet, this is the closest comparison based on the flowering time, colour, shape, number of petals and the shape of the bush. I pruned it back severely in the summer because it didn't seem that interesting, I wanted to make room for the annuals and its haphazard stems were getting in the way. Little did I know that it would be one of the few plants in flower at this time of the year. Like many of Dorothy's shrubs, the core of this bush is dead wood. I'm currently investigating which plants can be cut down completely to remove the dead wood and allow them to be born again.

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