20 July 2011

'There are no second acts in Allium lives' *

While edging along the Terrace Border at Brooke Hall with my camera, looking for handsome twosomes for July, I can't help being struck by the amount of times a twosome becomes a threesome. Yellowing globes in varying states of drying and decay are popping up everywhere.

They look their best just before they look their worst, when keeling over at alarming angles. Hardy geraniums in an English garden are the most reliable, hardworking, useful perennials, putting up with dry shade, damp shade and downright neglect. They also come in wild colours but in the end, a geranium is a geranium. But - alliums! they're better value than tulips (financially, obviously) and they put up with inconsiderate planting in all sorts of soil. We know that they look lovely in May. But now, towards the end of July, at the beginning of the school holidays, when many people stop grubbing about in the dirt and think of other things, they come back. Even after all the editing, combing out, thinning, adding to that goes on in a large place like Brooke Hall.

The varieties which have already bloomed seem to show up better now. (Allium Sphaerocephalon, above, is still at its height). With all the purple and yellow of spring they had to rely on their shape, massed planting and height to grab the attention, but now with the advancing reds they stand out in a different way and add a calming neutral. One or two here and there. And it's the roundness, always the roundness which makes them so great.

Don't forget if you're a bit grand and you are maybe Sarah Raven even, you might dry your alliums and spray them silver for Christmas.

*Apologies to F. Scott and clearly incorrect (like the original quote of course).


  1. For the less well educated ie me, can you edify me with the original F. Scott quote?

  2. 'There are no second acts in American lives'.
    I associate it with The Great Gatsby but it is taken from notes for The Last Tycoon. A little bit over-used and often followed with a 'Huh! that's what he thought'.
    It always makes me think of Sam Waterston, though I'm not sure if there is any reason for this.

  3. Sometimes it's just nice to think him as Nick Carraway, in tennis whites. Whilst one is weeding.