18 March 2012

But I Want it Now!

Planting a fritillary meadow is a bit like creating a Capability Brown landscape: it is a selfless gift for future generations. There are so many potential hazards it really is a case of survival of the very fittest of the very fit. At Brooke Hall thousands of bulbs were planted the autumn before last and the following spring pheasants pecked off the handful of blooms that made it. Digging around there in the autumn I found very few bulbs but lots of tunnels as well as buried walnuts. So, they've got pheasants, mice and squirrels out to get them, and then there is the small matter of growing conditions.

When I took a tour around Highgrove a couple of years ago I was looking forward to seeing the vast swathes of tulips. They were gone, having sat too uncomfortably in their sustainable surroundings. The tulips were replaced with fritillaria, but the ground had been so well-prepared previously that the 'frits' failed. Too much drainage.

Nancy Lancaster planted some in a badly drained part of her garden when she lived in Northamptonshire in the 1920s and 'they eventually seeded themselves.' She didn't plant that many. So, take a handful of bulbs and give them perfect conditions, then try to forget about them. Each new chequerboard bloom will be a very pleasant surprise.

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