Getting back into the swing of things

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything meaningful in the garden. I suppose that’s a silly thing to say: define ‘meaningful’. If you’re inclined to consider looking at the garden through the window – armchair gardening as ‘t’were – a meaningful horticultural activity, then I’ve done plenty of that. Personally I lean more towards the toiling-on-the-land sort of viewpoint. If I haven’t sweated, bled or cried over it, it doesn’t count as meaningful. Preferably all three.

At the weekend I finally got the borders mulched, before digging a great big hole. I think hole digging is one of the best uses of one’s time. Whether for work or pleasure, there’s nothing to quite match the simplicity of the activity itself, or the evidence of one’s exertions when completed. This particular hole was dug to sink the kid’s trampoline lower down, achieving the dual objectives of making the trampoline a less dominating feature of the garden, and also sparing our neighbours the burden of our dear children’s prying eyes.

All of this is a long-winded, rambling introduction to my return to some Dicentra and Corydalis related activities. Lying neglected under the bench in the greenhouse were a couple of trays of Dicentra seedlings and Corydalis divisions. Regular readers – long suffering souls, every one of them – will know that I’m rather partial to digging things up, or taking them out of pots, and contemplating the roots and other subterranean growths that these plants produce. What follows is some more of that:

Dicentra seedlings

These poor things have led a life of neglect: they were left in their seed pots too long, then finally potted on into modules, before being left in those for too long. Hopefully the rough treatment will have encouraged a hardy disposition. The nurseryman Walter Ingwersen kept many of his potted alpines starved as it would encourage them to send out feeder routes when planted in the ground.

Lush, over-fed plants, he said, were more likely to just ‘sit’ in their rich compost and not search for nourishment.

Brian Matthew on Walter Ingwersen. Volume 13 Part 1, The Plantsman.
March 2014

This does often seem to be the case; new plants I’ve bought, plants that are naturally inclined to spread, often stay in their compost for the rest of the year, apparently not seeing the need to explore the surrounding soil when their current situation is perfectly satisfactory. I digress. The Dicentra seedlings had been left to languish:

Dicentra seedlings

Although they look a little ropey from there, these little plants have developed their roots nicely.

Dicentra seedling

On this plant, a single leaf has weathered the winter – the rest have withered – but this spring’s new growth is ready to go, contained in the nicely plumped bud underneath. Meanwhile, the roots have also been slowly heading downwards, as is their wont. The compost is a mix of Dalefoot compost (a fibrous peat-free compost made from sheep’s wool and bracken) my own homemade compost, and dash of sharp sand to open it up a bit. I find the Dalefoot compost quite water absorbent; good for some things, a big soggy for others.


Corydalis divisions

After I’d finished mucking around with the Dicentras, I had a look at some divisions I’d made in the autumn: Corydalis flexuosa and C. elata. Again, I’d used modules: a strong-growing bit of root in each section. As you can see, Corydalis elata rather took a fancy to it’s temporary home:

Corydalis elata

This strain of C. elata does seem to be particularly vigorous, so I suppose it’s no surprise that the divisions are romping away.

Corydalis elata

For the Corydalis I went easy on the sharp sand: you can see in the photo that this little chap is thriving in some pretty wet compost. The most interesting thing about this, and indeed all the other Corydalis divisions, is the way the new shoots have formed and grown. The original root – a section of fleshy, be-scaled, exploratory root (you can see some half way down this post) – has completely disappeared. Where shoots had grown from the scales on that root, new plants now sit; several individuals have now replaced the single root. The sequence of events is a whole list of boundary-blurring: from the original plant (itself most likely created by root division), numerous roots were removed to create several new individuals; from within each of these entities, the plants naturally separated from the whole to create a number of distinct identities. Both through the actions of others and it’s own actions, it merrily flaunts it’s disregard for any ideas of the self: simultaneously being a single genetic clone and also many individuals. What a singular existence it leads.

Elsewhere, most of the garden slumbers on while a few of the early risers rouse themselves, taking advantage of the foliage free skies and any milder spells of weather that happen their way. I did in fact spy the first shoots of one of the tuberous Corydalis making their way above ground. There’ll be plenty more about those over the next couple of months but that’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

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