It’s diabolically windy out there. I’m wondering if guy-ropes might help to keep the house on location, like Gulliver pinned to the ground by the Lilliputians. Must get me some decent pegs.
It doesn’t help that we’re perched half way down a shallow valley that runs North-South in a climate where the worst winds come from those directions. Or that the house runs East-West, impeding its flow, and sending it with extra force round where my main garden is. Nor that this valley nestles at the Western end of an East-West facing mountain range, so that all the wind looking for an escape on either side of the mountain eventually finds it, with amplified anger, down our valley.
But that’s just scene setting.
My friendship with Ferula communis goes back about twenty years. The relationship has never quite developed into full-blown love. I’m not sure if I like it because of its oddity, or if its oddity is what prevents me from loving it. Perhaps both. I’m in no doubt that part of the affection arises purely from an association with a place I love. Part of me is a little embarrassed to confess that, expecting that my discernment should trump sentimentality, and the other part of me can think of no better reason to grow a plant…
Ferula’s big selling points are its fabulously tactile lacy foliage in late winter/spring, and its outrageously rapid bolt into bloom during spring, going from go to whoa ie zero to up to three metres in a matter of weeks.
The first of its character faults, on the other hand, is that it collapses in early summer, and having been in growth since late winter, isn’t at all easy to find a permanent companion for – one which can fill the large space it leaves behind in its downtime. The other is that its thrilling growth is kind of gangly. In full bloom it’s often too tall for its taper (though the pic above would suggest otherwise). But that’s nit-picking. All up it’s a very exciting thing.
I planted one the year before last, and with drought and countless other hiccups, it has taken until now for the crown/rosette to attain any real size. It didn’t take that long for a nearby self-sown buddleja to achieve full size, and in doing so, swallowed up the Ferula. That didn’t worry me for the worst of winter, as the Ferula was burnt by frost last year and the Buddeja offered some protection. But a couple of days ago I decided it was time to release the Ferula from the grip of the Buddleja. It wasn’t dangerously intertwined, and the separation was easily achieved.
Then over night, the winds came. We didn’t get 140 km/hr like Melboune, but it certainly achieved Ferula-ripping ferocity, and my poor, vulnerable, recently emancipated Ferula was duly ripped, whipped and torn.
It causes me to wonder – which of the USA’s recent peace-keeping angles should I have applied in these troubling circumstances? Should I have taken as my model the spectacularly slow retreat from Iraq, leaving skeletal occupying forces in place while my Ferula built up its resilience? Or should I have gone all Afghanistan, and worked a lot harder in the first place to avoid the establishment of an oppressive regime. Probably the latter.
Hopefully I won’t make that mistake again. At least until next time.
Want to join me at Great Dixter? Why not come on a Travelling Masterclass with me to the world’s best gardens… Check out our up-coming tours and itineraries here.