Paris returns

Clearly there’s supernatural forces attached to blogging.  It seems as if by making any form of declaration or assertion, wild or conservative (I’ve a habitual preference for the former), your experience is likely to immediately contradict it.

I was talking down my peas a few posts back, and I’ve been eating truck loads of them since.  I wouldn’t have thought it possible that a single punnet could produce that many peas, and still believe that it was my blog-whinge that brought it all about.

And apparently you don’t even have to write the blog – you only have to contemplate writing it in order to start the process.  I know this, because only a bit over a week ago I thought about writing a post lamenting the final departure of Paris.  And then…

But lets go back to the beginning.

I can’t remember when I first became aware of Paris polyphylla – maybe 25 years – but I do remember aching and yearning over a particularly good clump at Great Dixter in 1991.  It’s a flower like no other – you’d swear it was of alien origin, with a nearly spherical purplish ovary and four green, feeler-thin petal-like parts surrounded by a ruff of leaves.

Years later – maybe 10 – I was given a small piece.  It arrived in a mailing tube from old Mrs Genat in the Dandenongs (along with a root of Arisaema consanguineum, with a label that added ‘a great slug of a thing..’ – I’ll never forget that, though the plant is long dead).  Anyway, Paris grew OK for the next few years, producing one to two flowers a year (nice pic on page 91 of my first book, so it must have been well established by the time the pics were being taken for that in 89/99).

When the time came for us to move house in 2003 my Paris was dormant. I had a bit of a scratch around, but was so concerned not to damage the rhizome that I decided to leave it.  I moved a few other things into a controlled area of the new garden, but had to leave Paris behind.  I can’t remember anything of the following spring, and the one after that we were in the UK.

But then, a few years later again, I noticed a strange shoot, straight out of bare ground near a young plant of Pittosporum which had been planted near where I’d originally moved stuff in, and recognised it immediately as a young, non-flowering shoot of Paris.  Now this was truly miraculous, and I was initially more incredulous than excited.  I still can’t work out how it could possibly have made it here.  It must have come across with something else accidently, and what are the chances of that?  Having achieved that, the chances of it surviving without any care or attention.

I watched it over the next few years, being nudged slowly sideways by the pittosporum, and every year was tempted to move it.  But I was also reluctant to interfere, given the ridiculous improbability of the story so far.

A year or two ago the pittosporum nearly drowned.  All last year it was in a state of semi-defoliation, so late this winter I decided I’d pull it out.  This, I thought, would give the currently dormant Paris the chance it needed.  I carefully dug around the root-ball, making sure not to disturb the ground in which I predicted the rhizome lay.

The pittosporum then went on the fire heap, and throughout spring I started watching for the reemergence of Paris.  Nothing came up.  All through November I watched, and waited, and nothing showed.  Eventually I gave the thing up as lost, and when I lit the bonfire at the start of December, felt just a little sick about the cremation of the now-dessicated rhizome of Paris, no doubt tangled in the roots of the pittosporum.

Then, earlier in the week, as I wandered past the spot without deliberately looking… (top image)


  1. Wow! I’ve just had a similar experience with this wild plant I bought (no idea what it was) but when we moved, I dragged it along it appeared to be completely dead, but I was so cross that I’d paid so much for it and been so stupid as to not plant it out or water it or take better care of it that it sat in it’s plastic pot, leafless with it’s poor shrivelled stem sticking out of the small plastic pot … then lo and behold, after a few weeks of lying on it’s side with me thinking ‘just chuck the damn pot away’ it’s suddenly produced leaves! Lazarus was surely not met with any less surprise than this wretched plant!

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