It snowed today in Central London.
From my desk in a muggy office I anxiously check the BBC weather website to see if my seaside garden is experiencing the same sleety conditions. At 3°C the night temperature teeters on the right side of danger, but it’s close. I dwell on how cruel it would be to lose treasured plants during winter’s last gasp. As I leave the building a blast of chill air hits my face and makes me flinch. I can’t recall a frostier finale to April.
Watching the garden move towards spring has been like watching a film in slow motion, or recounting one of those bad dreams where one never quite reaches one’s destination. It has been dawdling and drawn-out, although not painful, yet. Cold is a powerful preservative and anaesthetic, putting a break on plants’ development, delaying flowering and keeping blooms fresh for longer. Never has our magnolia, our sophora or our Kerria japonica bloomed continually for four months uninterrupted. Nor have I enjoyed such a long season among the daffodils. Spring has been like a cruise on the Rhine; long, languid and leisurely, with time to look back and admire sights that might have passed in a blur any other time.
And so, via an appropriately ponderous route, I arrive at today’s subjects, the flower buds of Tulipa “Rococo”. I know by reputation that the frilly flowers will ultimately be decadent velvety-red, feathered with scarlet, plum and Chartreuse. From their first emergence through a cover of coarse grit, the buds have been fascinating to observe as they begin to pull away from the cool green leaves, showing flashes of kaleidoscopic colour at their fringes. As parrot tulips go, Tulipa “Rococo” is earlier and shorter than most, making it an ideal candidate for a pot. If that were not recommendation enough, the flowers are also scented. This being my first time I have planted the bulbs in small, tall Long-Toms so that I can move them about to find good colour companions later.
It snowed today in Central London, but in my garden it was totally tropical.
Do check back on this post to see what happens when the buds eventually unfurl.