Coughs and Caterpillars: An Hour in the Garden

Reading time 6 minutes


It’s all going on in the garden right now. The plants have had a sniff of spring and now they are intoxicated, thrusting out of the ground, sending tendrils hither and thither and scrambling up in search of light and warmth. They’ve discovered the powerful drug that is spring. The energy that was quelled by cold, short days has been unleashed: the advance of the gardening year is unstoppable. Sadly I am not. An hour in the garden this afternoon and I decided that I was neither doing myself nor the garden a lot of good. My cough is incessant – that is annoying – but I am hot and bothered one moment and ice cold the next. Hence I am taking my own advice and sitting down in the garden room to write this post with a nice strong cup of tea.



Most striking this week is the speed with which the daffodils have bloomed. I am already in love with Narcissus ‘Winter Waltz’ (above), which is new to me this year and going great guns outside the front door. By the back door I have two pots of N. ‘Cragford’ grown from bulbs saved last year. Their scent is wonderful. I continue to marvel at the stamina of Correa ‘Marian’s Marvel’ (below), flowering for its sixth consecutive month. So few shrubs possess this kind of staying power. A new, larger pot beckons when the show is finally over: the current one dries out and blows over far too easily.



Plants that looked sallow and sullen all winter are starting to perk up nicely. Calceolaria integrifolia ‘Kentish Hero’ is among them, having spent winter in the greenhouse looking jaundiced and ugly. All of a sudden the foliage is apple green and vigorous again. Dark leaved aeoniums respond instantly to sunshine, turning darker and more lustrous by the day. Unfortunately a convoy of green caterpillars has munched its through most of the leaf rosettes, despite me mounting a weekly patrol. Fortunately Aeonium arboreum ‘Velour’ has escaped the worst of the caterpillars’ chompings and has swiftly regained its handsome colouring.



Keeping with the reddish theme, a Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ I rescued from the garden centre in the January sale is in full bloom. The flowers smell good and are rich in pollen. I know this because I brushed against them this morning and ended up with bright yellow calves. I spied several bees foraging for food as I attempted to capture an image of the mass of tiny flowers. Skimmia will tolerate our chalky soil if planted with lots of organic matter, but generally prefer acid conditions.



Instead of pottering and taking photos I should really be tackling serious jobs, like ridding the back fence of a Hybrid Tea rose that’s been completely overwhelmed by its rampant rootstock and moving the slab of stone that was once our doorstep. The builders steadfastly ignored every instruction to remove it whilst they were working on the house, in the way that only builders can. I now refer to it as ‘the tombstone’, propped against the wall as if age had toppled it and scrubbed out the epitaph. I would make a feature of it were it not precisely where I wish to plant the Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’ waiting patiently alongside.



Meanwhile the greenhouse is sheltering five healthy new clematis, including pink C. texensis ‘Princess Diana’, purple and white C. texensis ‘Princess Kate, red C. viticella ‘Kermesina’ and white C. ‘Forever Friends’. Having arrived last weekend they have already grown six inches and will need to be planted out before they start clinging inextricably to the staging.

Tomorrow is another day and hopefully there will be more gardening and less coughing to be done. My tea now finished, I think I can hear the doctor ordering a gin and tonic. It’s not just the plants that enjoy being intoxicated.



Categories: Container gardening, Flowers, Foliage, Musings, Our Coastal Garden, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

Greetings Garden Lover! Welcome to my blog. Plants are my passion and this is my way of sharing that joyful emotion with the world. You'll find over 1000 posts here featuring everything from abutilons to zinnias. If you've enjoyed what you've read, please leave a comment and consider subscribing using the yellow 'Follow' button in the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen. You will receive an email every time I post something new.

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14 comments On "Coughs and Caterpillars: An Hour in the Garden"

  1. Elderflower tea? Could be helpful, but probably the gin and tonic will work. Lovely photos…I am longing for blooms…the crocuses and iris ret. were ruined by the snow/sleet/teen temps. I am rethinking my focus on “early blooms” because it ends up just being heartbreaking.

    1. I gave up with crocuses for that same reason. They just got blown flat here by the coast. But we have a dry climate on the whole, so wet is rarely an issue. Perhaps place a cloche over your bulbs and protect them that way? Then you can do a big reveal when they are in their prime.

    1. I am always collecting pots. I get through far too many of them. Most come from my local garden shop in town. From there I can carry them home rather than having to get the car out. Shortly I shall move them into position to create my spring bulb theatre.

  2. Great photos but sorry to hear you are feeling unwell…a coughing remedy I was given at Xmas really works though goodness knows how…is rub Vic VapourRub on the soles of your feet pop socks on and go to bed…a peaceful night and no coughing!! It’s well worth a try…it worked for me and my husband!

    1. Now that’s a remedy! I have never heard of doing that before. So far, the evenings have been worse than the nights (I am quite a good sleeper on the whole), but I might try it on Him Indoors who is always coughing at night. Thank you for enlightening me.

  3. G&T is the perfect cure! All that vitamin C in the slice of lemon, of course! Hope you feel better soon.

  4. Loving your blog, as always. It is particularly cheering, as I am gradually recovering from a second dose of the cough, sore throat, cold virus currently rampaging up here in the Scottish Borders. Hot lemon, honey and chopped fresh ginger root is soothing, especially if you take a flask of it to bed at night. My sister up in Aberdeenshire, adds whisky to hers. Gargling with salty water every three hours will help to kill the bacteria in your throat. Nippits, those tiny little cubes of liquorice essence, beloved of opera singers and public speakers, will sometimes see off the tickle in the throat. You can get them from a pharmacist. Good luck. It is a pernicious little virus….

    1. Thank you for all those suggestions Sheana, I shall give them a try. I had not heard of Nippits before – they sound excellent and worth having in the cupboard. I hope you get over your second bout of virus quickly – a colleague of mine in the office seems to have had it since Christmas and is royally fed up with it. Pernicious, as you say.

  5. Hi there, your blog is great and I’d love to discuss with you a collaborative opportunity with a gin brand I work for. Please do get back in touch so I can share more information!

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