Dan, in a moment of madness, has decided that he would like me to contribute now and again to his Frustrated Gardener blog. As I am also a keen gardener, I decided to accept his kind offer, and so here I am.
For me, gardening has always been a pleasure and a joy, unless my back has gone. I started early, around the age of 11 or 12. At the time we had a small garden in Cambridgeshire that had a smattering of plants here and there. My family didn’t really care much for them: the garden was nothing fancy or organised and I took it upon myself to dig them all up, one-by-one, and ‘create’ a garden more pleasing to the eye. I don’t recall the reaction to my artistry, but I do remember feeling joy and happiness simply by having my hands in the soil and touching plants – the wonder of gardening already had me in its grasp.
Over the years my tastes evolved. Leaving behind the traditionally more acceptable begonias, pelargoniums and busy Lizzies of my Gran’s garden, I became more and more tempted and distracted by all things tropical….it would be a temptation that has stayed with me for life.
Fast forward 20 or so years to 2003 and I lived, with my partner, in a ground floor garden flat in South East London; our first home together. We had the use of a shared garden and so, in the border directly outside our windows, we created a little piece of tropical heaven. We had dahlias, brugmansias, gingers, tree ferns, cannas and bananas. The neighbours really loved what we had done: for such a small space it was magical.
The following spring we moved into a garden flat that would be our home for almost 10 years. In that garden we created what I still believe is our greatest work – it was utterly glorious. The garden was pretty much a blank canvas, which we transformed into our very own tropical paradise.
Our garden was quite traditional in its nature, a rose here, a Fuchsia magellanica there, a number of lovely peonies, you get the gist. However, what it lacked was absolutely anything even remotely tropical. Within the first couple of years, we decided to remedy that, big time.
We brought in giant tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica), tree peonies, gingers, lots and lots and lots of bananas (Musa basjoo), architectural plants such as inula and rheum, gloriously scented lilies; it went on and on and on. I LOVED it and so did the Hens and the dogs.
In the late 2000s I purchased my very first Dahlia imperialis – who knew such a beauty existed? I didn’t, until I had one.
Which leads me to my other gardening obsession – dahlias and, in particular, species dahlias. Over the years I have been slowly purchasing any that catch my eye. For me, the absolute star of the show is and will always be Dahlia campanulata – she is a corker!
I discovered Dahlia campanulata after the dogs and I moved to Cornwall and lived, coincidentally, a couple of miles from the National Dahlia Collection near Penzance.
The flowers are utterly sensational, as big as my hands. They’re droopy, flouncy, blousy, pink and gorgeous. It is also called the weeping tree dahlia. When you check them out you will see why.
In the polytunnel I had in Cornwall, Dahlia campanulata regularly topped 14 feet and arching stems of blooms would open at eye level (I’m 6ft tall). I cannot ever do this plant justice, nor convey just how much I adore it. Any and every gardener able to care for it should most definitely add it to their collection. They will not be disappointed.
Whilst in Cornwall I stumbled upon a blog written by a man I found most intriguing and just a little bit attractive. Initially my interest was predominantly garden based. I would look forward to his blog posts, excited to read about his gardens and find out what plant and dahlias I should be looking out for next. However, as I became more interested in his blog, I also became more interested in him. Not long after we started dating, Cupid introduced himself by way of a massive arrow to my heart. Almost eight months later here I am in the Frustrated Gardener’s garden, life and home. There is nowhere the pups and I would rather be.
I hope you’ve found my introduction interesting. I wanted to try and convey my love of gardening and tropical plants. Hopefully, I have gone some way to doing that.
For those of you who know Dan and his blog, my aim here is only to participate now and again. This isn’t a ‘take over’ or me trying to ‘gild the lily’. Anyway, how can one improve on that which needs no improvement?
Now, go and order that Dahlia campanulata from here. You know you want to!
Happy Gardening One and All.