Saturday, 1 November 2014

Late flowering Dahlia

Sat.Navs and Dahlias
Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff' in November
"Daaaad", my stomach sank as the voice emerged beseechingly from the phone. My daughter Laura: "I'm stuck in mud in a field miles from anywhere and the car is broken"

At least she wasn't dead ( this thought missed the point that ringing me probably wouldn't be an option if she was).

"Where are you and what do you mean, 'the car is broken'?"

"I told you - miles from anywhere. I was going to a course and the stupid sat. nav. sent me down this narrow road which became a farm track full of ruts and now the car won't move. There's a smell of burning rubber and a crashing noise when I try to drive out. The R.A.C. say they won't come out because I'm not on a recognised road. I want you to Google for the number of a local garage, then I'll ring them to come and get me out."

I sighed, aware that if the sat. nav. instructed Laura to drive off Beachy Head she would comply and probably ring me during her descent.

"Okay, where's the nearest town?"

"Ramsbottom". The same thought always comes to me when I hear that name: who originally came up with it? No doubt someone who didn't live there. A name like Giggleswick is acceptable because it has some humour about it but who wants to live in a place likened to a sheep's arse?

I hung up and quickly did some research into local garages then rang her back with the information, wondering how they'd find her. She's very philosophical about these sorts of situation because her next comment was: "you'd like it here",


"I can see a kestrel hovering just in front of me and a long, brown, furry animal just ran across the track. A stoat, I think." This reminded me of a conversation we'd had some years earlier when she'd rung to say she'd been in a road accident but she was okay. She'd chatted peaceably for a while about the lovely area she was in  before suddenly terminating with "sorry dad- got to go. The fireman's here to cut me out." I had hair before then.

"That smell of rubber'll be due to the tyre burning because it's not gripping and the crunching is probably stones being thrown up at the bottom of the car," I observed. "Anyway, I'll leave you to ring the garage. You know it'll cost a bomb don't you?"

"What! How much do you think?" The 'isn't nature wonderful' dreaminess had left her voice.

"Well, in the hundreds I should say".

We hung up and then five minutes later she rang back.

"I've managed to back out", she said, "I must have been pressing the accelerator too hard and when I did it gently the car started to move. Anyway, I've got to get to this course now". There was no mention of kestrels or stoats before she hung up.
Large white caterpillar wreaking havoc
Just as Laura had no idea where she was, so I haven't the foggiest where Llandaff is, although the double 'l' probably indicates Wales. What I do know is that they must have a pretty impressive bishop. My Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'' has been flowering for months and now. Into November (and with the benefit of frequent dead-heading), it continues to soldier on. Before embarking on dead-heading, bear in mind that the new flower buds are round, whereas the finished ones are elongated. The corms only need lifting and taken into shelter when the top growth blackens with the first frost and the news that British strawberry growers are hoping to continue cropping until December (admittedly under cover) leads me to think that may be some way off.

The garden usually sinks into a sort of peaceful torpor at this time of year, the various warring factions scurrying for cover from extreme conditions. This time however not only plants seem to be benefitting from warmer conditions, the accompanying pests also continue to do their worst: close scrutiny of the Bishop discloses leaves and flowers damaged by small arms fire by snails; my nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are blitzed by cabbage white caterpillars and a patio rose is being vigorously attacked by some sort of sawfly larvae I've not been able to identify. I'm especially annoyed about the nasturtiums, because they had been devastated earlier in the summer by a slug and snail onslaught which had led to me cutting them back to ground level. I then watched a pristine swathe of new growth emerge from the devastation with the promise of more flowers, until the caterpillars put the kibosh on that.

My solution to these attacks is to pick off the enemy like an efficient sniper, and squash them. The cabbage whites then ooze green blood which I suspect consists mainly of chlorophyll from my nasturtiums.

Just thought you'd like to know that.

On a more cheerful note, my Fatsia japonica is alive with bees - you hear it before you see it. This isn't unusual and the few regularly late flowering subjects, like the closely related ivy (Hedera), always attract these hangers-on.

That said, I'm now off to spill some more green blood.
Fatsia japonica - bee magnet

1 comment:

  1. A lovely and really interesting blog. Unfortunately my gardening is limited to "bits and pieces" in pots and two roses in a little border. The roses are side by side - one blooms copiously and the other does really badly. These are beautiful photographs.