We’re coming up to the end of May and we have some cold nights ahead of us this week, according to the weather forecasts. I still haven’t managed to get outside much in the last few days, as wearing shoes is still difficult and it’s much too cold to go barefoot, but this hasn’t stopped me reading and planning.
One of the things I’ve been doing is researching rhododendrons: we have one in our west-facing front garden whose buds look like they’re starting to open, with hints of white petals starting to show. Part of me is curious to see what colour and type of flowers there are, as there are a huge number of rhododendron species out there.
However, the rest of me is concerned that it’s potentially starting to flower now, as rhododendrons flower in spring and summer, and what this could mean for this plant in the future. Is it seasonally-confused or stressed in some other way?
I hope it’s ok and will do my best to make sure it remains so; I really like rhododendrons. My mum has a couple growing in her garden, and when I was once researching whether you could make a tropical-looking garden in a cool climate (this might seem counter-intuitive, but it was the middle of winter and I was dreaming of warmer climates), rhododendrons were one of the plants I found that looked tropical but could manage the cold temperatures.
I also love them because of their association – for me – with a Scottish island (which is pretty far from tropical!) called Moila, the setting of Mary Stewart’s The Stormy Petrel. The description of the rhododendrons in the neglected gardens of Taigh Na Tuir is actually one of the strongest images from the book for me, as I loved the idea of rhododendrons growing so close to the coast.
Every time I pick up this book, I also rediscover the machair and its wildflowers – it’s not a garden, of course, but I love the description of the profusion of flowers and how the machair gives the impression that they are all flowering at once (Chapter 20).
Mary Stewart also describes the different layers of that the plants grow in, starting with the turf and the flowers sprinkled across it and then moving up to the taller plants like eyebright, yellow rattle, wild chervil and harebells (Chapter 20).
And finally, there’s a short conversation between Rose and Mrs MacDougall in Chapter 12 about hydroponically grown tomatoes and how Mrs MacDougall’s sister’s husband has a greenhouse, so his tomatoes are always earlier than everyone else’s. As someone who’s currently looking into tomatoes varieties and growing them more successfully, that makes me smile.
Can anyone else think of any other garden references from Mary Stewart’s The Stormy Petrel? Or have any advice about my possibly seasonally-confused rhododendron?