Dandelions spell spring for garden writer

Tulips blooming now, must be well cared for this time of year

The earliest tulips (Kaufmaniana) are finished now, and need to be fertilized and watered weekly until they have died back. Cut off the faded blooms, but save all the foliage which will plump up the bulbs. Because there is so little room on the balcony, I’ll move mine into a smaller pot to make room for the next lot of plants.

Right now there are the most glorious Darwin tulips blooming, great big, strong plants with huge orange-red flowers, whose botanical name eludes me, to my shame. To my amazement a clematis has appeared in with them. Beats me where it came from.

The long narrow planter too, is lovely right now, with pale blue anemone Blanda in bloom, together with the scilla, chionodoxa, and Spanish bluebells, all blues in a variety of shades. I seem to be somewhat hung-up on blues don’t I? But blue is so lovely in a garden, isn’t it?

Friday the 13th turned out to be my lucky day. A group of lovely women, belonging to a writers’ group arrived for our weekly meeting bearing flowers. There were dark pink camellias, white ones, an assortment of pansies and a medley of bluebells, plus yellow and bronze wallflowers. They spoil me and I love it.

I know people hate dandelions, especially in a lawn, but they are a joy to behold in the wild in the smallest of spaces; between tiles in a sidewalk, under fences, amongst gravel on a roadside. To me they spell spring. I’m told that in England they are regarded as an annual and welcome in a flower garden, but I’ll have to check this out with some English friends before I’ll believe it. They produce such a large number of parachute-equipped seeds, they can become a menace in a well-kept garden.

My long-time unkempt Tibouchina is dying. I have done everything I can to keep it going, but it seems to have made up its mind to die. I’m afraid once a plant has made this decision you might as well let it go. I shall miss its glorious large purple blooms borne on the tips of branches. Shall I put it outside where I can’t watch its decline, or watch it waste away in the bedroom where every time I look at it, I feel guilty of some unknown crime? What did I do wrong?

Maybe I should use my darling Jim’s answer to questions he was asked in my absence. He always repied, either “too much water” or “not enough water” and it seemed to work.

At least no one appeared at the door threatening to shoot him!


Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.