The Ambivalent Fundamentalist

Galanathus nivalis “Flore Pleno”

Somewhere along the line the botanical purist meets the gardening hedonist and the ambivalent fundamentalist emerges. In the garden there is not too much of a conflict of interest as I am quite content to grow pure species, subspecies, hybrids, geographical  and horticultural varieties, plants of doubtful parentage or even clones. The growing conditions in the cottage garden dictate that I can’t be too fussy, if it survives and does not upset my sensibilities too much, it stays. However, I’m not over fond of doubles and varieties which produce little pollen or nectar for the insects. Otherwise anything goes, even the odd thug is temporarily welcome.
There is, however, a little “pushing and shoving” in the bulb collection. This territorial dispute is not at all lady-like and it would certainly not qualify as intellectual debate. In theory I grow only species and geographical varieties (i.e. a subspecies from a defined geographical area), however, there is a tendency for hybrids and selected forms to seduce me. The gardener covets the pewter leaf forms of Cyclamen coum, the botanist frowns and insists the C. balearicum has very attractive leaves and the dispute flounders completely over Cyclamen graecum ‘”Glyfada” which originated from wild collected material and has pewter type foliage.
The discussion over cyclamen is really just a warm-up round, by the time we get to narcissus, it is probably time to call in the U.N. In the garden it is irrelevant whether it is a jonquil, bulbicodium or a tazetta cultivar, which is fortunate as although the name of the breeder maybe known the botanical parentage is often obscure. So Jack Snipe is allowed to mingle with Minnow, Hawera, Little Witch and N. caniculatus to create a range of forms and to extend the flowering period. The situation among the smaller species grown in pots is more fraught, as it can be difficult to decide whether a named form is a selected variety or a geographical variant. Although, in theory, a selected variety will not “come true” from seed. In the spirit of harmony, the gardener has agreed that, as space is limited, her alter ego is allowed a small triumph. Moreover the occasional  “straying from the paths of righteousness” is only greeted with a wry smile, particularly when it come to reticulate iris.
So treading with great delicacy, I arrive at the snowdrops and here the fundamentalist is transcendent. The genus Galanthus comprises some 20 to 30 species and that is enough for me. I confess that I grew a number of the cultivars in my last garden and they gave me enormous pleasure. However, I now struggle to grow them in the garden and the prospect of growing even a few of the 2000 named varieties in pots induces a yawn. A reformed galanthophile? Well I confess, I grow G. nivalis “Flore Pleno for sentimental reasons!
Sagely the Head Gardener does not get involved in this cerebral trivia and grows what he fancies!
With a nod to Mohsin Hamid for inspiration.

13 thoughts on “The Ambivalent Fundamentalist

  1. I much enjoyed reading your posting today. Very good! I am sure not a fundamentalist in almost everything – including the garden. Loved it. Jack

    • Thank you. I am at heart a gardener and almost by definition not a fundamentalist, but there are time when the scientist elbows her way in and demands to have a say.

  2. Well, you have blinded us with your botanical knowledge so we will all just nod and say ‘yes of course – why not – whatever you say’, Christine. The Head Gardener clearly knows which side of his bread is buttered…. I do suspect though that the majority of us, perhaps unwittingly, do harbour an element of exclusivity in some direction or another in terms of our plant choices.

    • Cathy, this is very tame and serious. I thought you might have responded to a little “tail tweaking” by my muse. I fear the galanthophiles are putting me in the naughty corner for a little gentle teasing!

      • Knowing what a tease you are I deliberately ignored any reference to galanthus, so if you wish to go and sit on your back step or the naughty corner or wherever the Head Gardener consigns you to when you have wound him up a touch too much then please do so – and I am not sorry you struggle to grow them in your garden because I know you are more than happy with your lot 😉

        • I’ve not been sulking, just busy.
          Did the Golfer really buy you the Valentine’s snowdrop “to name” as sold on Ebay for £1602.00? I’m sure it must have been for you!

          • Aw, shucks…! If he had known about it I am sure he would have done, Christine….. 😉 ps how’s the weather affecting you?

          • I was convinced the new snowdrop would be called “rambling”, well I’m sure you enjoyed your Vaentine gift(s). As for the weather it’s comparatively benign compared with the rest of the UK, but it would be nice if it stopped raining for more than an hour or so!

          • 🙂

  3. A superb post!

    • Thank you, the muse was mischievous yesterday.

  4. Mmm, I identify with some of this. I started off with a desire to keep to native plants because of the wild (not to say woolly) nature of my not quite a garden. Over the eight years or so I have been trying to garden up here I have come to be thankful for pretty much anything which will grow. Now I persuade myself that if the pollinators like it, it stays.

    • Gardening like life is full of these dilemmas. In the end we all learn to bend with the wind and drift into compromises.

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