If someone said to me I could only ever grow one flower from now on, then I would choose the Foxglove. For me, the Foxglove, or Digitalis, has always been my favourite flower. From the moment it arrives in May, it makes a big statement. Sounding its elegant coloured trumpets, it turns heads. Bees queue up to get a glimpse of it. The Roger Moore of garden flowers. Tall, suave and very classy.
It’s no secret, Gardener’s World presenter Monty Don has been waging war on the humble Begonia for years. Back in 2000 he was quoted as saying, ”The leaves have a bat’s-wing quality, with colourings reminiscent of the pavement outside a pub at closing time on a Saturday night.”
And his outspokenness regarding the Begonia didn’t end there! Recently, during the live coverage this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show he announced, “I hate a plant because it is repulsively ugly and that’s the begonia.. Don’t tell me that anybody likes begonias.”
Although this went on to upset many a begonia-lover, I can also understand why he has this reaction. I have nothing against begonia, but it just goes to show that people have different ideas.
As we make our way in this world, we discover tastes, colours and experiences that shape and mould us. They make us who we are, they’re part of life’s journey. There are things I too enjoy, and there are things I’ve never been able to get my head around. Which brings me onto my dark secret, the thing that makes me shudder in the dead of night. When I spot one, I break out into a cold sweat and am overcome with an immediate sense of dread. My nemesis.. The Hydrangea.
From the day I took my first little steps in my parents back garden, the Hydrangea and myself never saw eye to eye. To me, it’s a slugs holiday retreat. Whenever I saw a Hydrangea display in a font garden, it conjured images of the owner in his late nineties, wearing musty tweed and sucking on Murray mints. I imagined that on my retirement, the theme tune to Dad’s Army would play out while I was presented with my OAP bus pass and Hydrangea cutting.
Looking back now, the loathing I once had has subsided. Yet still.. I could never see myself owning one.
However, this old favourite is clearly having a renaissance. People are lining up to get their hands on them. Don’t believe me, then ask the plant geek himself Michael Perry of Thompson & Morgan. This is a man with a passion for these old-timers, so much so he’s even got them tattooed on his arm.
Early on Saturday morning, while taking my weekly inspection of my local garden nursery, I noticed their new floral display of Hydrangeas. White, blue, pink, red, like them or not, they were looking very impressive. After a moment looking at them, and then wrestling with my usual inner floral demons, I made for the Acers (my next purchase). But before I had a chance to escape their lure, I noticed they were half price.
I found myself in a dilemma. I love gardening, I love flowers, I also love bargains, but this Hydrangea? Let’s be honest, they haven’t done me any harm, and as far as I know, they haven’t said a bad thing about me. More importantly, with the June lull the garden is needing a little colour to tie me over to Summer’s yellows and burnt oranges. I currently have a space in the garden for one of these.
Two days on, I’m now the proud owner of my first Hydrangea. We may never be best of friends, but there is a mutual respect. I pass him in the garden, he quietly doffs his cap at me and wishes me well.