It's always the way... one minute you've never noticed a plant before, and if someone pointed it out, you wouldn't know what it was, or what it was called. The next minute, you notice it everywhere, and if you're a budding horticulturalist, you can't help giving yourself a proud pat on the back that you actually know what it is!
This happened to me several times in a few days recently. I was enjoying lunch at Worton Organic Gardens recently: smoked fish chowder for me, pizza for Mr P and our friends, finished with several slices of delicious apple pie with cream. We were lucky enough to be sitting in our own 'enclosed room,' artfully decorated with pots filled with blue Salvia 'Indigo Spires' and white, purple blotched Gladiolus murielae (Abyssinian gladiolus).
Gladiolus as annuals
After lunch, David Blake, one of the owners, told me that he treated these Gladiolus like annuals. David is something of a salvia specialist: when he lived in Holland, he had managed the national collection of salvias. He was concerned about the quality of some salvias nowadays, but thought the soft fronds and dazzling blues of Salvia 'Indigo Spires' worth growing. It's certainly different from many of the salvias more commonly available for sale; the long stems are soft, frond-like, and airy, but still support the flowers well, unlike other salvias such as Salvia nemorosa 'Schwellenburg', which can droop then collapse under the weight of the flower heads.
The revelation for me was the beauty gained from treating gladioli, in particular, as decorative planting for patios. Mine usually languish in the back of the borders, often suffering from insufficient water and insufficient staking. But in pots, they can more easily be reached to stake and water them. In return, for the effort of potting and caring for them, they reward you by providing graceful arching flowers to soften your hard landscaping. Two tall terracotta planters that I inherited from the previous owner have stood empty for some time now... Next spring, I will be filling them with gladiolus corns.
On my evening walk around the village, I noticed that my neighbour's garden was planted with Gladiolus murielae. Why had I not noticed this before?
Meanwhile, back at home, the tree surgeon paid me a visit, and helped me rescue an apple tree in the wild garden, which was completely dominated by a cluster of trees, one of which, he said, was a pear.
A pear tree? Nonsense. Surely it was a willow? After all, it had dull-grey, willow-shaped leaves, and as far as I knew, had never borne any fruit. I wondered at him, as did my lunching friends. Cut it down, they advised, so that you can let in the light, and save the apple tree.
But a few days later, on my RHS horticulture course, my tutor pointed out the same tree. What was it? Could it be a pear tree, I asked hesitantly? Yes, it could: in fact, it was Pyrus salificifolia 'Pendula,' part of the Roseceae family. It bears fruit in the autumn, and scented white flowers in the spring. And it was the same 'willow' that I had considered cutting down to rescue my apple tree.
Now, of course, I notice Pyrus salificifolia 'Pendula' everywhere. I now think it rather an interesting tree, worthy of a little love and attention. When I went to admire it again this week, I noticed it had fruited, as if to reward my new-found interest. I am sure both pear and apple tree can co-exist, as they have, after all, for the past decade or two, without my interference.
Onwards to further horticultural knowledge!