Now that there are so few telephone boxes around, you no longer seem to get the regular imbecility of students trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records by cramming as many people as possible into a phone box without actually asphyxiating anyone. But every autumn the tradition lives on in my house. Except instead of people, I use plants. More sensible people don’t buy tender plants unless they have somewhere to keep them over winter. I can’t resist exotics such as plumeria, plumbago, oleanders and bougainvillea to name but a few.
The gradual migration of tender plants into the house at this time of the year seems to put a strain on the Pianist’s usual sunny disposition. It starts when he finds the table in the utility room full of succulents. As he is our chef he seems to consider tables his personal domain. He says he needs them for food preparation. I don’t know why he has to spread himself around so much.
Fortunately, he hasn’t looked into the spare room recently. Let’s hope nobody comes to stay. If they do they will run the gauntlet of various spiky, prickly things and they will not be able to draw the curtains without doing themselves serious harm.
Those long leggy epipyllums in front of the window are becoming ever more of a problem, but they have such stunning flowers in June.
Downstairs, I have one or two lovelies which I bought on a recent visit to East Ruston Vicarage. This orange climber, Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides, or if that is too much of a mouthful, ‘Mexican Flame Vine’, looked spectacular winding through their plants in pots at East Ruston Vicarage. Unfortunately it is tender.
And I fell in love with a beautiful blue fern which I am not convinced is hardy. A friend is trying this outside, so I will watch with interest how it deals with frost. Like most ferns it has a tongue- twister of a name: Phlebodium pseudoaureum. It used to be a Polypodium but now has become yet another plant reassigned by the taxonomists to keep us on our toes. I think it is stunning.
But I haven’t really got started on the migration yet. I have lots more to come inside. By the first frost our dining room resembles a rain forest. It is a problem, because I have to shame-facedly admit, that I already have twenty- three orchids in the house. It’s not my fault, these Phalaenopsis orchids will just not die and they are ridiculously cheap; £2.99 at our local cut-price store. Every time I need some dog chews or a lavatory brush I come home with another.
So the dining room in particular gets more and more crowded. One year we had to use a massive red-leaved banana as a Christmas tree. It has since grown so large that I had to give it to a friend with a conservatory.
I am sure that keen gardeners will understand that as I don’t have a conservatory I have to use the dining room as one. And all the other rooms too. Before you feel too sorry for the Pianist, I have to add that as he doesn’t have a music studio, he uses our library instead. Apparently this involves ever more keyboards and cables; lots of them snaking all over the place. The floor looks like a book cover for Francois Mauriac’s ‘Le Noeud de Vipères.’ He completely blocks the poetry section and getting to biography is getting increasingly dangerous. He is as crazy about cables as I am about plants. He has suitcases full of spare ones. Which is really odd in my opinion. Very often the postman arrives with yet another little package of cables to add to his collection. He is as addicted to them as I am to jugs. Or pitchers as Americans like to call them. So there we are, we have to live with each other’s eccentricities.
The greenhouses are already filled with far too many plants, packed in with an irresponsible disregard for the dreaded botrytis . Salvias are so easy to propagate that I have far too many.
And of course an increasingly large area of a greenhouse is devoted to nerines. But I will save these for another day.