I have been rereading E.A. Bowles and his book ‘My Garden in Spring’ is a wonderful reminder that my favourite season is on its way. Bowles dedicated a whole chapter to what he called ‘The Lunatic Asylum‘ corner of his garden where he grew his ‘demented plants’. I was going to use ‘Lunatic Asylum ‘as the title for this post but my daughter is a Clinical Psychologist and she would be appalled if she saw it. Nowadays we have done away with these awful places and we are more caring and understanding about mental health issues. I hope I get away with using the word ‘bonkers’. Bowles first intended making a Japanese garden but then he realised that such gardens bristling with ‘bronze cranes and stone lanterns…giant toads and pagodas‘ had become fashionable. I am sympathetic with his horror at the idea of having a fashionable garden, after all which serious horticulturalist relishes the idea of being trendy? So then he decided to collect plants with abnormal and weird characteristics instead.
His first and most crazy occupant was the twisted hazel, Corylus avallana ‘Contorta’ which was then quite new. It was found growing in a hedgerow by Canon Ellecombe in 1863 and he gave a piece to Bowles. He added quite a few elders and trees with Witch’s Brooms. He grew strange or stunted forms of laburnum, ash and viburnum. I don’t know if they are still available but I am not interested in seeking out plants just because they are weird. But I love the corkscrew hazel in winter. It has lovely long catkins and looks beautiful backlit by the sun. Unfortunately its twisted leaves look awful in summer.
I am sure Bowles would have included Meuhlenbeckia astoni in his lunatic asylum if he had seen it. This shrub comes into its own in winter when it looks like shiny tangled copper wire.
Meuhlenbeckia astonii comes from New Zealand. It is a mass of thin wildly zigzag bare branches and I love it. It is even crazier than the hazel.
Bowles included a dwarf form of the native Daphne laureola in his lunatic asylum and as I have this popping up all over the garden it is a good one to put in my vase. The little yellow flowers are not highly fragrant but I love the shiny, green leaves.
I looked round the garden but the rest of my plants seem quite sane so I finished off with a rose to add a bit of panache. After all a rose in January is bonkers.
My jug, a rather eccentric present from lovely, but eccentric friends, is peculiar as the pouring lip and the handle are on the same side making it useless for pouring. Given the person represented on the jug this is perhaps intentional.
He is clearly having a bad hair day but it is a bit windy.
Thank you Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting In a Vase on Monday. If you pop over there you will find lots of creative January vases with no lunacy involved.