In the autumn, shortly after arriving at Gravetye Manor, my friend Stuart and I were asked to bulk the wildflower meadow up with more spring blooming bulbs. The morning is forever engrained in my mind, a cool foggy mist surrounding us as we plunked each dormant bulb into the cold dark soil with our trowels, lost in the quiet cloud of our task. I first learned about this bulb early on when I started studying horticulture, Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’, seeing it used often in gardens that put it to good use as a plant that naturalizes easily. This is a cultivar that has history here at Gravetye the great garden writer, William Robinson found its bloom to be superior in size to the others growing on his estate.
We continued planting a few crates of them into the grass that was so heavy with moisture, and I thought to myself about how these bulbs were returning home, their place of origin, the home of their much older relatives that they descended from. As I tucked each one to sleep for winter, packing the soil around them, my thoughts turned to Spring and I looked forward to seeing their green tips of their foliage, still months away, emerging in heat of warmer days.
Now, with Spring having arrived, it is obvious to see that these bulbs are everywhere at Gravetye, coming up in drifts in the wildflower meadows, in the hillside gardens, and even growing in clumps in the woods along the drive to the house. They bloom for a long period of time, about 2-3 weeks weather depending, due in part to the multiple bell-shaped flowers that emerge one after the other and all dangling from a single scape. With the blooms now beginning to fade outside, and the foliage soon turning yellow, it is only a matter of time before there is no trace of them left in the garden, only known to those who have seen them here. Feverishly I cut some stalks for myself, to be greedy and have some alone time with them, to prolong this memory of my friends that I met in Autumn. William Robinson was a smart man for seeing this plant and realizing its potential and for the future, I will never see this bulb in the same light again, now that I have seen its history come full circle. -J