Success in my hunt for bloomers

PUBLISHED: 11:07 02 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:56 22 October 2010


Spring is hanging on by its fingernails in Vienne. We've had several false starts of Maytime blue skies and sunshine. Then the microclimate we allegedly enjoy, lurches back with violent storms, heavy rain, and plunging drops in temperature.

Spring is hanging on by its fingernails in Vienne.

We've had several false starts of Maytime blue skies and sunshine. Then the microclimate we allegedly enjoy, lurches back with violent storms, heavy rain, and plunging drops in temperature.

But worst of the bunch has been keening, cold edged wind.

Humankind copes by switching the heating back on. But you can't explain to flowers what's afoot.

It's bad enough when grand mama's good advice on not shedding a clout till May is out has been fully observed, only to be rewarded by weather fit for February. So here we are at the end of May and nothing has really changed.

Vienne loves its flowers and works hard to keep alive the spring-and-summer period of colour. On roundabouts and in civic flowerbeds, as much as in private gardens and from lush hanging baskets, you might feel that there's an amiable competition going on . . .

“Gosh, look at that garden,” you explain as you drive by. “It may be small, but there's enough blooms and ideas as you'd find in a city park.”

One day in summer last year, my French partner Guy and I were driving through an especially attractive village on the other side of our local market town. Every surface around the Mairie and the welcoming little square was richly picked out by flowers. But there was one bloom in particular which caught our admiration.

It was three or four feet high, with enormous red flowers growing in bunches, and effortlessly giving the impression that this splendid performer was here to stay.

We had never stopped in the village before. This time, on a sunny day, we really had to stop and explore - and to examine more closely those compelling bloomers, if you'll forgive the expression.

We ended up at the village bar/restaurant, whose flower festooned terrace is a winner in itself. Drinks served, we collared the patron. Did he know who chose and looked after the array of blossoms. No, came the response. But the Mayor's office should be able to help.

In fact, his Worship wasn't in that day, so we'd have to suspend enquiries. Though not quite. As soon as we arrived home the first thing we did was to look out that friendliest and most thorough of guides, Dr David Hessayon's The Flower Expert. “Like a colourful Gladiolus without any of the popularity”, he declared.

Hey, wait a minute, it's a stunner. Aye, if you can take the trouble to look after it - that is, keep inside during winter, then plant outdoors during early June to avoid even the latest of frosts. Wow! Sounds highly exotic and over sensitive.

This year we concluded our search, and would you believe it, discovered that the village where the quest had begun a year earlier had put in an earlier claim this year. Our flower - Canna Dazzler (red and bronze) - was available only to the trade.

I'd done my homework. When no one else was about, during the ridiculous 2-hour lunchtime which is one of modern France's immoveable anomalies, I found two dozen Dazzlers, in individual containers and ready for action.

Guy and I were back on the dot of 2pm. “Sorry, sir. They are not for sale.” I told of our search, our determination to own one. Well, not just one. I cajoled them into selling me half a dozen - helped, perhaps, by a ready-made list as long as your proverbial arm, of purchases to be made at once . . .as long as I got my Cannas.

They relented, I bought, and all were happy!

Everything was loaded into my long suffering old Volvo, and carried homeward triumphantly. A further two large pots were bought elsewhere - at ten per cent discount, naturally - and the lengthy but wholly satisfying job of potting was put in train.

When I wrote this column on late Sunday afternoon, the job was still not quite finished. Gradually the front of the house was taking on a more opulent sheen. But I wait still more keenly for the first flowerings of my Canna Dazzlers to slide forth from the sturdy mother plant.

It's a plant from the south of France and the Mediterranean - the islands of Corsica, the Balearics and Sardinia.

It has leaves like those of miniature gutters, to collect rare rain. Stripes, green in colour, suggest my old school tie! Said to be poisonous.

A long, red “pod” protruding from the head of the plant will at length burst into a flower.

I bought the plant, a Bromeliads, from a small supermarket because it was as unknown to the market staff as it was to me. Details came from a short session on Internet . . . where nature and high tech meet.

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