Do you give nicknames to any of your plants? Mostly I don't, but I've made an exception for Pigpen. Yes, he's named after the character in the Peanuts comics I gleefully devoured as my children's literature as a kid – my potted gardenia is my little mate, Pigpen.
Here's what I mean. Pigpen starts out freshly laundered, crispy white like a washing powder commercial would like a flower to be. But sometimes by the end of the first day, certainly by the end of day two, each bloom is dusted with a caramel topping. This morning, also dressed with a sparkle of faint dew (click on the photo to see what I mean), Pigpen managed to look adorable for just a while.
Several years ago I planted three wide troughs with low-growing Gardenia radicans because the books talked about flushes of sweetly fragrant blooms set against glossy green leaves. And they were right. But they didn't mention that the flowers turn brown within days.
Panning down a few inches from the shot above, and the first splodge of murk already has made its mark.
Nevertheless, mornings at the moment offer a pretty greeting at my back door, with the gardenias in bloom and the water garden doing well (you can even see a flash of gold in the pot, as I am pleased to report to regular readers that all the goldfish are alive and doing well, so too the plants, which already need cutting back). Anyway, back to Pigpen...
There are probably hundreds of buds on the three plants here, and the scents and the sights for the next few weeks will be delicious, especially on those mornings where the air is still and the fragrance is like a benevolent spirit at the door, waiting to be let in.
But all this delight brings quite a workload. I just can't bring myself to leave dozens and dozens of brown blemishes on these pretty little shrubs. And so I pick off the dead blooms each day, and that becomes something of a chore. The price you pay for having Pigpen as a little mate – cleaning up after him.
Other gardenias, such as the larger Gardenia augusta 'Florida', have white flowers that last a lot longer on the bush than my little G. radicans. And I have checked with others who know, or grow, G. radicans, and they have confirmed that my little Pigpen is typical of the breed.
But when I come to think of it, this is a plant with personality, one of the very few in my garden to earn its own nickname, so despite his dreadful manners he's a bit of a treasure, really.