Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 4 July 2008

Houdini Plants

So there you are, pottering about in your garden on one of your regular rounds of inspection. A plant stops you dead in your tracks and you think to yourself 'Hmm, that's not doing very well, it'll have to go'. Back at the house, you take out your To Do list and add Take out X on there, but the list is sooooo long, the task gets left on there for quite a spell. A few months later, on another tour of inspection, the same plant has transformed itself. It's all perked up, its leaves are glowing with health, new growth is bursting out all over and it's flowering its socks off. So you smile, pat it fondly and go back to your list to cross out Take out X as a job well done.

What miracle specimen is it? That's right - you've found a Houdini Plant.

This year I've not only found Houdini Plants in my garden, it's spread to my allotment too. I've had no gooseberries for the past 2 years, only sharp scratches and prickles as I squeeze past them to pick my Autumn Bliss raspberries. So in January I thought to myself, 'Spiteful, unproductive plants. No pruning, manure and mulching for them this year. I'll take them out when the weather gets better'. But I then got caught up with all the spring planting and getting my plot up to scratch instead. So what happens? They've produced a bumper crop, that's what.

What Houdini Plants have you found in your garden or plot?

Choir Update: Our final broadcast before next Tuesday's concert was this morning. If you'd like to hear us, it's a bit more straightforward this time, as we're just half an hour into the show. The link below should work from this afternoon UK time until next Friday. Today's song selection is Plovi Barko (Croatia - hi Viooltje!), Lugar Comum (Brazil) and E Marabini (South Africa).

To listen you will need to have a programme called RealPlayer installed on your computer. Download it for FREE from the BBC's audio help page if you need to -

Wish us luck for Tuesday - we had a bad rehearsal as there were so many new things to learn at the last minute including stage directions. The whole concert may also be recorded for broadcast later - I'll keep you posted.


  1. I have 3 Falstaff roses climbing up a large Ogee frame. I know roses can take a while to establish and romp, but these I had 4 years, and last year they looked sickly (blackspot), leggy and just didn't flower much. So I told them they had one last chance. This year (I think because its been drier so far) the leaves look ok, and they have flowered their socks off. William Morris has gone bezerk too; a nice 4 foot mould last year, it's now putting out 8 foot shoots, and I think there have been in excess of a 1000 flowers! Why? like you I didn't mulch last autumn, and I wonder if they felt threatened?

    It is bizarre anyway.

  2. I wont rush to dig up my gooseberry then - no berries this year and only two last year.

    PS - have done a post on uses of soot for you

  3. Good luck!

    Our gooseberries have been fantastic this year, they're quite a treat because of the short season anren't they?

  4. I had a bumper crop of gooseberries too. At least I did before I went on holiday because when I returned I found that the birds had eaten them all. And my white currants too. And the strawberries. Boohoohoo and snif!

  5. First of all, Happy Paws wishes to thank you for all the good thoughts, he's doing a lot better and is almost back to his usual cheeky self. And then of course let us all wish you a great time and a splendid performance for Tuesday. I'm going to mess with the radio thingy now as I'm dying to hear how good it must sound.

    Best of luck,


  6. I think the plant hears a gardener uttering grave threats of death and destruction - gives itself a shake and starts looking all chipper.
    Once forgotten about said plant often reverts back to being a lazy slob!

  7. Haven't you heard the saying "Bad rehersal, good performance"? I'm sure you will all remember the mistakes & avoid them when the time comes.
    I was ready to give up on my Trillium grandiflorum when they both bloomed this year. Last year 1 Actae simplex finally bloomed (out of 5). I would expect better this year, but the plant that bloomed is in trouble. The Lycoris squamergera, though, is in danger of getting yanked unless it does something this summer.

  8. I just listened to the radio clip & had to tell you that I LOVE the African piece. It's wonderful. I wish I could attend the concert.

  9. I feel better knowing I'm not the only one who never crosses everything off her to-do list. I'll have to think about the Houdini plants--I do have some lilies that Husband mowed down last year that have come back.

    I'm curious about all the comments about gooseberries. My mother used to make gooseberry pie occasionally, but is there another way to use them?

  10. Zoe - it's been a fantastic year for roses hasn't it?

    PG - no don't. And many thanks for all the soot info :)

    Suburbia - they're yummy!

    Yolanda - we always get our holiday timing wrong too. Hope you had a good one

    Viooltje - I'm so pleased to hear that. And I hope we didn't mess up one of your country's lovely songs!

    EG - I'll bear that in mind!

    MMD - Glad you liked it! I bet they pull their socks up now and start performing ;)

    Rose - yep, my To Do list is ever expanding. As for other recipes - gooseberry crumble, gooseberry fool, gooseberry jam... Ooh I feel really hungry now!

  11. I've been waiting a couple of years for my gooseberry 'Invicta' to produce a decent crop. Last week we ate our first 4 berries which were beautifully sweet. I think there are only about 6 more and I must be quick and pick them before my niece visits next weekend - she will have them otherwise!

  12. And before the birds cotton on too eh Matron?


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