On the Wilt

A long time ago a garden expert told me the answer to a gardening question he was commonly asked: ‘Why is my plant wilting?’

This expert told me to always answer with another question: ‘Have you watered it enough?’ If the response was no, then the answer is that you need to water it. But if yes then the plant is overwatered and struggling. Easy. However, that isn’t always the correct advice.

Bugs both big and small can cause wilts. Bacteria and fungi love an insidious slurp at the sap. Aphids, as we all know, are happy to nibble fresh shoots and don’t even get me going on slugs. Or snails. Severing stems at soil level is their specialty. All causing wilts.

But, at this time of year, one other factor gets its grips on our plants. The cold. We had that media hyped Beast from the East (or was it the Pest from West?) beat our gardens up and some plants looked unhappy. All are bouncing back. I’m thinking hellebores. Oh my, oh my, they looked sad in the cold. Long flowering stems stooped, curved and flaccid in the face of the freeze. ‘Have you watered them enough?’ Not applicable this time. Purely the cold. But as temperatures nudged upwards so did the plants. Devoid of leaves as they are cut off to reveal the flowers (and reduce the incidence of disease), the flowers are looking majestic again.


Hellebore wilting from the coldSame thing applies to foxgloves. In the cold, they looked like a badger had plonked itself down and had a good scratch. Just the cold. They soon came back. Or maybe it was a badger? Super tough Portuguese laurel on the wilt? Overwatering perhaps?  Nope - just the freezing temperatures. Leaves hanging four degrees below limp at dawn, yet proper perky by midday. Just adaptations to the cold. Many plants are born survivors.

Foxglove and Portuguese Laurel Wilting


But it’s the iconic flower of March, the daffodil, that causes more ructions within garden folk than any other plant at this time of year. Plunged into the soil in October time, then the long wait, the expectation of flower stems and buds, here they are in full flower and then ‘oh dear, dear, your daffs are bent’. Crushing comments. Arched to the soil, the heavy heads of yellow brilliance kiss the worms and smudge their crystal clear faces with mud. ‘Do they need watering? No. ‘Too much water?’ No. Living up to their name? Yes.

You see daffodils are botanically called Narcissus. And if someone is narcissistic (get that in your spell check!) they like the look of themselves. It’s all down to those Greek and Roman myths and gods. I’m simplifying things here but Narcissus was a good-looking youth who saw his reflection in a lake and fell in love with himself. I’ve cut the bits about Nymphs out. Oh, and the sword and inevitable tragic endings. So, when ‘back in the day’ daffs leant over to see their reflection in the waterside, botanists had no choice. Narcissus it had to be.  Every day is a school day at GLG.

So, don’t panic if your own narcissistic Narcissus take a dive. It isn’t lack of water. It isn’t too much of the wet stuff. They are merely trying to catch a glimpse of their own beauty. Now, I wonder how a particular white stemmed bramble got its quirky botanical name?