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I turned up at a client’s garden for the first time in a little while the other day to find this.

Isn’t it beautiful? It is, of course, the dog’s tooth violet, Erythronium dens-canis, and I am spitting mad.

The reason I’m so bloody furious is that I can’t grow the damn thing. Never have been able to. I must have wasted twenty quid over the years on buying its funny-looking bulbs and though I have planted them by the book – partial shade, moist but well-drained, lots of leafmould – they stubbornly refuse to do their stuff. Yet here they were: a little clump, nestling among the spring bulbs on the rockery. And she hadn’t even really done much other than plonk them in there. When told of my incredulity at the ease with which they sprang up she just said, “Really? I’ve never had any trouble.”

Why do gardeners always say that?

Dog’s tooth violets are not the only thing I can’t grow. There’s quite a long list, actually.

  • snowdrops (going to try the elwesii types at some point though -you never know)
  • chillies (this year’s failed to germinate, again)
  • trilliums (but I’m in good company)
  • heliotrope: how do you overwinter them?
  • Nicotiana sylvestris: germinate beautifully and then sulk, permanently
  • morning glory: ditto (going to try sowing in late May this year)

And if any of you lot say you’ve never had any trouble, I’ll torture you till you tell me which plants you can’t grow and then show you how brilliantly they’re doing in my garden. So there.

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