It is a constant disappointment to me that I cannot get the Tussilago fragrans called Winter Heliotrope, with its delicious fragrant spikes of flowers, to bloom here. It is quite hardy, and a weed supposed to grow anywhere, but I never get anything except a few leaves. This of course is in consequence of the dryness, the poorness of the soil, and the want of shade, as it has such a weedy growth I cannot put it into any good border. It is a distinct loss, not getting these flowers in mid-winter. I should recommend everyone who has a damp corner to try and grow them. They are not showy, but when picked their delicious scent will pervade a whole room.
Rue, which is sometimes grown in kitchen gardens, though I think seldom used now in cookery, is hardly ever grown in shrubberies, where it makes in winter a charming feature. I find few people know that the French name for the plant is exactly the same as in English. Some people think the strong odour disagreeable, but I myself think it delicious. It is very useful to pick for winter bouquets, and the beautiful gray-blue of its foliage contrasts well with ordinary evergreens. If picked hard, that is as good as cutting it back, and only promotes its growth. It is very easy to grow - either from cuttings, divisions of the tufts, or seeds. Dryness, though making it look rather poor in summer, does it no harm for the next winter. Another plant that does admirably here in the light soil is Santolina (Lavender Cotton), and should always be grown for its pretty hoary foliage It mixes well with some flowers, and is one of those plants that surprises one by its absence from any garden.
The lower part of the stage in my larger greenhouse I do not mean my little show one near the drawing-room - has been a veritable widow's cruse for me this winter.
We have constantly had Mushrooms from our bed covered with its sheet of corrugated iron that I mentioned before.
Lately we have had lots of Sutton's winter salad, Tarragon, Chives, etc., Cress - I do not like Mustard - Rhubarb, and Sea-kale. The Watercress in boxes, described before, has done admirably in the frame. My gardener is getting extremely clever at forcing things in this way through the winter. Early in this month, lunching with a neighbour, we had an excellent dish - the best I have ever seen - of forced green Asparagus. I think next year I must try and grow this too.
In my opinion, Leeks are far too little used in general by English people. Most English cooks only use them as a flavouring for soup or boiled beef. They are really excellent stewed, and very good raw, cut up with Beetroot, especially if not the large coarse kind recommended in most of the English catalogues. The Long Winter Leek (Poireau long d'Hiver de Paris) is quite distinct from all other kinds. It is very delicate, quite small, withstands the winter well, and is the only kind that produces those fine, very long, slender Leeks which are seen in bundles early in the year in the Central Market at Paris. In France, gardeners help Nature a little by earthing up the plants while they are growing. It can be chopped up fine with other salad herbs when Chive tops are not to be got unless they are forced. The Wild Leek (the Allium ampeloprasum) still grows, I believe, in parts of Wales, and is, as to form and tint, beautiful and decorative. It is, of course, well known as the Welsh emblem.