Time to sow biennials

I always try to sow my biennials before the summer soltice (20th June) so that the plants are big enough to plant out by the autumn equinox (22 September) and can establish well before the winter.  We have not had rain for many, many, many weeks but today was a wet one and ideal for spending time in a cozy greenhouse sowing next year’s flowers.

Just as the garden is coming into full swing it does seem a little strange to be starting things off for next year but that is how we will enjoy the same fabulous show again in 2021.

Here are the things I have been sowing today and my Six-on-Saturday for this week.


One:  Foxglove ‘Pam’s Choice’

I love to have foxgloves popping up around the garden and Pam’s Choice is a particular favourite with its white flowers and purple throat.  It is similar to Elsey Kelsey which I also like.  This year it has looked striking growing with the purple hesperis.

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Foxglove ‘Pam’s Choice’ with purple Hesperis

Two:  Hesperis (Sweet Rocket)

We grow both the purple and white forms of Sweet Rocket.  They are just coming to an end now and are making way for planting out summer annuals.  The white form is lovely for brightening up a shadey corner or setting off a dark hedge.  As an added bonus it seems to attract many early butterflies.

For me Hesperis looks best when planted in a decent group of plants rather than singly.  This year we have grown it to great effect with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and Tulip ‘City of Vancouver’.  It does however need a bit of staking.

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Three:  Erysimum (Wallflowers)

Over the years Wallflowers have been used extensively in municipal parks and gardens as part of brightly coloured carpet bedding schemes.  They have perhaps become a little ‘out of fashion’.  We try to use ours in a much more informal way within our early spring borders.  They give a range of rich colours which are unusual in the early spring and sit very well with tulips and other spring bulbs.

Today I have been sowing ‘Blood Red’ and ‘Fire King’ (which look great together amongst pale blue forget-me-nots) as well as ‘Vulcan’ and ‘Ruby Gem’.  In addition I have sown ‘Ivory White’ which you can just see in the picture above with the Alliums.  It wasn’t particularly successful this year but its creamy yellow flowers showed great promise and I think I will try and get more going for this bed next year.

Tulip Jan Reus mixed with Ballerina and scented Fire King and Blood Red wallflowers
Tulip Jan Reus mixed with Ballerina and scented Fire King and Blood Red wallflowers

Four:  Foxglove ‘Apricot’

This tall Apricot foxglove creates a very different effect from the ‘normal’ pink and white forms.  I put it with the Sweet Williams this year and they create a lovely contrast.

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Foxglove ‘Apricot’

Five:  Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)

We started to grow the variety ‘Auricula Eyed Mixed’ when we were cutting flowers as event florists.  It is tall with nice robust stems and seems to be generally free from rust problems if you don’t overcrowd the plants.

The plants produce masses of seeds each year which I collect and keep for sowing in June.  I try to create new plants each year but many of the plants seem to be perennial.  If you cut them back hard after flowering they produce new fresh growth and keep flowering into the autumn.  They seem to stay green most of the winter in our garden and a bit of a tidy up and a feed in the spring produces another crop of flowers the following year.  Here they are growing amongst Nigella to great effect.

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Six:  Astrantia

This is not a biennial but I came across the seeds we collected last year from these dark pink astrantia plants.  What is wonderful about collecting your own seed is that you get so very much more than you receive when you buy seeds from commercial companies.  You do seem to get less and less seeds in a packet these days.

The astrantia seeds from last year all look really good so rather than let them go to waste I will have a go at getting them to germinate.  Many perennials like to have a period of chilling so that they think they have had a winter and are now emerging into the warmer springtime.  To mimic this I have put the tray of sown seeds into the fridge for 4 weeks in a plastic bag and will then bring them out into the warmth to let them germinate.  I will report back on how I get on.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.


 

It is definitely rose time!

There is so much to see in the garden at the moment and Six on Saturday is simply not enough.  However, as we move from May to June it is the roses that are in the ascendency and I really couldn’t have a six this week without them.  I spent today cutting the grass and repeatedly stopped to smell the roses as I went past each time.  The grass cutting took rather longer than usual!

Here are six that I have chosen to highlight today – there could have been so many more.


One:  Boscobel

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This is a beautifully fragrant English Shrub Rose (also known as Auscousin).  This group of repeat flowering roses sits in front of a Cornus kousa which is also flowering wonderfully this year.

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Two:  Rhapsody in Blue

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Perhaps a slightly weird colour for a rose (it is on the way to blue but definitely not a true blue).  It is certainly a talking point and I think goes very nicely with the purple leaves of the Cotinus coggygria.


Three:  Comte de Chambord

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This is a very fragrant shrub rose that we planted as part of our 25th wedding anniversary rose garden.  Now over 15 years old they are still going strong (as are we!).  They combine very well with the Persicaria bistorta in the foreground and the brick red ‘My Castle’ lupins.


Four:  Rambling Rosie

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About three years ago now we converted the old flower growing area of our floristry business into a more aesthetically pleasing flower garden.  We simply love growing flowers.  We have planted a couple of climbing roses over two new pergolas and it has taken them a couple of years to really get going.  This year they are full of flower buds and ‘Rambling Rosie’ I hope will really perform this year.  Fingers crossed.


Five:  Rose ‘Festival’

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I have a bit of a soft spot for this rose.  It is one of a number the roses that I received as a leaving present when I left the East Malling Research Station in Kent and moved up to Horticulture Research International at Wellesbourne in 1992.  It is a lovely rose and seems to be very healthly despite its age.  In the foreground here is the pink Kolkwitzia which the bees absolutely adore with the white mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata) behind.

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Six:  Paul’s Himalayan Musk

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It has proved quite difficult to photograph this rambling rose which creeps its way up through the trees and shrubs and pops out flowers where you least expect it to have reached.  It is a lovely, strongly fragrant rose with small blooms in large drooping clusters. The colours of the individual blooms change as they age from blush pink towards white.

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That’s it for this week.  I strongly suspect that roses may well appear again in the coming weeks.

The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

 

It has been a rather blustery day…

It has been so windy this weekend that taking pictures for ‘Six on Saturday’ (and doing any gardening) has been a bit of a challenge.  Luckily there has been surprisingly little damage.  My other challenge has been limiting myself to just six as there are so many beautiful things emerging in the garden.  Anyway here are my six for this week.


One:  Anthericum liliago major (St Bernard’s Lily)

We saw this plant in the white garden at Bourton House Garden in the Cotswolds a couple of years ago and just had to have one.  It is lovely and has established very well.  Next year I think we will have a go at dividing it and spreading it further around the garden.   If you get a chance to visit Bourton House Garden is excellent.

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Two:  Eleagnus commutata

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This deciduous Eleagnus has been very successful growing in the long grass at the edge of the shrubbery.  It is currently covered in sweet smelling yellow/cream flowers and fills the air with scent even on a windy day like today.


Three:  Angelica archangelica

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These plants have been a long term project.  One of those spectacular, tall architectural plants that take a bit of time to grow.  They are biennials and I originally sowed the seed early last year planting them out in the early autumn.  This year they have come of age and the bees and insects absolutely love them.  They are tall (nearly 6ft) and magestic plants that stand up well despite the strong winds we have had this weekend.  I am pleased with them but I think my wife is less impressed!


Four:  Robinia

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This tree was originally grown from a small seedling.  It took a little while to get going but now each year it is covered with masses of white, fragrant, pea-like flowers.  It is something we always enjoy but beware it does have some seriously dangerous spikes.

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Five:  Dutch Iris ‘Red Ember’

As growers and former event florists I think we are both fans of dutch iris and typically grow the mixtures which are blue, white and yellow.  This year we tried the variety ‘Red Ember’.  It has a rather lovely exotic colour and I wouldn’t be surprised if we grow it again next year.  What we do need to do I think is decide what other plants would complement it in the border at this time of year.  Any views welcome.

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Six:  Greenfinches

Next for something completely different.  Greenfinches (Carduellis chloris) have been in trouble in recent years and their numbers have declined across the UK due to disease.  A recent decline in numbers has been linked to an outbreak of trichomonosis, a parasite-induced disease which prevents the birds from feeding properly.

Over the last couple of years we have heard the characteristic calls of greenfinches but they have remained high in the trees and rarely ventured closer into the garden.  This year we seem to have a group of three (perhaps juveniles) that have been skipping around the shrubs in the garden together.  Worth a place in the ‘six’ for this week I think.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

The sheer vitality of May

There is no particular theme for my Six on Saturday this week other than to highlight the sheer vitality and variety of the garden in May.  Here are my six for this week:


One:  Cotinus coggygria and Wisteria

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I have written recently about our Wisteria and it is complemented here so wonderfully by the new leaves of the smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria).  The early morning sun shining through the almost translucent young red leaves is stunning.


Two:  Anthriscus sylvestris

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In total contrast is the cool haze of the woodland garden where the cow parsley is in its absolute prime.


Three:  White and purple

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In this part of the garden (which is quite shady) we have tried to combine the late season creamy yellow ‘City of Vancover’ tulips with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’.  They have overlapped particularly well this year.  The white biennial sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis) really lights up this darker corner of the garden.  Rather less successful has been the ‘Primrose bedder’ wallflowers which are just visible.


Four:  Honeysuckle

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Whenever you walk down a Warwickshire country lane you will see the wild honeysuckle in the hedgerows.  It really likes this part of the world and so it is only appropriate that we allow it to flourish in the garden as well.  The evening fragrance is to die for.


Five:  Blues and yellows in the flower garden

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I particularly like this part of the flower garden at the moment.  Dutch Irises are such good value.  You get alot of bulbs for very little outlay and they seem to be very reliable in our soil.  We particularly like the mixtures rather than the single colours and they sit beautifully with the perennial wallflower (Bowles’s Mauve) and the lime green Euphorbia oblongata.  Bowles’s Mauve seem to keep flowering all year.


Six:  Weigela

Possibly one of our ‘unsung heros’ in the garden but I think Weigela is also worth a mention this week.  Year after year they flower in some of the ‘wilder’ parts of the garden.  They always bring a smile to our face.


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

 

Rose of the Day – Arthur Bell

Rose ‘Arthur Bell’ is a delightfully fragrant yellow climbing rose. It is a floribunda type rose which has these delightful rose buds with a subtle red strip. Each of these buds opens to a rich yellow flower which then fades to pale yellow. This means that at any one time the rose has a range of delightful new rose buds and a mix of strong and pale yellow flowers on the same plant.

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It was bred by Sam McCredy IV in Northern Ireland in 1964. It is purported¹ to have been named for the Scottish whisky manufacturer, Arthur Kinmond Bell (1868—1942).

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We have had this climbing rose for over 15 years and to be honest it was beginning to show its age. This year (in an attempt to give it one last chance) we pruned it back quite hard and gave it a good feed. It has responded extremely well producing a number of strong new shoots and is flowering well once again. It is an old friend and a firm favourite.

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Six on Saturday – Hosta Identification Quiz!

My wife Carol has grown some fantastic Hostas again this year.  However over the years we have lost the labels and as part of this week’s Six on Saturday we would love to have some help in putting some names to some of the varieties.  Number One is the very large variety in the featured picture above and number Four I think is a lovely variety called ‘June’.   Hope you can help!


One:

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Two:

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Three:

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Four:

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Five:

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Six:

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

 

Up close and personal

Ever since I began training as a Botanist and Plant Ecologist at University I have been fascinated by the intricate detail and sheer variation of different flowers. I found myself outside this week looking closely at flowers with the macro camera setting and thought that it would be nice to share a few close-ups as part of this week’s Six on Saturday.


One: Lilac

The Lilac is looking and smelling wonderful this year and the mass of flowers is a spectacle in itself. However, when you look closely at single flowers you can see that behind the outward facing four petals is a very long tube. Only insects with a very long tongue will be able to reach down to the enticing nectar at the base of this flower.

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Two: Perennial cornflowers

The perennial cornflower (Centaurea montana) is most common in the southerly mountain ranges of Europe. I find the highly dissected flower heads delicate and charming when you look at them closely. This particular variety (name long gone!) was purchased from Avondale Nursery and is absolutely gorgeous with its hint of dark lavender in the centre contrasting with the stark white surround.

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Three: Dicentra spectabilis

Believe it or not this plant sits within the poppy family (Papaveraceae). The flower construction is very different. It is one of those flowers where you can have great fun with the children. If you turn the flower upside down and gently pull the pink side petals it looks just like a lady in a bath!

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Four: Viola

The jolly faces of the small viola are very striking but when you look closely you can appreciate the complex markings that make up this pattern and the direction markings that attract pollinating insects. The hairs around the top of the ‘mouth’ are also visible here and presumably ensure that pollinating insects are well brushed and positioned as they enter the centre of the flower.

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Five: Long leafed waxflower

The long leafed waxflower (Philotheca myoporoides) is a native to south eastern Australia. Its aromatic evergreen foliage is supposed to smell of gin and tonic but I am not entirely convinced about that yet. At this time of year it is covered with these tiny white flowers which are about 1 cm across. The flowers are attractive en masse but each individual flower is beautiful in its own right. The stamens and buds are a very delicate apricot colour. The apricot stamens seem to be held in place by a tiny ring of white structures

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Six: Apple

Last but not least this week is Apple blossom which is so lovely when the orchard is in full bloom. Something to just stand back and admire. Each individual bud has a network of intricate pink veins that create that pink blush that is so characteristic of apple blossom.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.