We are not really sure of the species or variety of this Iris. It is a striking tall bulbous Iris that flowers now at the end of April through to early May. This is much earlier than the Dutch Iris (Iris x hollandica) that tend to flower in late May into June.
The flowers start out yellow and white but as they age the white parts seem to turn blue. The flowers are held on strong straight stems and average about 80cm in height. Again much taller and more sturdy than a Dutch Iris. It holds well as a cut flower.
My guess is that they are from the Xiphium section of bulbous iris but are unlikely to be the Spanish Iris (Iris xiphium) which is said to flower in June. Any ideas welcome!
Without an identification we have given it the name Mollie’s Iris as we were given a clump of the bulbs by our former neighbour Mollie Barber. Many of our plants have an association with a person kind enough to share their beautiful plants or perhaps a garden or location where we purchased something on our travels. Such memories bring an extra dimension to a garden as it grows and develops each year.
This lily flowered tulip has been one of my favourites over recent years. The rich deep burgundy red colour is really striking. The neat green foliage is fresh and spring green. Most importantly they are well behaved and the flowerheads stand straight on strong stems.
Lasting Love is in full flower today (20th April) and soon will be joined in nearby tubs by the variety ‘Marilyn’ which is creamy white with a broad stripe of strawberry red.
Native foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) grow freely around our garden and we love them. In general we are very happy to just allow them to grow and flower where they seed themselves and if they are in the wrong place they are easily moved or removed.
However, there are also some named varieties which add a real wow factor to a herbaceous border. Two of our favourites are ‘Elsey Kelsey’ (pictured above) and ‘Apricot Delight’.
Foxgloves are biennials and we would normally sow these around the time of the summer solstice and grow them on for planting out around the autumn equinox. The plants will then grow on and establish in the flower beds over winter to flower the following May and June. We find them very trouble free and not generally attacked by pests or diseases.
Elsey Kelsey (also known as Pam’s Choice) has huge long spikes of flower which reach 7-8 feet in our garden. The white flowers have densely speckled maroon throats and are loved by the bees who are constant visitors.
Last year we planted Elsey Kelsey in front of a climbing pale yellow rose (Rose ‘The Pilgrim‘) which created a stunning combination.
Also in the same bed we used a combination of the Aquilegia ‘Blue Star’, the pale yellow Sisyrinchium striatum and a deep blue/purple lupin (probably ‘The Governor’) to extend the colour palette towards the front of the border.
A second named variety of foxglove worth mentioning is ‘Apricot Delight’ (also known as ‘Sutton’s Apricot’). This is not quite as tall as Elsey Kelsey but has really dense spikes of pale apricot flowers. It still works well when combined with climbing roses (here shown with Rose ‘Constance Spry‘). In my view the pale pink and apricot sit beautifully together and are complemented by the brick red lupin ‘My Castle’.
The Latin name for the genus Digitalis comes from the Latin digitus meaning ‘a finger’. Each individual flower on the spike resembles the finger of a glove. According to Seedaholic (where there is a wealth of fascinating titbits on a wide range of flowers) the English name of Foxglove does not come from foxes but from the phrase ‘folk’s gloves’ meaning belonging to the fairy folk. Another common name is fairy thimbles (British flowers names can be so enchanting!).
It is worth noting that the whole foxglove plant is extremely poisonous and it is worth wearing gloves when handling plants or seeds.
A monochromatic vase of white spring flowers this week including Prunusincisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’, Magnoliastellata, Thalia multi-headed daffodils and Skimia. All plants currently in flower in our Warwickshire garden today (21 March 2022).
It is lovely to feel the spring sun on your face once again!
For much of February this year we have not been able to get out in the garden but when the sun shines and the wind drops it is a lovely surprise to just wander around the garden and see what is emerging. There is a surprising amount in flower when you look closely.
This time of year is of course snowdrop time and once again they have given a spectacular show all around the garden. The different species flower at different times and provide a long season of interest in the cold winter months. Each year we split some clumps and move them ‘in the green’ to establish new areas for future years. This year we have recreated a bed near the orchard which had to be cleared last summer to make space for my daughter’s wedding marquee. Although I had to swallow hard at the time it has given me a chance to start something new. We have created a mass of snowdrops under the trees and placed two new specimen shrubs, an Elaeagnus x ebbingei MARYLAND ‘Abrela’ and a Nandinadomestica which look great together even though the plants are still relatively small.
Many of the February plants emerge in the woodland areas taking advantage of the daylight that exists before the trees come into leaf. The Cyclamen coum and the earliest crocus, narcissi and primulas all complement the snowdrops beautifully. The dark, almost black, leaves of Ophiopogon planiscapus also look great with the snowdrops and I might try and develop this combination more in future years.
One of my favourites are the exquisite Iris reticulata which we grow in small bulb bowls outside over winter. We find that growing in terracotta bowls is more successful as they don’t seem to do well in our cold damp winter soil. This mid-blue variety is ‘Alida’. Looking at the catalogue it says it is fragrant but I haven’t been down on my hands and knees to sniff yet. They really are a harbinger of spring and warmer days to come.
Another hardy plant that comes back without fail each year are the Hellebores. Although we have quite a few (!) we are always in the market for a few more when we take a trip out the the garden centre. Below is one of the latest, Helleborusorientalis ‘Hello White’. Unlike many of the others which have large blousy flowers this one is quite petite but with beautiful markings on the inner petals.
It is not all about bulbs and corms however. Our winter flowering cherry is still in bloom and the two Prunus incisa ‘Paean’ by the patio steps shine out on even the darkest day. Most importantly they can be enjoyed from the warmth of the lounge. Although these can grow quite vigorously during the summer we prune them back hard each year to maintain the neat shape either side of the steps.
I started by indicating we had not got out in the garden much over February but looking back we have completed two major winter projects ready for the new year. The first of these is a long flower bed that runs through a small copse/shrubbery up towards the fruit cage and orchard. The new bed stretches from deep shade, through partial shade and into full sun at the orchard end. It will give us the chance to divide, move and repot much of the Hosta and fern collection and also introduce a wide range of large architectural plants at the sunny end. A really exciting project. Although we have plenty of garden to look after we just can’t resist a new opportunity to plant more plants!
The other winter project has been the dismantling and reconstruction of a second-hand glasshouse kindly offered to us by our neighbours. This took a couple of months to move, clean and repair but it has been sited in the vegetable patch and gives us plenty of space for bringing on new plants. The existing glasshouse, although in the sun 25 years ago when we put it up, is somewhat shaded now by neighbouring trees. This is in fact quite helpful in the hot summer months as it keeps the temperatures down but it is also helpful to now have a second glasshouse in full light.
This February review would not be complete without a mention of the wonderful Daphne odora . This slow growing shrub is close to the back door of the house and its scent is just wonderful. A deep breadth in each time we go out into the garden really lifts the spirits..
The weather this spring in the UK (2021) has been quite extreme at times. April was a very dry month followed by a very wet and sometimes cold May. Now in June we are back to humid heat with little rain but there is still plenty of moisture in the ground. All this has resulted in a huge explosion of growth right across the garden.
We have grown Lupins for many years but I have been struck this year but the sheer size and exuberance of the plants we have around the garden. The top picture shows the brick red ‘My Castle’ in the foreground with the yellow ‘Chandelier’ and white ‘Noble Maiden’ behind. All of this is nicely framed by another member of the pea family, the Wisteria.
Many of the lupins we have around the garden are Russell Hybrids from the ‘Band of Nobles’ series. The species Lupinus polyphyllus is a native of western North America. It commonly grows wild along streams and creeks and prefers a moist habitat 1.
Lupinus polyphyllus was originally introduced into the United Kingdom by David Douglas in the 1820’s (2) . A century later George Russell started to develop the Russell hybrids with the aim of creating flower spikes that we denser, larger and more colourful than the original species. These were first displayed to the public at the RHS show in 1937 and have been a popular garden favourite ever since.
Over the last few years we have been developing our collection by growing from seed. It has proved to be a very successful way of growing a significant number of sturdy plants at little cost. In general we have sown the seeds in spring, potted up and grown on for about 12 months before planting out in the flower garden. The bigger the potted plant the quicker they seem to establish in the wilds of the flower garden where they have to compete with neighbouring plants and fend off the slugs. Most of the plants in these pictures are probably now three or four years old.
I particularly like lupins when they are planted in groups to make a strong vertical statement in a large bed. The range of colours is very wide and this allows you to mix and compliment these plants with a wide range of other border perennials.
Although the daffodils are still providing colour in the garden they are definitely beginning to go over now. The next bulbs to perform will be the tulips and the first early tulips are now coming into their own. Here are five early tulip varieties that are in their prime in our garden at the moment (9 April 2021).
Tulip Van Eijk Mixed
Van Eijk Mixed provides a sumptuous array of colour. The flowers sit on strong sturdy stems that have held up well against the strong winds we have had at times this spring. They are looking particularly nice against the emerging red foliage of the roses.
Tulip Haute Couture
This is a short stocky tulip that seems to work very well in pots by the front door where you can look down on them. The powdery yellow is very attractive and the flowers sits neatly amongst these interesting mottled leaves.
Most tulips do not seem to be perennial in our garden and we tend to replant new bulbs each year. Apeldoorn is an exception however and these seem to return each year in the relatively dry conditions under our rose arches. They are very attractive planted amongst white multi-headed Thalia narcissus
Tulips Pink Prince and Flaming Prince
We have planted these two varieties together in six terracotta pots on the front steps down towards the lane. They make a great entrance for visitors (lockdown permitting) as they come up the steep steps with the blooms set against the grey foliage at eye level.
At this time of year it is the little things that you notice. Across the garden it is at times a bit like meeting up with old friends. Many of the bulbs, flowers, shrubs and trees have been in the garden for years yet many have remained hidden or quietly green all summer and winter. Now is their time to shine.
At the same time you have a raft of new arrivals that you planted at the end of last year that you hope have survived the cold, wet winter months. There is a quiet thrill of excitement when you see the first signs of growth breaking through the soil and the first leaves or blossom breaking.
Last Saturday (20 March) was the Spring Equinox here in the northern hemisphere. From now on the days will be longer than the nights, it is the official start of spring and summer is around the corner
To be honest for us the gardening year started sometime ago and the greenhouse, polytunnel, windowsills and dining room are already full of plants and seedlings.
However, the start of spring is a great time to stop and take stock of the beauty in the garden. The first of the pink cherry blossom is particularly pretty at the moment. Over the last couple of years we have been removing a rather thuggish Clematis montana from this tree and it has certainly responded this year with a beautiful show of delicate flowers.
Less successful this year have been the hellebores. Usually they are pretty fool proof providing a wonderful early spring show of colour. This year, for what ever reason, they have all looked very sad. Whether they were hit by a sudden cold spell at a critical time we don’t know but hopefully they will return with gusto next year.
Around the woodland edges there are a number of old favourites that bring a smile to my face as I do the morning tour with my springer spaniel. A simple clump of primroses, a cluster of miniture narsiccus, the small white flowers of the wood anemone Anemone nemorosa, the blues of Anemone blanda and a white Pulmonia ‘Bressingham White’ are all emerging again this year on schedule.
One of my favourite views at this time of year is the view across the orchard. The smell of the first cut of the orchard grass alone is wonderful and daffodils around the base of the apple trees shine out in the spring sunshine.
Over the last few years we have had an ongoing battle with the squirrels and voles who seemed to be intent on eating all our tulip bulbs. This year we have tried a different tack focusing our efforts on planting tulips in large pots and containers rather than in the ground. We invested in some fine metal mesh which we secured over all of the pots and it seems to have worked a treat. We have lost very few and hopefully now they are up we will be enjoying a great show in the next few months. The strong mesh, although not cheap, will also last us for many years and should be a sound investment.
Few tulips seem to last from one year to the next in our soil but we have had success with our very earliest kaufmanniana tulips. Variety ‘Ice Stick’ seems to be particularly successful and is the start of a long tulip season that will continue from now well into May.
There really are so many small and delicate little flowers emerging around the garden including Puschkinia and Chionodoxa to name but a few. The latter get their chance to flower before the grass at the base of the hedgerows starts to get going. We have found that the delicate light blue of Puschkinia sits beautifully with the darker blue of grape hyacinths and makes an attractive combination.
It wouldn’t be fair however to finish without a mention of the humble pansy. Planted before Christmas they look rather uninspiring for most of the winter but now they have come into their own.
Hemerocallis seem to be such trouble free plants in our garden that we are keen to expand our collection and add some new ones to the borders.
We ordered three new varieties from J. Parkers (dutchbulbs.co.uk) and the first of these arrived as bare rooted plants late yesterday afternoon.
To give them a fighting chance we have decided to pot them up and keep them in the greenhouse over winter. Once they emerge and the soil gets warmer we will be able to plant them out into their final positions. We have ten of each of three varieties so they should make a real impact in the coming years as they bulk up.
We think that these should be a really exciting addition and look forward to seeing them start to bloom next year. We are realistic that it may take one or two years before they really come into their own but I think you’ll agree they will be worth waiting for.
Hemerocallis are native to Eastern Asia, primarily China, Korea and Japan. They flower through June, July and August and produce neat fresh foliage as early as February. They are hardy perennials that die back in the winter and grow new fresh growth each spring. Although each individual flower only lasts for a day the plants can go on flowering for months.
Once established they can form large clumps of fleshy roots. These can be lifted in the winter or early spring, and easily divided to multiply up your stock of plants for the garden.