Gladiolus murielae (Acidanthera bicolor)

August this year in the UK Midlands has been almost tropical; energy sapping temperatures, steamy humidity and torrential downpowers of rain. Despite the heat it has been clear that the garden is now entering a new vibrant phase. A new combination of late summer flowers is beginning to emerge and many of the repeat flowering roses are now creating a second flush of colour.

In my opinion one of the most elegant mid-summer bulbs is Gladiolus murielae (which we have always known as Acidanthera). Growing to around 1 metre in height these corms produce a succession of flowers over a number of weeks. Each white, six petalled flower is presented on a delicate arching stem and has a purple throat in the centre. Unlike many gladioli which produce one dramatic show, Acidanthera flowers open one at a time. Each flower has a lovely scent which makes them ideal for including as a cut flower in table arrangements brought into the house.

Acidanthera originates from Eastern Africa from Ethiopia and Somalia to Tanzania and Malawi. It grows on grass and on damp hills at 1200-2500m. Here in Warwickshire it rarely survives the winter in the garden and so we plant fresh, new corms each year. They are not expensive to buy and we have found the best approach is to plant them in groups of 5-8 corms in a medium sized pot of compost and start them off in the greenhouse. When the weather warms up and we can see gaps in the borders we plant out the whole pot without separating or disturbing the corms.

The foliage is very well behaved growing up straight and true and they seem to need very little staking. They really are such a lovely addition to the late summer border and something that I would highly recommend.

Further Reading

“Bulb” by Anna Pavord (ISBN 978 1 84533 415 4)

Suppliers

J. Parkers (dutchbulbs.co.uk)

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.

P1040173

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).

P1040175

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.

P1040176

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.

P1040097


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.

P1040099


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!

P1040102


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.

P1040109


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

P1040103


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.

P1040116


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.

Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda)

There is no doubt that Wisteria can be one of the most spectacular flowering plants in the garden.  Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) can grow to 20-30 feet and is at its best from late April to June.  It is a member of the pea family and produces a cascade of splendid fragrant blue flowers.

P1040088

Despite the regular summer pruning back to 6 buds, our plants were getting rather large, tangled and out of hand so in February this year Carol undertook a major prune, removing some of the most wayward stems and cutting back to three buds.  It has responded well and is producing a really good show of flowers.  I really like the contrast of the blue wisteria with these Ronaldo and Grand Perfection tulips.

P1040084

New plants can take up to ten years or more to flower so when buying a Wisteria it is well worth buying a plant that is already in bloom.  In this way you know that you are going to get a plant that will perform for you in a relatively short space of time.  The other crucial thing to think about is how you are going to support what will be a very heavy plant.  Many train Wisteria on strong wires against a wall or house.  Here we wanted to view it from all sides and so have grown it around a framework of arched steel rods.  In around 15 years it has developed some substantial twisted stems that are a feature in their own right.

On the same supports we also grow Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ which is a native species of North America.   A little more compact than its oriental cousins, it tends to flower a little later and so continues the show into the early summer.

P1040085

If you want an even taller wisteria then you could consider the Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis).  This can grow to 40-60 feet and can be distinguished from the Japanese Wisteria by the fact that the stems twine in the opposite direction – that is anticlockwise rather than clockwise.

The flowering of the Wisteria in the garden is anticipated eagerly every year and rarely does it disappoint.

P1040086

Tulip celebration – mixtures and combinations

The tulips are at their most spectacular at the moment and I thought that it would be appropriate to celebrate them as part of Six on Saturday this week.

I have pulled together pictures of six combinations and mixtures that have worked particularly well for us this year. All were purchased from Parkers and planted in the autumn of 2019.


One: Ronaldo and Grand Perfection

Tulip Ronaldo came out slightly before Grand Perfection but the latter has now caught up and grown to a similar height.

P1040065 Ronaldo & Grand Perfection


Two: Pink Blend

This is one of Parker’s off-the-shelf mixtures so I am not entirely sure of the names of each of the varieties included.

P1040068 Pink Blend


Three: Purple Prince and Princess Irene

Princess Irene was much later and shorter than Purple Prince and initially we thought that this combination was not going to work very well. However they have now grown to a similar height and are looking lovely together in terracotta pots backed by a perennial planter of blue-grey foliage and purples.

P1040067 Purple Prince & Princess Irene


Four: Merlot, Marilyn and Maytime

One of our own combinations that we have used over a number of years in the old rose garden.

P1040070 Merlot Marilyn & Maytime


Five: Van Eijk Mixed

P1030974


Six: Apricot Pride and Stunning Apricot

These are two varieties that we have not tried before and they have proved to be lovely together sitting amongst the blue forget-me-nots.

P1040074 Apricot Pride & Stunning Apricot


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.