A new one for us in the garden this year. It is around 12 inches high and really very pretty with its lemon yellow flowers with darker yellow centres. It is slightly ‘demure’ in the way the head is held. Almost shy and apologetic.
We bought these as ‘Pipit’ but they certainly don’t look the same. Pipit is lemon yellow with a white centre and as a Jonquilla shouldn’t be out this early (late Feb/ early March).
However these really are lovely. Any ideas on the variety?
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..
With storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin all taking their toll on us in the United Kingdom at the moment I thought it would be nice to take a trip back in time to summer this year when the days were warm and the air was still.
This video is a collation of snippets that I took at the time but have not yet done anything with. So, a wet and windy Sunday afternoon in February seemed the ideal time to sit down, bring them together and remember the scents and colour of summer.
This short video takes a meander around the gardens close to the house, the new twilight garden that we have been developing, the wild flower meadow experiment that we sowed in the spring, the Paul’s Himalayan Musk in its prime clambering high into the silver birches, the old rose garden with its spectacular 8 foot foxgloves, the orchard which we were preparing for my daughter’s wedding and into the formal flower garden where the climbing and shrub roses were in full bloom.
Enjoy a slow wander around the flower beds and listen to the birds.
Post script: In the last few months my aging laptop has found it increasingly difficult to process and edit large video files. On this occasion I tried out a free service in the cloud called moviemakeronline.com which you access through a standard web browser. It was simple to use for the kind of editing and merging that I needed to do and in particular did not need me to have a powerful PC. No software needs to be downloaded and installed and for me it worked a treat.
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.
Yes we have been plant shopping once again over recent months. Certainly there have been far more than six (!) but here are a selection for this week’s Six-on-Saturday.
One: Euonymous japonicus ‘Benkamasaki’ (Erecta)
We have cleared and replanted a short path near the entrance to the garden gate. Although this area looked lovely for a short time during the early summer it tended to look rather untidy and drab for the rest of the year.
We have been looking for plants that will keep there shape and also have some kind of interest during the winter months as well. There is nothing worse than having to brush past wet plants in the winter months every time you go in and out of the house. Rejuvenating this area has also allowed us to dig up, divide and replant the bearded iris that grow well here.
Browsing around the local plant nurseries we came across this Euonymous japonicus which we have not grown before. It has an erect fastigiate habit of branches that are entirely covered in shiny evergreen small leaves.
Two: Rose ‘Eustacia Vye’
The recent lockdown period has also given us time to totally redesign a large border that is directly opposite the patio and one that we often sit near whilst having our relaxed morning coffee (the joys of retirement!). The new border has become known as the ‘Moon Garden’ and the intention is to create a bed that continues to shine in the evening light but also has gentle hints of colour to enjoy during the day. Fragrance will also be an important component of this area as the design develops.
One of the focal plants in this bed will be Rose ‘Eustacia Vye’. We have just planted six of these lovely roses and already they are flowering their socks off. Apparently named after the flawed heroine of Thomas Hardy’s “The Return of the Native”, this rose is highly fragrant and has deep pink buds that open to these delicate apricot pink blooms and age to a soft pink. I am really looking forward to the impact of these shrubs in the years to come.
The new Moon Garden will have a range of white and purple flowers that seem to shine out or glow at dusk. These include plants such as Lysimachia clethroides, Nicotiana sylvestris and the white cosmos ‘Purity’. We have also included the tall purple Verbena bonariensis which to my mind seems to just glow in the evening light.
However it is not just about the flowers as we have also decided to include a a range of plants with silver foliage to add to the effect. These include:
Three: Euphorbia characias ‘Tasmanian Tiger’
This evergreen perennial should grow into a significant plant of around 60cm in height and width. It has striking grey leaves edged with cream white.
Euphorbias seem to like our garden soil and hopefully this one will also settle in well to this bed which is well drained and in full sun all day long.
Four: Helichrysum stoechas ‘White Barn’
Discovered and named by Beth Chatto, we have placed a couple of these lavender sized plants within the new Moon Garden to add additional grey foliage but also a slightly different texture.
Five: Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Ball’ and ‘Golden Ball’
‘Silver Ball’ was another impulse buy as we wandered around the plant nursery. Again for the Moon Garden, our intention is that these will add some formality and structure to this border. A native of New Zealnd, it is a compact, dense shrub that should create two neat domes of around 80cm.
However, having fallen in love with ‘Silver Ball’ we just had to go back and get ‘Golden Ball’ for the new ‘tidy’ beds at the garden entrance and front of the house that I mentioned earlier. The intention here is to create a ‘warmer’ evergreen feature with the golden leaves that will look good both in summer but also throughout the darker winter days.
In last weeks six we highlighted a range of the container plants that we are trying this year and there wasn’t room to include some of the Coleus that we have discovered. We haven’t grown Coleus since the 80’s and possibly they are a bit out of fashion these days. However, there seemed to be some wonderful varieties available now and they happened to find their way into the shopping basket. All being well we should be able to bulk these up and propogate them if are careful.
I am not sure we have found the right position for them yet as some are getting marked. The beauty of plants in pots is that you can move them around to find the position they like best.
In addition to those we found at the nursery we have also successfully grown ‘Festive Dance’ from seed this year. They have been hugely successful and are rather cute little baby plants with a gentle ‘sparkle’ on the leaves.
As we move into July many of the hot colours are now emerging and mirror the warmer summer days. However, there are a number of blue flowers out in the garden at the moment that provide a welcome contrast offering a much cooler feel to the planting and make striking companions with many of the strong colours.
Here is my selection for this week’s ‘Six on Saturday’.
We also know this as Brodiaea. In many respects it looks a bit like a mini-agapanthus and seems to grow extremely well in the poorer gravelly soil around the patio. Its leaves are a bit limp and untidy at times but the mass of flowers that it produces in late June-early July are a joy. The flowers sit high on thin wiry stems and make excellent cut flowers.
To be honest we have struggled a bit to get good delphiniums over the years. They are often set back by slug damage in the spring when they emerge from the soil and can often look a bit under-whelming. In addition, we have also found them to be quite short lived perennials that only last a few years in our damp winter soil.
We do continue to persevere because we always admire them when we see wonderful specimens in other peoples gardens. This year we have had success! The slugs seem to have been much less active in the spring due to the hot dry spell and the delphiniums got away without serious damage. Once they are above a certain height they seem to suffer much less.
Three: Clary Sage (Blue Denim)
Clary Sage (Salvia horminum) is a hardy annual that is extremely easy to grow. In my view it does have to be planted out en masse to give an effective show. Each individual plant is rather insignificant but planted together in numbers the bracts will produce an intense blue haze. Here we have planted it with calendula to create what I think is a striking combination.
Once again Clary Sage makes an excellent cut flower.
Four: Eryngium ‘Big Blue’
We have often struggled to grow Eryngium effectively in our garden but I think we seem to have hit the jackpot with this plant of the variety ‘Big Blue’. It has survived the winter and is growing away strongly producing masses of these spikey steel blue flowers. It goes really well with the yellow Sisyrinchium striatum (pale yellow-eyed-grass).
Five: Phlox drummondii
We have only recently started growing this compact annual phlox. It has taken us a couple of years to learn how to grow it well. Once mastered (it seems to like rich, moist soil in plenty of light) it produces masses of these pretty blue blooms all summer. We plant it alongside purple sage, lavender and a blue nicotiana to create a stunning combination.
Six: Catananche caerulea
My final selection for this six is Cupid’s Dart. In addition to having a cute name it is also a highly reliable hardy perennial. At this time of year it produces masses of these blue ‘dandelion’ flowers which float on thin wiry stems above a blue green rosette of leaves. It is particularly effective if you want to create a meadow garden look and I have seen it used beautifully in a natural planting at the entrance of Hidcote gardens.
Many months of the year seem to have an associated colour. For me March is definately a yellow month full of bright daffodils and pale primroses in the hedgerows. However whilst wandering around the garden this week it struck me that there are also many blue flowers in the beds and containers. In many ways it is this colour contrast that brings the garden to life.
My Six-on-Saturday for this week highlights a number of purple-blue and pure blue flowers which I’ve spotted around the garden. They range in size enormously from the relatively small to larger in-your-face blooms but all have their place with many surviving the long winter and returning fresh in spring each year.
Planted in the autumn, these violas have been quietly flowering for most of the winter. As the days grow warmer the plants are now developing further and beginning to develop their spring show.
These tiny blue flowered bulbs seem to be settling into specific parts the garden. They seem to like what I would term ‘the woodland edge’ at the base of our deciduous hedges and at the edges of the woodland copse. Much like the primroses, which like the same conditions, they die back in the summer when they would have to compete with other more luxuriant vegetation and quietly and reliably emerge again in early March.
These blue chionodoxa sit very beautifully with the pale yellow of the primroses.
Now for something completely different. Planted in colourful pots of compost last autumn, these hyacinths were overwintered in a cool greenhouse to give them that little bit of extra protection. They are now coming into their own and provide a lovely scent as you walk across the patio.
4. Pulmonaria (variety long forgotten!)
This blue variety was probably planted by us over 20 years ago and it returns reliably every year. It is not a large, spectacular or showy plant but I always notice it in the flower bed at this time of year. It is charming how the blue and pink flowers exist together on the same plant. The flowers open pink and then soon change to blue. The foliage which is covered in small white dots is also an interesting characteristic of this genus.
5. Periwinkle (Vinca major)
Some might call this a weed but it does make wonderful ground cover in some quite challenging parts of the garden. For me the good looking pure blue flowers are well worth their place.
6. Crocus ‘Victor Hugo’
Crocus naturalise very freely in the grass here and can provide a surprisingly long period of interest if you plant a range of colours. For us the yellow crocus seem to appear first followd by the purples and whites. We seem to have much more success by planting them in the grass at the base of trees where they can remain undisurbed. In the flower beds I find I am always digging them up as I clear and weed throughout the year.
We also enjoy them in small patio containers close to the house to provide early spring colour. This variety, Victor Hugo, has been particualrly successful this year.
Every year we enjoy searching through the catalogues and are nearly always tempted to try something a little different that we have not grown before. In March 2018 we bought three Crinum x powelli ‘Album’ bulbs to see if we could successfully grow these dramatic plants with their large white trumpet flowers.
Although they are classed as fully hardy we thought we would be cautious and plant them in pots at first. This would allow us to move them into the polytunnel in winter to give them some additional protection. Crinum bulbs are simply enormous and so we had to get hold of some suitably large terracotta pots. We planted the bulbs in a mix of ⅔ John Innes No 3 compost and ⅓ perlite. We used perlite (instead of grit) to add extra drainage but also to reduce the overall weight.
The plants grew well in the first year producing a profusion of large strappy leaves but no flowers. We were warned that we might need to be patient (something we find a bit difficult!) and allow them to settle in. Last year however, in early August, we were rewarded with the most wonderful display of large white trumpet flowers. We had up to eight flowers per stem, opening in succession, on tall study stems. They looked wonderful amongst the dahlias and blue agapanthus.
Over winter we have been protecting the pots in our cold polytunnel and I came across them yesterday as I was moving a number of small fruit trees. They look comfortably dormant at the moment but it struck me that it might be timely to read up on how to prepare them for the coming season.
Anna Pavord’s book ‘Bulb’¹ advises that in the wild Crinums grow on the banks of streams or along lake shores. They require full sun but also require moist but well drained, organic rich soil. Bearing in mind that the books also indicate that they hate root disturbance I think that I will carefully scrap away the top layer of soil and and give them a top dressing of fresh compost ready for the new year.
As the plants grow to 36 inches in height I think I probably need to be better at feeding and watering them next year. I must admit that once the summer is in full swing we don’t always feed plants as much as we probably should. However, I think I must try harder if these Crinums are to have all they need to grow their large leaves, flower profusely and maintain the bulb for the following year.
These are such lovely plants and if you have the space I would certainly recommend that you give them a go.
Hybrid: Crinum x powellii is a hybrid cross between C. moorei and C. bulbispermum
One of the best things to do on a cold, wet December day is to think back to those sunny days in the summer and reflect on what worked well in the garden. Sometimes it is a vista or combination of plants that have matured gracefully and now perform well year after year. At other times it is just a moment when some of the short lived annuals all come together and you stand and look and admire. Within a couple of weeks the garden will have moved on.
In one quadrant of the new flower garden this year we allowed a number of self sown annuals to develop whilst some of the new perennials were being planted and growing on. The annuals included Love-in-the-mist (both the blues of Nigella damascena and the white Nigella hispanica ‘African bride’), Corncockle (Agrostemma githago) and some beautiful mixed colour pink poppies with their thin tissue paper petals (Papaver rhoeas ‘Falling in Love’). This informal combination grew freely amongst the tall biennial Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus ‘Auricular Eyed’).
The effect was charming and created a relaxed ‘meadow-style’ bed. Along with the mass of different colours and the texture of the fresh green foliage the bed also had movement. The different components swayed and reacted to the breeze adding an additional dimension.
All of these annuals cut well and, if appropriately conditioned, allow you to enjoy these flowers for many days in a vase indoors.
The pictures here were all taken in the first week of June. It was a sweet spot when all the flowers were emerging together and in their prime. As well as the overall effect I also like to look at the detail of the individual flowers. The tiny, delicate rows of fine dots in the Corncockle and the blue wash in the centre of the Nigella hispanica are particularly lovely.
At its peak this meadow style planting was certainly a triumph. However, I think it is worth highlighting that it is relatively short lived. This is certainly a downside in a garden where you want to try and create year-round interest. Once they have set seed the show is over and you do need to have something planted that will follow on. If you want a show next year you do of course have to leave the seed heads to mature and set seed. The Nigella seed heads look particularly striking and are well worth leaving to add interest to the late summer border.
My conclusion therefore is that whilst self sown annuals do indeed provide a spectacular show, in a garden setting you do need to set them amongst other follow-on perennials or small shrubs that can continue the performance into July, August and the autumn.