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
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
In total contrast is the cool haze of the woodland garden where the cow parsley is in its absolute prime.
Three: White and purple
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Four: Merlot, Marilyn and Maytime
One of our own combinations that we have used over a number of years in the old rose garden.
Five: Van Eijk Mixed
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.
These early months of the year are not about the loud flamboyant flowers of summer but the small jewels that survive the tough winter weather and lift your spirit when you come across them in the garden.
Along side the snowdrops there are a number of other tiny bulbs, corms and rhyzomes that quietly survive much of the year underground but come into their own in the early spring. Here are six that have graced the garden in February and March.
One: Iris reticulata
Flowering in early February this is one of the earliest spring flowers to come into bloom in our garden. It looks so delicate but is survives the harshest conditions being native to Russia, the Caucasus, and northern Iran. We do tend to loose them in the garden so we tend to grow them in pots of well drained soil containing plenty of grit. The markings and colour are just stunning.
Two: Cyclamen coum
These are tough little plants which are slowly spreading themselves around the garden. They have been flowering since at least late January and are still flowering now. They seem to be particularly successful growing in dry areas under deciduous shrubs and trees in what appear to be quite inhospitable conditions. Cyclamen hederifolium also grows successfully in the garden producing flowers in the autumn.
Their natural range is around the Black Sea from Bulgaria through northern Turkey to the Caucasus and Crimea, but there is also a second population near the Mediterranean from the Hatay Province in Turkey through Lebanon to northern Israel ¹ .
The spring crocus certainly deserve a place in this six. This year they have been spectacular, really enjoying the warm February sunshine along with the bees. This photograph was taken on 25th February 2019. Typically for us the yellow crocus come first followed by the whites and purples. We tend to grow them through the meadow grass where they can be left undisturbed.
We are along way from having an extensive carpet of Chionodoxa yet but they do appear to be establishing well. Last autumn we planted a large number of new bulbs to try and speed the process along and they have emerged and flowered in their first year.
Similar to Scilla, but in fact a different genus, they are natives of the eastern Mediterranean specifically Crete, Cyprus and Turkey² . Their common name, ‘Glory-of-the-Snow’, suits them perfectly.
Five: Tulipa kaufmanniana ‘Ice Stick’
One of the first tulips to come into flower each year, the Kaufmanniana tulips have now come into bloom (11 March 2019). This variety is Ice Stick. In general many of the tulips we plant only flower for one year and then have to be replaced. The Kaufmanniana tulips however seem to be repeating well and returning each year.
Six: Anemone blanda
Last, but certainly not least are the windflowers, Anemone blanda, which come in whites and blues. They are charming, reliable little plants that grow in our deciduous woodland areas.
They are native to southeastern Europe, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria³ and prefer well drained soils that dry out in summer. Our soil does tend to get waterlogged in the winter months but the native trees they are planted beneath does seem to keep the soil a little drier.
That is my six for for this week but there are certainly many more special spring blooms just around the corner. Exciting times.
Although it could be argued that the garden in November is winding down ready for winter it is in fact one of our busiest months for preparing for next seasons spring show.
We do have a lot of hardy perennial bulbs that return year after year but find that most of our tulips do not survive more than one season and do not flower well in their second year.
Each year therefore we have great fun browsing the catalogues and selecting our colour combinations. Our aim is to achieve a succession of flowering through the season and also have striking colour combinations at any moment in time. It is not all about the tulips though and combining the tulips with wallflowers, alliums, violas, camassia and other spring blooms can create a much more interesting effect than tulips alone.
Rather pleasingly we have had some decent spells of dry weather this year allowing us to plant all the bulbs in good time (using our new Powerplanter gadget in many cases). All we need now is a good spell of cold winter weather to encourage the tulips to produce long stems and hope that the spray we use to keep the squirrels at bay works well. Fingers crossed!
After the excitement of designing the spring colour scheme and planting out the tulips in the autumn we rarely reflect on how well each of the individual varieties worked out in practice. So, this year things will be different! The aim here is to record how they performed so that we can actually remember what did well when we come to sit down with the catalogues next year.
It is important to remember that our garden is just outside Warwick in the UK Midlands. Further south flowering is likely to be earlier and towards the north of England and into Scotland flowering will be considerably later. Equally because we are about as far away from the sea as you can get in England we are probably drier than the far west but wetter than the east. This winter (2017/18) does appear to have been particularly wet here in Warwick.
We usually plan our tulips so that we will have as long a flowering period as possible thus allowing us to cut regularly for bouquets and other arrangements. Typically we will see a steady progression from the very early, early , mid-season and late tulips flowering from mid-March through to May.
This year things haven’t worked out in quite such an orderly fashion. As usual the Kaufmanniana tulips (Ice Stick) and Greigii tulips flowered first (Vanilla Cream) flowering around the 6 April.
The very cold spring followed by the blast of heat on 18th and 19th April brought most of the remaining tulips out at the same time (c. 20th April). From a gardening perspective this created a wonderful explosion of colour but as a flower grower it meant that we had a glut of flowers with a very limited period for sales. We appear to have lost the usual differentiation between early, mid-season and late this year.
Our photographic records from 2014 show that the Kaufmanniana tulips were in bloom on 31 March (as opposed to 6 April this year), the early Purissima tulips on 31 March also whilst the bulk of the mid-season tulips were flowering by 11 April (as opposed to 20 April this year). Despite what has seemed a very cold season these records indicate that we have only really seen a lag of about 1 week on previous years.
For each of the varieties we have measured a typical stem length and compared it with the projected height in the original Parkers catalogue. As florists and flower growers the length of the stem, the quality of the bloom achieved and whether they are early, mid-season or late tulips is vital and will determine whether we plant the same variety again next year.
Our stem length measurements only provide an indication and are taken at a typical cutting stage of maturity. In reality tulips continue to grow even after they have been cut. This feature does make creating formal wedding bouquets with tulips particularly challenging. If you prepare a bouquet the night before an event the tulips will have grown by morning undermining the design and shape.
La Belle Epoque
Overall, despite the cold spring and slow growth the tulips have pretty much all achieved the expected stem length. Three varieties, Brown Sugar, Pretty Woman and Slawa, seem to have done particularly well and grown some way beyond the projected height.
For some reason Black Hero and Apricot Parrot don’t seem to have come up at all.
Typically we would treat our tulips as annuals planting out new bulbs in the autumn and digging them up after flowering. To get the longest stems many of the bulbs are pulled out of the ground when we harvest the flowers.
There are a few, however, that seem to be more perennial than the rest. These include the Kaufmanniana and Greigii tulips and we have also retained a large clump of what we think is Jan Reus which seem to have established themselves well.
Very few of the varieties have suffered (in terms of bloom quality) from the cold, wind and rain. We grow all of our tulips outdoors.
Storage and holding
Because the tulips have all come together we have had to hold some cut tulips so that they were available for later weddings. To do this we cut and condition the flowers as usual and then wrap them tightly in brown paper to keep them straight. They are then stored flat in a cool refrigerator (out of water) until needed.
When you get them out of the fridge they do tend to look pretty sad and floppy but you will be amazed how they perk up. Simply re-cut the stems, re-wrap in brown paper to keep them straight and place in cool, fresh water to rehydrate overnight. By the morning they will be turgid and fresh looking and ready to use.
Around the garden
The individual blooms are lovely but combining them with other complementary flowers in a garden setting really brings them to life (see Spring sunshine and tulips in full bloom for the full picture).
Honey Pot Flowers are wedding and celebration florists based in Warwickshire in the United Kingdom specialising in natural, locally grown seasonal flowers. We grow many of our own flowers allowing us to offer something very different and uniquely personal.