In a Vase on Monday. Freedom Day?

Well, here we are, the 19th July has been named as Freedom Day by our criminally reckless Prime Minister. We are heading for 1000,000 cases a day later this summer. But Boris is reverting to his original covid strategy known as ‘Let the bodies pile high.’ This will no doubt make him very popular with all the covid deniers, anti- vaxxers, anti-maskers and those who define freedom as the freedom to make money rather than keep people safe. What the ultimate cost will be, we don’t know, but thousands will die and many more will be left with long covid which very often appears to manifest itself as permanently damaged organs. The thousands of people who have no antibodies because they are immuno- compromised will have to retreat indoors because there will be plenty of ‘freedom loving’ selfish idiots around who don’t like wearing masks and going out and about will be too dangerous. And scientists tell us that having an uncontrolled pandemic will be the perfect breeding ground for vaccine -resistant strains of the disease. But of course we live in a populist age and we don’t take any notice of gloomy boffins.

Thank goodness for the sanctuary of our gardens where flowers bloom and the natural world goes about its business regardless of the craziness outside. Today I have two vases. The first celebrates my love of green flowers and umbellifers with a vase of Mathiasella bupluroides which ticks both boxes. The flowers are cup-shaped and look rather like those of the green hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius. They bloom for ages and gradually the jade green flowers become tinged with red. This plant comes from Mexico and was only discovered in 1954.

Mathiasella bupleuroides

This vase came about because I had some sprays of red/ green acer leaves which are a perfect match for the flowers. No, I didn’t pick them, but the Mad Mower Man has been up to his tricks again. The Pianist, is of course, the light of my life, but he uses his ride -on mower as an offensive weapon and woe betide any tree or shrub that gets in the way. Thankfully, apart from losing a few branches, I think the victim will survive, although it might need counselling. I added some quaking grass, Briza media. This grass is easy from seed and looks lovely in the garden swaying in the breeze.

I used my favourite brown Pearsons of Chesterfield jug to match the rather autumnal colours.

And for a second vase I have sweet peas and what would summer be without their wonderful fragrance? The varieties I grew this year are ‘Spencer Wiltshire Ripple’ and ‘ Lilac Ripple’; I am not sure how the pink one crept in.

Lathyrus odoratus. ‘Lilac Ripple’ and ‘Wiltshire Purple Ripple’

Alchemilla mollis is another green flower I wouldn’t be without. It’s frothy flowers are perfect for flower arranging. It can be invasive, but this is easily remedied by cutting off the flower heads before they form seeds. It is a good idea to do this anyway as they benefit from a haircut.

I used another little brown jug for the sweet peas, this time a French one.

You are probably thinking that In a Vase on Monday is not the appropriate platform for a rant. And you are right. I do usually limit myself to all things floral here. But you did get two vases today along with the rant. Do visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and find plenty of rant-free beautiful vases from round the world. And if you are unfortunate enough to live in this benighted country, then good luck. Personally, I’m thinking of moving to Brazil, it might be safer.

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Wordless Wednesday. Short-lived Splendour.

Epiphyllum crenatm
Epiphyllum crenatm
Epiphyllum crenatum
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Six on Saturday. A Rainy July Day.

As gardeners we are never happy. Last year, here in the UK, we moaned about constant watering and this year we don’t have that problem; quite the contrary, a little more sunshine would be lovely. Still it is warm and the conditions are perfect for the jungly effect in my exotic garden. So at number one, I have big leaves. Each year, I coppice both my Golden Bean tree, Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’ and my Foxglove tree, Paulownia tomentosa so I don’t get any flowers, just enormous leaves.

Catalpa bignonoides ‘Aurea’

Framing my Foxglove tree I have the weeping mimosa Acacia pravissima, which I have just discovered is known as Oven’s Wattle, goodness knows why. The foliage plant to the right is the very unusual Rubus lineatus which has lovely pinnate foliage. This lovely shrub comes come from Burma and its beautiful foliage is a wonderful addition to my exotic garden. You’d never guess it belonged to the bramble family.

Paulownia tomentosa

Here is a photo of Rubus lineatus. It does sucker a bit, but not too much and I love the pinnate leaves which have a fishbone structure if you look at them close up, they are silvery underneath.

Rubus lineatus

Another tree which looks quite exotic is the Melia azedarach which I grew from a seed I picked up in Greece eight years ago. I have never seen this tree growing outside in the UK. It comes from Northern India and China so I presumed it would be tender. But three years ago it had become too big for the greenhouse and had to go outside and take its chance. It has done very well and this year it is flowering for the first time. It has lilac, star-shaped flowers which are fragrant if you put your nose into them. When I saw it in Greece it was bearing decorative clusters of yellow fruits, or to be accurate, I should say drupes. Apparently these are poisonous but I don’t go round my garden grazing on my plants.

Melia azedarach
Melia azedarach

My son is the tree fern king; he just adores them and has a huge collection which he lovingly nurses through the winter with blankets and probably hot water bottles. He generously gave me three a few years ago and to my shame, I lost two of them. But I am delighted with my remaining one which has plenty of new fronds this year.

Dicksonia antartica

But I have used the stump of the largest dead one to grow a Fascicularia bicolor. This is a bromeliad related to the pineapple. I got the idea for this after seeing that Christopher Lloyd grew one on his roof at Great Dixter. I thought that if it could live on a roof it should cope with my stump. I have a large Fascicularia in my garden, but I decided to buy this one and if you have ever tried to divide a fascicularia you’ll know why. It has really tough leathery leaves with vicious thorns.

Fasciciularia bicolor growing on a tree fern stump.

And now for some exotic flowers and they don’t come much more exotic than passion flowers. I have two passion flowers, neither of them is hardy so in winter they have to jostle for position in the greenhouse with all the other tender climbers which I can’t stop acquiring. My greenhouse is not all that big so I lack space as well as common sense. One is a lovely pink one, Passiflora x violacea ‘Victoria’.

Passsiflora x violacea ‘Victoria’

The other one, I have shown before, it is a large flowered Passiflora caerula called ‘Silly Cow’, a name I should bear in mind when I fall for yet another tender plant. This one is supposed to be hardy but I have lost one in the past so I am not taking any chances.

Passiflora caerula ‘Silly Cow’

And coming in at number six, or have I already exceeded six? I never was any good at maths. Anyway, Rhodochiton atrosanguineus deserves an appearance. I used to know this as Rhodochiton volubile so I have to try and keep up. It is a lovely climber for a pot as long as you remember to feed it well. It has pink, bell- shaped bracts with a long deep purple flowers. Next year I am going to try planting one out in my exotic garden. It is possible to keep it going inside in winter but I have found it susceptible to red spider mite. But it is easy from seed. Once the flowers fall off if they are fertilized you get seed pods which look just like little bottoms. You let them dry on the plant before harvesting the seeds.

Rhodochiton volubile

So there we have my Six on Saturday, give or take a plant or two. But then I never was any good at sticking to rules. Please check out the Propagator to see what delights other SoS addicts are enjoying.

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Six on Saturday. The Day of the Triffids.

My posts are getting like buses; long gaps then they all come together. But I couldn’t let another day go by without celebrating my triffid. Eight years ago I bought a plant of Beschorneria yuccoides. I didn’t have high hopes for it because it comes from Mexico and it is not reliably hardy. But I gave it a south facing wall and hoped for the best. It is well named because the plant looks like a large yucca and is quite architectural. But this year it surprised me by producing a flower spike which grew and grew. It is quite magnificent and I shan’t be surprised if it starts attacking us as we go past it as it looks quite menacing.

Beschorneria yucciodes
Beschorneria yucciodes

It grows from rosettes of glaucous, spiky foliage.

Beschorneria yuccoides
Beschorneria yucciodes

It looks as if some mad professor has been at work in this part of the garden, because not only do I have a triffid, but also giant hostas which are so huge they look as if they have been genetically modified.

Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’

Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ is great for pots as it has such presence and it has leathery leaves which aren’t quite so attractive to molluscs. I have to add that I have grown it before in a pot and never got it to look like these. I am looking after them for my son for reasons which I will go into another time. Readers of my blog may remember the posts I have written about his fabulous jetty garden and his greenest of greenfingers. We won’t be returning there as Bertie and Beatrice have moved on which is sad in some ways as it was unique. But now they are creating a new garden, and you can depend upon it that it is exciting and unique in quite a different way; and it will be stunning. They have taken most of their plants but I have been left caring for these two monsters. Unlike Bertie, I am not inclined to go out at night with a torch and there is no river to throw the snails into. So I do worry about them, but so far, they are fine.

Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’

For my number three I would like to share a little tree which I am particularly fond of; it is Cornus alternifolia, commonly known as the Pagoda tree. It is such an elegant shape with layered branches, small variegated leaves and white flowers. It is similar to the Wedding Cake tree, Cornus controversa which has larger leaves and grows into a larger tree, I have a small one of these but the wretched Muntjac deer has grazed on the branches on one side ruining its elegant appearance. But this little tree is safe as it lives nearer to the house by the small pond.

Cornus alternifolia ‘Variegata’

Growing nearby and making a lovely contrast is the peerless Forest Pansy, Cercis canadensis. I love the this tree and I am very envious of my daughter who has found one with weeping form.

Cornus alternifolia and Cercis canadensis
Cercis canadensis

I like having different sorts of foliage round my little pond.

Whilst we are talking foliage I must share a lovely form of berberis which you don’t often find. It has tiny yellow flowers but you don’t grow the blue barberry for its flowers. The dusty blue leaves are really striking. They are a great foil for yellow flowers, in this case the daisy flowers of Anthemis tinctoria ‘E.C.Buxton’. Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’ grows alongside it.

Berberis temolaica
Berberis temolaica

Recently I was talking about my love of brown flowers and I got the feeling that some of my fellow bloggers thought that my idea of a brown bed is a bit weird. But what do you feel about grey flowers? Last week I had a garden club visiting my garden and nearly everyone asked me about this little grey beauty.

Papaver ‘Amazing Grey’

I grew ‘Amazing Grey’ poppy for the first time last year and I was dazzled by it. It is an easy sprinkle on the ground annual and several seed companies offer it now. It comes out in a variety of slate grey, pearly grey and even a dusky pink. Some of them are double, some single, but all are gorgeous. To see this poppy is to want it.

Papaver ‘Amazing Grey

So there we have my Six on Saturday. And it all came courtesy of my triffid which wouldn’t allow me to let it go unrecorded. Do visit the Propagator who hosts this meme. You might not find triffids but you will come across lots of June beauties displayed by all his eager followers.

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‘Of all the flowers methinks a rose is best’. Shakespeare.

And who am I to argue with Shakespeare? My garden has roses everywhere, I have lost count of how many there are. They are my passion. Throughout the month of June their fragrance pervades the whole garden. And of course each year there are new ones. This year I thought I had better acquire ‘Chloris’ as that is what I adopted as my nom de plume in an effort to remain anonymous which has proved to be futile. My cover is blown and now quite a few friends call me Chloris. I don’t mind as Chloris is another name for Flora, the goddess of flowers. I am happy to be a goddess. And the rose is very pretty, it is an alba and so has healthy foliage, it is also relatively thornless which is useful.

Rosa ‘Chloris’

Another rose which is personal to me is the climber, ‘Drinkstone Apricot’, I am pleased to have this as it was born in my previous garden although it predates me. I am grateful to Anne of Suffolk Plant Heritage for propagating it. It is a pretty, single flower. This one isn’t the best, it is a bit damaged, but it is the only one out at the moment.

Rosa ‘Drinkstone Apricot’

But I have roses grown from seed too. You always get surprises. Here are a couple of ramblers which I grew. The first one is a child of ‘Kiftsgate’ and has reached the top of the holly tree.

This next one is a bit more demure and grows quite slowly. I’m not quite sure of its parentage.

This year a seedling of ‘Treasure Trove’ bloomed for the first time and I am delighted with it. It will grow too big for the bamboo canes which support it now so I will have to rethink its position. It has lovely long golden stamens. And it is my favourite of all my rose babies and the only one which gets a name. I shall call her after my daughter because the stamens remind me of her golden hair.

Here is its mother, ‘Treasure Trove’ covering an old apple tree. It is a seedling of ‘Kiftsgate’ so it has its eye on all the surrounding trees.

Rosa ‘Treasure Trove’

Amongst my climbers, I love the blowsy apricot heads of ‘Lady Hillingdon’, although she does seem incapable of holding them up. The colour looks as if they have been dipped in tea, but perhaps as she lolls about so it is something stronger. But I mustn’t malign her namesake, Alice, Lady Hillingdon. The famous words about closing her eyes and thinking of England whilst suffering unwelcome attention from her husband came from her journal of 1912. So I’m sure she was too prim to take anything stronger than tea.

Rosa ‘Lady Hillingdon’

A really reliable climber which is always healthy and easy to propagate is the well known ‘New Dawn’ . It has lovely soft pink flowers.

Rosa ‘New Dawn’

‘Zépherine Drouhin’ is an early flowering Bourbon climber. She is over now but she is worth a mention because she has beautiful, very fragrant flowers and she is thornless which is always a bonus.

Rosa ‘Zépherine Drouhin’

I love single flowers and the large, pure white flowers and healthy green foliage of Rosa laevigata ‘Cooperi’ are wonderful. This rose needs a sunny south facing site and lots of room. The only drawback is, unlike ‘Zépherine Drouhin’ she has vicious thorns.

Rosa laevigata ‘Cooperi’

Climbers are very useful for climbing up walls and over arches but I love ramblers which I can toss into trees for a big impact. It is difficult to pick favourites, but here are a few.

Rosa ‘Albertine’
‘Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’
Rosa ‘Felicité Perpetué’
Rosa ‘Francis E. Lester’
Rosa ‘Bleu Magenta’
Rosa ‘Goldfinch’
Rosa ‘Teasing Georgia’
Rosa ‘Maline de Dentelles’
Rosa ‘Ghislaine de Féligonde’
Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’

The last one ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ comes with a health warning, given chance it will take over the whole garden.

Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’

I’m sure you are getting rose indigestion and I haven’t even started on my shrub roses. I love old fashioned roses best but like everyone else I have fallen for David Austin’s English rose. My whole front garden is given over to roses.

But I must stop now, I will save some more roses for another day. I will just finish with a few more photos.

Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’
Rosa ‘Mill on The Floss’
Rosa ‘Grace’
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Glorious June Blooms. Six on Saturday.

Exciting things happen every day in the garden in June and it is difficult to keep up with it all, but today it is raining and I can’t do much outside apart from worry about the roses getting dashed. And I do not have enough umbrellas to protect them all. This is a wonderful year for roses and as they are a passion, or should I say, an obsession of mine they deserve a post of their own.

But there are other wonderful things happening too. I don’t think I can keep to six flowers to keep within the rules of this meme, but I hope if I stick to six genera I will get away with it. Fabulous peonies and irises are so fleeting. Some of my blowsy peonies, including my new Itoh hybrids are over. But although none of them bloom for long, they don’t all come at once, so with different varieties the season is prolonged. The single ‘Bowl of Beauty’ is still looking good.

Paeonia ‘Bowl of Beauty’

And I love the sultry dark pink flowers of Peony ‘Karl Rosenfield’. I have heard this colour described as red, by people who are presumably colour blind.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Karl Rosenfiield’

A new peony for me last year is ‘Coral Sunset’ which has unusual coral flowers which fade to peach as they mature.

Paeonia ‘Coral Sunset’
Paeonia ‘Coral Sunset’

The bearded irises have mostly had their moment, but there are still irises to enjoy. Irises are easy from seed and I always grow a few to see what exciting colours I will get. These are two of my Pacific Coast Iris babies, they are both prettier than their parents.

I love Iris siberica too and it clumps up nicely as long as it doesn’t dry out and it doesn’t need staking like the larger bearded iris. You can get it in fabulous colours and it is easy from seed. I have the rare Iris siberica ‘Osborne’s Grey’, but I think this clump of its seedling looks even better than the parent.

Iris siberica seedling of ‘Osborne’s Grey’

But now I have discovered the fabulous Iris siberica ‘Peacock Butterfly’ range and I shan’t be content until I have all of them, they come in such edible colours. So far I only have ‘Jerry Murphy’ but I shan’t rest until I have’ Unbuttoned Zippers’, ‘Uncorked’ and ‘Painted Lady’. Just look them up and you will see what I mean. It is a pity about the silly names, but you can’t have everything. I don’t know how to describe the colours of ‘Jerry Murphy’ but they have caramel brown in them and I love brown flowers.

Iris siberica ‘Jerry Murphy’

I am thrilled with the yellow flowers with brown stripes of the wild Iris pseudacorus relation which is called ‘Berlin Tiger’. It was bred in Germany by the iris breeder, Thomas Tamberg. The flowers are a perfect match for the acer.

Iris ‘Berlin Tiger’

On a nursery visit recently with the Women Who Weed I came across a lovely new abutilon called ‘Pink Charm’. I love it for its abundance of pink flowers with pale brown calyxes.

Abutilon megapotamicum ‘Pink Charm’

There I go again waxing lyrical about brown flowers. I am wondering if I have the space somewhere for a brown border. If that sounds dull to you imagine shades of mahogany, chestnut, caramel, toffee and oatmeal with apricot flowers. Sorry, I digress, we are doing Six on Saturday. But I think I will return to this theme another day, I’m just wondering where on earth I could fit it in. I would like to prove to the doubters amongst you that it could work. I shall just have to dig up more lawn which will make croquet tricky.

And here is another plant for my brown border, it is Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ with coppery-orange and golden yellow flowers and lovely bronze foliage. I grow it with the feathery bronze foliage of Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’.

Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’

I have always loved kalmias both for the sculptural, ribbed buds like little fairy tale turrets and the delightful clusters of flowers. But they are for gardens with an acid soil and would not survive here. But it occurred to me that I can grow it in a pot. And I am delighted with it. I don’t approve of common names for plants as they are often regional and so confusing, but I rather like the name of Calico Bush for this.

Kalmia latifolia ‘Kaleidoscope’

And here we are at number six and I will finish with orchids. Some years ago, I planted a Dactylorhiza fuchsii, or Common Spotted orchid hoping it would spread into carpets. I read somewhere that this orchid suppresses honey fungus which I am plagued with. It has grown into a lovely clump with several spikes but it never seeds around.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

But my pride and joy is the one of the two Lady’s Slipper orchid which has deigned to bloom this year, the other is over now. I have several of these aristocratic ladies in my garden and I do what I can to please them and it isn’t easy. I really am very grateful if they at least stay alive. But this one is paying its way.

Cypripedium hybrid

So there we have my six. I really would like to show you my roscoeas, but rules are rules and I have already bent them a bit so they will have to wait. And in any case, I do believe it has actually stopped raining and a gardener’s work is never done. So out I go, leaving you in the capable hands of the Propagator who hosts this meme, Six on Saturday. And of course there are plenty of other enthusiastic Sixers with lots of interesting posts to peruse.

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Early June.

‘What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade’. Gertrude Jekyll.

Well yes, Gertrude, I agree, just so. But one could say that it is the crowning moment of the whole year. April and May are exciting and we enjoy a constant delighted astonishment at the clothing of the whole landscape in tender green. But June is the moment of perfection. It is a month when even lazy people like me get up early so as not to miss a single glorious minute. The early mornings are wonderful but so are the evenings and the bits in between. How can we bear to go in and miss a single second of it? Today we have some welcome rain; lovely, gentle, summer rain and so it is a chance to catch up here. In June, every day brings new blooms and delights and I find it difficult to find the time to come in and write about them. Here are a few of the early June flowers that keep me out in the garden.

One of the most challenging things about gardening, unless you have somewhere like Sissinghurst or Great Dixter, is to have the whole garden looking wonderful all year round. Of course these gardens always have plants waiting in the wings to replace ones that have gone over. A larger garden enables you to have different areas which are at their best at different times. But whatever the size of the garden it is a good idea to have something which is stunning in bloom at every season; something so beautiful that looking at it makes your heart beat faster. For me at the moment it is the gravel garden I made for my ever growing iris collection. I started with irises years ago in a previous garden with some fancy irises ordered from France. They were brightly coloured and primped, ruffled and ruched, flounced and frilly like overdressed contestants for TOWIE and I was delighted with them. But then I discovered some modestly clad irises growing in a corner of the garden and thought they made my French ones look rather vulgar. I later found out that they were Benton irises bred by Cedric Morris and given to the previous owner, a nursery man who was a friend of his. Now Benton irises are becoming very popular and this is thanks to Sarah Cooke who lives near here and has the National Collection of Benton irises which she has tracked down from all over the country and beyond. She has made them available to the public and many people are falling for their lovely colours and reticulated flowers. This next one is ‘Benton Deidre’.

I

My favourite is ‘Benton Olive’ because it has such subtle colouring.

iI

‘Benton Susan’ is a lovely yellow colour.

‘Benton Susan’ is the mother of my favourite iris baby and the only one I have named. She is such a rich yellow colour. I think she is even more beautiful than her mother.

I am also rather proud of this dark purple baby.

And this one in blue.

And I think this one is quite striking.

And the ones in the foreground here.

Amongst the irises I grow the snowy white Libertia grandiflora.

At the far end of the gravel garden there is a spectacular Abutilon x suntense.

And on the other side of the path you can see the yellow claws of Sophora teptaptera which like the libertia comes from New Zealand.

And next to it there is the bushy Magnolia laevifolia ‘Gail’s Favourite’ which has glossy green leaves and delightful flowers which open up from brown suede-like buds.

If you turn left by the sophora you enter the secret garden where at the moment the trellis is festooned with pink and white wisteria. But I will take you there another day. And very soon we will have roses everywhere and then I shall probably never come in from the garden at all.

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A Soggy May Sunday.

Goodness, we have had some rain. Everyone is moaning about it, although we gardeners are secretly glad not to have to worry about watering. But even so, I am beginning to feel like Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice when his daughter Mary showed no sign of ever stopping her piano recital. I am not ungrateful, but I want to say to the rain: ‘ That will do extremely well child. You have delighted us long enough’.

But the garden is flourishing, including of course the weeds. I always have hopes of keeping on top of it all in March and April, but in May I know I never will. And each year there are new areas to care for because there are always new plants to try and this gardener is totally devoid of restraint or common sense. Keen gardeners are just plain greedy. Show us a plant we haven’t got, specially if it is rare and difficult to grow, and we will stop at nothing to acquire it. My particular downfall, or one of them, is tender climbing plants that grow 10 feet tall and more. They won’t survive outside and I haven’t got room to accommodate them all in my greenhouse. I even have a Solandra maxima which I believe can grow to 40 or 50 feet. I just don’t have a stop button when it comes to acquiring plants and not having enough room is irrelevant. But I do have have room for this lovely yellow flowered Clivia miniata var.’ Citrina’, it needs space but at least it doesn’t climb.

Clivia miniata var. ‘Citrina’

In my last post I wrote about yellow flowers and here are a few more. I know quite a few gardeners who won’t grow yellow flowers; I’m looking at you, Cathy from Rambling in the Garden, and my daughter, and my friend Rachel. Actually, Rachel is even more extreme, she only allows white flowers into her garden. But look at the sunshine yellow of Rosa ‘Helen Knight’. It really lights up its corner of the garden. I have primrose yellow ‘Canary Bird’ in bloom too, but Helen is my favourite as it is a much brighter yellow.

Rosa ‘Helen Knight’
Rosa ‘Helen Knight’

I grow the rather rare Berberis ‘Georgei’ because it has masses of the brightest scarlet berries imaginable in autumn. But I think it looks quite pretty in May too with dangling yellow flowers partnered with Euphorbia ‘Fireglow’.

Berberis georgei with Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’

I have a cheerful yellow self seeder which is always welcome. Papaver cambricum always pops itself where it looks good, amongst the bluebells or artistically arranged under trees. Sometimes it comes up as orange.

Papaver cambricum

But if the poppy is too common and the berberis and Rosa ‘Helen Knight ‘are a bit bright for you, Paeonia mlokosewitschii or Molly the Witch will surely beguile you as she is the palest lemon and very special.

Paeonia mlokosewitschiii

And nobody could turn up their noses at the delicate beauty of Clematis ‘ Korean Beauty’.

Clematis ‘Korean Beauty’

I like flowers which are unusual colours and I go weak at the knees at the sight of brown or green flowers. This little Iris pumila ‘Green Spot’ is a favourite.

Iris pumila ‘Green Spot’

And brown Iris pumila ‘Gingerbread Man’ really appeals to me.

Iris pumila ‘Gingerbread Man

Each year I grow bearded irises from seed I collect, I don’t arrange the marriages I let the bees manage that, but I am always happy with the children. This is the first one to bloom from my latest batch and I love it because it is a bit brownish even though its mother was pink.

If like me you love green flowers, then you may like Mathiasella bupleuroides. It ticks all the boxes for me, it is a umbellifer with jade green bell- like flowers. It is relatively new to cultivation as it was discovered in Mexico in 1954.

Mathiasella bupleuroides

But I do have tasteful white flowers too that would appeal to Rachel. Cornus ‘Eddie’s White White’ has gleaming white bracts.

Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’

I recently bought the snowdrop tree, Halesia monticola. I can’t resist the white bell shaped flowers. I did grow it successfully in my previous garden and it was a wonderful sight in May. Here I have killed two halesias, or they refused to be pleased by anything I offered them and wilfully died. If this one dies too, I shall have to accept defeat. The snowdrop tree looks wonderful underplanted with white aquilegias.

Halesia monticola
Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Munstead White’.

May of course is aquilegia time and I adore them, each year I grow some different ones from seed. The trouble this year is the pigeons. They started on thalictrums a couple of years ago and have now decided that aquilegias are just as tasty. They overlook the odd one like this one, but most of them have been eaten to the ground. I do hate beastly fat pigeons; when they are not eating my aquilegias they are evacuating their bowels in great disgusting heaps under their favourite roosts or indulging in endless bouts of x-rated behaviour with a great deal of flapping of wings and ostentation.

Other tasteful, understated white flowers are lovely Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum biflorum. I love the little bell -shaped white flowers with green tips hanging on gracefully arched stems.

Polygonatum biflorum

And this is one with a red stem called Polygonatum odoratum ‘Red Stem’.

Polygonatum odoratum ‘Red Stem’

If you are wanting tasteful flowers then what could be more refined than Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of perfume’ in a lovely shade of blue and smelling divine?

Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’

And now I want to show you some of the treasures on my table of delights. I select whatever is looking good in a pot and display them on the table on the terrace by our table where we hope one day to be able to take our meals outside. It is difficult to imagine doing this without waterproofs and umbrellas; but perhaps one day. At the moment I am enjoying some auriculas.

A dear little pot of Rhodohypoxis baaurii.

Rhodohypoxis baurii

A pot of Viola ‘Molly Sanderson’ which had seeded all over an alpine trough.

Viola ”Molly Sanderson’

And this dear little dwarf tulbaghia which a friend gave me a few years ago delights me every May. I am not sure of the variety as I have lost the label.

Tulbaghia

I can’t finish without showing you my stars of the May garden. They are big, blowsy and sumptuous and they are my pride and joy as I grew them from seed. They are supposed to be Paeonia rockii but of course they are not as they are seed grown and they don’t come true from seed. None of them turned out to be the glorious white peony with maroon throats which every one desires. Never mind they are still beautiful. They look glorious and they smell wonderful too. Nothing else can compare with them.

Paeonia x suffruticosa
Paeonia suffruticosa
Paeonia suffruticosa
Paeonia x suffruticosa
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May Sunshine.

It is a bit gloomy outside today, but I have some pools of sunshine yellow brightening up the garden. Next month will be all about tasteful pastels, but in May we still crave bright colour.

In all the lanes round here, cow parsley is making a haze of white and it looks wonderful but it is not tame enough to grow in the garden.

For fabulous foliage in the brightest, freshest colours we need to go to another umbellifer which instead of having white flowers is wonderful for spreading pools of bright yellow in the dappled shade of trees. It is called Smyrmium perfoliatum. I know some people resist Latin names but this is a lovely name to roll around the tongue. ‘Smyrmium’ derives from the word myrrh, the Greek word for perfume and if you dig up this plant the roots smell spicy. And indeed it is edible, it has a vaguely celery-like flavour. It is a relation of Smyrmium olusatrum or Alexanders as it is commonly called. The Romans brought this to use as a vegetable and Roman soldiers would carry it on long marches as all parts of it are edible. So presumably where you see it growing alongside the road, Romans have passed by. But it can also be found on sites of medieval monasteries as monks used it as a pot herb. If you are tempted to try it then don’t confuse it with another umbellifer with hollow stems, hemlock, which is deadly poisonous as Socrates would tell you.

Smyrmium perfoliatum

Smyrmium perfoliatum is delightful because the leaves are perfoliate which means they wrap round the stems as if a magician is spinning saucers round a pole. And they are such a beautiful colour and then you have the dear little umbels of chartreuse flowers. They look like euphorbias but they don’t have the horrible caustic sap of euphorbias so you don’t need hazmat suits to handle them. Actually, they are not flowers at all, they are bracts, but never mind that, they look like flowers. Flower arrangers love them because they set off whatever is in the vase so beautifully. In the garden they look fabulous with the blue flowers of brunnera or the mauve ones of Erysium ‘Bowles Mauve’. I remember seeing them at Great Dixter growing with the tulip ‘Spring Green’ and edged with forgemenots.

But for a bit of zing, my favourite combination is with the elegant bright red flowers of Tulipa sprengeri. It is not always easy to find this very late- flowering tulip and it is expensive but it sets copious seeds and if you grow these on you need ever be without it. The buds have not quite opened yet, this is one I took last year.

Tulipa sprengeri

Smyrmium perfoliatum is monocarpic and that means it dies after flowering, but it seeds around exuberantly, some people would say too exuberantly. But I like to have puddles of it under the trees. I can’t see the point of only having one or two plants. And if it shows signs of taking over, you can always find willing takers for any excess plants. Or you can eat it.

After being so rude about euphorbias I do admit to growing some, although not as many as I used to because the sap is really awful if you get it on your skin and dangerous if you get it in your eyes. The colours range from sharp lime green to acid yellow. But those of Euphorbia mellifera are bronzey orange and they smell of honey which I find irresistible. It makes a nice nice large shrub with bright green leaves. It comes from the Canary Islands and Madeira where I have seen huge bushes of it. It doesn’t get so enormous here and it needs a nice sunny spot. Insects love the honey flowers and as you can see the ants are enjoying them.

Euphorbia mellifera

Euphorbia polychroma is a must have plant at the front of my borders. Oh, hang on, I think it is called Euphorbia epithymoides now, but its common name is the cushion spurge. It is an outstanding plant in April and May with neat cushions of bright yellow flowers. It seeds about, but not excessively.

Euphorbia epithymoides

Other euphorbias in the garden were here when I came and refuse to be evicted. Euphorbia wulfenii crops up everywhere and I weed most of it out. But I like the way it has put itself in front of this old gate post at the end of the drive and it stops passing dogs from using it as a public convenience. A fully grown plant of Euphorbia wulfenii is a lovely sight with large domes of fresh lime green bracts.

Euphorbia wulfenii

Euphorbia robbiae is more invasive because it runs around. But I let a stand of it spread under some trees where it looks good with blue camassias growing through it. The lovely lime green flowers need to be cut off before they turn an ugly brown later in the summer.

Euphorbia robbiae with camassias.

Another invasive euphorbia is Euphorbia cyparissias, it makes an attractive groundcover with its little needle-like leaves and dainty yellow flowers, but I would never introduce it, it is far too greedy for space and I am forever pulling it out.

Euphorbia cyparissias

Somehow these shades of lime green, acid yellow and chartreuse seem to fit the season of May when all the foliage is so green and fresh. Soon we will be seeking a more sophisticated palette; once the peonies and roses take over, the garden will look as if it is dressed in velvets, silks and rich brocade and it will be wearing the most sensuous perfume. But for now yellow suits the mood.

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Crazy about Crab Apples.

If I had to choose just two trees for the garden I would have a magnolia and a crab apple. I adore crab apples, they give you wonderful blossom, lovely foliage and beautiful fruit. They are great for wild life as the flowers are high in pollen; they produce ten times as much pollen as culinary apple trees and the fruits keep birds going into the winter. They are also useful for pollinating apple trees. If I had a huge garden I would have a grove of crab apples, in fact I once did have space for what I grandly called my ‘arboretum’ and I did indulge my love of crab apples. Now I have limited space but I have still managed to accommodate several lovely trees. They come in various sizes, Malus ‘Golden Hornet’ which was here when we came is huge. It has yellow fruit, but I wouldn’t have chosen it. If I was to choose a crab apple for its yellow fruit I would go for ‘Comtessa de Paris’ which hangs on to its yellow fruit into the winter, whereas the fruit of ‘Golden Hornet’ tends to turn brown. Still the blossom looks lovely against the shrimp coloured leaves of Acer brilliantissimum.

Malus ”Golden Hornet’

But maybe you are looking for a smaller tree. You can get dwarf crab apples that will easily fit into a smaller garden. There is a dear little dwarf one called ‘Tina’ or then there is ‘Coralburst’ which is even smaller. There is such a variety of shapes to choose from; some are upright, almost columnar ,others are round-headed and others are weeping. My pride and joy is Malus transitoria which I grew from seed. It took about 15 years to get to this size. Most crab apples don’t come true from seed but this one does. It comes from China and it is an attractive little tree with finely cut leaves. In May it has clouds of starry white flowers and in the autumn it has yellow fruit hanging like beads from the branches.

Malus transitoria

Also with snow white blossom I have Malus brevipes ‘Wedding Bouquet’ which has masses of shell- like flowers. Later it has small, translucent red berries which persist into December.

Malus brevipes ‘Wedding Bouquet’

I have another white flowered crab apple which I don’t have a name for. I bought it for £15 because it didn’t have a label. Maybe I will be able to identify it when it has fruit. Meanwhile it has pretty white blossom.

Some crab apples, like ‘Red Jade’ have white flowers opening from pink buds which makes it look like the usual apple blossom. It makes a pretty weeping tree.

Malus hupehensis is a bit later flowering and is still in bud. It too has white flowers opening from pink buds, they are lightly fragrant. It comes from China where the leaves are used to make tea. Like Malus transitoria it comes true from seed, although I haven’t tried growing this one from seed. It has bright cherry- red fruit.

I have already written about my amazing Malus ‘Princeton Cardinal’ which is sometimes known as simply ‘Cardinal’. It is a variety of Malus hupehensis and in my eyes, it is peerless if you want a crab apple with dark pink flowers. It has dark red leaves which are hardly visible amongst the abundance of blossom. I have featured it in my header picture. Later it has dark red fruit.

Malus ‘Princeton Cardinal’

Another tree with dark pink blossom is ‘Laura’. She is a dwarf tree with an upright habit so handy for a limited space. I love the dark pink blossom with a white stripe. The fruits are large and a maroon colour.

Malus ‘Laura’
Malus ‘Laura’

Having said that ‘Princeton Cardinal’ is my favourite, a close runner up is my latest indulgence. I went to a nursery to take photographs of crab apples for this post but quite forgot to take any because I fell in love with Malus ‘Van Eseltine’ and I could think of nothing else but how to fit it into my small car. I managed with difficulty and as you can see it has fabulous double pink flowers.

Malus ‘Van Eseltine’
Malus ‘Van Eseltine’

Of course, the other advantage of growing crab apples is that the the fruit has a high pectin content and so is ideal for making crab apple jelly if that is the kind of thing you like. Personally, I prefer to leave them for the birds because I am not keen on sweet things. But it is simple to make.

Crab Apple Jelly.

1lb washed, sliced crab apples.

1 pint water.

Simmer until the fruit is a pulp.

Strain through a jelly bag, do not squeeze if you want clear jelly, you have to be patient.

Add 1lb of sugar for each pint of juice.

Boil for about 5 minutes until it reaches setting point.

Bottle and store.

Throw away in a year’s time if you are me. Or else give away jars to friends, they make nice looking presents, specially if you get pretty, rustic labels and lid covers. And then your friends can throw it away in a year’s time. Or do some people actually eat the stuff?

Anyway, that is my collection of beautiful crab apple trees; please remind me that I really do not have enough room for any more if I start talking about them again. After all, I have other obsessions that have to be accommodated. We are coming up to peony time and then there will be roses. And I shall definitely need more roses. I always do.

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