Asthall Manor. ‘On Form’

Asthall Manor

Every year, ‘The Women Who Weed’ go off on a garden- visiting jolly. This year our destination was the Cotswolds. This June has been one of the best rose seasons for years and I can’t think of a better place to enjoy it than the Cotswolds. Roses and the wonderful old honey-coloured Cotswold stone walls are a marriage made in heaven. J.P. Priestley wrote about Cotswold stone: “the truth is that it has no colour that can be described. Even when the sun is obscured and the light is cold, these walls are still faintly warm and luminous, as if they knew the trick of keeping the lost sunlight of centuries glimmering about them.” I can’t think of a better description.

Asthall Manor

Our first port of call was the photographer, Andrew Lawson’s garden which had us ‘oohing’ and ‘ahing’ with delight as it was a perfect marriage of wonderful design and perfect planting. This was the hors d’oeuvre and the next day was dedicated to enjoying the amazing  ‘On Form’ biennial sculpture exhibition at Asthall Manor. This is the UK’s largest stone sculpture exhibition which in itself would be a treat, but for a gardener it is the wonderful setting of the grounds of Asthall Manor which is the icing on the cake. This was the home of the famous Mitford family and for those of us who have read the books of Nancy or Jessica, we have abiding images of  Farve hunting his children round the grounds, Muv’s faith in the Good Body to heal itself and the Hons Airing Cupboard headquarters.  If you haven’t read Nancy’s Pursuit of Love you have a treat in store. Asthall Manor is the fictititious ‘Alconleigh’ and Farve is thinly disguised as the xenophobic Uncle Matthew who thought that ‘abroad is unutterably bloody and foreigners are fiends’ and most of his daughters’ friends were ‘sewers’.

I don’t believe ‘Farve’, Lord Redesdale was a gardener, but the new owners have had the grounds designed by the celebrated garden designers, Julian and Isobel Bannerman who designed Highgrove gardens. They are obviously designed to be at their best in June for the sculpture exhibition. There are so many roses that a rose freak like me was in absolute heaven.

I love the way these two are grown together, an idea I will copy.

The next one is a bit of a mystery. My friend has it in her garden and has never been able to find out its name. We were delighted to find it here, but the head gardener didn’t know its name either. Any ideas? It is a little gem and each frilly flower is a combination of pink, yellow and white.

As there are roses climbing on every wall we asked the gardener how they cared for them. I was intrigued to learn that starting at the beginning of September they go round the walls removing all the leaves and this stops diseased leaves falling on to the ground and causing problems for the following year. This does seem very work intensive and indeed she told us it takes them until the following March to complete the task. But the roses are bursting with health and vitality.

As well as roses climbing the walls, I was taken with this way of training philadelphus.

Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’

And I have never seen phygelius growing like this either.


Other planting ideas that took my eye were these frothy peonies growing with astrantias.

Peonies and astrantia.

The colour of this clematis is the perfect match for the centre of Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’.

And I love the idea of growing frothy Crambe cordifolia which I featured last week as one of my top ten June blooms with Geranium psilostemon.

Crambe cordifolia and Geranium psilostemon

The garden has so many lovely features.  There is a gorgeous courtyard with this amazing little water feature.

I love this box parterre which is on a slope so you can see it properly.

And these stone steps on the side of it going up to the wild flower area.

Wild flowers are a feature as you look across the lovely view towards the Windrush valley.

There are man made- mounds that you can climb on which are a nod to Jencks and his Garden of Cosmic Speculation.

I loved the naturalistic swimming pond.

Even details like this fence hiding the compost heap was something I would love to copy.

The beautiful twelfth century church is right next to the house and some of the sculpture  is exhibited there too.

Asthall church

I loved quite a lot of the sculpture and the beautiful garden showed it off to perfection. I couldn’t help thinking that some of the lovely pieces would give my garden rather a classy look. But there was nothing much under £2000. The Pianist is endlessly indulgent about the fact that I am incapable of leaving the house without coming back with plants, but a £2000 bit of sculpture would be pushing his tolerance rather. Besides there were four of us in the car and nobody would fancy sitting with one of these pieces on their knee the whole way home.

By the entrance and our last glimpse of the garden was this magnificent lime tree in full bloom.

Under it there is a message which I rather liked and makes all my descriptions redundant.
‘When one is in the sphere of the beautiful, no explanation is needed.’

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Ten Favourite June Blooms.

It really is impossible to pick out just ten blooms from all the glories in the June garden, but here goes, I will give it a try. I have already written about roses which are my all time favourites. But I love them so much that they have to come in at number one on my June list.  So here are a few more.

Rosa ‘Blush Rambler’ is scrambling up the trunk of the big cherry tree. I had the tree cut down this year but the trunk remains to give support to this lovely rose. I think it is the best of the multiflora ramblers with masses of flowers and healthy, glossy foliage. It doesn’t hang on to its fading petals either so it always looks good.

Rosa ‘Blush Rambler’

It looks lovely against the dark leaves of Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’.

I love single flowers so I am particularly fond of the Hybrid Musk rambler ‘Francis E Lester’. It has apple-blossom pink flowers which fade to white. Later it has masses of long lasting small hips.

Rosa ‘Francis E. lester’

I adore old fashioned roses but now and then I fall for a modern one, specially if it has single flowers. I couldn’t resist ‘Smiling Eyes’ when I came across it the other day. It is pink with  dark pink centres which turn apricot as they mature.

Rosa ‘Smiling Eyes’

Of course, having bought this rose I couldn’t find room for it, or for any of the other ones that I suddenly find I can’t live without. So here we go, digging up more lawn. Which is no fun in this heat. And anyway it is totally stupid to plant anything in hot weather, watering already takes a large chunk out of my day.

Of my old fashioned roses, the gallica ‘Charles de Mills’ is one of my favourites. It is always healthy and spreads nicely, the flowers are such a glorious colour and shape and it is fabulously fragrant.

Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’

David Austin roses are all gorgeous but if I had to choose just one it would be ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ because of the fabulous colour of the flowers and also the super stems and foliage which set off the flowers so well.

Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’

The fleeting flowers of the oriental poppies are over now but I have to include them as they are June blooms. One I always grow is the tall, bright red ‘ Beauty of Livermere’ because my father grew it and it reminds me of my childhood, but the scarlet flowers are hard to place unless you like very bold colour schemes. Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’ is  much more subtle and always a favourite. It is a sumptuous rich plum colour although it doesn’t die elegantly and the flowers turn brown with age.  It was found on a compost heap in the 1990’s.

Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’

Papaver orientale ‘ Cedric Morris’ is a greyish pink, although it seems to be variable, mine isn’t very grey.  It was one of Cedric Morris’s seedlings although he was rather disparaging about it, he rather rudely said it is the colour of dirty knickers. It is sometimes known as ‘Cedric’s Pink’.

Papaver orientale ‘Cedric Morris’

There are several black and white poppies, I grow one called ‘Checkers’ which has a distinct black cross on the satiny white petals. Here it is with the single white peony ‘White Wings’.

Papaver orientale ‘Checkers.’

Up until the early twentieth century there were only red oriental poppies.  A nursery man in Enfield, Essex, Amos Perry discovered a pink one growing in his nursery beds in 1906 and called it ‘Mrs. Perry’ after his wife. In 1913 he received an irate letter from one of his customers complaining that one of his poppies was white. He swapped it for some montbretia corms, called it ‘Perry’s White’  and began breeding new colours. Today of course, there is a whole range of pinks, reds, oranges and whites and we are spoiled for choice.

Next to ‘Checkers’ you can see the glaucous leaves of the shiny, black opium poppy, Papaver somniferum ‘Black Beauty’. They seeded themselves from last year but I had to weed out the ones that didn’t come true. Some are single, some are double, but all are gorgeous.

Papaver somniferum ‘Black Beauty’

On my ‘beach’ in front of the shed I grow the orange horned poppy Glaucium corniculatum. You see the yellow one Glaucium flavum on the beaches and dunes in Suffolk. They like a poor, sandy soil.  Gerard said that ‘the juice mixed with meale and honey, ruindisieth old rotten and filthy ulcers‘. So that is handy to know if you are unfortunate enough to be afflicted in this way. The orange ones are not long lived but they do seed about.

Glaucium corniculatum

Irises are also flowers that grace early June and they are all too fleeting. In the past I have grown plenty of flounced and frilly bearded irises in amazing colours and I still do.

But nowadays I appreciate the subtler charms of the Cedric Morris hybrids.

And I particularly enjoy growing them from seed because you never know what you will get. Here are four off my own seedlings.

I have grown two very pretty Pacific Coast Irises from seed taken from a rather undistinguished parent. One of them is a lovely shade of pink and the other is buttercup yellow. it is a much brighter yellow than it appears on the photo.

Of course, we have to include full blown peonies which loll about the June garden like pampered courtesans because who would be without them? My favourite is Paeonia lactiflora ‘ Sarah Bernhardt’.  It is sumptuous and fragrant too.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’

‘Festiva Maxima’ is another fragrant one. It looks like whipped  cream with a little raspberry juice swirled in.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Festiva Maxima’

Paeonia ‘Monsieur Jules Elie’

I love white flowers and I would not be without the lovely white corncockle, Agrostemma githago ‘Milas Snow Queen’. It has satiny petals with pretty markings that look as if someone has doodled on it with a brown crayon. It is poisonous but then why would you want to eat it? It is an annual but it seeds itself and the self-sown seedlings are very tall. I grow it with Ammi, delphiniums and the lovely primrose coloured dandelion -like Andryala integrifolia. This actually belongs to the daisy family. It grows wild in Tuscany where I collected a few seeds. I have never seen it offered for sale here which is a pity as it is so pretty.

Agrostemma githago ‘Milo Snow Queen’ with Ammi and Andryala integrifolia.

Corncockle, Agrostemma githago ‘Milas Snow Queen’ with delphiniums.

Another white flower which you don’t see very often is Crambe cordifolia. It throws up a stem bearing a huge cloud of froth consisting of hundreds of tiny flower. Bees love the honey scented flowers. It sets off roses beautifully. It is actually a brassica. Everyone wants to know what it is and nobody believes me when I tell them that it is a Giant Kale.

Crambe cordifolia

Now in late June all my white flowers are disfigured with pollen beetle. I planned to include beautiful pure white Madonna and Regale lilies and I worked so hard for weeks to keep them free of lily beetle. Now just as they are in bloom they are unsightly as they are covered in these little beasts. Madonna lily, Lilium candidum used to grow beautifully in cottage gardens but these days it is tricky. I believe that the whole lot are infested with a virus and they go into a decline very quickly. The only way that I can keep them going is to dig them up and keep them going in the greenhouse in the winter as the leaves keep growing all winter long. In the greenhouse they get fed and watered and cossetted but if left outside they dwindle away.

Lilium candidum

The trumpet shaped flowers of Lilium regale are yellow inside and striped pink on the outside of the petals and  they smell divine. I have found this the easiest lily to grow from seed. I have painstakingly picked off all the lily beetles on this next picture but in minutes they will be back.

Lilium regale

June is the month when the campanulas are ringing their bells all over the garden. Most of them seed around happily so you never need to be without them. The peach-leaved campanula, Campunula persicifolia in blue or white is the most enthusiastic self seeder but is always welcome.

Tall growing Campanula lactiflora ‘Pritchards Variety’ benefits from the Chelsea chop to keep it tidy but I didn’t bother as the border is so densely planted that there is no room for it to flop.

Campanula lactiflora ‘Pritchard’s Variety’

I am fond of the huge deep purple bells of Campanula ‘Sarastro’. It is similar to ‘Kent Belle’ but much longer lasting and I think it is prettier.

Campanula ‘Sarastro’

Very similar but more violet in colour I have Campanula ‘Summertime Blues’. It is a perfect match for Geranium ‘Rozanne’.

Campanula ‘Summertime Blues’ with Geranium ‘Rozanne’

Amongst the smaller ones ‘Wedding Bells’ is pretty and ‘Spring Bell’is a delight.

And here are a few more, as you can see, I can’t resist them.

I am now at number ten and I don’t know what to chose. I have not talked about delphiniums or thalictrums and I should have mentioned clematis. But I am going to finish with my beautiful hardy orchids. I read somewhere that Dactylorhiza fuschii destroys honey fungus which is an on going problem in my garden. I bought one at great expense and waited for it to seed around into honey fungus- destroying carpets.  It never has any seedlings at all but it does come back every year and it is beautiful.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

And my slipper orchid, Cypripedium ‘Kentucky’ is my pride and joy. It blooms in early June so I have a whole year to wait until I see it again.

Cyprypedium ‘Kentucky’

Please do join in and show us your Top Ten June Blooms. Or just one or two if you are short of time.

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Six on Saturday.

So many of my blogging friends are participating in this meme that I thought that I would join the party. It does seem a good way of writing about quite unrelated topics that catch your eye.

Petunia exserta

1. A very unusual petunia. I’m not really a petunia sort of person, they are hanging basket sort of plants, and not my thing. But Petunia exserta caught my eye in the Plant World catalogue this year and I am very glad it did as it is quite charming. If you like the big, blowsy, trumpety ones this is not for you. As you can see it is single, bright red and star-like. And it has a story. It is on the verge of extinction in its native Brazil. In 2007 only fourteen plants were counted in the wild. It is not only endangered by loss of habitat but it hybridises with Petunia axillaris, the parent of all our modern petunias. In its native setting it is pollinated by humming birds. I can’t provide those but I am trying to assist pollination with a little brush. I do grow Million Bells, but this is not a problem as they will not cross pollinate. Do seek out this delightful petunia and try to help preserve it from extinction.


2. Million Bells.  Having been very rude about petunias I am going to feature Petunia Million Bells or Calibrachoa as my second item. I just love it in pots and it comes in a fabulous range of colours.

3. Solomon’s Seal Sawfly.

Sawfly larvae. Symphyta.

I discovered this today and the leaves look terrible, it is amazing how quickly the caterpillars munch their way through the leaves if you are not vigilant. The flies cunningly lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves so you don’t spot them. They are called sawflies because they have a saw-like ovipositor, (great word) and drill holes in the leaves to lay their eggs in. When the caterpillars have eaten their fill they drop into the soil and pupate. These won’t though, they have ended up in a bucket of water. Gardening makes murderers of us all.

4. Pocket seeds. I bet I am not the only gardener whose pockets are full of seeds. Wherever I go seeds just fall into my pocket. I always think I will remember them and what they are. But weeks later when I find them I have no idea so I sow them and label them Pocket Seeds. Sometimes I have a nice surprise. I have no recollection of collecting the seed for this pretty calceolaria.


I sowed this next one three or four years ago. It was not a pocket seed, I found it on the window sill. It must have been a stone from a Medjool date and now I have a nice little palm tree.

I get lots of grassy shoots. Some of them look like grass and others grow little bulbs. This pocket must have had a begonia seed in it as well as some sort of grass.

This has grown a bulb, I can’t wait to see what it is.

This one was labelled long thin pod. I have planted one out even though I have no idea what it is, or even whether it is hardy. I could have picked it up on my travels somewhere. Does anyone recognise it?


These look like tree peonies.

And what on earth are these?

Life is always interesting when you grow the contents of your pocket.

5. Salad on a Table.

My salad on a table has been a great success. The pigeons who fall greedily on any leaves in the raised vegetable beds haven’t noticed these. We have been having salads every day and I have various lettuces, radishes, rocket, mustard, spring onions, pea shoot and lots of herbs.

The grassy stuff is Agretti  or Salsoda soda which is new to me. I have no idea how you cook it or eat it.

On the ground there are potatoes in a bag, carrots, spinach, pak choi, beetroot and chard in boxes and pots. I suppose it is a bit silly when I have a perfectly good vegetable garden but this is very convenient for the chef who can’t be bothered to walk down the garden. And anyway it it is fun.

6. Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’. I have seen this on other blogs and wanted one for ages. I don’t know whether I have the conditions it likes but I will try to pamper it. It likes shade, well that’s easy. It likes a fertile soil so I have been spoon-feeding it with my special compost. Moisture retentive might be problem but never mind I will keep it watered.

Podophyllum versipelle‘ Spotty Dotty’

So there we have it, my random selection of Six on Saturday. Now all I have to do is master the knack of putting six pictures side by side on the top of the post like everyone seems to do.  And then perhaps get to grips with the rules of the meme but I was never very good with rules. Do check out The Propagator who hosts this meme and I had better go over too and introduce myself.

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Everything’s Coming Up Roses.

The roses are at their intoxicating best this year, can you remember them ever being as fabulous as they are right now? Perhaps it’s all the early spring rain or maybe they are always this beautiful but their sheer gloriousness takes us by surprise each year.

Many years ago I visited the garden, ‘Lime Kiln’, of a fanatical rosarian called Humphrey Brooke. He grew over 500 roses in a wonderful setting of 12 acres of woodland and ancient chalk pits.  Mr Brooke was very old when I visited him and his roses had grown unchecked for many years and in parts you really needed a machete to get through where paths were blocked and trees had been brought down under the sheer weight of massive roses. Mr Brooke told me that he didn’t believe in pruning, feeding or spraying. He only grew roses which were capable of thriving without aid. And thrive they did. He had the biggest Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ I have ever seen and you know how big that gets. The garden was wild and neglected, but such a magical place of enchantment and the fragrance everywhere was amazing. Mr. Brooke  told me that he had suffered all his life from bipolar disorder, then known as manic depression, but his garden and his quest to seek out lost old roses brought him great joy.  When I am a batty, old lady and too old to garden, I like the idea of giving my garden over entirely to roses  and letting them climb and meander everywhere enclosing the whole place in fragrance.

It was also about this time that I first visited Mottisfont Abbey and Sissinghurt  and became truly hooked on old roses. Vita Sackville West’s delicious descriptions of old- fashioned roses utterly beguiled me. At Sissinghurst I studied her way of growing them over hazel benders so that they were igloo-shaped and covered in blooms. Religiously, every year I would renew the hazel in my rose igloos and feed and pamper and spray the roses so that I could replicate the wonderful effect.  But that was in another garden and another life; these days I am a bit more laissez-faire when it comes to training my roses. If they want to tumble about or climb trees, they are allowed to. I like them growing in an abandoned luxuriance. I feed them, but mostly I let them do what they want with just a bit of support if they need it. And hypochondriacal  prima donnas that always look sickly with black spot or rust are simply evicted. Of course you never get rid of black spot entirely but as the famous rosarian Jack Harkness once said:’What’s a bit of black spot between friends?’ Actually, I once read that Christopher Lloyd claimed to have totally eliminated blackspot by having a three -inch layer of grass cuttings round each rose. This makes sense as the spores lie around on the ground.

Sometimes roses that are left to their own devices surprise you by climbing when they are not supposed to climb. Lovely ‘Grace’ is climbing up an apple tree and today I just noticed ‘Gentle Hermione’  at the top of a holly tree where she had no business to be, but good for her.

Rosa ‘Grace’ scrambling up an old apple tree.

Of course all roses are lovely, but I don’t much care for Rosa rugosa hybrids. Even though they are always nice and healthy with glossy leaves I cannot love them. With a few exceptions I eschew Hybrid teas and floribundas.  Old-fashioned roses make you swoon with their wonderful scent and beautifully shaped flowers. But like everyone else, these days I grow a lot of David Austin rose because they have all the charm and fragrance of old -fashioned roses and come in gorgeous colours.

Much as I love the sumptuous double blooms of old fashioned roses, I also love single roses and of course the bees do too.

My favourite single climber is Rosa cooperi which has enormous snowy white flowers and healthy foliage. It is said to be a bit tender and it needs a south facing position. I grew mine from a cutting and it has taken off beautifully.

Rosa cooperi. (R. laevigata.)

I have two single China roses which are not supposed to be totally hardy but I never have any problem with them. The first is the glorious Rosa mutabilis which changes colour from honey to orange to pink.

Rosa mutabilis

The other Rosa chinensis which blooms right up until November is the cherry red ‘Bengal Beauty’. I love this one. It looks good against the dark leaves of Cotinus coggyria.

Rosa ‘Bengal Beauty’

But for pure health and vigour in a single rose you can’t beat the modern shrub rose ‘Sally Homes’. And she flowers on and on.

Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’

Some of my ramblers are still to bloom. I showed lovely ‘Phyllis Bide’ in my secret garden in a recent post. The multiflora rambler Veilchenblau’ is just coming  into bloom in the weeping pear.

Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’

Last year I bought ‘Goldfinch’ because it is one I didn’t want to be without. This one was a great favourite of Vita Sackville West. She called it her pet and her darling. And you can see why, it is a combination of egg yolk and honey and has a delicious fragrance.

I have not bought the monster Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’for this garden but I did bring a seedling from my previous garden which clearly has filipes blood in its veins, it is trying to take over every tree in its path.
I have another beautiful but vigorous rose with Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ in its heritage. It is the lovely ‘Treasure Trove’. I first saw it in my friend Anne’s garden. But Anne is a master pruner and her rose is beautifully trained and doing exactly what its told and looks superb. Mine has very quickly reached the top of its tree and goodness knows where it will head next. But it is so pretty.

Rosa ‘Treasure Trove’

One of my prettiest ramblers is one which I fell in love with in Humphrey Brooke’s garden all those years ago. It is ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’. It grows absolutely enormous, to about 30 feet and although half of the plum tree it is climbing sheered off in the gales last winter, it is quite unconcerned and has decided to head for a nearby apple tree.

Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’

Climbers aren’t so territorial and so are better for growing up walls. Pale pink Rosa ‘New Dawn’ is an old favourite from 1930. It is healthy, repeat -flowering and easy from cuttings. I have it growing on the front of my house.

Another healthy rose is the German -born  ‘Karlsruhe’.(1957)  It is a deep pink and  has healthy foliage and a lovely scent. It looks good growing up a yew tree.

Rosa ‘Karlsruhe’

Ok you are getting rose indigestion so I will just mention two more climbers.
Zepherine Drouhin is thornless and has a superb perfume. It is a Bourbon though and like lot of its tribe, it can suffer badly from black spot but I forgive it because it is so lovely.

Rosa ‘Zepherine Drouhin’

And just one more, ‘Lady Hillingdon’ is a real aristocrat and although she hangs her head languorously, you forgive her because the apricot colour and the fragrance are superb.

Rosa ‘Lady Hillingdon’

So there we have some of my current favourite roses, but there are plenty more for another day.

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Recently I entertained a group of charming American garden enthusiasts in my garden. Many of them were intrigued by my sisyrinchiums  and were unfamiliar with them. Perhaps they are not widely available to buy in the States, although I think they are native to America. It is a large genus including both herbaceous and alpine plants. They are part of the iris family and have fleshy roots arising from rhizomes. Many of them seed  around so enthusiastically that they can become a nuisance. The most commonly known one is Sisyrinchium striatum which will seed to produce large groups . It has iris-like leaves and creamy yellow flowers.

Sisyrinchium striatum with iris

Thinking about sisyrinchiums reminded me of a lovely planting I saw on a garden visit a few years ago. I can’t even remember where the garden was, but I was really taken with it and filed it away in my mind for future use. Trawling through my photographs I found a picture of the garden that had taken my eye.

I am going to borrow the idea and plant up a new bed with a ribbon of strappy- leaved plants edging it.  The blue flowers  edging the path in the photograph are alpine sisyrinchiums. The plants in my new bed will include  Sisyrinchium striatum, some irises which I am growing from seed, (all children of Cedric Morris irises,)  and Libertia grandiflora like those in the photograph. Here is a libertia with the lovely dark Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ which Cathy from Rambling in the Garden blog kindly gave me.

Libertia grandiflora

To the left of the Sisyrinchium  striatum in the first picture is a variegated one called ‘Aunt May’. This doesn’t seed about but it is very pretty. Here it is in my garden. The winter frosts blacken some of the leaves, this one needs tidying up a bit.

Sisyrinchium striatum ‘Aunt May’

I have already chosen the spot for this new bed. There is already  a Mount Etna Broom, Genista aetnensis here and a very unusual pine tree.  I have an Abutilon vitifolium which would look lovely here.

Abutilon vitifolium

In the greenhouse I have a very rare Echium webbii grown from seed  by my green -fingered friend.  Echium webbii is rather tender but it is spectacular in flower so it can  be molly-coddled in the greenhouse for another year and then I will risk it down here in this sheltered part of the garden.

This is the spot earmarked for the new bed on the left. Don’t you think that all that boring old lawn is a waste of space? And I prefer to have as many trees as possible safely ensconced in large beds. The Pianist is like Attila the Hun when he gets on his ride-on mower. I have already had at least six rare trees succumb to his enthusiasm. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Attila the Hun once said: ‘There where I have passed, the grass will never grow again’. Here in my garden, for grass read , trees. See that hole in the grass? It once contained a rare Polstead Black Cherry. Still I mustn’t complain, my  Mower of Grass and Slayer of Trees is a treasure and an absolute lamb when he’s not on the mower. And I have learnt a good way of sealing up the wounds of trees that aren’t terminally injured with candle wax.

Some of the smaller sisyrinchiums can be invasive but so far mine are very well behaved. I grow them in gravel in the new Mediterranean garden. They include a pure white one called ‘Iceberg’ which closes its eyes when the sun goes in.

Sisyrinchium ‘Iceberg’

And this little dear with sky blue flowers called appropriately enough ‘Stripey’.

Sisyrinchium ‘Stripey’

This one is rather unusual, it is called ‘Quaint and Queer’.

Sisyrinchium ‘Quaint and Queer’

Until my sisyrinchiums were commented on by my visitors I had rather overlooked them . Now I am all fired up with ideas to feature them in my new bed which will be next year’s project. It is lovely to look at other gardens and get the germ of an idea. My next year’s bed will not be a copy of the one I saw, that would be boring. I shall use it as a starting point.  After I have spent a few months mulling it over, it will probably turn out quite unlike anything I am thinking about just now. That is how projects evolve in the mind, and what fun it is.  But for now I am going to concentrate on maintenance, I have just finished a new area which I will post about later in the summer.

But I will be looking out for some different sisyrinchiums, they are charming. I really covet Sisyrinchium ‘Raspberry’.  And I believe there is a new lavender- coloured hybrid called ‘Marion’, I have to have that. I shall see if I can find Sisyrinchium ‘Devon Skies’ which is a lovely blue. There is a similar blue one called ‘Californian Skies’. Either of these would do for an edging for my new bed. I had better get busy and grow some from seed.

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The Mediterranean Garden.

Three years ago I made my secret garden surrounded by a trellis to grow fragrant plants like roses, jasmine, honeysuckle and trachelospermum. At first it didn’t look very secret and everybody asked me what I was going to do with it, which was discouraging as I had already done it.

Now at last it is how I planned it and is a lovely place to sit.

The honeysuckle is Lonicera periclymenum ‘Scentsation’. It smells wonderful. The rose on the arches is ‘Phyllis Bide’ which is a very pretty rambler which smells gorgeous and unlike other ramblers keeps right on blooming.

Last year as I love having a new project I decided to make a Mediterranean garden. There is nothing so much fun in the garden as planning a new area. I thought my secret garden looked a bit lost sitting in the middle of the lawn with nothing to anchor it to the rest of the garden.  So now you walk under the rose arch into a Mediterranean garden.

To my surprise I found a lovely old grape vine at the local supermarket. When I went home and told my lovely Pianist about it he straightaway said ‘Come on, let’s go and get it’. And as it was the only one we jumped in the car and rushed back. After planting it I felt quite Mediterranean.

It’s such a pretty shape and not at all what you expect to find when you go to buy a pint of milk and some potatoes. Now what I needed was a 2000 year-old olive tree. I had to make do with this one; it is quite pretty and didn’t break the bank.

I used willow screening  behind the garden to create a feeling of intimacy. It was a shame to hide the trunks of the silver birches but beyond them is a bonfire and general grot area. In any case I wanted to enclose it. It is very sheltered down here and a real suntrap. I didn’t dig up the turf; I had learnt my lesson after digging up lawns in my front garden and for the winter garden. This time I used a membrane and covered it with gravel.

I had fun choosing the plants. Some of them bloom in late summer so I will show you another time. Looking good right now is a lovely  cistus with large white flowers with a maroon blotch. It is called Cistus x purpureus ‘Alan Fradd’.

Cistus x purpureus ‘Alan Fradd’

Also looking good are the alliums I planted. The white philadelphus on the right is a  nice compact one with double flowers called ‘Snowbelle’

Of course there have to be lavenders. This one is Lavendula stoechas.

Behind it is the gorgeous silky, silvery foliage of Senecio candicans ‘Angel Wings’ I was told that it was a tender perennial when I bought it last year, but it came through the winter very well with just a bit of fleece to protect it.

I also bought a perennial antirrhinum last year which is a bit tender but easy from cuttings. It spent the winter in the greenhouse and now it has been released into the garden it has decided to climb the fence. It is called Antirrhinum ‘Pretty in Pink’

Antirrhinum ‘Pretty in Pink’

Obviously for a Mediterranean garden you need plants that the bees enjoy. As well as the lavenders and alliums they are enjoying the prettiest little calamintha that I have ever seen. It is called Calamintha grandiflora ‘Elfin Purple’.

Calamintha grandiflora ‘Elfin Purple’

You don’t have to enter the Mediterranean through the secret garden there is another path alongside  it.

This is the view looking back towards the secret garden.

Long lists of plants are a bit tedious so I will finish with a few pictures and we can come and have another look later in the summer.


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My Top Ten May Blooms.

‘For May wol have no slogardie a-night. The season priketh every gentil herte and maketh him out of his sleepe to sterte.‘ ‘The Knight’s Tale’. Geoffrey Chaucer.

Indeed Chaucer had it right, there’s been no slogardie* in this house  because how could one bear to miss one second of this fabulous month of May, the crown of the whole year? The beauty certainly priketh my heart; is May always this beautiful, or is this year specially green and flowery? The colours seem extra sparkly and the birds sing louder and more joyfully than usual.  The Pianist and I have cycled for miles and the countryside has never looked so lovely with meadows full of buttercups and every lane frothing with cow parsley. And in the garden the flowers are all shouting for attention.  My self-imposed task of featuring just ten blooms is really difficult this month. But here goes.

I have to start with a paean to peonies.  The Gansu mudan as we have to call Paeonia rockii now have been fabulous. Followers of my blog will know that I am extra proud of mine because I grew them from seed under the impression that I was growing the fabled white Rock’s peony with the deep purple blotch. But of course bees get busy with them so you never know what colour  your seedlings will be. I have a magenta one and two pale pink ones. They are about nine years old now and full of exquisite and enormous blooms.


When I can drag myself away from contemplating these sumptuous beauties I am enjoying the masses of pure white blooms of a late flowering magnolia called Magnolia laevifolia ‘Gail’s Favourite’. This was formerly listed as  Michelia yunnanensis and it needs a sheltered spot. Michelias generally are not totally hardy.  Having said this, it came through a terrible winter unscathed. The flowers open from brown buds which look like suede. The blooms have a central boss of yellow stamens and they are sweetly scented.

Magnolia laevigata ‘Gail’s Favourite’

I don’t know who Gail was but she had good taste. Nearby is another plant which is not supposed to be reliably hardy but again it is absolutely fine. It comes from New Zealand and is called Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’. It has clusters of claw-like bright yellow flowers.

Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’

I have another sophora which is a shrub rather than a tree. It comes from China and it is called Sophora davidii. The flowers are pea-like and white with blue-purple calyxes. It is not showy, but nevertheless rather pretty with its ferny foliage.

Sophora davidii

May is the month of the the various forms of Clematis montana. It always amazes me with the extent which it will travel if it is happy. My fastest growing one which is really a mile- a -minute vine is ‘Warwickshire Rose’. It is very pretty but only plant it if you have lots of space.

Clematis  montana ‘Warwickshire Rose’

Two other favourites are both double ones. Clematis montana ‘Marjorie and even better Clematis montana ‘Broughton Star’.

Clematis montana ‘Marjorie’


Clematis montana ‘Broughton Star’

I wouldn’t be without two fragrant ones, Clematis montana ‘Elizabeth’ which is a lovely pale pink and the last to flower is Clematis montana ‘Wilsonii’ which has white star like flowers. This last one travels a long way too. In fact mine has travelled so far up into the trees that I can hardly see it.

Clematis montana ‘Wilsonii’ making a bid for freedom.

A new clematis I bought  last year is the very unusual double yellow one called Clematis koreana ‘Amber’. I am delighted with it.

Clematis koreana ‘Amber’

The backs of the flowers are pretty too.

Of the large flowered ones the earliest to flower in my garden is ‘Miss Bateman’. It has been around for years and is understandably popular with white flowers and a lovely maroon centre.

Clematis ‘Miss Bateman’

The buds have just opened on  the shrub, Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’ which is a  beautiful cross between a Calycanthus and a Sinocalycanthus. It has glossy foliage and delightful wine-red flowers. They are supposed to smell of cinnamon  but I can’t detect it.

Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’

If you have damp soil then the round flowers of trollius  are delightful. Many years ago Beth Chatto told me about a very special one called ‘Alabaster’ and I have grown it ever since, it really is the aristocrat of trolliuses, or should that be trollii? Beth Chatto died recently and she will be greatly missed in the horticultural world . Her garden has been an inspiration for gardeners everywhere. She was always happy to share her knowledge and over the years I have learnt about many fine plants from her. I think the pale lemon of this flower goes beautifully with the dark leaves of the acer.

Trollius x cultorum ‘Alabaster’

Another plant I learnt about from Beth Chatto, is a beautiful and very elegant gladiolus which I used to keep in the greenhouse as I believed it was only borderline hardy. I planted it in the garden and forgot to bring it in for the winter but it has come through unscathed and is blooming prettily. The flowers are the palest yellow and it is fragrant in the evenings. It is nice in a pot but it needs a bit of support because the leaves are rush-like and grow throughout the winter.

Gladiolus tristis

In winter, carpets of little Corydalis solida or C. cava seed around and are very welcome when there is not much else about.  By now they have disappeared. But there is a May- flowering tall corydalis which is my absolute favourite. If you have ever  tried to grow  the sky-blue Corydalis flexuosa you have probably loved it and lost it; it doesn’t hang about. If you want a blue corydalis (and why wouldn’t you?) try Corydalis ‘Spinners’; it is a cross between Corydalis elata and Corydalis flexuosa. It doesn’t seed around but the clumps get bigger every year, the flowers are electric blue. And  scented too.

Corydalis elata x flexuosa ‘Spinners’

The biggest corydalis of all starts out with beautiful bronze leaves in winter. It is called Corydalis temulifolia ‘Chocolate Stars’. The leaves go greener in summer but it still looks good with its lilac flowers next to Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ which I featured last month and it is still going strong. Behind is Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’.

Corydalis temulifolia Chocolate Stars’ with Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ and Euphorbia ‘Fireglow’

Red Campion, Silene dioica is looking wonderful at the moment in all the lanes round here. The damp- loving Silene flos cuculi, commonly called ‘Ragged Robin’ is one of my favourite silenes. I grow some by my pond alongside the ‘Sticky Catchfly’, Lychnis viscaria ‘Splendens’.

Silene flos cuculi with Lychnis viscaria ‘Splendens’

Well I had better finish with some geums as they seem to be all the rage this year. The bright red ‘Mrs. Bradshaw’ has been around for years but  for a long time was eschewed by many gardeners as being too bright and garish. But now primary colours are fashionable  we can embrace ‘Mrs. Bradshaw, and indeed she is a fine geum.

Geum ‘Mrs. Bradshaw’

Some of the modern hybrids come in some gorgeous shades. I have been wanting ‘Totally Tangerine’ for ages after seeing her on other blogs. And now I have it.

Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’

Geum ‘Mai Ta’ is a semi-double frilly apricot one which is very pretty.

Geum ‘Mai Tai’

And who can resist ‘Flames of Passion’? Specially with a name like that.

Geum ‘Flames of Passsion’

I know I have left out some quintessentially May flowers, how could I omit lupins, aquilegias and alliums? And the first roses and irises are already in bloom. Never mind they will have to wait until June. And now it’s back to work, May is the most beautiful month but it is also the busiest, specially for gardeners whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs when it comes to ordering seeds and dahlias. And the weeds are all on steroids. And of course, there is the latest project to work on. Which reminds me I never got round to posting about last year’s project which is looking very pretty right now so I will write about it in my next post. In the meantime, it would be lovely if you could find time to share your favourite May blooms and link with me.

* ‘Slogardie‘ means slothfulness or laziness and it’s my current favourite word.

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In a Vase on Monday. ‘Gather Ye Rosebuds while Ye May’.

My first roses are in bloom. Sometimes Rosa xanthina ‘Canary Bird’ blooms in April but this year it has waited until May. It is a large shrub and it is covered in primrose yellow single blooms.

Rosa xanthina ‘Canary Bird’

Also in yellow, but with slightly larger flowers and  a deeper buttercup yellow, I have Rosa ‘Helen Knight’. It is a seedling of Rosa ecae and has lovely ferny leaves like those of ‘Canary Bird’

Rosa ‘Helen Knight’

Rosa ‘Helen Knight’

I have picked a few of each but once in the vase they look pretty similar.

In case you are thinking that the little figures on the jug are rather rash frolicking naked in early May, it is unusually hot and sunny and just the sort of weather for gathering rosebuds and dancing in one’s birthday suit. But one doesn’t want to scare the neighbours and get a reputation for being eccentric. Besides, at my age it’s not very dignified.  So I am decently attired, but still dancing because the weather is heavenly and the garden is wearing its best party dress.

And as well as gathering rosebuds, ‘We’ll gather lilacs in the Spring again’. At least I will; gathering lilacs isn’t the Pianist’s idea of a fun morning.


I have no idea which lilac this is, it was here when we came and every year I threaten it because it has such encroaching ways and is so uninteresting for most of the year. But when it blooms I forgive it everything. It shows such generosity in producing  its fleeting flowers and of course, it has such an exquisite scent.

Just bury your nose in this. Heavenly.

Thanks to Cathy at ramblinginthegarden for encouraging us to put something in a vase on Monday. I expect everyone will have beautifully bountiful vases now that May is here. Do go and look.

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In a Vase on Monday. The Last of the Daffy -down-dillies.

30th April is a special day, it is my wonderful daughter’s birthday.  So today’s Vase on Monday is dedicated to my lovely girl.  Big blowsy daffodils might ‘come before the swallow dares and take the winds of March with beauty’ but I love the later narcissi which are amongst the daintiest and the prettiest of the whole tribe and many of them are deliciously fragrant.

The poet, John Masefield said:

‘I have seen the Lady April bringing the daffodils,

Bringing the springing grass and the soft warm April rain’.

Unfortunately the Lady April is a capricious lady and today the rain is far from soft and warm, it is cold and cruel, accompanied by a bitter north easterly wind. I hope these daffodils will bring a little sunshine to the day.

The daintiest of all is the fragile looking Narcissus ‘Segovia’.  It has pure white petals and a flat lemon cup with frilly edges. One of its parents is the tricky, pure white Narcissus wateri which comes from the High Altlas mountains of Morocco. I can’t grow Narcissus wateri but I can grow this little beauty and I wouldn’t be without it. It is good in a pot too.

Narcissus ‘Segovia’

Narcissus ‘ Segovia’ centre, Narcissus ‘Bell Song’ left.

Just as dainty and with an incredible fragrance we have the jonquil, Narcissus ‘Bell Song’

Narcissus ‘Bell Song’

Narcissus ‘Bell Song’ with yellow ‘N.’Sun Disc’

  Narcissus ‘Sun Disc’ above is another jonquil with a delicious scent, it has small flowers and a flat corona like a little face.  I think it is ‘Sun Disc’, the bulbs were labelled as ‘Sweetness’ and it is certainly not that. I keep it in a pot by the pond.

Narcissus ‘Sundisc’

The pretty Narcissus ‘Pipit’ is yet another in the jonquilla group. The lemon and cream flowers have a delicious fragrance. And aren’t they cute?

Narcissus ‘Pipit’

Narcissus ‘Katie Heath’ is a tiandrus narcissus.  It is larger flowered than the little treasures I have featured so far. If you are interested in daffodils you will know that they are divided into different groups or divisions. Tiandrus is Division Five and all the daffodils in this group are very delicate looking with pendant flowers and reflexed petals and they usually have two or three flowers to a stem.  The popular white ‘Thalia’ is in the tiandrus division . I love ‘Katie Heath’ for its pinky- peach coloured.  It is in the top right hand corner of the above picture. It is larger than ‘Bell Song’ and the coronna is chunkier with a stronger colour.


Narcissus ‘Katie Heath’

The pure white Narcissus ‘Petrel’ is another in the Tiandrus division. It is multi-headed and beautifully fragrant. You can see it on the  lower right hand side of the photo below.

I like to grow Narcissus ‘Petrel ‘ with the showy Epimedium ‘ Amber Queen’ because they are looking good at the same time.

Narcissus ‘Petrel’ with Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’

I am very fond of one I bought as Narcissus ‘Elka’. I bought quite a few bulbs and gave a potful to a friend last year. The worrying thing is hers don’t look anything like mine. I have read that ‘Elka’ is early flowering but in my garden it is one of the latest, so perhaps it is wrongly labelled. Can anyone tell me if  they recognise it as ‘Elka?

Narcissus ‘Elka’

I put  some frothy Spiraea argutea ‘Bridal Veil’ in with the vase but once inside it drops its petals very quickly .

The little  round vase has the tiny trumpets of the hoop petticoat Narcissus bulbodicum with Epimedium versicolor ‘Sulphureum’.  This little narcissus will seed around if it is happy and the seedlings are very variable and always a delight.

Narcissus bulbocodium


And to finish here is my daughter’s beloved Hector  and a Vase on Monday painted  specially for the occasion by my other best girl, my daughter-in-law, the amazingly talented and totally adorable Beatrice.

Thank you to my lovely friend, Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden for hosting this meme and for giving me the chance to send love and best birthday wishes to my Golden Girl.

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Top Ten April Blooms.

This is a tricky one, how does one choose just ten from all the glorious  blooms of April?    I have left out some favourites in order to include a few more unusual ones.

First of all, let’s hear it for the magnificent magnolia, an ancient tree which has  been around for millions of years.  There are more and more wonderful hybrids so nobody needs to grow the ubiquitous Magnolia soulangeana which you see in every suburban garden  This variety takes years to bloom and is often ruined by frost just when it is looking its best. When I moved here there was not one single magnolia in the garden, so I chose varieties which I knew would bloom when they are young. Some of them bloom in late March or early April and and some  a bit later. The first in flower is snowy white  Magnolia stellata with strappy petals ; sorry tepals, magnolias don’t have petals. It is lightly fragrant which is a bonus. This was a gift from dear friends so it is extra precious.

Magnolia stellata

Just as beautiful  are the pink flowers of Magnolia stellata’s child  Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ . Like stellata this blooms at a young age, but it is fast growing, mine is only six years old. As you see it blooms prolifically. It is slightly fragrant and reasonably frost resistant.

Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard messel’

Another magnolia which grows fast and blooms generously when still young is a New Zealand hybrid called ‘Star Wars’. This was recommended by the late Princess Sturdza, owner of the wonderful garden near Dieppe, Le Vasterival. She knew a good plant when she saw one. It has Magnolia campbellii as one of its parents and has inherited the enormous flowers. Magnolia campbelli takes years to flower and blooms early so the flowers are often destroyed by frost so it is not suitable for Suffolk or for an impatient gardener. ‘Star Wars’ is a glorious sight in full flower. Mine is only seven years old.

Magnolia ‘Star Wars’

Magnolia ‘Star Wars’

The other parent of ‘Star Wars’ is the dark pink Magnolia liliflora. I  have a dark form called Magnolia lilifora ‘Nigra’. I layered the one in my previous garden and so I was able to bring this with me. It is about ten years old now. Magnolias are easy to propagate by layering, just pin down one of the lower branches and cover it with soil.

Magnolia liliflora ‘Nigra’.

Even darker than Magnolia liliflora ‘Nigra‘ is a wonderful hybrid with globular flowers called ‘Black Tulip’. So far it only has a few flowers, but it’s still very young.

Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’

So those are my April magnolias, I have one or two more but they will have to wait for another time as they are only just coming into bloom.

And now for a rather unusual shrub. It is in fact a  flowering currant called Ribes speciosum although everyone who sees it thinks it’s a fuchsia. It has glossy leaves and bright scarlet flowers which look like dangly ear rings.  It enjoys the warmth of a south facing wall.

Ribes speciosum

I love the spring -flowering sweet pea Lathyrus vernus. It is non-climbing and makes a neat little cushion of very pretty, vibrantly coloured flowers.

Lathyrus vernus

It also comes in two- tone, pink and white. This is called Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’. I don’t know which is prettier.

Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’

I used to grow quite a few different euphorbia but I am a little wary of them since my daughter had to have medical treatment after rubbing her eye after handling one. This was after she had washed her hands too, she couldn’t see properly for three days.The sap can actually burn the cornea and cause blindness so she had a lucky escape.The sap will blister the skin too specially if the sun gets on it. But, I do love it at this time of the year. Euphorbia amygdaaloides var. robbiae is quite invasive but it looks lovely running around with camassias and bluebells. (Spanish I’m afraid.).

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae

The common name for this euphorbia is ‘Mrs. Robb’s Bonnet’. Apparently Mrs Mary Anne Robb found this euphorbia growing in Istanbul in 1891 and brought it back in her bonnet box.  Ouch, I wouldn’t fancy getting the sap on my head!

I grow the large Euphorbia mellifera because it makes a real statement and I love its honey scent. It comes from Madeira so it can get knocked back in a severe winter but it came through this last one with no ill effects.

Euphorbia mellifera

Despite saying I wouldn’t buy any more I rather fell for Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl’ for its neat heads and black frogspawn eyes and I had to have it.

Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl’

And at this time of the year I wouldn’t be without Euphorbia polychroma, it has such a nice neat habit and bright buttercup yellow flowers.

Euphorbia polychroma

I feel a bit guilty recommending euphorbia when it has such dangerous sap so please handle it with care.

Spring is the time for woodland beauties, each one more beautiful than the other. I love the way Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex ‘Plena’ runs around and forms large pools of gleaming white round flowers. It has lovely bluish scalloped leaves. This plant too has toxic sap which is bright red giving it the common name of ‘Bloodroot’. It can cause nerve damage if ingested. What poisonous places our gardens are with such innocent looking flowers being potentially so dangerous. Later in summer this plant disappears so you have to remember not to dig it up by mistake.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex ‘Plena’

I have a passion for fritillaries. We are lucky here in Suffolk as we have one of the few remaining meadows of native snakeshead fritillaries and it is looked after by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust so it is safe. In the garden they are easy to grow and seed around happily as long as the pheasant doesn’t peck all the heads off as he sometimes does when he gets bored. The usual snakes head fritillary has a checkerboard pattern in purple or you can get pure white. I rather like this cross between the two which is pink on a white background.

Fritlllaria meleagris

Crown Imperials spread well and are a dramatic sight either in red, yellow or orange. They do smell of fox though.

Fritillaria imperialis ‘Orange Beauty’

I am particularly fond of Fritillaria michailovskyi  even though  I  can never remember how to spell it. Any bell-shaped flower appeals to me and this one is maroon edged with yellow. It lives in a pot so that I can attend to its needs. It comes from Turkey and needs a sunny position but it mustn’t dry out.

Friitillaria michailovskyi


My favourite fritillary is Fritillaria verticillata. It makes an ever increasing clump with tall stems and long tendrils .The flowers are cream with brown spots.

Fritillaria verticillata

Fritillaria verticillata

Epimediums are looking their best right now if you remembered to cut off the old leaves. Cathy at WordsandHerbs lives in Bavaria and she tells us they are called Elf flowers in German and what a good name for them. They are  elf -like and so dainty.

Epimedium versicolor ‘Sulphureum’

Epimedium pinnatum

Epimedium x rubrum

Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’

E. ‘Amber Queen’ Seedling

Another gorgeous woodlander is the exotic- looking erythronium. They seed around happily so you soon get big clumps. The cheapest and most readily available is Erythronium ‘Pagoda’.


I love Arum creticum which has glossy leaves and bright yellow spathes. It seems to enjoy a sunny position. It doesn’t have the disgusting smell of other aroids such as Arum dracunculus which smells of rotting flesh. In fact it is pleasantly fragrant. This arum is not invasive but seeds around modestly and each plant is welcome.

Arum creticum

I am going to finish with something rather unusual. It is the beautiful alpine Soldanella alpina. I first saw  it a few years ago  growing in Switzerland near Zermatt and my heart was beguiled.

Soldanella alpina growing in Switzerland

It has heart shaped leaves and fringed bell-shaped flowers like little pixie caps.
I can’t take credit for bringing my newly acquired plant into flower because this is how I bought it. I saw it and had to have it in spite of being told how difficult it is. Of course what it wants is moisture and the top of a mountain. Reginald Farrer says it is difficult to coax it back into flower because the flowers form in winter and so are vulnerable to winter wet or slugs. Maybe I should dig it up and keep it in a pot.

Soldanella alpina

Even if it never blooms again it is giving me enormous pleasure right now and anyway we gardeners like a challenge. I never believe I can’t grow something until I have killed it three times.

Well there are my ten and I haven’t even mentioned tulips or trilliums or any of the other glorious blooms making my garden sing at the moment. Here are a few more.

If you have the heart to pick out a few favourites this month please share them with us.

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