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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Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May…..

Trust Shakespeare to hit the nail on the head, he was a keen observer of nature. We are getting strong May winds tonight which are following on from an almost entirely rain-free April with constant frosts, so many gardeners are feeling a little disgruntled. But my precious tree peony, Paeonia suffruticosa which I grew from seed is quite unperturbed by the winds, but I wish it would get warmer because I can hardly wait for the nice fat buds to open.

Paeonia suffruticosa

The charming, cerise Paeonia mascula is already showing pink. This is native to Southern Europe and has single scented flowers.

Paeonia mascula

I was thrilled to discover a couple of seedlings nearby and so I have carefully dug them up and put them in pots. As I also have the pale lemon Paeonia mlokosewitschii or ‘Molly the Witch’ as she is often called by people like me who cannot remember her correct name, I am not sure what colour the flowers will be. I grew some of Molly’s children on a few years ago and they turned out to be various shades of pink.

Paeonia mascula seedling.

Many of the darling buds of May are now tender new leaves and their freshness and gorgeous colours make the heart sing. The new leaves of acers are often dazzling in their intensity. Here are a few, the others are still in bud.

But for impact in spring, Acer brilliantissimum is well named for its intense shrimpy -coloured leaves. This tree is one of the plants I am grateful to my predecessors here for and I like the way it is planted as a group with the silvery leaves of Whitebeam, Sorbus aria behind and Amelanchier lamarckii to the side with its white flowers and bronzey leaves.

This is another Amelanchier lamarckii which I coppiced because I wanted a multi-stemmed bush rather than a tree in this spot. The flowers don’t last long but the foliage is pretty and colours well in autumn.

Amelanchier lamarckii

Talking of lovely leaves, Acer brilliantissimum often has seedlings which look as if they would grow into ordinary sycamore trees if I left them. But I was delighted to find this seedling the other day which looks as if it will make a lovely tree one day, but it is nothing like its mother, I don’t know how that happened..

Acer brilliantissimum seedling

I also love the dazzling spring leaves of Photinia x fraseri ‘Pink Marble’. The one you usually find is ‘Red Robin’ which is lovely but I love the variegation on this one.

Photinia x fraseri ‘Pink Marble’

I could go on and on talking about leaves and buds but I would like to show you a few flowers which are lovely right now, May blooms are so fleeting. Most of my magnolias are over now but the primrose yellow’ Elizabeth’ is always later and what a good thing as I should hate to see her lovely flowers browned by frost.

I have quite a few crab apples and some of them are still in bud. But I don’t think any of them can compare with Malus ‘Princeton Cardinal’ for sheer flower power.

Malus ‘Princeton Cardinal’
Malus ‘Princeton Cardinal’

My favourite May shrub is Exochorda ‘The Bride’ which has long lasting snow white flowers and I think the bush is such a pretty shape.

Exochorsa x macanthra ‘The Bride’

The flowering currants are just about over now but I have an unusual member of the Ribes family growing against my front wall. Everyone thinks that it is a fuchsia because it has dangly flowers like drop ear rings. It is bright scarlet and so really eye-catching.

Ribes sprciosum

The lilacs are coming out now and they of course smell divine but Viburnum burkwoodii smells wonderful too. This one came from a cutting from my previous garden but it is now mature and blooming profusely. It smells a little like furniture polish, but in a nice way.

Viburnum burkwoodii

I really should include a climber in this early May round up and Akebia quinata is a favourite with flowers that smell of chocolate. I have the cream form as well but it is not as striking as this one.

Akebia quinata.

Last year it produced a large lilac seed pod and I sowed the seed in a pot without labelling it and forgot about it. I ended up with a mystery plant which baffled me for a while until I realised it is a young akebia plant, I wonder if it will come true from seed.

It seems churlish not to mention the tulips which are looking wonderful right now but perhaps they can be for another time. Instead I will finish with my very first irises in bloom which are the rare Iris bicapitata from the Gargano peninnsula in Italy. I fell for this iris when I saw vast swathes of it growing wild .

Iris bicapitata
Iris bicapitata

May is such an exciting month as new blooms are appearing every day. Let’s hope we will get some warm weather to enjoy them soon. And above all, some rain. We are supposed to get some rain tonight and this sky looks as if we might; but I am not holding my breath, it always seems to pass us by.

The tree is the double form of the wild cherry, Prunus avium ‘Plena’, it is one of my favourite cherries.

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Once in a Pink Moon.

Pink Super Moon and Church Tower

Once in a pink moon is how often I seem to post lately. But I am still here my friends, working ever more obsessively in the garden. But I cannot let spring slip through my fingers without writing about some of the choicest of spring floral treasures which are the woodland flowers which do their stuff before the canopy of leaves blocks out the sun. However dedicated we are we cannot create anything as beautiful as nature lays out for us every year in the remnants of ancient woodlands. I grow wood anemones of course, but I cannot produce anything as startlingly beautiful as this. Carpets of wood anemones like this one are indicators of ancient woodland.

Anemone nemorosa

Bluebells are another indicator of ancient woodlands. Here in the UK we are particularly proud of our bluebell woods and justly so; we have 50% of the world’s population of bluebells. A walk through the woods in April is an unforgettable sensory experience, the whole woodland floor is shimmering, misty blue and the delicate fragrance fills the air. It is not surprising that bluebell woods were considered the domain of fairies.

Hyacinthoides non -scripta

And here and there if you know where to look for them are little pools of Early Purple Orchids. Add to the mixture swathes of white wild garlic and stitchwort, the yellow of celandines and patches of wood spurge and you have pictures that no gardener can hope to emulate.

Orchis mascula

Readers of my blog will know that I have been busy with new projects in the last months. At last I can show you one of these projects which is the creation of a new woodland garden. There were plenty of trees here and cow parsley and brambles underneath, along with self seeded elders, oh, and nettles, lots of nettles. It always looked untidy and messy.

I had the tree surgeon come to clear all the trees and lower the hedge right down so that we have a view of the countryside.

When he had finished we realised we had been missing the blaze of autumn colour of the wild cherry trees in the little nearby wood.

And now of course they are a froth of blossom. It’s a pity about the neighbour’s poly tunnel but apart from that we have a lovely borrowed landscape. Instead of nettles I now have a lawn with tulips.

But back to my woodland garden; I have kept two huge horse chestnuts, an oak and a large field maple and had all the lower branches removed. I got rid of quite a few pine trees but kept a few as their tall straight trunks give a cathedral- like feel and their fallen needles provide an acid soil for azaleas.

In other new parts of the garden I simply put a membrane down and covered it with wood chips to avoid the tedious job of clearing away the weeds first. But here in my woodland I want plants to seed and make carpets so I have had to clear it by hand. Oh dear, I don’t think I will do it again. Cow parsley has long tap roots and if you break them they simply regrow. Also the ground is full of seeds just waiting to go so I have to hoe regularly. It has been a painstakingly laborious task and makes me think nostalgically of Roundup. I have made a wood chip path to wind through the little woodland garden and now I just need to wait for a few centuries for it to establish. Here is the work in progress.

And here is the finished path.

The beds look very bare but I have started planting; luckily I have lots of woodland plants in other parts of the garden so I have moved them here. I am going to have a wait for it to look well established but at least I have made a start.

I have a variety of different wood anemones; some are double, others are pink, blue or palest yellow.

I don’t have any native bluebells in my woodland but I have plenty of chunky Spanish interlopers which are everywhere and I have given up the impossible task of trying to get rid of them. I can at least stop some of them going to seed by picking big bunches for the table.

Hyacinthoides hispanica

Of course I am not restricting my palette to native woodlanders because the North American treasures are particularly delightful. I love trilliums and I have a particularly fine clump which has travelled around with me and delights me every spring.

Trillium chloropetalum

Also from America, I have the delightful double Sanguinaria ‘Flore Pleno’ which blooms and then disappears completely until the following year.

Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Flore pleno’

Another North American woodlander which I fell for is the dainty Anemonella thalictroides which is a bit like a wood anemone but perhaps even prettier with bronze-tinted leaves.

Anemonella thalictroides

Unfortunately, the Vicar has run out of snakes’ head fritillaries to graze on and he decide he’d like to try these as a change. He doesn’t actually eat them, just tosses the heads about. I think such an ecclesiastical-looking gentleman should behave with more dignity.

The erythroniums are not native here either but no self-respecting woodland garden can be without them. And they seed around if they are happy. They are so beautiful with their recurved petals.

From China we have epimediums which soon spread into carpets. You have to remember to remove their leaves in winter or the delicate flowers will be hidden. ‘Pink Elf’ is still sitting in the gravel round the pond but when we get some rain I shall move it to its new home. In fact the lack of rain has rather brought planting to a halt which is a shame just as we are now vaccinated and feeling that perhaps it is safe to put our noses out of the door and go on nursery trawls.

I have put quite a few tulips on the sunny edges of the woodland garden but I am absolutely besotted by the woodland tulip Tulipa sylvestris which has fragrant blooms and is happy in light shade.

Tulipa sylvestris

I have also planted some little clumps of small narcissi but my absolute favourite which I have put at the entrance to the woodland is the diminutive, but perfectly formed Narcissus ‘Segovia.’

Narcissus ‘Segovia’

I could go on, I haven’t even mentioned the primroses which I have a special passion for and of course are an essential ingredients of the woodland garden but this is getting rather long so we can come back to it another day.

But before I go, whilst I am I indulging my fantasies of woodland gardens, I must show you my one blue poppy, a recent purchase which is sheer self-indulgence. I know it is hopeless to try and grow blue poppies here in Suffolk as it is far too dry, but just for this year I can enjoy this solitary Meconopsis ‘Branklyn’ and if I squint at it I can imagine a whole sea of exquisite blue poppies, just as I have to squint at the moment to see carpets of wood anemones and other treasures in my new woodland garden. But give me a year or two.

Meconopsis ‘Branklyn’

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In a Vase on Monday. Easter Eggs.

It’s too cold to linger in the garden today so I picked a few treasures to bring inside for my French porcelain egg. And because I love fragrance many of them smell nice. Their are two kinds of skimmias here, ‘Rubella’ and ‘Kew Green’. There is a hyacinth and several small narcissi, all fragrant .And I picked one of the wild Cyclamen persicum from a pot in the greenhouse. So the dining room smells lovely.

Skimmia confusa ‘Kew Green’

I also picked one flower of my Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ which is looking wonderful right now. Goodness knows what it will look like after a few nights of frost.

The pussy willow in the above photo is a delightful one called Salix purpurea ‘Nancy Saunders.’ It makes a very elegant little bush and looks good all year; the miniature catkins which appear in spring are so dainty. The wine coloured anemone is Anemone coronaria ‘Bordeaux’ and it is my current favourite, it looks nice with the deep pink corydalis.

Anemone coronaria ‘Bordeaux’

The wine- coloured Akebia quinata is also a good match for the dark anemone. It is supposed to smell of chocolate but I can’t detect it. The snake’s head fritillary, Fritlliaria melagris picks up the colour.

I used three or four different Grape Hyacinths, Muscari including the pale ‘Peppermint’ and the chunky ‘Blue Spike’. The blue is picked up with a few flowers of Chinodoxa luciliae. The Iris looks like Iris unguicularis but it is in fact Iris lazica from the Black Sea. This iris blooms prolifically and it has shiny green leaves.

Scilla luiciliae

The shrubs I used are common Forsythia intermedia which was all over my garden but there is now just one for picking. Osmanthus burkwoodii is evergreen with small white highly fragrant flowers. For foliage I used the marbled leaves of Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’.

Osmanthus x burkwoodii

So this is my Easter egg arrangement. I hope you are enjoying the Easter abundance in your gardens and if it is a bit too chilly to linger outside then why not pick a posy of something lovely and link in with Cathy’s meme In a Vase on Monday at Rambling in the Garden so we can all enjoy it too.

Oh, and if you think the title Easter Eggs means we have lots of lovely chocolate eggs, there is no such decadence in this house. The other eggs are made of Tiger Eye and Amethyst. But I rather wish they were chocolate.

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Six on Saturday. Spring Fever.

Well the clocks go forward to night so at last we can really say that it is spring. Yippee! But the sharp wind doesn’t feel very spring-like and it has created rather fuzzy photos, but never mind we have to celebrate the garden in its spring party finery and if the photos are a bit blurry it is because the flowers are dancing.

My number one is this really pretty little peach tree.

Prunus persica ‘Meldred

When I was a child my grandmother grew a peach tree from a stone and every year it was laden with luscious fruit. My endeavours to grow peach trees have all ended dismally until I found this wonderful Prunus persica ‘Meldred’. The reason for my failures have all been because of peach leaf curl, caused by the fungus Tafrina deformans. This fungus is caused by rain falling on the tree in spring and the leave curling disease weakens the tree each year until it dies. This tree is dwarf and lives in a pot in the greenhouse where spring rains can’t get at it. I brought it out today to photograph it and to give the bees a chance to pollinate the flower. I would grow this tree for the lovely dark pink blossom alone but in late summer it gives me small but very juicy fruit.

Flowering currants are ubiquitous and I have kept one of the shocking pink one which seeds everywhere and was all over the garden and I also grow several different sorts which are more sophisticated. But I am very fond of this white flowering one which blooms before the buds on the pink one open up. It is called Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ which seems a good name for it.

Ribes sanguineum ‘White Iclicle’

I love early cherry blossom and I also love dainty blossom rather than the big blowsy ones that bloom later. Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ fits the bill perfectly. The name means ‘Flight of Butterflies’ which is a beautiful description for the masses of delicate little flowers. This is a dwarf shrub and it sits perfectly in my winter garden because even when it is not in bloom the zigzag twigs of the bare branches look lovely.

Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’

A favourite shrub in March is the lovely Stachyurus praecox which has racemes of primrose yellow, bell -shaped flowers like strings of beads dangling from each bare branch. I believe Americans call this ‘Spiketail’ but I wish they wouldn’t, it is such an ugly name for such delicate beauty. In a previous garden I had a stachyurus with beautifully variegated leaves in summer after it had finished blooming. It was called Stachyurus ‘Magpie’ and I have never been able to find it since I left. I am still trying to hunt it down.

Stachyurus praecox’

I love any sort of sweet pea type flower and the little perennial spring- flowering one is a gem. It is called Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus. The flowers are pink and white and the clump gets bigger every year. I also have the purple Lathyurus vernus but it always blooms a bit later. Occasionally, you get seedlings. Bees love this plant and so do I.

Lathyurus vernus ‘Alboroseus’

Fritillaries are amongst my favourite spring flowers and I have quite a few different varieties but the first one into bloom is Fritillaria imperialis ‘Early Fantasy’ I love Crown Imperials and I have clumps of them round the garden in red, orange or yellow but this peachy one is new to to me this year. I just bought the one to see what it is like but next year I shall have to empty out the piggy bank and have a big clump of them. It is so pretty.

Fritillaria imperialis ‘Early Fantasy’

I like it against the cinammon -coloured bark of Acer griseum with a pool of apricot violets at its feet.

So here are my six on Saturday to join in with The Propagator and his ever growing band of enthusiastic followers who find interesting horticultural things to share with us each Saturday. Do go and see.

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Six on Saturday. Taking the Winds of March with Beauty.

Spring has come screaming in like an unruly ten year child crashing about and slamming doors and generally being very annoying. You get so irritated by the constant noise and buffeting that you forget to notice the glories the wind is bringing with it. It is not just Shakespeare’s daffodils which are taking the month of March with beauty, every day there are exciting things to enjoy. Everywhere in my garden hellebores look as if they are doing the cancan with their frilly dresses whirling and the spring beds are beginning to look like Botticelli ‘s Primavera. But constrained by the requirements of the meme ‘Six on Saturday’ , I’ll show you some special treats which I braved the gales to look at, although the photographs will probably be a bit blurry.

First of all is the rhododendron which I grow in a pot by the pond. It is early flowering but not as early as its name suggests. Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ blooms in March but it used to be forced in heated greenhouses and brought inside to bloom at Christmas so that is how it got its inappropriate name. I’m not a great fan of rhododendrons possibly because I don’t have the right soil for them, but I love this early beauty.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’

I have a pretty little shrub which has starry white flowers on naked stems in February and March. It is called Abeliophyllum distichum. I don’t know why it is so rarely grown because anything which blooms so early is welcome and these little flowers are deliciously fragrant. It needs a nice sunny spot and perhaps mine should be in a better position but still it blooms well and I like it flowering in front of the grey trunk of my walnut tree which always reminds me of an elephant.

Abeliophyllum diistichum

One of my favourite March shrubs is Edgeworthia chrysantha which comes from China where its bark is used for paper. The flowers emerge from silky white buttons which hang tantalisingly on the shrub all winter and are a constant worry if you forget to cover the bush up as I did this year. One night when we had a particularly bad night I hurried down the garden in my dressing gown to cover it with a tablecloth. But despite this neglect it is blooming happily and shows no sign of frost damage so perhaps it is hardier than I thought. The clusters of flowers are the colour of cheap custard and they are fragrant. I think these shrubs grow well on the edge of woodlands and they don’t like to dry out.

I have grown the pretty Pieris ‘Valley Valentine’ in a pot for a couple of years and after complaining that I can’t grow rhododendrons you will probably be surprised to hear that I have planted this shrub which is a calcifuge (plant which grows in an acid soil.) in my new woodland garden. But I have a clump of old pine tree, or I did have, I have just got two of them now, but the soil underneath has been mulched with pine needles for years. So far my lovely Pieris looks very happy here. This particular variety has panicles of deep red bell-shaped flowers.

Pieris ‘Valley Valentine’

Japanese apricots have been in bloom for a few weeks now and Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ blooms intermittently throughout the winter but the first cherry blossom in my garden comes on the pretty dark pink single flowers of Prunus ‘Kursar’. This is a small, neat tree and as well as early pink blossom you get lovely foliage.

Prunus ‘Kursar’
Prunus ‘Kursar’

So far I have just talked about shrubs and trees so let’s finish off with one of the stars of the Primavera beds. It is the pretty, little corydalis which spreads everywhere in shades of pink, red and purple. I started with named varieties but I am more than happy to let nature have its way and produce flowers in a whole range of shades.

Corydalis
Corydalis ‘Blackberry Wine’

So there we have my six on this windy, March Saturday, I would like to go on but we have to obey the Propagator‘s rules, I believe he is very strict about it. Do go and check him out and see other Six on Saturday posts.

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