Stinky greenhouse. Stapelia gigantea.

Recently I promised more regular visits to see what is in bloom in the greenhouse. And just at the moment there are some enormous and rather weird blooms on display. But if you could visit here on a sunny day, you might not want to linger long because it smells as if something has died.

Stapelia gigantea

If you have delicate sensibilities you might object to the smell and you will be revolted by this plant’s rather gruesome habits. It is not insectivorous exactly, but it relies on flies to pollinate it. It comes from arid, desert areas of South Africa where there is a lack of butterflies and bees. It is sometimes known as the Carrion Flower because not only does it stink, but the flower is supposed to resemble carrion in order to attract flies to pollinate it. It is flesh- coloured, it has wavy concentric lines like veins and the flowers are edged with fur.

The petals feel like soft suede. Flies are attracted by the smell and the appearance and they lay their eggs on it and pick up pollen. Actually, I never get seeds in mine so perhaps I have the wrong -sized flies. The maggots soon die of starvation so they fall off and presumably nourish the roots.

I know this all sounds absolutely disgusting, but let’s look at it another way. An alternative name for it is Starfish Cactus and indeed it does look like a starfish.

If you go in the greenhouse on a dull day, there is no smell. And the starfish -like flowers are amazing, they look unreal, or as if someone has knitted them. And the buds are wonderful too; they take ages to plump up until eventually they look just like balloons.

In summer these plants lives in a sunny spot in my greenhouse and get regular watering. Flowering is stimulated by the shortening days. In winter they have to come inside because they can’t take temperatures below 10c. They need to be kept very dry in winter so I leave them on spare bedroom window sills and forget about them.

Stapelea gigantea has succulent, four-angled stems which are spineless and velvety to the touch. It looks like a cactus but it actually belongs to the Milkweed family.

I have read that Stapelia gigantea can become invasive in warm climates and in Hawaii it has become a menace, but there is no chance of that happening here in the UK. It won’t seed around, but it is easy from cuttings. If you want a really unusual plant for the greenhouse then why not give it a try? The huge flowers will stop visitors in their tracks. They can be as big as 10-16 inches across and another name for it is Zulu Giant. If you can’t stand the smell, you can always keep it outside in summer in a sunny spot but it shouldn’t be moved once the buds have formed because they might drop off.

Readers of my blog will know that I have a passion for nerines and they are the stars of my October greenhouse, helping me to forget that winter is coming. They are now full of buds and some of them are blooming, so next time I take you into the greenhouse it will be to have a look. Nerines are fabulous with beautiful, starry flowers, luminous colours and no flies or horrible smell.

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

A Delectation of Dahlias.

For years I disliked dahlias; I didn’t like the smell and I associated them with the regimental rows of garish colours where earwigs lurked in my grandmother’s garden. I started a few years ago with the fashionable ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and from there decided dahlias were OK as long as they were deep, velvety red like the almost edible ‘Karma Choc’ so I grew a few from seed trying to get ever darker children. You can buy some lovely, dark red dahlias though so I gave up trying to breed my own.

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’

My latest dark one is the sultry ‘Dark Desire’.

Dahlia ‘Dark Desire’

The fire engine red ‘Murdoch’ is also a favourite.

Dahlia ‘Murdoch’

Then I fell for the over- the-top charms of the monstrous Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’.

Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’

Last year I acquired its relative ‘Café au Lait Rose’.

Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Rose’

Another flamboyantly, gorgeous dahlia is the ghostly white, fimbriated Dahlia ‘Tsuki Yori No Shisha’ which translates as ‘Messenger from the Moon’.

Dahlia ‘Tsuki Yori No Shisha’

I am not particularly keen on cactus dahlias but I do have the semi cactus, ‘Ambition’ because it is such a lovely deep purple.

And I had to have the dinner plate deep purple ‘Thomas.E. Edison’.

Another giant decorative dahlia is the sturdy ‘Labyrinth’ which is a glorious, peachy confection of swirling petals.

Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’

The anemone -flowered ‘Mambo’ is unusual.

Dahlia ‘Mambo’

But I have a weakness for single dahlias and they are the ones the bees prefer. The ‘Honka’ series comes in various colours but they are all single with reflexed petals. This one is ‘Honka Fragile’.

Dahlia ‘Honka Fragile’

Dahlias with dark foliage are always attractive and I have several dark-leaved bishops, but the one I particularly love is ‘Waltzing Mathilda’, the colours are so peachy. Here she is waltzing her way through the dark blue Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’.

So far I haven’t mentioned any colarettes, these are dahlias with flat petals and a collar of florets at the centre. Here is one called ‘Night Butterfly’ and she seems to have strong genes because she has bequeathed her distinctive flowers to many of her seedling in my garden.

Dahlia ”Night Butterfly’

And that is what I really want to show you today. You can see the above dahlias in any catalogue but my babies are unique to my garden. If you start off with a varied selection of dahlias, then growing your own from seed is endlessly fascinating because you never know what you will get. And of course it is addictive. If you sow them early they will bloom the first year and each succeeding year they get better and better. These red, year- old children are taller than me.

They look lovely en masse.

Most of the seedlings are single or semi double. I have the odd anemone- flowered one like this child of ‘Totally Tangerine’

There are lots of ‘Honka ‘ children with slender reflexed petals. The yellow one surprised me because I don’t have any yellow dahlias.

I have loads which have inherited the collar from ‘Night Butterfly’, some tidier than others.

I wish I had time and space to show them all to you but as I probably have about sixty dahlias it is not possible. So just one more and it was a total surprise as it is a cactus-type dahlia and I don’t understand how the bees pulled this one off.

I will finish my paean to dahlias with three vases showing the range of colours of my babies. I am joining in with Cathy’s meme ‘In a Vase on Monday’ and I hope she will forgive this long-winded introduction to my vases. As you can see I am a little obsessed After all what else gives you so much colour for the whole of the summer?

If you go over to Rambling in the Garden you will see what other people have found to put into a vase on this last day of the summer. And thanks to Cathy who, come rain or shine never lets us down.

Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Lovely Leaves.

It’s a long time since I wrote about foliage in the garden and yet it is such an important element. I use it a lot, not just as a foil for my flowers but to create an atmosphere of its own. I love to use green to make enticing paths like this ancient brick path which is lined with ferns and earlier in the season tall angelica. Overhanging the path is an old mulberry tree on one side and an ancient apple tree overhangs the wall on the other side. The red rose is a jarring note and I will probably move it.

You approach it through this gate at the other end.

Half way down the path this Kalopanax septemlobus looks quite exotic with its spiny bark and big leaves..

Kalopanax septemlobus
Kalopanax septemlobus

But today I want to talk about my Henri Rousseau, jungle garden. I have made a little path of stepping stones leading in to it and I like the green tunnel effect tempting you in to what looks like a hidden path.

The jungly effect of this part of the garden is enhanced by the bright, bold colours of the dahlias and other flowers, but more importantly, it is the foliage which is even more effective and eventually it will probably create too much shade for the dahlias. But that is fine because I love the jungly effect of interesting foliage. The leaves of this Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ are enormous and it is suckering and spreading so it is clearly happy here. Behind it is the hardy banana Musa basjoo which is forming a nice clump. Even though it is reasonably hardy, I give it a fleecy jacket in winter. To the right is the black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra.

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’

I have another type of hardy banana relation called Musella lasiocarpa or the Golden Lotus banana which is supposed to have spectacular golden lotus type flowers. It is still young but it survived last winter outside.

Musella lasiocarpa

The foxglove tree, Paulownia tomentosa has huge leaves too if you cut it down in the spring. You sacrifice the flowers this way but I grow it for the bold leaves.

Paulownia tomentosa

More height is provided by this tall reed Arundo donax var. ‘Versicolor’ another present from the jetty garden.

Arundo donax var. ‘Versicolor’

I love it with the fingers of Schleffera taiwaniana next to it

Schleffera taiwaniana

When I made a video of the garden a month or two ago, I said that the next shrub is a Shleffera but I made a mistake, it is actually an unusual Castor Oil plant called Fatsia polycarpa ‘Green Fingers’. I love the shiny, pointed leaves.

Fatsia polycarpa ‘Green Fingers’

Giant plants add to the jungly effect and I have quite a few of these wonderful rare tree dahlias you see in the next picture. The seeds came from New Zealand and they are the result of crosses between the tree dahlia Dahlia imperialis and hybrid garden dahlias. They were produced by Dr Keith Hammett who sent seeds to Matthew at Riverside Bulbs who gave them to me to grow on and he kindly let me keep some. As they are new to this country we don’t know whether I will get any flowers before the first frosts. Dahlia imperialis blooms in the autumn. But never mind I like the size of the plants and it is amazing they have grown so big in their first year from seed.

Next to it is the Eucalyptus gunnii which I chop down each year because I don’t want it to get too big and I like the round, juvenile leaves.

Eucalyptus gunnii

Nearby there is the golden bean tree Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’ which can also be stooled each year to get huge leaves.

Next to the bean tree there are grasses, the evergreen Pittosporum tenuifolium and the grey foliage of Euryops pectinatus. I have found that this is hardy and it produces its yellow daisy flowers early in the spring.

I have a variegated Pittospermum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’ here too which is lovely for flower arrangements.

Pittospermum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’

An unusual shrub which is much admired in this part of the garden is Rubus lineatus. It is a lovely plant with pleated leaves and nobody believes it is a member of the blackberry family. I have read that it has edible fruit but mine is three years old now and has never fruited. But I love the foliage.

Rubus lineatus
Rubus lineatus

Quite a few of the foliage plants here are are grown from seeds I have picked up on my travels. The loquat, Eriobotrya japonica came from Italy. I don’t think it will flower or fruit in this country but I love the foliage. Next to it is a cistus which I grew from a seed from Corsica. It has shiny pink flowers in June but I would grow it anyway because I love the silvery grey foliage.

Eriobotrya japonica

The olive tree in the above picture was a present from my son as it had grown rather too big for its pot on his jetty garden.

On holiday in the Peloponnese in Greece I found the seed for this pretty Melia azedarach tree. I have never seen it growing in the UK so I thought that perhaps it isn’t hardy, but it has lived outside for two years now. So far it has not flowered but it doesn”t matter as I love the foliage.

Melia azedarach

I like the lacy leaves with the stiff upright foliage of the variegated yucca.

Cannas provide good foliage too. They are easy from seed, or they would be if the seeds weren’t like ball bearings with incredibly tough skins which you are supposed to sand paper before sowing. I managed to take the skin off my finger tips without making much impact on the seeds. Still I did grow this Canna musifolia which has banana type leaves.

Canna musifolia

I have several red leaved and stripey leaved cannas but my favourite is this variegated one called ‘Stuttgart’.

Canna ‘Stuttgart’

At ground level I have hostas and ferns and to my amazement a couple of caladiums which I had forgotten I had and they survived outside over winter.


When I first made this jungle garden three years ago the dahlias were the main feature and last year I had an enormous number of additional dahlias which I grew from seed to add to the dahlia delight. I still love them as they bloom from June until the first frosts and are wonderful for picking too. But now that the foliage plants have matured I love them just as much, if not more than the dahlias. Colour comes and goes but the shapes and texture of leaves are a constant joy. And they are so tactile; they can be woolly or silky, shiny, wrinkly or waxy. I can’t remember who wrote that without foliage, flowers just look like colourful hay but I agree with that. Of course, interesting foliage sets flowers off beautifully. But interesting foliage is interesting and beautiful in its own right. I’m not sure if a love of foliage is an acquired taste like oysters which comes to us in maturity. But I love it more and more and I am even contemplating a foliage garden with no flowers at all for my next project. But we will see.

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

August Top Ten Blooms.

This is going to be my last monthly Top Ten Bloom post. I have been doing it for several years now and it is getting to be a bit repetitive. Right now I would rather be writing about my Mediterranean garden or my Henri Rousseau garden or beautiful foliage. The other problem is that sometimes at the beginning of the month there is something stunning that I would like to write about and then by the 23rd it is past its best and so I never do get round to it.

Anyway, I shall try and avoid plants I have mentioned in previous posts, I don’t want to repeat myself year after year. And I shall keep this short; I won’t be rambling today or sneakily fitting in far more than ten blooms as I usually do because I am writing with only one functional eye. The other is black and blue and swollen after coming off worse in an argument with a vicious, pointy branch of silver birch, Betula allbosinensis ‘Pink Champagne’. Actually, it wasn’t an argument, it was an unprovoked attack.

I love daisies of any kind so this is where I shall start. Echinaca purpurea is reliable and the clumps get bigger every year. It seeds around too.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’

I’m only at number one and all ready I am popping in a few extra blooms. This year I broke my rule of not buying any fancy new echinacea hybrids because so far they have never survived to see another year. But I couldn’t resist ‘Tomato Soup’.

Echinacea x hybrida ‘Tomato Soup’

And then this one with a topknot caught my eye; ‘Eccentric’ is a good name for it.

Echinnacea x hybrida ‘Eccentric’

And then as I was really getting into buying echinaceas I thought I would throw in this pale pink one too. I have hardly bought any plants during this plague year so a little over-indulgence in echinaceas of doubtful hardiness is allowable.

Echinacea ‘Pink Top’

I love rudbeckias too and usually I grow some from seed but this year I didn’t get round to it so I bought one. It has the ridiculous name of Rudbeckia hirta ‘Happy Smiley’. I nearly gave it a miss because of its ridiculous name but it is so pretty. You can also get ‘Laughing Smiley’ or ‘Giggling Smiley’ if you can bear to possess plants with such silly names.

Echinacea hirta ‘Happy Smiley’

I persist in growing hostas despite the constant battle with slugs and snails. But if I ever gave them up I would always keep Hosta plantaginea or one of its family because the flowers are so pretty and most importantly they have a delicious scent. I have Hosta ‘Guacamole’ in a cast iron urn so it never gets attacked by slugs and I pick the flowers because they make the room smell lovely. This gorgeous hosta is a sport of ‘Fragrant Bouquet’. It has shiny, apple- green leaves streaked with dark green so it is pretty all summer long, but it is the fragrant flowers that I grow it for.

Hosta ‘Guacamole’

Each year I grow a few different cosmos, they are so quick and easy from seed and they are lovely for cutting. This year my favourite is Cosmos ‘Cupcakes Blush’. I love the shape of the flowers and the pinked edges to the petals.

Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’
Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’

But I also like the ruffled flowers of Cosmos ‘Double Click Cranberries’.

Cosmos ‘Double Click Cranberries’

I seem to be straying into more than one for each bloom, so for the rest of my August selection I will confine myself to just one. It is a shame to miss out Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ or ‘Limpopo’ and ‘Hellfire’ or dainty ‘ Golden Ballerina,’ but never mind I can show you another time. Today I am featuring Crocosmia’ Fire King’ because it was a new one last year. It looks lovely with the jolly French Marigolds ‘Flamenco’. I think these are rather fun, I might put some in a pot next year. How times change, a few years I would have been appalled at the idea of growing French Marigolds. Now my Henri Rousseau garden has opened me up to a whole new world of colour.

Tagetes patula ‘Flamenco’

Nearby I have a little species dahlia called ‘Dark Desire’ which looks good with the stripey Tagetes patula ‘Jolly Jester.’ on the right there are the orange pouches of Calceolaria ‘Kentish Hero’

Whoops, I’m digressing again. Back to the crocosmia which is contributing to the bonfire effect in my exotic garden,

Crocosmia ‘Fire King’

I love white bell- shaped flowers and I love white flowers and Galtonia candicans ticks both boxes. It is a bulbous perennial and as it produces plenty of seeds it is easy to grow on and I always have some to give away or put in a pot. I also grow a green- flowered one called Galtonia viridiflora.

Galtonia candicans
Galtonia viridiflora

If your idea of gladiolus is the large- flowered, (dare we say vulgar) flowers that Dame Edna Everage used to pelt her audience with, then I think that the elegant Gladiolus ‘Papilio Ruby’ will astonish you with its sophisticated charm. It grows in my gravel garden and I hope it will survive the winter, I am not quite sure of its hardiness.

Gladiolus ‘Papilio Ruby’
Gadioolus ‘Papilio Ruby’

I love the pixie cap flowers of the climbing plant, Codonopsis lanceolata which is happy with a couple of bamboo sticks to scale. It dies back each year after flowering. I grow it in pots although I have found that it survives outside in my gravel garden too. It has delightful bell -shaped green flowers which are marked with rusty purple inside. I believe the roots of these plants are eaten in their native Korea and they have medicinal properties. But I’ll stick with carrots. This plant produces plenty of seed so you never need be without it.

I have another codonopsis with pure white flowers called Codonopsis greywilsonii ‘Himel Snow’ which blooms a little earlier in July.

Codonopsis grey-wilsonii ‘Himel Snow’

I shall finish with my Chaste Tree, Vitex agnus- casti. Last year I saw this growing wild around the ancient site of Mystras overlooking Sparta in Greece. We should be going there next week but this year I shall just have to enjoy it in the garden instead. The Ancient Greeks grew it round temples because they thought it helped to keep women chaste whilst they were in frenzied worship during rituals celebrating their virgin goddess, Artemis. Pliny wrote of them ‘They made their pallets and beds with the leaves thereof to cool the heat of their lust’. Centuries later, I believe monks made tea from leaves of the plant for the same purpose. Nowadays, it is a useful plant for late summer blooms. Like Hibiscus syriacus, it comes into leaf late in the year. I am told the leaves are similar to those of cannabis. I have never seen cannabis growing but I have seen it recommended as a handsome foliage plants in old gardening books. I am not very keen on buddleia but although the flower spikes of this are similar, I think it is much more attractive.

Vitex agnus-castus.

So there we have ten August blooms with just a few digressions. It could be worse, if I hadn’t got a black eye I should probably have gone off at a total tangent into the cult of Artemis in the Peloponnese which I find fascinating. And there would be more flowers. As it is I am saving my beloved dahlias for another post and here are a few more in a gallery.

So that is the last of my Top Ten Blooms. It would be lovely if you would share some of your August favourites.

From now on each month I shall feature either whatever is looking good in the greenhouse or I shall choose something a bit rare or unusual. I haven’t quite decided which. I would appreciate a little input, which would you prefer; monthly greenhouse plants or something unusual?

Posted in Uncategorized | 39 Comments

On the Beach.

It’s been too hot to blog lately, too hot to do anything but lie in the hammock and read and plot new projects for the garden. Oh, and there’s been watering to do of course, endless, back-breaking watering. So this is not a post about the real beach; I haven’t been there for months, there are too many ‘staycationers’ swarming around on all my favourite beaches. But my shed looks like a beach hut and I have created a little beach all round it. It’s a pity there is no cool water to plunge into but I have a lot of blue flowers to cool me down. I have waves of blue agapanthus for the sea with white ones to represent the surf. OK, you have to squint at them and use your imagination to imagine it as the sea.

I have shells and fossils and stones which I have picked up over the years.

I even have a resident seagull.

I have a lovely sky blue flax to give me a taste of the holiday we had to cancel last month. We had planned to cycle the ‘Véloroute du Lin’ which follows the traditional flax route across Normandy. So instead of fields of blue I have this, which is pretty, but I would love to see fields of it.

Linum narbonense ‘Heavenly Blue’

I have fabulous Eryngium bourgatii ‘Picos Blue’ in metallic blue. I have seen this growing in sand dunes on Mediterranean beaches so it should be at home here in the gravel.

Eryngium bourgatii ‘Picos Blue’

I like thistly plants and I have another one on my beach which is probably not particularly maritime, it comes from South Africa. I like its silvery lilac flowers and I love the spiky leaves. It is called Berkheya purpurea.

Berkheya purpurea

Bulbine frutescens is another South African plant, this time with fleshy leaves. I think it looks good growing in the gravel. I came upon it for the first time growing on a roundabout in France. To my shame, I risked the Pianist’s disapproval, death by being run over and angry gendarmes because I just had to have a tiny piece of it. Luckily it grows easily from tiny pieces and so I keep some in the greenhouse every winter as it is not hardy.

Bulbine frutescens

You often see sea campion on cliffs and I love any sort of campion. This is the variegated one, Silene uniflora ‘Druett’s Variegated’

Silene uniflora ‘Druetts Variegated’

The lovely starry lilac flowers are Tulbaghia violacea. It looks good with the eryngium foliage.

And yes, that is a foot below. In the foreground is another campion which seeds and spreads readily which is lucky because people are always asking for a bit.

Silene uniflora
Silene uniflora

I always knew of this as Silene uniflora but I think it may be called Silene maritima now.

I have it in pink too.

Silene uniflora ‘Pink’

I don’t suppose camapanulas are particularly beachy but I love them, specially the little ones so I have a few dinky bells ringing in the gravel.

Other plants which are very much seaside plants are various kinds of Drift, Armeria maritima which bloom in early summer.

Armeria maritima

The horned Sea Poppy grows on beaches here in Suffolk and the native one is yellow. I love this orange one, Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum. The flowers are pretty but now they are over. I have cut off all the stems and enjoy the lovely grey leaves.

Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum
Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum

Lined up outside my shed I have a selection of succulents. I seem to have a surprising number of these which is odd as years ago I didn’t even like them. I fell in love with them when I went to Tresco in the Scilly Isles. I associate them with seaside places after seeing them planted all over the cliffs at the open air theatre at Minack in Cornwall. I wish I had some cliffs to display them.

But the pièce de résistance of my beach in summer is the agapanthus. I grew them all from seed and they have all come out bigger and better than any of their parents. So here they are reminding me once again of Tresco where they have escaped from the gardens to roam about on the dunes.

So now I have shared my beach with you I am off to see what everyone else has been doing whilst I lazed in my hammock. If you live in the UK, I hope your gardens have survived the intense heat. And you too. There have been days when I nearly climbed into the goldfish pond to cool off.

Posted in Uncategorized | 56 Comments

Six on Saturday. And Now for Something Completely Different.

I have grown the lovely perennial snapdragon, Antirrhinum ‘Pretty in Pink’ for several years. It was launched to great acclaim at Chelsea Flower Show in 2015. It grows big and bushy and blooms all summer long and yes, it is hardy.

Antirrhinum ‘Pretty in Pink’

It seeds around and so there are always plenty of plants to give away to friends. But this year it produced something quite new. I am now the proud owner of the first white perennial antirrhinum. I haven’t thought of a name yet. Any suggestions?

Last year I grew the pretty Nicotiana ‘Tinkerbell’.

Nicotiana ‘Tinkerbell’

And I always have the stately Nicotiana sylvestris popping up here and there.

Nicotiana syvestris

So this year I have what looks like a result of their liasion. And it is gorgeous.

And here is another baby which is different again.

People who read my blog regularly probably know that I am nutty about nerines. The first one to bloom is always the bright red Nerine sarniensis which is not hardy and has to live in the greenhouse.

Nerine sarniensis

This year I bought a new one called Nerine sarniensis ‘Corusca major’ which I thought would be bigger and better and redder. I don’t know whether this was mislabelled or what happened; it is early flowering but the wrong colour. If I hadn’t expected a lovely bright red bloom I would be pleased with it as it is much earlier blooming than the other nerines. But pink?

Nerine sarniensis ‘Corusca major’ ?

And now for some plants which are new and different for me but perhaps not for you.

I have never grown watsonia as I am not sure how hardy it is but this year I am trying a lovely peach one in my gravel garden.

Watsonia borbonica ‘Peach Glow’

If it is successful next year I shall try this fabulous Watsonia fourcadei which I saw growing at Green Island Gardens recently.

Watsonia fourcadei, Green Island Gardens, Essex.

I don’t know whether Lily ‘Fusion’ is a new hybrid but it is new to me this year and I love it. It is a cross between Lilium longiflorum and the Leopard lily, Lilium pardilinum. It is my current favourite lily.

Lilium ‘Fusion’

I will finish with something very different. Many people grow the fragrant Abyssinian gladiolus, Acidanthera murielae which is so difficult to bring back into bloom. It is actually called Gladiolus murielae now. The Abyssinian gladiolus is the only one that is fragrant. Joan Wright, who was a plant breeder from New Zealand tried for many years to create a new fragrant gladiolus by making crosses with Gladioulus murielae. Gladioulus murielae ‘Lucky Star’ was the only result. It was originally introduced in 1966 but was lost to gardeners for decades. It is new to me this year and I hope I can keep it going. It is a gem with large, fragrant, white flowers with a fuchsia -pink centre.

Gladiolus murielae ‘Lucky Star’

So there we have it, my Six On Saturday for August. I hope I have shown you something a little bit different. Many thanks to the Propagator for hosting the popular meme and this week I have stuck to the rules, more or less.

Posted in Uncategorized | 35 Comments

The Jetty Garden Again.

Every summer I write a post about the wonderful jetty garden belonging to our much loved Boaties; my son, Bertie and his partner, Beatrice. Their home is a converted Thames sugar lighter and they don’t let a simple thing like not having any soil get in the way of having a fabulous garden on their jetty. Each year we think it just can’t get any better and it does.

I’m still not sure what the magic trick is to grow hostas like these. This is just one plant of ‘Sum and Substance’.

Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’

And notice there is not a trace of slug damage, although no pellets are used , just daily vigilance and the slimy offenders are thrown into the river.

I’m not sure which variety this next one is but I love the dark purple flower stems.

And this is a novel way to hide an ugly plastic pot. Soleirolia or ‘Mind- You- Own- Business’ as it’s commonly known. The hosta was a seedling.

Tree ferns are another specialty. Here are a couple with Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ The willow on the right hand corner is Salix exigua.

Bertie was complaining that ‘Limelight’ doesn’t look as good as it should because he didn’t get round to pruning it. I just wish my Hydrangea paniculata looked like this.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’

And here is the willow. The tree on the left is an olive.

But back to the tree ferns, I have lost count how many there are.

Birds love the jetty and they have an amazing number of nests in the spring. Here is the nest of a long tailed tit in a tree fern. It is moss and feathers and it is all delicately woven together with spiders’ webs. It is cosily enclosed with a roof . The family all hatched out safely.

The jetty garden is a green oasis with just flashes of colour, it relies on shape and form. So there are lots of different ferns, grasses and hostas. To give height there are trees in pots but also bamboos. I love the way they decorate the jetty with found objects from when they go beach combing. This rope looks wonderful wrapped round the bamboo pot.

I grow the Japanese grass, Hachonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ in a pot too, but it certainly doesn’t look anything like this. We sat at socially distanced tables for lunch and a sign of the times, there was hand sanitiser on the table.

Hachonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

And here is the other table. Lunch was, as always, delicious.

A recent addition is Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ which will need a jetty all to itself once those leaves start expanding.

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’

It seems a good day to write about the jetty garden as it is Bertie’s birthday today, so Happy Birthday my son, and lots of love to you and your lovely Beatrice.

Posted in Uncategorized | 40 Comments

Top Ten July Blooms.

My favourite July blooms are dahlias and agapanthus, but these beauties deserve posts of their own instead of being bundled in with the also-rans. So coming up soon will be posts about my ‘seashore garden’ where the agapanthus live and the ‘Henri Rousseau’ garden where all my fabulous dahlias create a jungle effect. But today’s list has some lovely blooms too.

Let’s start with fragrance and I think it is worth battling lily beetles and killing them gruesomely each day to enjoy these beauties. My favourite is the amazing ‘Silk Road’. It is an ‘Orientpet’ lily, that is a cross between Oriental and Trumpet lilies. It is a giant, growing to 180 cm. It has huge gloriously fragrant flowers. I love it and next year I shall have it growing in extravagant abundance.

Lilium ‘Silk Road’

Growing in my jungle, I have, appropriately enough, ‘African Queen’ which is an Asiatic trumpet lily in a gorgeous soft apricot.

Lilium ‘African Queen’

In my secret garden I have two lilies in bloom at the moment, one is another apricot one, at least she is white with apricot centres spotted with brown, she has lovely reflexed petals and gorgeous stamens. ‘Lady Alice’ is a real aristocrat.

Lilium ‘Lady Alice’

Also in the secret garden I have another orientpet lily but not such a giant as ‘Silk Road’. It has the unromantic name of ‘Leslie Woodriff’.

Lilium ‘Leslie Woodriff’

In a border I have the deepest, darkest lily imaginable called ‘Night Flyer’.

Lilium ‘Night Flyer’

Talking about flying, I have a new Asiatic lily here called ‘Pink Flight’.

Lilium ‘Pink Flight’

I found it impossible to pick out just one lily for my top ten blooms but if I carry on like this and show you all the clematis and all the different jasmine we will be here all day, and so I will make it snappy and select just one of each. This is difficult specially with the clematis because now is the time for the lovely texensis and viticella hybrids which I adore. But still I will choose just one viticella and it is the gorgeous Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’. Here it is looking great in my secret garden.

Moving swiftly on, although it seems very rude to ignore the beautiful Clematis ‘Betty Corning’, let’s look at the fabulously named Jasminum officinale ‘Clotted Cream’ It bears an abundance of large blooms which are in fact just the colour of clotted cream and I chose to feature this one because I pass it every time I go to the greenhouse and it smells divine, although it doesn’t look good all year round like my golden leaved one, Jasminum officinale ”Fiona’s Surprise’.

Jasminum offiicinale ‘Clotted Cream’

Another deliciously fragrant climber is Trachelospermum and I have a golden- leaved one and a pink flowered one, but today I will just show you the one scrambling up the wall and trying to creep in the windows. It is Trachelospermum jasminoides and as well as the glorious fragrance, its leaves turn red in winter. It is sometimes called Star Jasmine but this is misleading because although it has starry flowers it is not a jasmine at all

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Fragrance is another feature of my number five bloom. It is the Mount Etna broom and when mature it makes a light, airy tree with yellow pea-like flowers. Genista aetnensis is endemic to Sicily and also Sardinia where it grows in poor, stony soil. I have it in my gravel garden. Here it is with the pink, bushy Diascia personata.

Genista aetnensis

And now for something completely different and rather rare. Echium webbii is endemic to the Canary Islands where it is restricted to the Island of La Palma. It is rarely seen for sale here and I am grateful to my lovely friend Maggie for this gorgeous plant. It also grows in my gravel, but is is quite tender so it spent its first year in the greenhouse and survived last winter in the garden under a blanket of several layers of fleece. I have read that it is biennial, but I have also read that it survives for several years although it is short lived. But never mind, it is easy from cuttings. This year it is flowering for the first time and I am thrilled with it. The flowers are a beautiful shade of blue and the bees love it too. You have probably seen the soaring spires of Echium pininana. but Echium webbi is a rounded and shrubby.

Echium webbii

I have another shrub which I don’t think is particularly rare but most visitors don’t recognise it. It is Bupleurum fruticosum and it comes from sunny hills and rocky places in the Mediterranean. I imagine it would make a good seaside plant. I love umbellifers and this plant has umbels of sulphur yellow flowers which look like little buttons. It has attractive foliage so it looks good all year round. It is a great plant for pollinators, although I am not sure about the ones here; a wasp and suspicious looking beetles which will probably wreak havoc somewhere when they have finished sunning themselves. I have often been asked for a piece of this plant but so far I have had no success with cuttings.

Bupleurum fruticosum
Bupleurum fruticosum

I love apricot coloured flowers and I love mallows so Sphaeralacea ambigua is a winner for me and it is such a gorgeous soft apricot which looks perfect with Kniphofia ‘Timothy’ and the giant grass Stipa Gigantea.

Sphaeralcea ambigua
Sphaeralcea ambigua

I love the elegant spires of Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ and I don’t know why I only have one plant, I would like to have the pointy fingers popping up all over the garden.

Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Facination’

I will finish with a hydrangea and this time I am happy not to show all the ones I grow because most of them are not to be boasted about, the poor things struggle. I don’t know why I persist with them when it is really too dry for them here. But I do have one which is happy because it is lucky to live in one of the damper parts of the garden. It was a cutting which I brought from my old garden and I love it for its clusters of tiny flowers. It is called Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Ayesha’. I read somewhere that they are slightly fragrant but I have never got round to sniffing them. Ayesha is pretty in pink but I suppose in an acid soil she would be lilac or even blue.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Ayesha’

So here are my July beauties, please join me and show us some of yours. In the meantime I am sorry to miss out so many lovely July flowers so I am going to put a few of them in a gallery.

Posted in Uncategorized | 31 Comments

Wordless Wednesday. Amazing Grey.

Papaver rhoeas ‘Amazing Grey’
Papaver rhoeas ‘Amazing Grey’
Papaver rhoeas ‘Amazing Grey’
Papaver rhoeas ‘Amazing Grey’
Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments

Six on Saturday. In the Greenhouse.

The last few days have been windy and showery, so now seems a good time to croon over beauties in the greenhouse. One shelf is taken up with my nerines which are waiting for their time of glory later as the summer comes to an end. Under the staging are all the pots of cuttings which I am compelled to take whether I need more plants or not.

But I keep one shelf for the display of whatever is in bloom at the moment. If I was doing this last month my epiphyllums would have been taking centre stage with their ridiculously flamboyant flowers in shades of pink, yellow and red. I have rather a lot of epiphyllums and I don’t know why; they only bloom for two or three days, and they take up ever more room with their long, spreading tentacles. This is the last bloom collapsing.


So epiphyllums, lovely as they are, don’t make it to my chosen six today. As I love scented flowers, I am starting with the gloriously scented and very aristocratic, Hymenocallis ‘Sulphur Queen’. Its common name is Peruvian daffodil, but I tell you that reluctantly because of course it is not a daffodil, so let’s not pretend it is. I love its frilly corona and long filaments and the green stripes in its throats. Next year I shall buy more bulbs and try some in the garden although they will have to come in for winter as they are not hardy.

Hymenocallis ‘Sulphur Queen.

I usually have a pot or two of Habranthus robustus in the greenhouse as they seed copiously. They are much loved by slugs and you have to be vigilant otherwise you will find the eagerly awaited flowers have been chewed off. I always thought they were called Habranthus robustus but now I find that is a synonym and the correct name is Zephyranthes robustus. They are a member of the amaryllis family. As they seed so generously I think I shall try some outside in my gravel garden.

Zephyranthes robustus

Next to the zephyranthes and looking very nice is a succulent I would never buy or even glance at normally. It is a kalanchoe that a kind friend gave me and I put it in the greenhouse and forgot all about it. But it is smothered in pink-flushed white blooms and looking wonderful.

Kalanchoe calandiva

Joining this little group of pink and white are a few pots of starry Rhodohypoxis baurii. These are clump forming tuberous plants from South Africa. In theory these can be grown outside in a sunny dry spot but I have never managed it. They need to be kept dry in winter and so it is easier to keep them in the greenhouse where you can control their environment. They like a slightly acidic soil. If you pick off the dead flowers they will bloom for ages. Once they finish blooming then they need to be kept dry.

Rhodohypoxis bauirii
Rhodohypoxis baurii

Every year I buy a couple of hippeastrums for Christmas and to my shame until now I have never got them to bloom again. To my amazement this one decided to give me a beautiful summer bloom and I am delighted. I can’t boast about it though as it is more by accident then design. Incidentally, I don’t know why people still call these Amaryllis. They are in the Amaryllidaceae family but Amaryllis come from South Africa and these beauties come from the Americas. 


My last plant comes from South Africa too. It is a giant with a bulb as big as a grapefruit. It is Albuca nelsonii or Nelson’s Slime Lily, if you prefer its rather unpleasant common name, I find it rather offensive. The white flowers with a green marking are very eye-catching. It is easy to get more as each bubil will grow on.

Albuca nelsonii
Albuca nelsonii

Albuca shawii is another pretty albuca with yellow smaller, bell -shaped flower, it is not yet in bloom but I will show you later how pretty it is.

So there we have it, six of my greenhouse beauties. But what a shame to miss out some of the others. I will pop a few in a gallery if it is not cheating too much. I believe the Propagator who hosts this meme is quite stringent in his requirements but maybe he won’t notice. Anyway, do pop over to see how he and other Sixers are brightening up a rather dull Saturday.

Posted in Uncategorized | 33 Comments