There are some beautiful, fragrant flowers giving me pleasure this month. I have been away for a couple of weeks and I was very worried that I would miss the exquisite, pure white blooms of Magnolia wilsonii. Wilson found this gorgeous plant in China. Its flowers appear now when all risk of frost is past, so they are always pristine. They hang down so you have to lift their heads to see the dark crimson stamens. The perfume is a mixture of vanilla and lemon.
The other Magnolia in bloom now with a very similar perfume is Magnolia laevifolia ‘Gail’s Favourite’. I looked this up, to see if I could find out who Gail is, but without success. I did find one source that said this Magnolia has no perfume. Whoever wrote this has clearly never sniffed one. It smells delicious. The lovely tan buds open to creamy white flowers. This plant used to be known as Michelia laevifolia. I hope it proves hardier than other Michelias. This is the first year for mine. It is a delightful little shrub.
I have also been worried that I would miss the short- lived blooms on the Gansu Tree Peony that I grew from seed. I have already written about the disappointment I received last year when this bloomed for the first time and proved not to have the pure white flowers with maroon centres of the legendary Rockii peony that I was expecting. But still it is lovely and it is sweet smelling too. The pale pink one that I grew from the same batch of seeds is not fully open yet, so I still have the pleasure to come.
Wisteria is sweetly scented too. This one that I am trying, not entirely successfully, to train as a standard smells delicious. It was growing as a free- standing plant in my previous garden and there were always plenty of rooted pieces to give away. By the way, it is a waste of time growing Wisteria from seed; you have to wait years for the flowers and they are generally disappointing.
I was inspired by the Patient gardener to paint the summer house which you can see in the picture. It was a glaring white. In fact rather like Pooter in The Diary of a Nobody, the Pianist has got carried away and has painted anything in sight with Cuprinol Wild Thyme. Unlike Pooter who painted the bath bright red, he has restricted himself to outside furniture where at the last count there were 2 benches, 2 chairs and 2 tables painted, but the list is growing.
Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ is in bloom in the greenhouse. The flowers are a delicate shade of pink. The felty leaves have to be rubbed gently to release the spicy rose perfume. It is delicious.
There are roses out, but I will leave these for June and finish with Rhododendron luteum which smells intoxicating. I don’ t have the acid soil that this plant requires, so it lives in a pot.
Talking about intoxicating, you have probably heard the tale told by Xenephon of the retreating army of 10,000 mercenaries raised by Cyrus to seize the throne of Persia from his brother. They were within sight of the Black Sea at Trebizond and fell ill after eating honey from Rhodendron luteum. Xenephon said the ‘soldiers who ate of the honey all went off their heads and suffered from vomiting and diarrhoea and not one of them could stand up‘. They were suffering from Grayanotoxin poisoning caused by what is called ‘mad honey’. The effect is not permanent but it clearly gives you quite a buzz. The thought of 10,000 hallucinating soldiers with diarrhoea is a sobering one. ( Incidentally, am I the only one who can never remember how to spell diarrhoea? It is a good thing it is not a word I need to write very often. Specially not on a gardening blog.)
My apologies to my blogging friends who I have not been able to keep in touch with for the last couple of weeks. I have been to Ireland and not had chance to keep up with my blog reading. I will try to catch up now, but I am not sure if I will manage to read all that I have missed, as the garden is in need of a lot of catching up too.