Well, the weather has been so cold and grey since my last Favourite Bloom post, that not a great deal has happened. We still have hellebores and snowdrops, only more so. But this weekend, joy, oh joy, the sun came out and I took some photographs. It’s raining again today of course.
Sorry if you find them less than fascinating, but February is the month of the snowdrop. Unfortunately, dear Pip’s snowdrop appreciation days are long gone, but here he is again to remind me what a great little garden companion he was.
One advantage of living in a 500 year old house is that there have been many years for snowdrops to establish themselves and make carpets. They are not thought to be native. In medieval times, they were extensively planted in abbeys, priories and churchyards, and from there made their way to local gardens, roadsides and woodlands. I suspect previous owners brought mine from the nearby church. Not only did the early church take over pagan festivals but they claimed favourite flowers as well. Snowdrops were associated with Candlemas and the purification of the Virgin. It is odd that there was, and perhaps still is, a superstition that it is unlucky to pick and bring into the house these symbols of purity. It probably started in Victorian times when as it grew in churchyards so prolifically, it was associated with death. It doesn’t stop me enjoying little vases of them.
I have a pretty one that must have hybridised with one of my Greatorex doubles. I have most of the nice neat Shakespearean heroines, ‘Ophelia’, ‘Desdemona’ and ‘Titania’ as well as ‘Hippolyta’ , ‘Jaquenetta’ and one which just has a number’ G71′.
But I didn’t plant this beauty.
And then, great excitement, amongst the ordinary doubles I found this whopper. The double snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’ is variable but mine have small, neat rosettes of inner segments. I put one of the usual little ones in a vase with the big one to show the difference. It has a huge flower and four aberrant, long inner segments. Next year if it has bulked up a bit I will twin scale it.
I know that non-enthusiasts think they all look the same and many of them are so alike that even experts can’t tell them apart and there is an element of Emperor’s clothes about them. Having said that, there are many with significant differences.
Almost hidden by the heather, I found that ‘Trymlet’ has bulked up nicely. It has distinctive green markings on the outer petals.
Skinny ‘Wasp’ is instantly recognisable.
Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’ is famous for its yellow markings. I bought it last year so it is quite small at the moment.
There are other yellow marked snowdrops, this one is ‘Spindlestone Surprise’
Galanthus plicatus ‘Edinburgh Ketton ‘ has a distinct green H marking n the inner segment.
Ok, I could go on and on, but I can feel you getting restless, just one more for now; I might try and sneak a few more in another post. Galanthus woronowi soon bulks up into lovely carpets with sweet smelling flowers and very distinctive apple green leaves.
February is also the month for Leucojum vernum which has dear little tiffany lamp shade flowers on short stems. They are pretty and they soon clump up nicely, but there is never the excitement of finding something a bit different unless you have the twin-headed one Leucojum vernum var. ‘Vagneri’ or the yellow tipped Leucojum vernum var. ‘Carpathicum’. I used to have the yellow tipped one but it seems to have reverted to green.
This little darling is not to be confused with the tall small- headed Leucojum aestivum which seeds all over and is quite undistinguished. Despite its name ‘aestivum’ meaning ‘summer’, it starts blooming in February.
I could talk all day about snowdrops but I am also a hellebore bore. They started last month,they look even better now and in March they will still look good, so they take us very nicely over the winter. Here are a few.
It is worth peering up the skirts of this next one as it is anemone- flowered, with a neat little ruff of tiny petals inside.
Last month the tommies, Crocus tommasinianus were starting but now there are carpets of them. They seed around everywhere.
They vary in shade from pale lilac to deep purple and now and then a yellow one appears. This one is doing a chameleon act to blend in with the winter aconites.
Next the little species crocus appear, much daintier than their fat Dutch cousins.
I showed you my earliest precious daffodil, ‘Cedric Morris’ in December and then again in January. Now we have the the more substantial Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ which is always in bloom by February and some years as early as January. If you want an early flowering daffodil, this is the one to go for and it is widely available.
Another very early one is the smaller and I think prettier Narcissus ‘Spring Dawn. It has pale petals and a deep yellow trumpet.
It’s perhaps cheating to feature Narcissus ‘Jet Fire’ in with my February blooms. This potful is in the greenhouse, the ones in the garden won’t be blooming for a while. I love it for its reflexed petals and bright orange trumpets.
Little irises are a joy for weeks if you have some early ones in the greenhouse and plant early and late flowering ones. ‘Pauline’ is very early and is finished now. I have just nipped out in the rain to photograph lovey Iris reticulata ‘Halkis’ which is in a pot. I love this one because of the contrast of the sky blue and the purple. Actually, it doesn’t look very purple in the photo so you will just have to take my word for it.
In the front garden this little clump below comes back year after year. Iris reticulata hybrids are very pretty but by and large they have to be considered as annuals, at the most you will get two years out of them. But Iris histrioides hybrids, like those in the photo below are much more long lasting. Iris histrioides ‘Major’ is becoming quite scarce for some reason, but there are plenty of other histrioides hybrids available. If you look carefully at Iris reticulata flowers they are always skinnier than those of Iris histrioides which have broader falls.
‘Katherine Hodgkin’ is a reliable one as she is a cross between a yellow one Iris Winogradowii and Iris histrioides. Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden has picked her Katharine for a delightful vase today.
I know many people aren’t keen on mahonias but I like them for their architectural forms and racemes of primrose coloured flowers. Mahonia ‘Charity’ and ‘Winter Sun’ took us through the autumn and winter and now we have my favourite, Mahonia japonica. I love it because it is the most strongly scented of all of them, you smell it as you walk by instead of having to bury your nose in it. It smells of lily of the valley.
Another winter favourite is the witch hazel. I haven’t shown my lemon coloured Hamamelis ‘Pallida’ or the richer yellow, ‘Arnold Promise’ this year because shamefully I let them get too dry just as they were forming buds.The flowers are really sparse and next year I will be careful to mulch them and keep them from drying out. But I did buy a new one this year. A I explained to Cathy, I bought it by mistake when I went to buy eggs at my local farm shop. It was sitting there all lonely and at a very reasonable price at the exit. Clearly it had my name on it.
I know I featured the lovely queen of the Daphnes, Daphne bholua ‘Jaqueline Postill’ in December and again in January, but she just goes on getting better and better. If I could afford it I would have a grove of Jacquelines.
But this month I have a tree which is competing for my attention.It is the beautiful Japanese Apricot, Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’. It has really dark pink single blossom and it is lightly fragrant.
If you have time do join me and show your favourite February blooms.