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

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

Rosa xanthina ‘Canary Bird’

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

Rosa ‘Helen Knight’

Rosa ‘Helen Knight’

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

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

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

 

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


Just bury your nose in this. Heavenly.

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

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

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

The poet, John Masefield said:

‘I have seen the Lady April bringing the daffodils,

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

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

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

Narcissus ‘Segovia’

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

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

Narcissus ‘Bell Song’

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

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

Narcissus ‘Sundisc’

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

Narcissus ‘Pipit’

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

 

Narcissus ‘Katie Heath’

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

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

Narcissus ‘Petrel’ with Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’

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

Narcissus ‘Elka’

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

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

Narcissus bulbocodium

 

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

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

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Top Ten April Blooms.

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

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

Magnolia stellata

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

Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard messel’

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

Magnolia ‘Star Wars’

Magnolia ‘Star Wars’

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

Magnolia liliflora ‘Nigra’.

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

Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’

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

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

Ribes speciosum

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

Lathyrus vernus

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

Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’

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

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae

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

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

Euphorbia mellifera

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

Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl’

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

Euphorbia polychroma

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

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

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex ‘Plena’

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

Fritlllaria meleagris

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

Fritillaria imperialis ‘Orange Beauty’

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

Friitillaria michailovskyi

 

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

Fritillaria verticillata

Fritillaria verticillata

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

Epimedium versicolor ‘Sulphureum’

Epimedium pinnatum

Epimedium x rubrum

Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’

E. ‘Amber Queen’ Seedling

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

 

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

Arum creticum

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

Soldanella alpina growing in Switzerland

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

Soldanella alpina

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

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

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

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The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring. Tra La …

 

Like Nanki -Poo in The Mikado, I  feel like dancing and singing right now . We have had a whole week of beautiful sunshine and the  garden is sprinkled with fairy dust and spangled with flowers.

 

 

I wish my blogging friends could fly in on magic carpets and join me here for an hour or two, as so many gorgeous flowers have rushed into bloom and tender young foliage looks almost edible.

Actually, some of it is edible. This year I am growing salads and herbs in containers on a table next to the new greenhouse. This will free up some of the raised veg beds for cut flowers and save my chef, AKA the Pianist, the journey down the garden to pick leaves. He doesn’t really believe in outside and the vegetable garden is a long way off.


The blossom trees are all wearing their party dresses. I love crab apples, this one, Malus ‘Princetown Cardinal’ is only three years old but is already looking fantastic.

Malus ‘Princetown Cardinal’

I grew some seeds of the lovely little Malus transitoria a few years ago and this year one of my little trees is covered in blossom.

Malus transitoria seedling.

Some of the planting in this garden is not quite what I would have chosen but this combination of Acer  brilliantissimum  with its shrimp coloured leaves with Amelanchier lamarckii  backed with whitebeam, Sorbus aria works very well.


There are plum trees everywhere but when they are covered in white froth they are welcome.

Plum bossom

And in the orchard, the pear blossom is looking fantastic.

Pear tree.

I was going to write about my ten favourite April blooms today, but how to choose just ten amongst so many beauties is a problem. Never mind, I will save ten special blooms for my next post and in the meantime here are some of the other lovelies making my heart sing at the moment.

Let’s start with some gorgeous shrubs.

Camellia ‘Jury’s Yellow

Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’ is deliciously fragrant.

Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’

Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’ is not scented but it has lovely arching branches and masses of pure white flowers.

Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’

I bought a pure white Japanese Quince, Chaenomeles speciosa a couple of years ago. At least I thought I did, but this is how it turned out.

Mystery chaenomeles

This one wants to be a shrub rather than a climber.

Chaenomeles speciosa

The large flowered daffodils are getting over now but I prefer the later flowering dainty ones like these.

The lanes round here are edged with banks of primroses and cowslips which seem particularly prolific this year. The delicate native primrose is unbeatable but I adore all primroses and have loads of different ones, here are  a few.

We have had a long winter followed by endless rain and dreary days but this week it feels as if the garden is in a rush to make up for lost time. Everything is happening at a dizzying speed. I can’t remember who said that ‘every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment‘ but after living in a monochrome world for so long, this spring is astonishing and utterly delightful. I hope you are enjoying it too, and now it is time  for me to catch up with everyone else  and to see other people’s April delights.

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My Top Ten March Blooms.

Well, I suppose spring is here. Sort of. And very wet and soggy it is too. And it is being very capricious and threatening to flounce off again at the weekend.  I am late in the month to show my  favourites, but after so much cold and ice most of them seemed reluctant  to put in an appearance. And who can blame them? But at last my favourite March shrub Stachyurus praecox is displaying its dangling yellow beads. I love the way these flowers appear on dark brown branches before the leaves. I used to have one with creamy variegated leaves called Stachyurus chinensis ‘Magpie’ and that solved the problem of a dull looking shrub in summer. I haven’t seen it offered for sale for a long time.

Stachyurus praecox

Flowering currants are coming into bloom now. But I don’t count the ubiquitous pink Ribes sanguineum as a favourite. I have a white one which is much prettier in my eyes. It is Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’. I like it with the ghostly white bramble Rubus biflorus behind. The ‘ghost’ on the left of the picture is my Edgeworthia chrysantha which is draped in fleece to protect it from ongoing frosty nights.

Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’



Ribes laurifolium
is a very special flowering currant with clusters of  creamy green flowers. If you want to buy this plant then look out for the one named ‘Mrs. Amy Doncaster’ as it is the best form. It is very floriferous and more compact. These plants do tend to sprawl and so they look lovely trained up a wall. The flowers are slightly scented and they don’t smell of old tom cats like the pink one.

Ribes laurifolium ‘Mrs. Amy Doncaster’

My favourite blossom tree is at its best in March. Prunus ‘Kursar’ is a small tree which is laden with small dark pink flowers.

Prunus ‘Kursar.

Another cherry looking good in March is the winter flowering Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’. In milder winters it blooms throughout the winter months, but not this year.

Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’

My third March blossom tree is the one which lives in the old greenhouse. (Not the shiny new one, obviously. ) This is an apricot, Prunus armeniaca and bees are busy working it  and ensuring me a good crop of apricots this year. It is supposed to be a dwarf but has ideas above its station and keeps making a bid for freedom through the upper windows. I have had to cut it back this year.

Prunus armeniaca

Cornus mas has clusters of little yellow flowers in March and a full grown one is a glorious sight against a blue sky.It has edible fruit in autumn.

Cornus mas

March is daffodil time of course, I have inherited carpets of these in the orchard. I don’t know the names of any of these large flowered ones as they don’t excite me enough to bother learning them. I love the dainty, small ones. In the greenhouse I have the exquisite, pure white Narcissus ‘Xit’. I am sure it would be tough enough to live outside but I like it at eye level so that I can croon over it in comfort.

Narcissus ‘Xit’

When Wordsworth waxed lyrical about his ‘host of golden daffodils’, he was talking about our lovely native Narcissus pseudonarcissus which seeds around generously. I love to grow it with primroses.

Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Narcissus ‘February Gold’ is another good early one for naturalising. It is badly named though because it never blooms until March.

Narcissus ‘February Gold’

To go with all the yellow in March it is lovely to have some sky blue flowers spreading into little lakes. Chionodoxa luciliae does just this. Its name means  Glory of the Snow , ‘chion’ is ‘winter and ‘doxa’ is  glory. It grows just below the snow line in the mountains of Turkey.

Chionodoxa luciliae

For years I used to confuse chionodoxa with little Prussian blue Scilla siberica. I had to remind myself that chionodoxas put their chins up and scillas look down. Actually scillas are a much deeper blue.

Scilla siberica

I also have a very pretty little starry form of scilla called Scilla biflora but it does not spread as fast as Scilla siberica. I read in Bowles ‘My Garden in Spring‘ that if you grow scillas and chionodoxas together you get seedlings of a bi-generic hybrid called Chionoscilla, so I shall give that a go.

Another little blue treasure with striped flowers is Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica which is a long name for such a diminutive flower.

Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica

Chionodoxas come in pink too. This is Chionodoxa forbesii ‘Pink Giant’ which is pretty but not as special as the blue one.

Chionodoxa forbesii ‘Pink Giant’

 

OK, you are thinking that I am featuring more than ten blooms,  and I admit that I am cheating a bit by counting all the ribes as one, all the prunus as one and all the little blue and pink jobs just mentioned as one. I know it is stretching it a bit, but I do need space to feature one of my absolute favourite March blooms and then there are three more in the greenhouse that I want to show you. So a little sleight of hand is necessary.

Corydalis is Greek for ‘crested lark’ and what a lovely name for these little darlings. Corydalis solida comes in red, ‘George’ Baker’ or pink, ‘Beth Evans’ . I also have the pretty creamy white one called  Corydalis malkensis , mauve Corydalis cava and Corydalis pumila. They all grow together and hybridise in a delightful way. One hybrid is the delightful  named Corydalis ‘Blackerry Wine’.  They soon make little tubers, but in summer they disappear from view so you have to be careful not to put a fork through them.

Now for three pretty plants in the greenhouse. Clematis cirrhosa might sound like a horrible disease, but it is a winter- flowering clematis which is supposed to be hardy. But I don’t really believe it could come through a winter like this one unscathed and so Clematis cirrhosa. var. balearica  lives in a pot on a shelf in my new greenhouse where it can cascade downwards and delight me with its  unblemished creamy bell-like flowers.

Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica

And now for something completely different. Its flowering is eagerly awaited every spring. It is the Chilean Nasturtium, Tropaeolum tricolor which grows from tubers. Each winter it puts out very fragile, wiry stems which need something to grow up. I have a friend who grew this successfully in a very sheltered courtyard garden, but I have tried it against a warm south facing wall and lost it, so now it lives in the greenhouse where its bright red face with a gaping yellow mouth edged with black lipstick can be enjoyed at close quarters. I have recently acquired the  closely-related,yellow flowered Tropaeolum brachyceras and I am eagerly waiting to see its flowers.

Tropaeolum tricolor

As it will be Easter this week end I shall finish with a plant that is known as the Easter Broom. It is called Genista x spachiana,  although there seems to be some confusion as to its name and it is sometimes listed as a Cytisus. I have seen this growing outside but I prefer to keep it safe in the greenhouse. It is  so deliciously fragrant that I would recommend it for its scent alone although it is very floriferous.

Genista x spachiana

Next month I shall need to use even more stratagems to feature just ten favourites because there are so many treasures just waiting for a bit of sun to claim my attention and compete for the title of favourite April blooms. In the meantime, I would love it if you would share your March favourites.

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Blooms in the Greenhouse.

I was going to do a post on my ten Favourite Blooms for March this weekend. And then of course this happened.

The Return of the Beast.

We had a glorious day on Friday but apart from that, spring appears to be cancelled this year. We have had so much rain so far, that now we are waiting for a plague of frogs or boils. It’s jolly frustrating for gardeners. I have been scraping the barrel finding things to do out there. I have spring cleaned my summer house and painted it.

Summer House.

Although I don’t feel tempted to sit out there at the moment.

It’s a pity the roof is covered in snow, because it means I can’t show you the beautiful cedar wood shingles. My son-in-law, (obviously the world’s best) gave up so much of his precious free time last year to give my old summer house a new lease of life with a smart new roof.

I have also finally cleared  up my  plant pot shed. Clearly, I was really desperate to  do this on a freezing March day. Actually, it had got to the point where I couldn’t shut the door. It was so full of plastic pots, a towering monument to my extravagance. I wrote about my pot shed before and mused about what I might unleash when I reached its bowels.

Pot Shed Beastie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, what I found was just more and more pots, not all mine, my predecessor left enough to create a whole new landfill site. Surely pots could be made of some slow bio-degradable material. We gardeners like to think we are helping to save the planet, not carpeting it with plastic pots. Anyway, I got rid of loads of them and the lovely Pianist put up some shelves for the rest.

No, several friends have already asked me, as you can see I didn’t wash them before I put them away. I will wash them as I need them. The Pianist wonders why I need to keep so many. ‘Oh reason not the need’ as King Lear would say. I have already taken so many to the dump that I am getting funny looks when I go there.

Anyway I digress, this is about the greenhouse as that is where the blooms are to be found at the moment. Cathy at RamblingintheGarden asked me which plants I had in there for winter colour. Earlier there were hyacinths, little irises, crocuses and snowdrops.  Sarcococca, skimmia and pieris will be planted outside when they have finished blooming as will the hellebores. Primroses come in every colour imaginable and certainly keep the colour coming. Of course apart from the jasmine, lemon and mimosa most of the plants are hardy but in the greenhouse they bloom earlier and are quite unaffected by ice and snow.

At the moment I am enjoying some diminutive daffodils. This little Narcissus cyclamineus ‘Cecil Nice’ is just 4 inches tall and was named after a head gardener at Nymans.

Narcissus ‘Cecil Nice’

I think pale lemon Narcissus ‘Gypsy Queen’ is even prettier. Next to it is the late- flowering reticulated Iris ‘Scent -Sational’ which is slightly scented.

Narcissus ‘Gypsy Queen’ with Iris ‘Scent-Sational’

Next year I shall grow some little hoop petticoat Narcissus romieuxii which flower in winter in the greenhouse.


Amongst the larger ones I have a couple of pots of the fragrant Narcissus ‘Bridal Crown’. ‘Tete-a- tete’ and ‘Jetfire’ are useful for early flowering, but next year I shall try out some different ones. I love the fluffy heads of ‘Rip Van Winkle’ which dates from the nineteenth century.

Narcisssus ‘Rip Van Winkle’

Muscari are nice in pots and next year I shall grow more of them. For instance I have the little ‘Pink Sunset’ in the garden but it never shows up very well. I think it would be lovely in a pot. This year I have ‘White Magic’, two -tone Muscari latifolium and pale blue Muscari ‘Jenny Robinson’. I have to have this as Jenny lived just down the road and had the national collection of muscari. She found this one in Crete. It is very similar to ”Valerie Finnis’. It is just coming out in the photo below. Behind it is a lily of the valley and a campanula.

Muscari latifolium

Muscari ‘White Magic’


And there is a scented grape hyacinth which is not hardy but perfect for a pot in the greenhouse. It is Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’.

Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’

In the garden under all the snow I have lots of corydalis as I am very fond of them and they seed around quite promiscuously. This one in the greenhouse is Corydalis pumila.

Corydalis pumila with N. ‘Cecil Nice’ and N.‘Gypsy Queen’

I have packed as much of my succulent collection as will fit in here, the rest still has to live on the bedroom window sills.

This one, Crassula multicava is in bloom and looks good with Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’

Crassula multicava

As well as all the primroses, auriculas look wonderful in pots, I have just one in bloom so far. A double purple one.

Auricula

Outside in the garden I am worried about the not quite hardy, Edgeworthia chrysantha, although I have given her a fleece hairnet. This year I bought a small red- flowered one called Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Red Dragon’. I am not going to risk it outside until it is much bigger.

Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Red Dragon’

So there we are, loads of colour and just as importance, fragrance to keep me sane whilst the garden stays monochrome. Winter wonderlands leave me cold. And I have quite a few treasures coming on to show you next time. But before that, I  hope the snow will go and I will be able  show you my Ten Favourite March Blooms in the garden.

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In a Vase on Monday. Apple Blossom Time.

Only kidding , my apple trees looked like this last week.


But I do have apple blossom in my vase  because when I pruned the trees a few weeks ago, I saved some branches and now I have snow white blossom opening up.

Actually , they look like the ghosts of apple blossom.

Of course the whole point of apple blossom is that it is supposed to be pink like in this picture by Martin Johnson Heade. And if it is set off by a humming bird so much the better. But we have to wait until April for pink blossom and there’s no chance of humming birds in Suffolk. But we should have lots of bees and maybe some Brimstone butterflies by then.

Martin Johnson Heade. Apple Blossom and Humming Bird.

Monet once painted a picture of white apple blossom so he must have done what I did and brought it in to open up inside.   Ribes sanguineum, pink Flowering Currant does the same thing by the way.

It does look a bit washed out I’m afraid. Some of my apple trees are very old and gnarled and covered with lichen. I quite like the elephant grey bark  and lichen against the white of the flowers.


So we have washed out blossom and although the snow has gone, the garden is rather washed out too.  It  looks as if it is recovering from a long illness or some terrible trauma.

Azara serrata feeling a bit bruised


Snowdrops of course contain their own anti-freeze so they are quite unconcerned by  polar vortices. This is Galanthus plicatus. The cold weather has made the trachelospermum leaves turn red.

Galanthus plicatus

You notice I cunningly slipped in another snowdrop there. I know there are some bloggers out there who don’t get them, so I slip them in when you aren’t paying attention. I am not quite as fanatical as my friend Christine who is well known amongst Suffolk gardeners for her devotion to snowdrops. Every season she has different snowdrops painted on her nails. Now that’s what you call galanthophilia. These aren’t just any old generic snowdrops they are all named varieties.



That is ‘Flocon de Neige’ on her left thumb which is gorgeous but eye-wateringly expensive.

Snowdrops and  bleached apple blossom are all very well, but what we are starved of at the moment is colour.  My vase offering today,  is rather white and all ‘alone and palely loitering’ like Keats’s knight- at -arms. You remember the poem ‘La belle Dame sans Merci’?

Oh what can ail thee knight- at- arms alone and palely loitering.

The sedge has withered from the lake

And no birds sing’.

It’s been a bit like that round here lately. Except without the knight -at -arms obviously. I’m the one who has been ‘palely loitering’. The snow has gone but we still have ice  and withered sedge.

So this week I am going to stretch Cathy’s meme a bit to include ‘In a Greenhouse on Monday’ because that is where the colour is. And I am sick of a monochrome world. My greenhouse is an oasis of scent and colour  and I have been so glad to have somewhere to retreat to escape from the Beast from the East.

So with thanks to Cathy at ramblinginthegarden for hosting the popular meme and  my apologies for bending the rules.

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Ten Favourite February Blooms.

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.

These two pictures  below were taken in different parts of the garden and the colonies are different and  so perhaps come from different sources.
Snowdrops en masse

Some of them are green tipped.

Green-tipped Galanthus nivalis

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′.

Galanthus ‘Ophelia’

 
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.

Galannthus ‘Trymlet’

Skinny ‘Wasp’ is instantly recognisable.

Galanthus ‘Wasp’

Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’ is famous for its yellow markings. I bought it last year so it is quite small at the moment.

Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’

There are other yellow marked snowdrops, this one is ‘Spindlestone Surprise’

Galanthus ‘Spindlestone Surprise’

Galanthus plicatus ‘Edinburgh Ketton ‘ has a distinct green H marking n the inner segment.

Galanthus plicatus ‘Edinburgh Ketton’

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.

Galanthus woronowii

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.

Leucojum vernum

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.

Leucojum aestivum

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.

Crocus tommasinianus

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.

Narcissus Rijnveld’s Early Sensation

Another very early one is the smaller and I think prettier Narcissus ‘Spring Dawn. It has pale petals and a deep yellow trumpet.

Narcissus ‘Spring Dawn’

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.

Narcissus cyclamineus ‘Jetfire’

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.

Iris reticulata ‘Halkis’

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.

Iris histrioides ‘Major’

‘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.

Rain-soaked Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkins’

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.

Mahonia japonica

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.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Westerstede’

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.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

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.

Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’

 
If you have time do join me and show your favourite February blooms.

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In a Vase on Monday. Skinny Twigs and Fat Flowers.

My vase today started off with twigs from the garden. Red and green dogwood, black pussy willow and winter honeysuckle all seemed to go well together.


The honeysuckle , Lonicera purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ is lovely in a vase and smells delicious, but it does start to drop its flowers very quickly.

Lonicera purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’

I love the little black claws of Salix melanostachys, I don’t know any other salix with claws like this.

The dogwood is Cornus alba sibirica ‘Westonbirt’ and Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’


But then I had a quick look at Cathy’s vase and saw she had picked one of her hyacinths. What a great idea. Once my obese hyacinth flowers  open up they start to fall over. I am sick of trying to prop them up with sticks and raffia. They look as if they are wearing a corset and of course they need one. How liberating to cut them all off and put the pots to one side ready for outdoor planting. And so we have some fat flowers to go with the skinny sticks. And the great thing is the sticks support the fat flowers. I found another vase because the first one is a bit autumnal.

Here is another shot of the salix claws, as they mature they turn red.


I know I am rather rude about these hyacinths but I wish they weren’t quite so rotund. The great thing is though that once planted in the garden they become much daintier and I think prettier as the years go by.

Thank you Cathy for hosting the meme and for giving me the idea for my arrangement today. If you check out Cathy’s blog you will see that she is endlessly inventive in choosing titles, flowers and props for her arrangements. She has inspired people from all round the world to take part and put some flowers in a vase every monday.

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Shiny New Greenhouse.

I hope anyone who visited my garden these last few years and came in by the side gate shut their eyes as they walked past the greenhouse. But most people didn’t. They even showed an unwelcome desire to peep inside. Here for the first and last time I will show it to you. I am cringing even though it is gone now. It was as messy inside as out.

You can see why I was ashamed.  It must have looked wonderful once many, many years ago. It was timber framed and a good size; 12 feet by 8 feet.  Whenever we had a gale we would lose panes of glass and The Pianist risked life and limb putting new ones in, which was a challenge as most of the glazing bars were rotten. He stuck them in with a bit of sticky stuff and lots of willpower. And I dare say duct tape was involved, it usually is.

Oh, the whole thing was a total disgrace. Mice liked it though as they could come and go as they pleased through the many gaps.


It was too full of holes to use a heater, I would have been heating the village as well as the greenhouse.
It was not until I had spent a whole morning in November pinning bubble wrap up all over it to try to keep the frost out that I decided to throw the whole damn thing away. I think if I had leaned too hard it against it, it would have collapsed anyway. So away it went, the whole lot carted off in a skip.

After lots of research I chose this one. By the time I had had an aluminium coating  to make it maintenance- free and staging and expensive, but totally unnecessary finials on top, it cost twice as much as I budgeted for.

But I don’t care because I love it. I finally got it just before Christmas and I am delighted with it. I don’t have a conservatory but never mind, the greenhouse is wonderful refuge. I keep it heated when the temperature goes below 5 degrees.  As I now have a potting shed  there will be no spilled compost, and pots and seed trays everywhere. I will use the old aluminium greenhouse down the garden for seed growing, this is just to keep and display plants that are looking good. It smells just like the one I remember my grandparents had when I was a child. Well, it should be fragrant, I have a sarcococca, hyacinths, jasmine and mimosa. Still in bud, I have scented narcissus and lily of the valley. Come on, I’ll show you inside. Close the door behind you.


I forget which camellia this is but it is blooming earlier than ever before now it lives inside.

A few years ago we spent some weeks in winter in Provence and we walked a lot through the mimosa forests in the Esterel mountains. The mimosa there  is a problem and is destroying native flora. But we have nothing to fear from Acacia deabalta here in the UK, our winters are too cold for it to become  a pest.

I brought some seeds home and  now have a couple of little trees. One of them is blooming. Soon they will be too big for the greenhouse and I will have to throw them away but I will save some seeds to start again.

Some of the plants, such as the skimmia and sarcococca  and a lot of the bulbs will be planted in the garden when they have finished blooming to make way for other delights. My lemon tree is happy now it has a proper home and adds to the fragrance. As you can see I have a chair here so I can sit and drink it all in.

I love the little Crocus sieberi ‘Tricor’ and it is flowering early in here and shows up much better than in the garden. Even in bud the three bands of colour show up well. This little treasure comes from the Peleponnese.

Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’

In another  pot I have the dear little Crocus tommasianus ‘Roseus’. The buds are really pink and the flowers open up lilac. This is a great spreader in the garden.

Crocus tommasianus ‘Roseus’

I think some of the new primrose hybrids are too overbred for the garden. But they are great for pots and some winter colour in the greenhouse and some of them are fragrant.

Primula ‘Sweetheart and Primula ‘Firecracker’

Primula ‘Zebra Blue’ and ‘Woodland Walk’

Double primroses occur naturally from time to time and since Elizabethan times have been highly prized. Many have been lost to cultivation and unless they are well fed and divided regularly they disappear from the garden. I have loved and lost quite a few of the lovely Barnhaven doubles over the years.

Primula Barnhaven ‘Sapphire’ long gone.

They are difficult to propagate because they have no seed and very little pollen. But now breeders can micropropagate and they have produced oversized, frilly doubles in a dazzling array of colours. Again I wouldn’t plant them in the garden, it would be like coming across an ostrich in the woodland, but I love them in pots. And they come in luscious colours. These are the new Belarina hybrids and I think they are perfect for some early colour in the greenhouse.

Primula belarina ‘Valentine’

Primula Belarina ‘Cream’

The double primrose above is ‘Pink Amethyst ‘and it is sitting in between the white grape hyacinth, Muscari ‘White magic’ and Iris reticulata ‘Clairette’.


The lemon tree has peculiar pointed fruit. Under it is the yellow daisy flower of a euryops cutting that fell into my pocket in Cornwall last spring.


I have never noticed before that the flowers of the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger are tinged with terracotta as they mature. But as I sit on my chair in the greenhouse and sip my coffee I have chance to notice details like this. Outside the wind is coming straight from the Urals and one doesn’t linger too long over each individual flower.

Helleborus niger

This really is a little piece of heaven in here.

The Green man with Oxalis hirta for hair, sits looking rather bored. He’s no business to look bored surrounded by so much colour and fragrance.

 

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