One Night Stand. ‘Queen of the Night’.

I have had a prickly Selinicereus grandiflorus for some years now. It grows long rats tails which snake everywhere and it gets very difficult to accommodate. It would look good climbing a tree or cascading over rocks but it has to live in my greenhouse annoying all the neighbouring plants. A bit of it has become attached to a nearby Epiphyllum and is now growing from it. I have been tempted to get rid of it because it takes up so much room and is not very attractive to look at. But a while ago I noticed a little furry wart growing on it. It got bigger each day and I realised that at last it was going to bloom. The prickly plant in the picture is the Selinocereus and the flat one behind it is an Epiphyllum.


I have several epiphyllums and they have large, showy flowers but I have never seen any flower as huge and gorgeous as as this before. ‘Queen of the Night’ is a good name for her. The flowers only bloom for one night and so each night I have been going into the greenhouse before I went to bed to make sure I didn’t miss it. This evening I knew it was the big night at last because the petals were showing at the top of the furry bud.

I brought it inside so I wouldn’t miss a moment. I even toyed with the idea of an impromptu party, my best frock and champagne. The bud opened so quickly that within two hours the huge flower was fully open. It is incredibly glamorous and exotic, rather like a giant sea urchin from the side. And the vanilla scent is richly tropical. The plant decks itself out in such gorgeous finery and perfume to attract moths to pollinate it.

Selinicereus grandiflorus ‘Queen of the Night’

Selinicereus grandiflorus ‘Queen of the Night’

It seems rude to go to bed and leave her alone in all her glory. So I have brought her upstairs and now I don’t want to turn the light out because I know that tomorrow she will have collapsed. All this glory for one night only and sadly there have been no moths to pollinate her. I will have to wait until next year for her next performance, and I really will have to arrange a party for her.

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‘A Rose by any other name…’

I grumbled in my last post about roses that had been planted in my garden with silly names. Most of them had to go, along with all the gawky, scentless hybrid teas. But there are still lots of beautiful roses with no labels, and Shakespeare is right they smell as sweet as those with names. And yet… I cannot love them so much without knowing what to call them. All along the picket fence in the front garden there are healthy vigorous roses. I think they are Hybrid Musks called ‘Moonlight’ but I am not sure.

And  you see the little pink one, bottom right? It suckers and travels all over the front garden. If it finds a tall shrub it climbs. It is very pretty but what is it? I suspect a gallica, maybe ‘Gloire de France’ but I really need to know.

And look at this gorgeous rose which grows through a viburnum. I would love it so much more if I knew what to call it.

I have one Moss rose,  but I am not sure which. Moss roses are centifolias which have a moss-like growth on their sepals which makes their buds very attractive.  They first appeared as mutations in 1720. My favourite is ‘William Lobb’ which reminds me, I don’t have him here. I must find room for William. But meanwhile which is this one?

I think this next one is an alba as it has the typical healthy blue-green leaves. It looks like ‘Queen of Denmark’ to me. It grows tall so I give it a lobster pot support made of hazel twigs and tie it in horizontally.

I showed this one a few years ago and someone kindly identified it for me as ‘James Galway’  I love it because it is so full and frilly. It is a climber and grows into a holly. It is a David Austin rose and thank goodness the previous occupants of my garden discovered David Austin and I have quite a collection of these wonderful roses which I have added to over the years I have been here.

Rosa ‘James Galway’

Here are a few of my favourite David Austin roses.

I used to have a rose garden filled with old fashioned roses and I still grow some as they are unbeatable for scent and shape. Here are a few of them.

I love single roses too and the China rose, Rosa mutabilis blooms all summer long. Here it is with the tall spires of Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’.

Rosa mutabilis

Another single rose which blooms all summer long and has lovely glossy leaves is ‘Sally Holmes’. I grow it next to the silvery foliage of Berberis temolaica. Sally is one  of the roses that I wouldn’t be without.

Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’

Because I love single roses I like the modern series of single roses with a dark centre with ‘eyes’ in the name. So I have ‘Smiling Eyes’ even thought I think it is silly name. But then it grows not far away from Hydrangea ‘Pinkie Winkie’ and you can’t get much sillier than that.

Rosa ‘Smiling Eyes’

And never mind silly names, the name ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is a black lie, it is not blue at all and anyway who wants a blue rose? But it is a lovely antiquey- lilac, a sort of faded purple and I love it.

Rosa ‘Rhapsody in Blue’

I grow it with Cistus ladanifer but maybe ‘Tuscany Superb’ would match the purple blotch better.

I could go on all day talking about roses but I will finish with a rambler which wasn’t out when I wrote about climbers and ramblers but it is looking stunning right now climbing up the stump of the huge cherry which I had cut down.

Rosa ‘Blush Rambler’

Oh dear, I haven’t even mentioned quite a few beauties but I have to stop somewhere. When I am too old to garden I shall just fill it all up with huge roses and let them scramble everywhere and I will be known as the ‘Mad Old Rose Woman’.  Well, I probably am already.

If you can identify some of my mystery roses I should be very grateful and then despite what Shakespeare said they will probably smell even sweeter.


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My Top Ten June Blooms. Midsummer Magic.

Top of my June list has to be roses of course but they deserve their own post and anyway there are so many other beauties vying for attention that I don’t know where to start.

Perhaps we should begin with the most overdressed flowers of the June garden; the peonies, they have such gloriously inflated hair styles  that they cannot hold the heads up so they loll about drunkenly. The biggest drama queen is appropriately enough ‘Sarah Bernhardt’

Paeonia  lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’

But just as flamboyant is this one.

Paeonia ‘Monsieur Jules Elie’

At this time of the year I suddenly find all my white and and pale pink flower are unsightly with pollen beetles.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Laura Dessert’

‘Karl Rosenfield’ is fragrant as well as beautiful.

Paeonia lactoflora ‘Karl Rosenfield’

I love single flowers and Paeonia ‘Krinkled White is fragrant too.

Paeonia lactifora ‘Krinkled White’

‘Doreen’ is a gorgeous deep pink.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Doreen’

Most of the bearded irises and the damp loving Iris sibirica  are over now but I have  an unusual pinky lilac double  Iris sibirica  called Pink Parfait’ which blooms later than most.

Iris sibirica ‘Pink Parfait’

Iris chrysographes ‘Black Knight’ is looking sultry and gorgeous.

Iris chrysographes ‘Black Knight’

I love orchids and the hardy Lady’s Slipper orchids are wonderfully exotic looking. I thought my Cypripedium ‘Kentucky Pink’ wasn’t going to bloom this year but then I found it when I was pulling out the dead forgetmenots and I very nearly beheaded it. These plants like a woodland setting.

Cypripedium ‘Kentucky Pink’

It is a good thing that I have the scent of roses all round the garden because my next plant is very smelly, it smells of rotting meat because it is fertilised by flies. But it looks darkly sinister and I love it. It is called Dracunculus vulgaris and it is very vulgar indeed.

Dracunculus vulgaris

 Arisaema costatum is another aroid and it looks very sinister indeed with a cobra-like hood and an elongated spadix like a whip.

Arisaema costatum

Carpentaria californica is a lovely shrub with white  flowers and glossy leaves, it belongs to the hydrangea family, hydrangeaceae It needs a warm sunny spot. it is lightly fragrant.

Carpentaria californica

Carpentaria is sometimes called a bush anemone although it is not an anemone at all. But I do have a lovely anemone in bloom right now. It is a hybrid called ‘Wild Swan’. I love the white petals which are lilac on the back.

Anemone ‘Wild Swan’

For fragrance in the garden or in a vase you can’t beat the cottage garden favourites for June, Pinks.  As I grow several stinky arisaemas this is important. It occurs to me that I have never written about Pinks before or even taken many photos of them and I can’t think why as I love them. They  are members of the Dianthus family but they look nothing like the gawky bunches of cheap carnations that you find on garage forecourts. They are easy from cuttings called pips. You just gently tug a non-flowering shoot, trim it just below a leaf joint and pull away the lower leaves. They like good drainage so I put them round the edges of a pot of compost mixed with grit. They can go in the propagator but a polythene bag will do just as well. If you beg cuttings from friends as I do then you end up with quite a few that you don’t know the name of.


Some of them are low growing and make pretty mats.

Dianthus ‘Starry Eyes’

The laced Pinks which were so beloved by the Victorians are particularly appealing.

Dianthus ‘Gran’s Favourite’

Dianthus ‘Laced Prudence’

I have a very tall growing pink which I saw running through Tom Stuart- Smith’s meadow a few years ago. It is Dianthus carthusianorum. I saw this growing wild in Translyvania where the wild flower rich meadows are a wonderful sight.

Dianthus carthusianum

Elder flowers are very fleeting and if you want to make Elder flower cordial you have to be quick about it. I sometimes make it with the pink flowered Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’because it makes pink cordial. This was a gift from a friend and a very welcome one too. The name is very appropriate because it does look just like lace.

Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’

Campanulas have been ringing their bells round the garden for some time now and in July there will be more to come. The peach-leaved campanula, Campanula persicifolia seeds around everywhere and is always welcome.

Campanula pericisifolia

The white one looks lovely with Cornus alternifolia.

Campanuula persicifolia

The nettle leaved Campanula trachelium can seed a bit too enthusiastically and it comes up everywhere.

Campanula trachelium

I don’t remember planting this double one.

The double Campanula trachelium ‘Bernice’ is a delight.

Campanula trachelium ‘Bernice’

As I have never grown Canterbury Bells, Campanula medium this next one is a bit of a mystery.

Campanula medium

I love the big bells of Campanula punctata.

Campaunulcampanula punctata ‘Sarastro’

Campanula punctata ‘Pink Chimes’

The little alpine campanulas are quite irresistible.

Campanula pulla

And how about the sky blue bells of the appropriately called ‘Tubby’?

Campanula cochlearifolia ‘Tubby’

Perhaps I will finish with some clematis. Soon the viticellas will be getting going and they are a joy of the July garden. But for June I have a new one, well new to me, it was launched in 2013. It is ‘Samaritan Joe’ and is such a gorgeous colour.

Clematis ‘Samaritan Joe’

On the trellis in my secret garden Clematis viticella ‘Madame Julie Correvon’ is romping away, she is always the first of my viticellas to bloom.

Clematis ‘Madame ‘Julie Correvon’

Here are few more clematis which are looking good at the moment.

It does seem a shame and ungrateful not to mention all the other June flowers which are gracing the garden at the moment, I have not feaured any delphiniums and I love the shades of blue they come in and what about lupins and geraniums? Oh well, there is always another post. But now, the garden calls; it is lovely and warm, friends are coming round and the Pianist has made some scones. So off I go to enjoy a summer’s day in the way I like best.
If you can spare the time to post your favourite June blooms and link with mine, that would be lovely.

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Everything’s Coming up Roses.

  • If I could only have one flower it would have to be the rose. In June the garden is only half dressed if it is not filled with the scent of roses. When we came here nearly nine years ago there were a few roses but not nearly enough. Some of them had obviously been chosen for the name: ‘Home, Sweet Home, ‘Happy Anniversary’, ‘Memories of a Golden Afternoon’ and even ‘Happy Retirement’.  Only a non- gardener would choose a rose with a name like that. I don’t mind choosing a rose for its name if it called something like  ‘Reine des Violettes’, ‘Diablesse de Mers’ or ‘Cuisse de Nymphe Emue’ (which is known as ‘Maiden’s Blush’ in English to spare the describers’ blushes) but  some of the others had to go. ‘Boogie’ Woogie’ is still hanging on in there, but living on borrowed time, I tell people I can’t remember its name if they ask me.

I just counted up and I realise I have added more than forty roses since I came here, some of them grown from seed or cutting and others bought. But still there are not enough, I shan’t be happy until every tree has a rose cascading from it. Let’s start with my seed-grown babies, actually you couldn’t call the first one a baby, it has grown to the top of a tall holly and cascades down very glamorously in a torrent of white foam.

Its father was the scarily vigorous Rosa ‘Kiftsgate’ and its mother was ‘Wedding Day’. I think it looks lovely with the red leaves of the Forest Pansy, ‘Cercis canadensis’

My next one is more restrained in growth, it’s mother was the lemony ‘Paul’s Lemon Pillar’ which was a favourite of Vita Sackville- West and I am not sure who the father was.

There was a large standard rose in one of the beds here which had to go, not just because it was called ‘Golden Wedding’ but because I don’t like standard roses. I cut it down because I was too lazy to dig it up.   From the base there grew a lovely, vigorous rose which now climbs on the fence. I don’t know what it is but the horrible standard had obviously been grafted onto it. It is so pretty and has lovely glossy leaves.

I have found that some roses are very easy from cuttings and some quite stubborn. The pretty soft pink climber ‘New Dawn’ is very easy.

Rosa ‘New Dawn’

‘Albertine’ is easy from cuttings too, I love its deep pink buds and delicious fragrance.

Rosa ‘Albertine’

I love the simplicity of single flowers and Rosa ‘Cooper’s Burmese’, also grown from a cutting, has huge white flowers and healthy, glossy foliage.

Rosa ‘Cooper’s Burmese’

‘Cooper’s Burmese’ is very prickly and very vigorous but I have two much more vigorous ones totally covering the poor apple trees that they are climbing up. The first is ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ which is a great favourite of mine, it has sea green leaves and masses of soft pink flowers.

Rosa ‘‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’

Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’

Peachy ‘Treasure Trove’ is probably even more vigorous as it was a seedling of ‘Kiftsgate’. I didn’t realise this when I planted it. I first saw it looking wonderful on a tree in my friend Anne’s garden where it was beautifully trained and perfectly behaved. It has smothered the apple tree where it is growing here and clearly has designs on a nearby pear tree.

Rosa ‘Treasure Trove’

Some of my climbers are much more restrained. The lovely tea rose ‘Lady Hillingdon’ ambles lazily along the wall and can hardly be bothered to raise her beautiful heads which are a scrumptious apricot colour.

Rosa ‘Lady hillingdon’

The previous owners planted the climbing David Austin ‘Teasing Georgia’ in the shade of a weeping willow and with nothing to climb up, now she has a support she is growing much better and puts up with the shade without complaint.

Rosa ‘Teasing Georgia’

‘Alberic Barbier’ doesn’t grow very tall either, he has not climbed very high up his tree yet. This is a lovely rose with glossy leaves and gorgeous rather shaggy double cream flowers.

Rosa ‘Alberic Barbier’

I have another climbing David Austin rose with very pretty, very fragrant flowers. It is called ‘The Generous Gardener’

Rosa ‘The Generous Gardener’

In the front garden there are two silvery weeping pears Pyrus salicifolia. Why somebody thought that two weeping pears side by side were a good idea I don’t know. But never mind, they make good climbing frames for the purpley-violet ‘Veilchenblau’ and the delightful clusters of ‘Felicité Perpetué’.

Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’

Of course many of these climbers and ramblers only have one brief moment of glory but they don’t all bloom at once. The lovely single ”Francis.E. Lester’ is only just opening its buds and ‘Blush Rambler’ is still to come. Then there are  a few like the glorious ‘Phyllis Bide’ which seem to bloom all summer. I have it on both the arches into my secret garden and it is a wonderful sight.

Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’

Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’

So far I have just mentioned some of my ramblers and climbers but that is enough for one post. As I am totally intoxicated by roses at the moment there will be another rose post very soon.

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Six on Saturday. Poppy Love.

We have been away. We set off on Monday, swimming our way south despite Biblical deluges, sink holes appearing on the M25 and cars getting stranded on the M20. We fully expected plagues of frogs and locusts, but nevertheless we managed to look  round Sissinghurst and Great Dixter in the pouring rain. Or at least I did, the Pianist sat in the car with his crossword.

But now we are home and it’s Saturday again, time to look around the garden here for six eye-catching plants to share for Six on Saturday. The rain doesn’t seem to have done any damage and the roses are looking magnificent. But they are for another post. For my six today I have chosen some scrumptious poppies. I love all poppies for their silky petals and gorgeous colours. I would love to have the right conditions for the fabulous blue Himalayan poppies which grow in damper parts of the country. But looking round today, I realise that I have quite a nice range of different sorts of poppies giving pops of colour all round the garden.

First the oriental poppies which are so easy to grow, although they laze around languorously and need a bit of support. If you want to propagate them then taking root cuttings is the way to do it, although come to think of it, it might be fun to grow them from seed and and see what colours you get. The blooms don’t last long and the foliage looks a mess when they have finished flowering but you can cut them right back and they will come to no harm.  I love the dirty, faded-plum colour of Papaver  orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’ with its ruffled petals.

Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’

Cedric Morris used to say that his namesake, Papaver orientale ‘Cedric Morris’ was a washed out colour and reminded him of dirty knickers, which is rather rude and unjust as it is a pretty shade of  very pale pink.

Papaver orientale ‘Cedric Morris’

I like white and black together on a flower so I grow Papaver orientale ‘Wedding Day’.

Papaver ‘Wedding Day’

My father always used to grow the tall, bright scarlet ‘Beauty of Livermere” so I grow it too because it was in all our gardens when I was a child.

Papaver orientale ‘Beauty of Livermere’

Red seems to be the proper colour for a poppy, and I wouldn’t be without annual poppies. Fields of wild poppies are a rare sight these days, but in the garden I grow the ladybird poppy, Papaver comutatum ‘Ladybird’ which is bright red with black blotches. It comes from Turkey and I have seen it growing in Crete too.

Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’

Bees love it too.

Opium poppies are easy and seed around each year.  I am surprised that we are allowed to grow them but then perhaps the process of making opium is rather complicated. I love the almost black ones, some of them come up double and others are single. If different colours appear I pull them out as I only want black ones. I started out with the fully double peony flowered one called ‘Black Peony’ but the single ones are pretty too.

Papaver somniferum

Papaver somniferum ‘Black Peony’

In my Mediterranean garden I have a pure white prickly poppy which has lovely foliage. It is a perennial and easy from seed. It is called Argemone platyceras. Graham Rice said that prickly poppies are among the unsung heroes of the poppy family and I agree, not many people seem to grow them. They like a nice sunny well drained position.

Argemone platyceras

Argemone platyceras

In front of my shed I have a ‘beach’ and here I grow an orange horned sea poppy, Glaucium corniculatum which has lovely silvery foliage and seeds around.

Glaucium corniculatum

Glaucium corniculatum

My last poppy has been blooming for ages and it just keeps on producing more and more double flowers all summer. I have never planted it and it puts itself about all over the garden so I just pull it out in areas where the bright orange would clash. It is Papaver rupifragum and it comes from Spain. I would probably appreciate it more if it was rare and difficult. But I wouldn’t be without it and I am not likely to be either.

Papaver rupifragum

Much as I love poppies, it seems a pity not to feature any of the other gorgeous June- flowering beauties; there is so much going on in the garden right now. But we have to be disciplined when joining in with the Propagator’s Six on Saturday meme. No rambling off on tangents, or ‘on a tandem’ as a friend of mine who was known for her malapropisms used to say. Never mind there is always another post, meanwhile do check out The Propagator and the many other bloggers who join him on a Saturday.

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Six on Saturday. 1st June. Celebrating Summer.

Here we are, it’s Saturday again and it’s June so let’s have a lovely summery six to celebrate. The Propagator has trained an ever- growing list of bloggers to dutifully post six horticulturally themed things on Saturdays. I don’t participate every week because Saturdays rush along far too fast for me to catch up with myself. But June is the crown of the whole year and we have to celebrate its arrival. So here goes.

1. Tulipa Sprengeri is a lovely species tulip from Turkey, it blooms long after all your other tulips have disappeared. The flowers are the brightest, shiny scarlet.  They close up at night and open in the sunshine. You rarely see them for sale, possibly because the bulbs pull themselves so deep into the soil that they are difficult to dig up. They don’t spread by offsets either but they produce plenty of seed and they will self- seed but I think it is safest to sow them and then the young shoots won’t get weeded out. If you sow the seeds as soon as they are ripe they will have shoots the following Spring. It took mine four years to bloom.

Tulipa sprengeri

While we are on the theme of self seeding, I have two gleaming white annuals which self-seed in my garden and they always grab the attention of visitors.

2. The first is a corncockle, Agrostemma githago ‘Milas Snow Queen’. As it self- seeds and overwinters it grows much taller than ones which are sown in the Spring.

Agrostemma githago ‘Milas Snow Queen’

The petals look as if they are made of satin and somebody has drawn brown dotted  lines with a crayon.

Agrostemma githago ‘Milas Snow Queen’

They look good with self-sown Orlaya grandiflora.

Orlaya grandiflora with Agrostemma githago

3. I have another very simple little annual which everyone  loves and wants to grow.  So if you come across it in a seed catalogue do buy it. It loves to seed in gravel and next year I shall give it a helping hand because I would like lots more of it.

Omphalodes linifolium

Again it is Persil- white. It rejoices in the common name of ‘Venus’s Navelwort’,  but we don’t do navels on this blog so let us give it its proper name: Omphalodes linifolia. 

Omphalodes linifolia

4. Well here we are in June and I have not mentioned irises which is odd as I am mad on them. Pacific irises are very easy from seed and they come up in different colours. Here are some of my seed grown ones.

I love Iris sibirica too, they need a  damp place.  They come in amazing shades of blue.

Iris sibirica

This next one is called Iris sibirica ‘Osborne’s Grey’,  it is very rare. I think it is more lavender than grey.

Iris sibirica ‘Osborne’s Grey’

I have grow some plants from seed from this. One of them is particularly pretty, in fact I like it better than its mother.

Iris sibirica ‘Osborne’s Grey’ seedling

The bearded iris, Iris germanica comes in so many colours with so many frills and flounces. The flowers don’t last long but if you have quite a few they don’t all come out at once. Here are some of my first ones. I can’t remember most of the names, even if I ever knew them.

I used to love the flouncy ones, dressed like pantomime dames in outrageous colours and frills but now I prefer the more subtle charms of Cedric Morris’s Benton range . Here is my first one out, it is called ‘Benton Olive’ .

Iris ‘Benton Olive’

Irises are easy and fun to grow from seed and you never know what you will get. I made a whole new gravel bed last year to display my seedlings. This is one of them. It doesn’t look very unusual but I am thrilled with it as it is my own creation. It’s mother was the sky-blue ‘Jane Phillips’.

Iris seedling

5. I have a tree which is looking fabulous right now with  fluffy balls like golden powder puffs. I showed you Azara microphylla in March, it has tiny flowers with a pervasive vanilla scent. This is Azara serrata which also comes from Chile. Its flowers are sweetly scented although you have to actually sniff it to find out. It is worth growing for the glossy leaves and the showy flowers. I had this tree in my last garden and didn’t want to be without it so I took a cutting and now, after ten years I have a large tree. I don’t know whether this was just luck or whether it is easy from cuttings. I must try and take some more.

Azara serrata

6. Every day there are fresh roses coming into bloom and of course June is the month when we all get intoxicated by them. But Rosa banksiae  ‘Lutea’ has been in bloom for a while now. I know in some gardens it blooms in April but here it starts in May and gets better and better as the month goes on. Like the Azara serrata this started off as a small cutting about ten years ago. It has made its way to the top of the lovely old apple tree which has unfortunately died, but I am leaving the lovely mossy old trunk as a climbing frame.

Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’

It has plans to take over the whole garden and probably next door’s too. I really cannot allow it to cascade all over the Azara even if they do look good together,

So there are my Six on Saturday. Alright, I know I slipped in a few extra irises but I really cannot confine myself to just one iris. Otherwise I have kept to the rules for once. Thanks to the Propagator for hosting this meme and for being very tolerant of rule benders. If you go over to his blog, you will find what many other bloggers are enjoying on this lovely June day.

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Top Ten May Blooms.

Queer things happen in May. Little forgotten faces appear, and plants thought to be dead suddenly wave a green hand to confound you’.  W.E.Johns.

The May garden is a place of daily delights. In gardening books you read sometimes of the May gap in the garden, but there is no excuse for a lack of blooms when everything is so fresh and lovely and you can have a rainbow of aquilegias,  alliums, roses, irises and poppies. Every day brings new treats. I  featured my fabulous tree peonies on Monday  but there are plenty more treasures.

I always like to show you something a little unusual in my monthly top ten blooms, plants that you might like to try. So let’s start with the Chilean Lantern tree, Crinodendron hookerianum. This is supposed to need acid soil so I grow it in a pot and although the roots have long ago found their way into the ground, it seems very happy. I am not sure how hardy it is so I grow it against the wall of the house. The flowers are real show stoppers, waxy red lanterns and lots of them. It is evergreen but the leaves are rather dull and they are poisonous so don’t eat it. Well, why would you, it doesn’t look very appetising. Everyone who comes to the garden is drawn to this exotic tree.

Crinodendron hookerianum

And talking about exotic, the clusters of bright yellow claws of my Sophora tetraptera are really eye catching. I thought it was Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’ until I saw it on a couple of blogs and realised that ‘Sun King’ is more of a shrub than a tree and it  blooms in March unlike this one. But they do look very similar. They have long thin seed pods so I am growing some babies but they take years to bloom from seed so it is probably not the best way to propagate it. This tree comes from New Zealand and it needs a sunny spot.

Sophora tetraptera

Another lovely plant from New Zealand is the unusual Hebe hulkeana. In its native habitat it grows from cliffs and rocks and I wish I could contrive something like that here for it. It has long panicles of lilac flowers and must look wonderful growing from a rock. The shiny leaves are serrated and edged in red. It likes a nice sunny protected spot. It produces its buds early in spring and last year they got  frost damaged so this year I gave it a fleece hairnet. It is worth the effort because it is so pretty.

Hebe hulkeana

Readers of my blog will know that I am mad on magnolias and I have a May flowering one which is a real winner. It is called Magnolia laevigata ‘Gail’s Favourite’. It used to be called Michelia yunnanensis ‘Gail’s Favourite’ until the inscrutable powers that be decided that it is a magnolia. Whatever it is called, it is fabulous. It is a slow growing shrub rather than a tree, with glossy evergreen leaves. When the buds appear they look as if they are made of brown suede. The flowers are gorgeous, creamy white with a boss of yellow stamens and they are fragrant. This shrub needs a sunny site and protection from winds. I don’t know why such a wonderful plant isn’t seen more often.

Magnolia laevigata ‘Gail’s Favourite’

My number five is a shrub too. It is Abutilon x ‘Suntense‘. It has lovely saucer shaped lilac flowers and nice fuzzy felt buds. In my old garden it used to seed around but it doesn’t here. Still it is easy from cuttings. It belongs to the mallow family.

Abutilon x suntense

I love all the members of the scilla family but the most dazzling is Scilla peruviana with astonishing cones of metallic blue flowers. It comes from the western Mediterranean area, not Peru and is sometimes known as the Portuguese Squill, but not by pedants like me. It likes a warm, sunny spot and mine is flourishing in the gravel in my Mediterranean garden. It never bloomed at all until I moved it here. If it is happy it will increase. I don’t know why I only have one clump, I would like a river of it.

Scilla peruviana

Mathiasella  bupleuroides ‘Green Dream’ is an unusual plant. If  you like green flowers that look like a cross between Helleborus argutifolius, an umbellifer and a euphorbia you might like this. It has angelica type leaves and because the flowers are sterile they last all summer and they get a pink tinge later in the season. They can be dried for winter arrangements too, so it is a versatile plant. I would like lots of them but I’m not sure how to propagate it. It comes from Mexico and was first discovered in 1954.

Mathiasella bupleuriodes ‘Green Dream’

Talking about umbellifers, Melanoselinum decipiens is the ultimate, like a pink Giant Hogweed without the danger. Its common name is Madeira Black Parsley; melano = black, selinum=parsley and it is endemic to Madeira.  The seeds are black. It grows  for several years until it is enormous with a stem like an elephant’s trunk.

I got the seeds for this from Rod Leeds who has written several books on bulbs and was president of the Alpine Society so not the sort of person you associate with giant umbellifers. When I asked what it was he said: ‘Oh you know, one of those umbellifers with pink flowers’ so I was expecting something like pimpinella or achillea and watched in amazement as it grew and grew and grew and this year for the first time it has flowers. Masses of them.

Melanoselinum decipiens

Each flower is huge.

Melanoselinum decipiens

I grow it in my Mediterranean garden next to the giant grass, Stipa gigantea.

It is monocarpic  and dies after flowering so next year I will have to start all over again. Incidentally, did you know that the Umbelliferae family is now Apiaciae? Oh dear, it is hard to keep up.

Wisteria of course is not unusual at all but May is the month when they are looking fabulous. Over two of the arches in my secret garden, the wisterias are blooming for the first time and I am thrilled with them.  One is white and the other is pink.

Wisteria floribunda 

Wisteria floribunda ‘Rosea’

Wisteria floribunda ‘Alba’

By the way, did you know that Japanese wisteria, Wisteria floribunda grows clockwise and Chinese wisteria , Wisteria sinensis grows anti-clockwise?

Wisteria floribunda

Elsewhere I have a wisteria which I am trying to grow as a standard but it is getting a bit wild and woolly. I wish I had invested in one of those wrought  iron umbrella-type things to train it on. Last year the pigeons ate every single bud but this year they have decided that they prefer thalictrums. I grew this wisteria from a layered cutting which I brought with me from my old garden. This is the best way to propagate them. Don’t be tempted to grow them from seed, it is not worth it.

I don’t grow many rhododendrons or azaleas because I don’t have an acid soil so they have to live in pots. But I wouldn’t be without the wonderfully fragrant Rhododendron luteum.

Rhododendron luteum

If you grow groves of this you can make hallucinogenic ‘mad honey’. Xenophon described the weird effects of eating this honey. He was leading his army of 10,000 men from Persia back to Greece in 401 bc. and thought he had found a safe place to camp at Pontus on the Black sea coast in Turkey where this rhododendron grows in abundance. After eating the wild honey here the whole army behaved like lunatics and eventually collapsed and were paralyzed and incapacitated for days. The active ingredient is grayanotoxin and eating ‘mad honey’ is a dangerous way of getting your kicks.  I think I am safe though with my one plant. I went to the beautiful Fairhaven woodland garden on the Norfolk broads last week and loved the way this gorgeous plant looked in a woodland setting, much prettier and daintier than the showier rhododendrons and the scent is amazing..

Rhododendron luteum. Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, Norfolk.

And talking about the Norfolk broads I hope you will allow a total digression, this has nothing whatsoever to do with my top ten blooms but whilst I was there I managed to capture this shot of a mother Crested Grebe carrying her baby and I am so delighted with it that it is now my screensaver. I just had to bring it in somewhere even if it is a total non sequitur.

Crested grebe. Fairhaven Woodland and water Garden.

So there are my Top Ten May Blooms. I hope you have found something a bit different that you might like to try in your garden. Please link with my blog and share whatever blooms you are enjoying this month.

By the way, if you live in the UK and would like to try some seeds of the tree peonies I wrote about in my last post please let me know later in the season when they are ripe.

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In a Vase on Monday. A Paean to Peonies.

I was going to save my luscious tree peonies for my Top Ten May Blooms because they certainly come in at number one on any list. But they just won’t wait, they flaunt their gorgeousness every time I go into the garden and at the moment I am out there all day, every day, racing against time to get everything perfect for my first group of garden visitors next week. In ancient China these beauties were grown in the Emperor’s garden, you can see why they were considered too special for ordinary mortals. Here in England the Tudors had strict sumptuary laws forbidding the lower orders to wear rich fabrics. A commoner could be fined or go to prison for wearing silks and satins and ermine was just for royalty.  In my garden the tree peonies are certainly the aristocrats and no other plant, however lovely is dressed so luxuriously. I don’t think they would dare. The excitement starts with the nice plump buds.

And now the whole bushes are covered in huge satiny blooms.

I wrote here how I grew the seed of what was then called Paeonia rockii, although this is now considered an invalid name. I expected white flowers with dark purple  blotches but instead I now have three lovely plants with flowers in shades of pink and magenta but they all have the distinctive blotches. Although it would have been wonderful to have the glorious white one these are magical too.  The correct name for them is Paeonia ‘Gansu mudan’ which means Peony from the Gansu area of China.

People are very impressed when I say I grew them from seed but there is nothing very clever about it. I just sowed the black shiny seeds in individual pots and left them outside. I forgot all about them and nothing  appeared to happen at all for the first year but that is because they put down a nice root before anything appears on the surface. The next year you get a little shoot which is unmistakably a peony. At this point you have to protect them from slugs and mice. After three years I planted them in the garden. In their sixth year they had two blooms. Now after eleven years they are big bushy shrubs smothered in massive blooms. It may seem a long time to wait but other things are happening in your life and in the garden; you are not just nurturing peonies. They look after themselves and you get on with other things.

I have another tree peony which was already in the garden when we came. It is not so bushy and its spindly stem needs support. If I am honest I have to admit its blooms are even larger than those of my seed grown ones but I don’t love it as much, because I didn’t do the horticultural equivalent of changing its nappies and helping it with its homework. Still it is sumptuous even though it doesn’t have the lovely purple markings inside the flowers.

I have a white one too which I love because my son gave it to me. This year it has four lovely blooms. They are huge with frilly edges.

Now my peonies have reached a good size I can afford to pick the odd one to enjoy inside.  As the flowers are so big I think the best way to display them is to float them like a water lily.

It is great to have them on the table to examine the beautiful centres.

Thank you Cathy  at Rambling in the Garden for hosting In a Vase on Monday, it is always fun to join in. Don’t forget, My Top Ten  May Blooms will be posted on 23rd May. I have some unusual flowers to show you even if they are not as extravagantly dressed as the peonies, they are certainly not shrinking violets. I would love it if you would show some of your May favourites too and link with my post.

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In a Vase on Monday. May Posies.

What did T. S. Eliot say? ‘April is the cruellest month breeding lilacs out of the dead land’. Well this year he has got it wrong. May is being very capricious and cruel. On Saturday, I spent all day ducking and diving to avoid hailstorms and got repeatedly soaked.  Yesterday the weather gods gave up any pretense of being seasonal and it felt like  February. Only colder. Of course this is the May Bank Holiday practical joke, it often happens. So I brought  armfuls of the garden into the house and settled down for a long leisurely lunch with friends.

First of all Spanish bluebells. I am overrun with them. I have given up trying to dig them up. I know they hybridise with our beautiful native bluebells but I hope that I am far enough away from the nearest bluebell wood. In the meantime the best way to stop them seeding is to gather armfuls and bring them inside.

The next vase uses shades of yellow and orange.

I started off with some acid yellow Smyrnium perfoliatum. This plant seeds around once you have it and is lovely for flower arrangements. It is like a cross between euphorbia and cow parsley but in bright acid yellow.

Smyrnium perfoliatum

The epimedium is ‘Amber Queen’ which is the biggest flowered and showiest epimedium I have. The flowers last for ages.

Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’

There is a little sprig of pale yellow Epimedium sulphureum. It is very dainty and doesn’t have the long spurs of ‘Amber Queen’.

Epimedium sulphureum

I used two narcissus, the first is the neat little Jonquilla Narcissus ‘Sundisc’ which is a lovely fragrant heirloom variety.

Narcissus ‘Sundisc’

The second is even more fragrant. It is the white Narcissus ‘Petrel’ The gleaming white doesn’t quite go with the other colours but it is staying  in because it is so pretty and smells lovely.

Narcissus ‘Petrel’

Tellima grandiflora is also handy for flower arrangements. I have never planted it but it seeds about with great enthusiasm and it is very useful for shady areas. It has rosettes of hairy scalloped leaves and greenish flowers. You can see the little bell shaped flowers on either side of the next photo.

The cowslip is one I grew from seed called Primula veris ‘Sunset Shades’. It comes in various shades from deep yellow to orange to red. I finished it off with a sprig of lovely Rosa ‘Helen Knight’ which I featured in my Six on Saturday.

For the table I did a small arrangement because my chef doesn’t like it if I distract from the food with big arrangements which get in the way of the food and the conversation.

Fortuitously the pink bluebell, the Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwerson’ and the little epimedium all match each other and the vase.

I have never planted this geranium and it spreads with great enthusiasm but I quite like it for its early appearance. The epimedium is called ‘Pink Elf’ and it peeps out demurely from amongst the leaves rather than shouting ‘Here, look at me!’ in the imperious way of ‘Amber Queen.’

A bit of blue looks quite nice with these colours so I used a primula and a couple of sprays of lovey Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Starry Eyes’. I love its little blue and white Forgetmenot type flowers.

Just for fun this year I grew some double daisies I think they were called Bellis perennis ‘Pomponette, you can see them in the centre.  I am curious to see how long lasting they are in a vase. I might grow more next year.

The mauve flowers are from  a dark purple leaved honesty called Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’. It is a lovely plant, unfortunately storm ‘Hannah’ blew her over and I have not got round to propping her up.

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’

The next photo has nothing to do with my vase but while we are talking about Honesty, I think the very best is Lunaria annua var. Albiflora ‘Alba variegata’. The plants get as big as a shrub and are very showy.

Lunaria annua var. Albiflora ‘Alba Variegata’

My table posy was finished off with a little rose. It is a bit mishsapen but it is the perfect colour.

Thank you Cathy for encouraging me to pick flowers to cheer up a chilly Bank Holiday Monday. If you pop over to Rambling in the Garden you can see what Cathy and other vase fillers have been doing. Now I had better put on a pinny and pretend to be helpful in the kitchen, although as usual The Pianist has everything well under control and I am quite superfluous.

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Six on Saturday. Fleeting Beauties.

When I did my Top Ten April Blooms post several bloggers politely suggested that I can’t count. So as I join in with Six On Saturday this week I will keep careful tally. This first week of May we have to start with blossom.

1 Blossom. There seems to be lots of beautiful apple blossom this year. I hope it’s not too cold for the bees.

Apple Blossom

Even prettier than apple blossom are the cup -shaped flowers of the quince tree, Cydonia oblonga. They are white just lightly tinged with pink.  They have lilac stamens and are  fragrant. I grow the variety called ‘Vranja’. Last year I had an abundance of golden fruit.

Cydonia oblonga ‘Vranja’ Quince blossom

I used to have a lovely little crab apple tree called Malus transitoria. It had dainty white blossom and fruit which looked like a profusion of little yellow beads. The tree was too big to bring with me when I moved, but I am delighted that the tree I grew from seed turned out be very similar to its parent.

Malus transitoria from seed.

Can I count Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’ as blossom? It is  covered with pristine white blooms, what a shame they don’t last longer.

Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’

Now there might have been four pictures but it is all blossom so it counts as one. Anyway, that’s how I count it. So now I will move on to number two.

2. Roses. I have two roses which always bloom in April. As I was going away, I wrote my Top Ten April Bloom post in the first half of April so these two didn’t get featured. They are still looking lovely. First is the primrose yellow ‘Canary Bird’ which makes a large spreading shrub.

Rosa xanthina  ‘Canary Bird’

Rosa xanthina ‘Canary Bird’

The second, ‘Helen Knight’ is deeper yellow, rather like extra rich butter from Jersey cows. The flowers are slightly  larger.

Rosa ecae ‘Helen Knight’

Rosa ecae ‘Helen Knight’

3. Peonies. My first tree peony is coming into bloom, it has huge soft pink flowers.

Paeonia suffriticosa. Tree Peony.

I went all the way to the Gargano in Puglia, Italy hoping to find Paeonia mascula growing in the forest. Meanwhile back in my own garden it was blooming away and this is the last flower, at least I didn’t miss every bloom. How sad that some of the most exciting flowers are so fleeting. I seem to have missed the yellow Paeonia mlokosewitschii, ‘Molly the Witch’ entirely.

Paeonia mascula ssp.mascula

4 Camassias.
Another really fleeting flower is the starry blue Camassia. One clump of Camassia leichtlinii  bloomed whilst I was away and I missed it completely. But this dark blue one, Camassia cusickii blooms slightly later and is still looking good.

Camassia cusickii.

5 Dwarf Irises. Irises are another brief floral pleasure. I love little Iris pumila but I wish it would hang around for longer.

Now I have seen them growing in meadows in the Gargano peninsula, Puglia I want to seek out Iris bicapitata and Iris pseudopumila and grow them en masse. There were enormous variations but Christina and I voted these next  two our  favourites.

Wild Iris. Monte Sacro,  Gargano.

Wild Iris. Monte Sacro. Gargano

6. Gladiolus tristis. It is difficult to choose number six because so far I have not featured any tulips this year which is a sad omission. And in the greenhouse Geranium maderense is in full glorious bloom. But I have decided to go with the modest beauty of South African Gladiolus tristis. What a strange name for it, as there is nothing sad about this beautiful flower.  It must be the earliest gladiolus to bloom. It is difficult to imagine anything further away from Dame Edna Evarage’s oversized monstrosities than this delicate flower. It is the palest lemon with green stripes. And as if this wasn’t enough it is fragrant. I have read that it is not reliably hardy but mine has lived outside for three years now.

Gladiolus tristis


Gladiolus tristis

I have some really lovely epimediums that I would love to share with you but I can’t see anyway to sneak them in and I’m getting a bit sensitive about people telling me that I can’t count. So there we have my Six on Saturday. Many thanks to The Propagator for hosting this meme. It is the second anniversary and an ever- increasing circle of people round the world are sharing six things each Saturday. So a celebration is in order. It is always a lot of fun, so do join in.

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