The Dorothy Clive Garden in Party Girl Season

Cee’s recent photo challenge  asks us to share two selections of pictures to demonstrate warm and cool colours. My visit to the Dorothy Clive Gardens last May immediately came to mind. At that time of year the gardens were brimming with jewel-like colours: the azaleas and rhododendrons were at their peak and the companion planting sensational.

Falling head over heels for the wild azaleas I saw growing in woodland in the Southern States of America has given me more of a taste for the cultivated ones back home in English gardens. These colourful, floriferous shrubs peak for a few weeks each year, but while their flowers are gracing the garden, we’re not going to miss them.

Put on your sunglasses, move in closer and you’ll discover that each individual floret has an exotic grace. Their stamens are like dramatically curled eyelashes, and some petals have the cutest freckles. No wonder my sweetheart calls them the party girls of the plant kingdom.

Even with such rich material, Cee’s challenge was proving more difficult that I had expected. The ‘wrong’ colours kept creeping into the frame: a photobombing clump of bluebells or an improper scattering of forget-me-nots in with the warms; warm lime green or ochre highlights in with the cool colours.

Luckily, Cee foresaw this and allowed us some license. As she says ‘Don’t try to force a rule that doesn’t apply, but do look for ways to bend the rule if that helps’. Thanks Cee – it helps!

The dusky purple tulips and violet alliums are so intermingled with hot colours in this rainbow-coloured garden that after a few tries, I abandoned any ideas of isolating them to show the violet part of the cool spectrum which means my cool spectrum is missing an element.

The careful choice and placement of companions (in particular the masterly underplanting) plays a huge part in the character of this garden. Cropping them off gives a different impression of what you’ll see here during a May visit.

My earlier post captures the overall effect in the Dorothy Clive Garden in springtime with all the colours mingled in together and provides address and contact details. I’m not sure which I prefer, but this has been an interesting exercise, so thanks, Cee, for the inspiration!

What’s the difference between a Rhododendron and an Azalea?

Fancy not knowing that! I’m only teasing -I didn’t, so I looked it up for this post. I did have the vague idea that rhododendrons tend to be larger plants and azaleas tend to have warmer, bolder flower colours. Double flowered plants are most likely to be azaleas. That’s not much use if you have a medium sized, pink, single flowered one.

Luckily there turns out to be an easier way if the plants are in flower: you can just count the stamens. Azaleas have five, rhodos ten or more. Usually. And usually is good enough for me.

For those who crave for certainty (never a comfortable position when it comes to plant nomenclature), here’s a link to a more complete explanation.

22 Replies to “The Dorothy Clive Garden in Party Girl Season”

  1. A taste of things to come. I love the contrasting colours and tones in the 2 sets of photos but most of all they sing out with energy and remind me that it won’t always be grey and wet!! My part of Somerset is not rhodie or azalea country as the soil here is not acidic but they can be stunning.

    1. Do hydrangeas thrive there? They flower at a completely different time of the year, but they’re similar in their impact when they’re dripping with large, graceful flowers.

  2. Your pictures make me nostalgic for growing up on Long Island, where Azaleas and Rhododendrons could thrive happily. They are not happy here in Chicago – too cold and too much pH. Though some people plant them anyway.

    1. It can be hard for gardeners to give up and accept defeat, even when the plants they want to grow clearly don’t enjoy their local conditions. I’ve visited Chicago a couple of times, but have always been there in January so haven’t had chance to see the gardens in flower. Perhaps one year!

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