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. Out here where I live rhodies actually grow to heights of 15-20 if you don’t trim them. I didn’t know about the different in stamens between the two. I usually tell because (at least in my mind) rhodies grow in a cluster of flowers ….. and azaleas just flower all over the bush. I may be wrong though. You have some wonderful examples Susan of the warm and cool colors. 😀

    1. Thanks Cee – I appreciate it. I’ve known them grow to really large sizes here too, although I’ve seen tiny ones on rock gardens too, so I think they are more diverse than we’d think at first sight.

    1. I can’t remember ever seeing such a rainbow coloured garden, so I’ve been glad of the excuse to share a few more pictures. It’s hard not to get over excited and take pictures left, right and centre in a garden like that!

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