A type of flower that may have beards, falls, flounces, horns, laminata, standards, signals and ruffles has to be accorded respect. Having said that, some of you might observe this ‘ordinary’ blue iris is lacking some of the twiddly bits its fancier bearded cousins can proudly display.
You might agree with me that the sunlight dancing on its upper petals and its clear, veined beelines left little to be desired: that the simple iris need not aspire to anything more. Continue reading
Not a title I was expecting to write, but I had to share this snippet from one of the nurseries taking part in the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. This peacock was (metaphorically) strutting its stuff as part of the silver-gilt winning display of elatum delphiniums by Home Farm Plants of Covington. Continue reading
The grounds of Chatsworth House make a wonderful setting for the youngest of the major UK flower shows. I hope you’ll find something of interest in my personal picks from the show.
1. Seasonal Cut Flowers
Freddie’s Flowers had packed a breathtaking array of seasonal cut flowers in shades of lavender, cream and pink in the back of a truck to advertise their bouquet by post service. Continue reading
I am usually drawn back to my favourite gardens at least once each year, timing my visit when they are at, or around, their peak of flowering. That can be a challenge. Seasons vary. Enlightened gardens work hard to make sure there is always something to tempt visitors during their open season, which makes ‘their peak’ relative, depending on which flower combinations delight you most.
I’m inclined to blame the tulips and spring bulbs for beguiling me in the past. Whether or not their rainbow glory can truly be faulted, I’ve always missed seeing the Dorothy Clive’s laburnum arch in full flower by just a few weeks or so (mere days in 2015). This year, as you see, I’ve been more fortunate. Continue reading
At one time, I kept a Roman Emperor’s ‘Meditations’ on the corner of my desk at work so I had ready access to a consoling or restraining line from a wise and gentle counsellor. Flicking through the pages at random for a minute or two could always give me the boost I needed.
Marcus Aurelius ruled in a time of currency devaluation, war, flooding, starvation, infectious diseases, plots and coup attempts. His wife gave birth to at least 13 children. Only five were alive when he died. His words are directed to himself: we overhear them and can interpret them as we choose. I have always liked the idea that he lived at the extreme end of a bell curve – he understood glory, sadness, responsibility, politics and power and held on to his humanity under pressure that dwarfs anything I hope to understand or experience. Here are some of my favourite Marcus Aurelius quotes:
1. You will not easily find a man coming to grief through indifference to the working of another’s soul; but for those who pay no heed to the motions of their own, unhappiness is their sure reward.
2. Dig within. There lies the well-spring of good: ever dig, and it will ever flow.
3. Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.
4. Today I have got myself out of all my perplexities; or rather, I have got my perplexities out of myself, for they were not without, but within; they lay in my own outlook. Continue reading
When you see this rose in flower, Lady Banks’ Rose may fall easier to your lips than its botanical name, Rosa banksiae. There are several versions available (see the Q & A below), but my favourite is the double yellow form, ‘Lutea’, pictured here.
…it only flowers for about a month, but what a month!
From a distance, a flowering Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ is like a pale yellow throw rug; up close, the flowers are small rosettes, held in graceful sprays. If not firmly tied up, the foliage seems to drip on long stems from the plant, creating a distinctive look. Continue reading
Kraken are giant, predatory sea creatures from the North, something like an octopus or squid. This one has, not unusually for its sort, seized hold of a passing sail boat and now has the terrified mariners at its mercy (unless, as we cannot see any onboard, they were all partying onshore when the kraken sneaked into the harbour). It’s a detail from a painting on a hotel car park wall we stopped to admire.
Strictly speaking, the second is fence art. It’s a detail too, of a large design featuring birds, animals and vegetation that runs around the back patio of a restaurant in Key West. It’s worth reading this one upwards, so you get used to each level of the story before taking the next leap.
First, leafy foliage with two pink flamingos. So far so good. They wear a decorative form of eye makeup. One is wearing a coronation crown that Queen Elizabeth II would not be ashamed of (it looks lighter than her own). The artist has added a scroll and swirl design to add movement and break up the background. A space craft is leaving the scene to fly off into a universe of stars. Continue reading
The wild garlic looks, shall we say jumbled, the pink azalea makes for a busy background, and the sunlight isn’t helping… unless you can see it all as a natural, floral patchwork impression of colours, angles and attitudes. An outdoor tea party of sorts was taking place just around the corner – if the azalea flowers were people, their floral dresses and sociability would have suited the event perfectly.
I’ve met many horticulture people I love, admire or both, but few I admire more than Beverly Welch who, together with her husband, Max, owns The Arbor Gate. No matter how many times I visit, I’m always taken by her hospitality, kindness and composure even on one of the busiest days in her calendar.
My sweetheart lectures there, so I don’t claim to be impartial. I’m a fan. It’s my favourite plant centre outside the UK and I suspect there aren’t many better ones in the world. I love wandering around, admiring the plants and marvelling at the garden art while trying to avoid being taken off guard by the Texan sun.
My sweetheart is lecturing at The Arbor Gate as I write, while I’m back in England, feeling nostalgic and making up for not being there by sharing a much overdue gallery of pictures from my visits over the last few years.
One the plant front, visitors can expect to find roses, perennials, annuals, succulents, trees, shrubs, vines and a big collection of herbs.
After writing my last post it occurred to me that I might have the chance to realise my long-held ambition and go to an auricula show. It was a timely thought: the N.A.P.S.’s Northern Section’s auricula show was held at Kingsway School in Cheadle on Saturday. Visitors were ‘warmly welcomed’ from 2 o’clock onwards, so I headed on down. Bargain hunters may like to note there was no admission fee and a whole table of cakes were being offered at the knockdown price of £1 per slice.
In the hall, people were peering at rows of circus plants with button shaped flowers in bright, bold colours decorated with rings, stripes, powder, and fancy edges.
There’s something alluring to me about auricula primulas, the racing pigs of the plant world. 19th century Lancashire working men collected these little darlings to bond over, lavish care upon, and to compete with against each other for the grand prize of a copper kettle. Today’s society helps give us an impression of how things were, back then: Continue reading
The rain has been beating down hard against the house in such rage that I went to inspect: it was a hailstorm, on the 2nd of May. My Dad, Jack Rushton, was always in tune with nature, more so than he sometimes was with people. He’d have known if the hail was unusual at this time of year or par for the course. He would have been 90 today. He died too early by any standards: my sister and I never got the chance to relate to him with truly adult minds. Of course some of his messages stay with me.
His love of plants, animals and nature placed the natural world at the centre of things. He knew that English bluebells were the delicate ones, with flowers that hung from just one side of the scape.
He helped make sure my sister and I had the kind of childhood where climbing trees, inspecting stones in streams, crossing moorland, hanging around other people’s allotments, collecting horse pooh for roses, growing plants from seeds, cramming the yard full of so many pots you could hardly wind your way through it, and dissecting owl pellets to see what they had eaten would always seem normal. Continue reading