Blue Iris With A Fake Beard

Blue irises

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

Highlights of the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2019

RHS floral logo with Chatsworth House in the background

RHS green floral letters

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

The Dorothy Clive Garden in Laburnum Arch Season

Metal arch supporting racemes of yellow laburnum flowers

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

20 Quotes from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

20 quotes from Marcus Aurelius

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

Yellow Lady Banks’ Rose (Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’)

Rosa banksiae 'Lutea' in bloom against a wall at Kiftsgate

An old Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ at Kiftsgate Court Gardens with woody lower bark

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!
– HOUZZ

Arching stems of Rosa banksiae 'Lutea' - the yellow Lady Banks' Rose

Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ is almost thornless with trailing growth

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

Street Art, Key West, Florida Keys

Street art of a giant cephalopod's tentacles lifting a sail boat

A pink and turquoise kraken seizes a sailing boat

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.

Pink flamingos, one with a crown, painted on a fence

Pink flamingos painted on a fence

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

Floral Pictures: Wild Garlic and a Handkerchief Tree

Wild garlic flowers with pink rhododendron

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.

Handkerchief tree canopy (Davidia involucrata)

Looking up into the canopy of Davidia involucrata

Continue reading

The Arbor Gate, Tomball, Texas

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.

He’s actually 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.

Colourful bank of petunias and annuals

Petunias and other bedding plants help give visitors a cheery welcome

One the plant front, visitors can expect to find roses, perennials, annuals, succulents, trees, shrubs, vines and a big collection of herbs.

Continue reading

Auricula Gallery from the Northern Section’s Cheadle Show 2019

Flowers with yellow eye, white ring, black feathering and green edge

Green edged Primula auricula

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.

Neat cluster of grey edged auricula flowers

Edged show auricula ‘Sea Peep’

Continue reading