In Praise of Bergenia (Elephant’s Ears)

Five petalled flowers with delicately veined petals

I tend to be drawn to the palest pink or white bergenia cultivars, in preference to those with bolder colours, but this mid pink caught my eye last year at The Dorothy Clive Garden. The flower scapes were elegant; closely packed with flowers and I loved the subtle veining (or crinkle effect) on the petals.

Bergenia leaves and flower scapes

As The Beth Chatto Gardens Blog once put it, bergenia is a plant underdog, often dismissed as untidy, uninteresting or both. Slugs and snails like them, so you can expect the leaves to show bite marks in an accolade to their tastiness. I like them too. Continue reading

Two Styles Of English Garden: Cottage and Formal

Yellow, apricot and blue cottage garden

If every garden (and every human) was the same, the world would be a pitiful place. These very different gardens seem to suit their respective home perfectly. Viewed together, each accentuates the other’s beauty.

The first, a private cottage garden in the grounds of Dorothy Clive Gardens, is super colourful, flower-filled and just a little laissez-faire. Flowers in shades of apricot, yellow and blue gaily tumble over each other above the unifying green, partly obscuring the view from the home and creating a feeling of privacy.

Formal garden with topiary cones

The second garden, Levels Hall in The Lake District, is grand, formal and manicured. Mullioned windows of a centuries-old stately home overlook topiary cones, tall yew hedges and garden benches. A stone urn acts as a centrepiece above a circle of bedding plants. Gravel makes the area pleasant for visitors to stroll through and continues along the same neutral vein as the benches and stone building. Our eyes, naturally alert to colour and variation, find interest in the different greens while noting the feeling of harmony and restraint.   Continue reading

Mock Underwater Garden

When I saw the prompt for this week’s photo challenge, my first thought was ‘Easy!’. My life and experiences seem unlikely to me – as everyone’s would, if we only spared time to think about it. Photographically, I would have said I notice the unlikely. So why is it that looking through my pictures, I can’t find anything unlikely? Not really. [The truth is, everything is just as likely as it is unlikely, given the nature of the world and recent conjectures about it. Don’t blame me for the wooziness of that statement, blame the late, lamented Stephen Hawking.]

Container garden with mermaid under a shell arch

I seem to hear someone object “What’s unlikely about this? The mermaid isn’t real. Were she real, I’d hand it to you.”

OK, I know this isn’t really an underwater garden, just an impression of one in the corner of a real garden. A collection of containers, garden art, natural objects, plants, structures and vines have all been co-opted to create a garden vignette.  Continue reading

Flowers: Familiar And Less So

Trillium flower with three leaves and three petals

White trillium with a delicate, pink, central stripe

Wild Daffodil has piqued my curiosity today with her mystery flower, which I cannot identify, and reminded me of a couple of mystery plants of my own. So I decided to share a few well-loved flowers as bait for flower lovers, then throw some less-well-known ones in to see if anyone can help either of us out by letting us know what they are.

It’s not often I see a British flower growing outdoors that is a completely new species to me, mainly because I’m one of nature’s flower stalkers. Just like any butterfly or bee worth their salt (or perhaps that should be worth their nectar), there’s few flowers that don’t capture my attention. The trouble is, I don’t always know what they are, or even whether they are flowers at all. This green mound for example.

Leafy green flower emerging from the ground

Petasites japonicus, identified by Diane (Mystery A)

Continue reading

A Streptocarpus Fashion Parade (Cape Primroses)

Flowers with stripes, edges and netting effects

At the UK flower shows, you might find me hovering, hypnotised, iPhone in hand, before an offering of cape primroses. Dibleys Nurseries (awarded Master Grower status by the RHS at this year’s Cardiff Flower Show) can be relied upon to showcase a wonderful collection in tip top condition, as 150 coveted RHS gold medals can testify.

After many decades of breeding, a fashion parade would seem the perfect collective noun for them. If you want your flowers to have fancy netting, streaks, veins, lines or edging, different coloured lobes or throats, or frilly petals, these are the ones to audition. Let’s face it, just one cultivar can pretty much do it all.  Continue reading

Macro Monday: Iris With Ferns

Purple striped iris with ferns in the background

These plant bedfellows seem to embody contrasts and echoes. Both are linear, with some symmetry, but neither are rigidly so. I get the feeling a mathematician might find reverie here. Curves, curls – wobbles, even – add complexity and soften any harshness. Someone or something has taken a chunk out of one iris petal, but the lines and colours are so hypnotic, we hardly notice it.  Continue reading

Fragile

Tombstone in the woods with Fragile inscribed on it

Visitors who walk through the woodland at Ian Hamilton Finlay’s old home, Little Sparta, in Scotland, happen upon a mossy tombstone placed at an angle between the ferns. Like many of Little Sparta’s artworks – paths, blocks, even beehives – it bears an inscription.  Continue reading

Prolific Shrub And Rambler Roses

A cluster of pink roses

The best roses are prolific. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy spotting a spindly climbing rose around the entrance to an old cottage or leaning in a corner of a graveyard as much as the next person. And I try not to judge. Tough enough, these roses give the impression that they are barely clinging on to life. Often they are red ones, throwing out a long, languidly arching stem to one side or the other that they wave around romantically in the wind, careless of their own mortality. Those are the ones that can get away with the merest peppering of tatty blooms and still provoke a genuine ‘ooh!’ or an ‘aah…”, until I pull out a camera, of course, when the ‘ooh!’ usually turns to an ‘oh!’ in an instant.

No, give me the prolific ones, where bloom competes with bloom for its moment in the full sun.

Ballerina roses

I don’t know the name of the pink rose at the top, but the second one is Rosa ‘Ballerina’, a shrub rose (technically a hybrid musk) that liberally smothers itself in flowers. The young flowers are bee targets, like fried eggs, dressed up in pink edges for a garden party. The elderly flowers lost their pink days ago, paling to white, and making a lovely contrast.  Continue reading

Small Narcissus (Daffodils)

Small daffodils peeking out from the foliage of taller ones

These daffodils looked sweet peeping out through the foliage of taller ones. I saw them at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. I can hardly believe it has three years ago since we were enjoying their company and hospitality – and, of course, their flowers.

Their show gardens must be at or around their prime now and are so very worthy of a visit. If you fancy a peep, check out this post to see what I mean.