Six on Saturday From Arley Hall Gardens

Cluster of white and yellow flowers above botched leaves

Erythronium ‘White Beauty’

1 – This drift of Erythronium ‘White Beauty’ is calling out for a collective noun. An exhortation of trout lilies? (as these seem to be encouraging me to get out into the sunshine and stop writing) or perhaps we need a water connection – a splash of trout lilies? The marbled foliage is enough to send me into raptures, as some of you may remember, so you can imagine my satisfaction when they are all topped with flowers.

Plant with white-edged leaves and white four petalled flowers

White honesty (Lunaria annua var. albiflora ‘Alba Variegata’)

2 – Honesty is at its prime in my neighbourhood. It’s one of my favourite biennials, my fascination dating back to childhood when I loved to wonder over its flat, translucent seed disks. Lunaria annua var. albiflora ‘Alba Variegata’ with the white edging on its heart shaped leaves is an unusual form. Continue reading

Pulsatilla vulgaris: an Easter Treat

Purple flowers with yellow stamens

Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasqueflower) has furry, feathery foliage that catches the light

This garden plant stopped me in my tracks on my walk to the local park. Purple, silken flowers were lit up by a golden boss of stamens; the foliage throwing a silvery mist into the mix.

I’ve never seen pulsatilla growing wild in the UK, and perhaps I never will. This increasingly rare wildflower must be a magical sight. The young, emerging foliage is covered in long hairs creating a halo effect around the buds. Continue reading

A Celebration Of Peonies

Close up of pink, peach and cream peonies

Peonies in pastel shades: Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’ with Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Benhardt’

If I was forced to name my favourite flower, there’s a good chance it might be the peony. I love to see the red fronds of the herbaceous type pushing through the soil back to back together in their unearthly  fashion around this time of year, full of promise for the season to come. And when their blooms appear – well, could you blame me for deserting the rose in favour of these?

Primrose Hall, a fixture at all the best UK flower shows, are currently teasing a sketch of their proposed 2019 Chelsea Flower Show design online. Arrangements of blooms tower over a garden of peonies. In the background, a garland tumbles down towards flowers floating in a traditional clawfoot bath. That’s my kind of outdoor bathroom!

The pictures I’m sharing here were taken on their stands at last year’s RHS Chatsworth and Hampton Court Flower Shows.

A large flower bouquet made from 'Coral Sunset' peonies

Paeonia ‘Coral Sunset’ on the Primrose Hall display at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

I had thought that there must be more than one peony here but as Primrose Hall’s Alec White, who kindly agreed to identify the peonies, observed, “Note that the corals change colour quite a lot as they mature!”. Continue reading

The Plant Hunters’ Fair at Hoghton Tower

The sun had got his hat on most obligingly yesterday, as Hoghton Tower was hosting a plant fair. I arrived shortly after 10.30 to find the place bustling. Parking was free and the entry fee (£1 per person) allowed admittance to the fortified manor’s  walled garden. There were plant staples, novelties, rarities and bargains on offer and a line of early bird gardeners had formed in front of the plant stands, hoping to catch a worm or two. I did not judge this was a good point to start taking pictures, so the ones I have are from later on when everything was more sparse. Come between Lancastrians and their plants at your peril!

In any case, I was hunting for something too – a plant I could have bought by mail order or at many garden centres, but wanted to find here. I was not disappointed.

Why did I want to buy it here? To state the obvious, you don’t pay P&P at a plant fair. Plants are priced to sell, you can check their quality and size, get expert advice across the plant bench, and bask in the feelgood factor of directly supporting an independent, specialist nursery that grows more for love than money. Continue reading

Cottage Garden Plants: Pink love-in-a-mist

Various shades of pink love-in-a-mist flowers

Pink seed strains of Nigella damascena seem to be increasingly fashionable at recent British flower shows. It’s a quirky flower, by any standards. Layered petals wheel around a crazy eye above lacy bracts.

The complex, decorative flower form has inspired many folk names. I use love-in-a-mist, but you may know it as love-in-a-tangle, love-in-a-puzzle, kiss-me-twice-before-I-rise, Jack in the green or lady in the bower. Continue reading

Heyrick Greatorex: The Founding Father Of Snowdrop Breeders

Short, stocky double snowdrops in pink heather

Common Galanthus nivalis doubles growing in heather with a taller snowdrop to the right

Heyrick Greatorex, our first known snowdrop breeder, was responsible for a series of hybrids known as the Greatorex doubles. Unlike the common, bee-made, short, dumpling-style nivalis doubles, Greatorex’s doubles dangle large, skirted flowers from tall scapes. Introduced during the 1940s and 50s (Heyrick Greatorex died in 1954), their vigour has carried most of them through to today… or so we think!

Comments online suggest that Heyrick Greatorex was ‘an ordinary, untrained home gardener’, but whether you’ll accept that depends how you define ‘ordinary’. Continue reading

From The Alpine House at Harlow Carr Gardens: Ten Tiny Treasures

A small primula covered in a mound of flowers

Primula allionii

The northernmost of the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens, Harlow Carr, has so much to see that most repeat visitors must feel torn about where to go first. Not me – the Alpine House draws me in like a magnet. It’s show time there, whatever stage of the year. The gardeners tend a stock of plants behind the scenes, picking out tiny treasures when they are at, or around, their best for their turn in the Alpine house spotlight. This week our treats included several primulas, some flowering so madly that their leaves were hidden, others wearing their leaves with pride.

Lavender coloured primula with toothed, mealy leaves

Primula ‘Tantallon’

Some of the plants in the Alpine greenhouse are inside because they need protection from cold, wind or rain; others would grow outside just fine. Common species plants are treated as carefully as rare or special cultivars, all raised up on broad, sweeping benches so we can admire them at close quarters. Plants are grown in traditional clay pots, sunk into a mixture of sand and sharp grit to help keep the roots cool and stop them drying out too quickly. Continue reading