January Squares: Light Pink Roses

Cluster of pale pink, single rambler rose

Becky at The Life Of B is hosting a new challenge throughout January with the topic of light, or any word ending in light. The main picture has to be square. I don’t find it easy to crop square, unless the picture was originally taken that way (relatively few are), but it’s good to be challenged.

So why this picture? Well, the roses are the lightest shade of pink; the flowers seem like tiny satellite* dishes, catching and reflecting sunlight, and I’m claiming they make a delightful sight.

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White and Chalky Pastel Flower Palette from the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show

Alcea rosea 'The Bride' - white double hollyhock

Alcea rosea ‘The Bride’

It’s just my personal taste, but while white flowers such as this double hollyhock entrance me, I’m rarely convinced by white borders. I take in the overall effect, think “Ooh! A classic white border. Perhaps it will be better at its peak?”, then move on.

This year’s Tatton Park Flower Show gave me an insight into what twist a white border might have that would truly inspire me: chalky pastels.

Rosa 'Kew Gardens'

Rosa ‘Kew Gardens’

Imagine this recipe: take pure white flowers, sully the mix with flowers that have creamy, ivory or white backgrounds decorated with streaks or blotches of pink, peach, yellow, lavender and green, then add a good helping of pure, pale pastel flowers. Use colours as soft as you dare to create a dreamy effect – I’m thinking of Edinburgh rock colours.

Lilium 'Colosseum'

Lilium ‘Colosseum’

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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

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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

Passiflora vitifolia: A tropical vine bearing red passion flowers

Bright red passionflower vine growing against a fence

Red passion flowers, blazing joyfully in the early January sunshine during our visit to Florida, looked for all the world like a miracle to my Northern English eyes, tuned in to consider a single early snowdrop a delight.

It’s a bit of a minefield making sure which of the various scarlet red passionflowers you have before you. Passiflora vitifolia gets its name from the vine-shaped foliage. As its folk name is The Perfumed Passionflower you might expect me to have something to report about its fragrance but, not associating passionflowers with fragrance, it didn’t cross my mind to sniff it. It’s a vigorous vine when happy, able to reach 6 m (20 ft) if its surroundings force it to climb to reach sunlight. This smaller one was able to bask in the sunshine along a fence in the Naples Botanical Garden’s Brazilian Garden.

Passion flowers wow us with their intricate forms, even when their colours are relatively drab. This overhead view of a red passion flower could almost be a lesson in botany.

Three red-speckled styles that end in pale stigmas arch elegantly over at the top of the flower. The structure appears to balance on a creamy ovary in the centre, directly below; underneath that, five speckled filaments with green, pollen-bearing anthers attached. The pollen is held underneath – you can just glimpse it on the outer edges. Next, rings of eyelash-style filaments: long, dark red ones, with shorter ones in the middle, designed to make pollinators work hard enough for their nectar to withdraw with pollen on their backs (or heads, in the case of humming birds).

Underneath all that, five true petals, with five outer sepals beneath and between, all ten recurving backwards. My personal take on their colour? It’s the classic British fire engine red, more often described as crimson or scarlet.

Given its vine-like foliage, it would seem apt if this miraculous little plant went on to produce tiny bunches of grapes. Instead the fruits resemble dainty melons that some people describe as tasting like sour strawberries and others say are poisonous. It would be wise not to sample them unless you’re an expert.

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