…would it? Either way, I’m wishing my American friends a very happy Thanksgiving. If you’re traveling, keep safe. If it’s just an everyday day for you, I hope these flowers will bring a little cheer. Continue reading
Can anyone identify this rose I saw at RHS Rosemoor Garden back in July? It has a shrubby habit and loosely double petals – it’s the ruffled arrangement of the petals that draws my attention as so often with roses. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Spires of tubular flowers of blue, stained purple, help Penstemon ‘Stapleford Gem’ stand out in the garden. The flowers share a pout with the thicker petals of foxgloves, but have more of a luminescent quality. Purple beelines draw our eyes down the pale throat into the flower. Continue reading
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.
High up on my photogenic flowers list comes tricyrtis, also known by the folk name toad-lily. This one is all the more picturesque for the curtain of grasses and backdrop of nicotiana (those pale, drooping, trumpet-like flowers).
Layered symmetry is a big part of a toad-lily’s charm. Looking down at the main flower, beneath three forked tongues joined triskelion-style, you’ll find a ring of legs with shoes that appear to be dancing. Well, they might if, like me, you’ve been keeping up with this year’s Strictly. The three narrow petals have a delicate smattering of freckles and are positioned between three darker sepals, their ends curling back. The yellow splotches (almost hearts, if you squint enough) give this particular form a sunny glow. Continue reading
Some plants don’t just add colour, mass and form to a border, they add atmosphere, nostalgia even. Take old-fashioned blue asters, for instance. Individually, the small, daisy-like flowers are on the raggedy side but their profusion packs a punch. If you can look at this picture without imagining a hum of pollinators foraging the flowers for nectar and pollen, you’re not getting out enough.
When I was a child, I used to know places nearby where asters like these grew wild. In those days, my eye didn’t appraise a plant for mildew or an ample coverage of foliage: I took pleasure in the blue daisies and assumed the grown ups (or Mother Nature) would take care of the rest. I poked a few stems through buttonholes to decorate my cardigan and called them Michaelmas daisies without understanding anything of the long history wrapped up in the name. Continue reading
The last few days, we’ve had enough rain to kickstart the process of re-greening the North of England’s meadows, and I started to feel a little celebration of sunshine might not go amiss. Isn’t that the way it always is?
My first is a decidedly strange (for me) shot of roses growing overhead – so high, they ruled out the little dead-heading needed for a conventional shot. At the time I took it, I was half-imagining some form of caption in the top left: a concise one like Dog Days or Wine & Roses. As the end result captures more of their spirit than I expected, I’m leaving it alone. For now. Continue reading