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

Spring Flowers, Picked And Growing

Crocus flowers, picked, lying on a slatted garden table

Yesterday’s trip to Gresgarth Hall Garden for the March hellebore open day is always pencilled into my calendar. One of my favourite bits is the table of floral goodies prepared for visitors to hang over, all neatly labelled. These crocus flowers were part of this year’s display.

Crocuses growing among dead tree leaves and moss

On the far side of the river, the crocuses were flowering in their natural surroundings. Slender, arching leaves, each with its silver stripe, made a lovely contrast with moss and fallen beech tree leaves.  Continue reading

Sempervivum ‘Lady Kelly’: A Beautiful, Unusual Form Of Hen And Chicks

Sempervivum 'Lady Kelly' (hen and chicks)

Sempervivum ‘Lady Kelly’ with one chick growing out sideways from its mother (front, left).

Many people know sempervivum as houseleek, or hen and chicks, which celebrates the plantlets produced as offsets. It is monocarpic which means the original rosette-like plant will reach flowering size after several years’ growth, then after flowering once, will shrivel and die, being succeeded by its chicks of various ages and any seedlings.

Sempervivum ‘Lady Kelly’ seems to be a rare form. The place where I saw it (Beth Chatto’s nursery) didn’t have any for sale and when I searched for one to buy online, I couldn’t find any source, let alone an equally reputable one.*

The rich lavender – blue – grey colouring was very striking in real life against the greens and corals. I fell immediately in love with the plant and ‘Blue Boy’ a similarly coloured sempervivum cultivar that I might share in a future post.  Continue reading

Flowers or modified sepals – who knew?

Hydrangea flower

My blog (like many others) is mostly a collection of ‘Ooh, shiny!’ moments. That’s Andrea’s term for “diversions, distractions and delightful detours”. Things that make me pause to pay more attention that I photograph and share, hoping you’ll be willing to pause for them too.

Like these hydrangea flowers. I’m not talking about the pink bits we think of as petals that are, technically, modified sepals, but the tiny blue flowers I hadn’t really noticed until they were pointed out. While the modified sepals (a catchy term – I can’t think why it never caught on) are long lasting, the small flowers only open briefly. Even more of a reason for us to miss them.

Lacecap hydrangeas, such as the star striped beauty below, have a cluster of small flowers in the middle, with a few more in the centre of the florets that seem to float on their outer edges.

Hydrangea flower in a flower Continue reading

Woodland Plants: Erythronium dens canis

Erythronium dens canis (dog's tooth violet)

This little gem – Erythronium dens canis – grows wild in favoured places across Europe. You might come across them in dappled shade on the edge of UK woods, pushing their way up through leaf litter, but there is probably more chance of finding them in a major garden or a spring plant and bulb catalogue.

Common names include dog’s tooth violet and trout lily. If you were wondering, dog’s tooth refers to the shape of the bulbs (which should be planted pointy side up) and trout to the beautiful, mottled foliage. The leaves look like a trendy, new, mint flavoured chocolate might – thin, of course, to justify the price tag in that inverse way we’ve come to expect; wavy to give the research and development team something to think about; and with a weird ingredient for extra credibility, such as cardamom or Kaffir lime leaves or green tea.  Continue reading