Ness Botanic Garden Penguin: Grow Your Own

Penguin with eyebrows shaped like peppers

Placed like an invocation in a winter vegetable garden is a penguin with a story to tell. On last month’s visit, this part of Ness Botanic Garden was looking (I won’t say sorry for itself, as it was well-tended) out of season. It wasn’t going to feed a family of four any time soon, though nature being what it is, I’m sure magic was taking place under the soil.

For plenty, we had to look to the surrealist style painting of fruit, roots, leaves and tubers that covered the surface of the bird. I spotted onions, cauliflowers, garlic, parsnips, garden peas, carrots, sweet and hot peppers, grapes, lemon, marrow, fennel, cabbage, broccoli, aubergine, lettuce, gourds and an assortment of mushrooms, but that’s not all, by any means. I’m glad nobody needs to find shoes to fit our penguin’s sweetcorn and celery stick feet.  Continue reading

Witch Hazel In Winter Gardens

Bare branches with red spidery flowers

Here’s a closer look at witch hazel (Hamamelis). Ancient lore accords these flowering shrubs medicinal, cultural and even religious value, but here I’m focusing on their decorative quality. In the UK, witch hazels drop their leaves in autumn, then produce colourful flowers that are particularly welcome in the winter garden.

Bare branches with orange flowers

The flowers appear to float, held up in the air on slender stems that would otherwise go unnoticed in deciduous plantings. The rusty orange one particularly attracted me. Rich purple calyces provide a beautiful contrast, and the colour palette just seems to get better as the older petals wither.  Continue reading

Two Hellebores At Ness Botanic Gardens

Velvety hellebore hybrid with a blurred sea of snowdrops

The first shot is a variation on a theme. You may remember the purple hellebore bowing its head in homage to snowdrops towards the end of my recent post about snowdrops. This flower was nearby. I bent down, half automatically, and turned the flower up to take a look inside. The darker spotting on a rich, purple background created an effect somewhere between velvet and silk. Very regal. It may be just my imagination, but in this shot, it’s the snowdrops that seem to be paying homage, like fans at a concert.  Continue reading

Snowdrop-aholics in the news

Close up of snowdrops with many others behind them

Snowdrops look alluring in a mass planting

Snowdrops are so hyped up this year that the clickbait on the BBC News website’s most viewed article on Saturday morning was Are you suffering from galanthomania?. Anything that sounds like an ailment evidently has the whole of Britain (minus those aware that a galanthus is a snowdrop) clicking away to find out if they have the symptoms. Well, it is winter.

I have recorded my personal pangs here, but wouldn’t go so far as to call it a mania. Muddy knees, sometimes; mania, nope.

Snowdrops with large bergenia leaves in a winter garden

Red branches and bergenia leaves make a lovely backdrop for snowdrops

But I won’t try to deny that snowdrops cast spells on us.  Continue reading

Plantlust

Hellebore flowers

Every now and again, we gardeners spot a plant we really want. Not having the space or the conditions it deserves doesn’t always help reduce the cravings, but when we’re lucky enough to have the perfect spot, we’re almost powerless to resist.

If the plant is a mass propagated, named cultivar (and we know the variety name and can find a supplier) there’s something we can do about it, when it’s not, it’s more tricky. I’ve recently been bewitched by a hellebore I saw in woodland at the Ness Botanic Garden that I fear falls into the latter category.   Continue reading