Delphinium ‘Flamenco’ from the Highlander Series

Delphinium with pink double flowers, streaked green

During the summer, I dedicate more time to taking photos than to sharing them. If you’re a flower stalker too, you’ll understand the temptation. After all, a delphinium waits for no man (or woman), blooming in response to triggers we understand at an abstract level rather than feel happening at a cellular one. It’s somewhere between a pleasure and a frenzy to be in full-on photo gathering mode, so, as September taps on the door, it feels good to slow down and enjoy revisiting summer’s photo stash.

This plant wasn’t labelled at RHS Tatton Park, where I saw it, so I’ve had to look it up. Delphinium ‘Flamenco’ is part of the Highlander series of Scottish-bred delphiniums. Continue reading

Six on Saturday From The RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

I’m joining in with The Propagator to share my six favourite plants from the ongoing UK flower show that runs until Sunday 10th June. It’s a good discipline to be just allowed six, but you should know there was a small battle for every one of these slots. I hope I’ll not be the only one this week to share pictures from Chatsworth, as I’d love to see other people’s highlights. Here goes:

  1. Digitalis ‘Foxlight Rose Ivory’

Pink foxglove flowers with speckled, cream throat

Looking this up online, the first search result is a data card for trade sellers, saying: ‘…bold novelty colors boost retail appeal and drive impulse sales’. I’m sure they will! I had thought this foxglove was part of the Illumination series, but was puzzled by the pointed lip, so was pleased to find I’d photographed the label. This doesn’t always happen, especially if I am over-excited to see the plant.

2. Polemonium ‘Northern Lights’

Polemonium cultivar with blue backed flowers, lighter inside

I’ve always had a soft spot for polemoniums. This cultivar has a radiance because the lighter centres of the flowers are displayed against lavender blue petal reverses. The yellowy-orange stamens help too.

3. Gaura ‘Rosy Jane’

White gaura flowers with a pronounced pink edge

I love gaura (butterfly bush), even though it does much better in my sweetheart’s Mississippi garden than it ever did in my own tiny Lancashire one. Continue reading

Great Companion Plants For a Cottage Garden: Astrantia

Astrantias at Arley Hall

First, What is a companion plant?

Plant society members often think of their ‘pet’ plants as the stars of any border: flowering perennials, shrubs, trees and climbing plants that are guaranteed to turn heads. Think of peonies, roses, hydrangeas, day lilies, dahlias, delphiniums, hollyhocks, or even topiary as in the picture of Arley Hall, above.

Companion plants are the ones with more of a supportive role. They are chosen to complement the feature plants, contrasting or harmonising with them, in colour, texture or form. I can’t imagine a traditional herbaceous border without companions to fill in the gaps and create a harmonious  tapestry. While companions add to the richness and diversity of the garden, they will not compete too aggressively for the limelight or for resources such as food, water or space. They create a healthier ecosystem by attracting beneficial insects.

Many of my favourite companion plants are long-flowering, allowing the garden to transition seamlessly from one season to another. You might have overlooked every one of the companion plants I’ll be highlighting in this short series of posts, but I believe they’re worth their moment in the spotlight.

Astrantia (masterwort)

Red astrantia

Astrantias are such useful, trouble-free companion plants that you’d be hard pressed to find a major English garden without them. Masses of small umbels are held airily on wiry stems like a profusion of stars, as their Latin name suggests. The intricate, lacey flowers are encircled by papery bracts of varying lengths.  Continue reading

Cheerleading For Frilly Flowers: Double Peonies

Pink peony

If ever a flower looked like it was wearing a petticoat, this is it. It’s hard to believe this bloom is only partially open. The yellow petals in the centre will gradually become more prominent, but I like the flower at this stage while the outer petals are still a pure pink, and are forming a protective cup around the inner petals.

White peony

The second peony has it all for me: I love the pearly character of the creamy white petals and the way those yellowy petals create an inner glow.  Continue reading

Classic cottage garden flowers

Delphiniums

It’s been a real treat for us to spend time with friends visiting some of our favourite English gardens, including Hidcote Manor, Kiftsgate Court, Rousham House, Powis Castle and Wollerton Old Hall. I’ll be sorting through pictures for a few more days yet, but wanted to share a glimpse of some classic cottage garden plants that seemed to be enjoying the sunshine: roses, delphiniums, clematis, verbascums and foxgloves.

Continue reading