A Streptocarpus Fashion Parade (Cape Primroses)

Flowers with stripes, edges and netting effects

At the UK flower shows, you might find me hovering, hypnotised, iPhone in hand, before an offering of cape primroses. Dibleys Nurseries (awarded Master Grower status by the RHS at this year’s Cardiff Flower Show) can be relied upon to showcase a wonderful collection in tip top condition, as 150 coveted RHS gold medals can testify.

After many decades of breeding, a fashion parade would seem the perfect collective noun for them. If you want your flowers to have fancy netting, streaks, veins, lines or edging, different coloured lobes or throats, or frilly petals, these are the ones to audition. Let’s face it, just one cultivar can pretty much do it all.  Continue reading

Hidden in Plain Sight: Primrose Hearts

Common primrose | Primula vulgaris

When I saw these common primroses hidden under a shrub in the gardens at Bridgemere Garden Centre yesterday, I marvelled that each petal is a heart. They looked so dainty and exquisite that I wondered if I was looking at one of the latest new cultivars.

I’d been admiring the Victorian-style, gold and silver lace primulas and some ruffled, rose-like doubles on the garden centre benches just a few minutes earlier – and, I confess, wrinkling my nose at a couple of the less dainty cultivars that are being offered this season.

Checking online, I see that every common primula (Primula vulgaris) has heart-shaped petals. How could I have forgotten in just a few months?  Continue reading

Wild And Cultivated Primulas

Primroses growing wild

It’s a relatively small step from these pale yellow primroses (primula vulgaris) I found growing wild to the pink double below. Both plants are romantic in their way.

Double pink primula

The fresh pink and cream colouring of this cultivated double gradually gives way to a faded parma violet as the flower ages. I can see how, for some, this might seem a flaw, but for me it adds an old world charm.  Continue reading

Floral tapestry

Recreating Rappaccini’s Garden: an Eden of Poisonous Flowers

Spotted foxglove

I’ve been looking for pictures of plants to bring to life the garden created by Rappaccini, the twisted plant breeder of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fable, and ‘as true a man of science as ever distilled his own heart in an alembic’. Rappaccini, like Frankenstein, used science to create a monster: his beguiling, innocent, but deadly daughter Beatrice. He and his daughter tend a collection of poisonous plants with heady, intoxicating fragrances that can wither and kill.   Continue reading

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs: a private tour

Daffodil e

It may seem unseasonal to post pictures of daffodils in the autumn, but far from it: if you live in the northern hemisphere, this is a great time to plant bulbs for flowers next spring. Meanwhile, the gardens of my Australian blogging buddies seem to be full of life all of a sudden, so I imagine it’s daffodil season there.

Either way, I’d only need the flimsiest of excuses to belatedly share pictures from our visit to Brent and Becky Heath, including some taken in their private garden, trial grounds and growing fields. I’m not a daffodil expert so please don’t ask me for their names!

The Bulb Shoppe

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Clematis florida Viennetta

Clematis florida Viennetta

This clematis was a head-turner of a plant. I felt like one of the paparazzi as I lined up with jostling amateur and professional photographers at a recent flower show for my chance to take its picture.

The attraction? Masses of white flowers with showy, fully double centres in shades of purple and green hanging gracefully from a compact vine. I captured these blooms open, in their best finery, but if you search online, you’ll discover a rather strange assortment of pictures. They’re testimony to the way the flower changes as it opens from a gawky youngster to something much more regal.  Continue reading

Goosebump roses: garden style beauties for floristry

Posy of apricot 'Juliet' cut garden roses

Imagine buying a bunch of roses. You’ve probably brought to mind a bouquet of classic hybrid tea roses – the ones with long, tapering buds and straight stems that are so widely available. I wonder if, like me, you’ve sometimes felt just a little disappointed when the buds fail to deliver their promise and fade away before they’ve really opened?

Behind the scenes, breeders have been developing a new type of cut rose, inspired by old garden roses. Often mistaken for peonies, these blowsy beauties are so far removed from what’s gone before that they’re almost like a new type of flower. Continue reading