Auricula Gallery from the Northern Section’s Cheadle Show 2019

Flowers with yellow eye, white ring, black feathering and green edge

Green edged Primula auricula

After writing my last post it occurred to me that I might have the chance to realise my long-held ambition and go to an auricula show. It was a timely thought: the N.A.P.S.’s Northern Section’s auricula show was held at Kingsway School in Cheadle on Saturday. Visitors were ‘warmly welcomed’ from 2 o’clock onwards, so I headed on down. Bargain hunters may like to note there was no admission fee and a whole table of cakes were being offered at the knockdown price of £1 per slice.

In the hall, people were peering at rows of circus plants with button shaped flowers in bright, bold colours decorated with rings, stripes, powder, and fancy edges.

Neat cluster of grey edged auricula flowers

Edged show auricula ‘Sea Peep’

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Heyrick Greatorex: The Founding Father Of Snowdrop Breeders

Short, stocky double snowdrops in pink heather

Common Galanthus nivalis doubles growing in heather with a taller snowdrop to the right

Heyrick Greatorex, our first known snowdrop breeder, was responsible for a series of hybrids known as the Greatorex doubles. Unlike the common, bee-made, short, dumpling-style nivalis doubles, Greatorex’s doubles dangle large, skirted flowers from tall scapes. Introduced during the 1940s and 50s (Heyrick Greatorex died in 1954), their vigour has carried most of them through to today… or so we think!

Comments online suggest that Heyrick Greatorex was ‘an ordinary, untrained home gardener’, but whether you’ll accept that depends how you define ‘ordinary’. Continue reading

David C.H. Austin OBE: A Personal Valediction

It was a sad day when I opened an e-mail to tell me that David C.H. Austin (or ‘Mr A’ to many of those who knew him) had died at the age of 92. So close to the company’s Christmas party, I imagined, just a couple of days before the anniversary of the death of his wife, Pat. You can read the official obituary of someone who will always be one of my heroes on the David Austin Roses website. Here, I’m sharing my memories of the man who changed my life when he approved my appointment to one of the most fascinating jobs I can imagine.  Continue reading

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

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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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

Hellebore heaven: Sunshine Farm

Hellebore seedling with picotee edge and nectaries

It was in Philadelphia, at my first Garden Writer’s Symposium, during the lunch this bright, generous group of garden experts holds to welcome newcomers to their wonderful event, that I first met Barry Glick. I may be maligning him, but it’s my firm belief that he was just pretending to be a fresher so he wouldn’t miss out on any of the fun. I was prepared for a few surprises, but not quite this one. Continue reading