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

Highlights of the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2018

Model in white dress and flowery hat

Model with flowery hat at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

As we wound around Derbyshire’s beautiful but narrow Peak District roads towards our sneak preview of the Chatsworth Flower Show yesterday, knowing how limestone has shaped the environment, making the ground glitter in places, I thought of one of my favourite poems: W.H. Auden’s ‘In Praise Of Limestone’.

I love the poem’s conversational style, but its abrupt changes of tone and subject matter might not suit everyone. Just as we can only read a poem from within the landscape of our own mind, we can only ever experience a flower show from our own perspective. My idea of tasty flowers and planting schemes might not be yours.

Labrador dog in a show garden at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

‘The Great Outdoors’ by Phil Hurst won Chatsworth Gold…

This year’s Best in Show award, for example, went to an attractive display with a lot of interesting elements, including the characterful wooden arbour, bench and water feature. Continue reading

In Praise of Bergenia (Elephant’s Ears)

Five petalled flowers with delicately veined petals

I tend to be drawn to the palest pink or white bergenia cultivars, in preference to those with bolder colours, but this mid pink caught my eye last year at The Dorothy Clive Garden. The flower scapes were elegant; closely packed with flowers and I loved the subtle veining (or crinkle effect) on the petals.

Bergenia leaves and flower scapes

As The Beth Chatto Gardens Blog once put it, bergenia is a plant underdog, often dismissed as untidy, uninteresting or both. Slugs and snails like them, so you can expect the leaves to show bite marks in an accolade to their tastiness. I like them too. Continue reading

Two Styles Of English Garden: Cottage and Formal

Yellow, apricot and blue cottage garden

If every garden (and every human) was the same, the world would be a pitiful place. These very different gardens seem to suit their respective home perfectly. Viewed together, each accentuates the other’s beauty.

The first, a private cottage garden in the grounds of Dorothy Clive Gardens, is super colourful, flower-filled and just a little laissez-faire. Flowers in shades of apricot, yellow and blue gaily tumble over each other above the unifying green, partly obscuring the view from the home and creating a feeling of privacy.

Formal garden with topiary cones

The second garden, Levels Hall in The Lake District, is grand, formal and manicured. Mullioned windows of a centuries-old stately home overlook topiary cones, tall yew hedges and garden benches. A stone urn acts as a centrepiece above a circle of bedding plants. Gravel makes the area pleasant for visitors to stroll through and continues along the same neutral vein as the benches and stone building. Our eyes, naturally alert to colour and variation, find interest in the different greens while noting the feeling of harmony and restraint.   Continue reading

Flowers: Familiar And Less So

Trillium flower with three leaves and three petals

White trillium with a delicate, pink, central stripe

Wild Daffodil has piqued my curiosity today with her mystery flower, which I cannot identify, and reminded me of a couple of mystery plants of my own. So I decided to share a few well-loved flowers as bait for flower lovers, then throw some less-well-known ones in to see if anyone can help either of us out by letting us know what they are.

It’s not often I see a British flower growing outdoors that is a completely new species to me, mainly because I’m one of nature’s flower stalkers. Just like any butterfly or bee worth their salt (or perhaps that should be worth their nectar), there’s few flowers that don’t capture my attention. The trouble is, I don’t always know what they are, or even whether they are flowers at all. This green mound for example.

Leafy green flower emerging from the ground

Petasites japonicus, identified by Diane (Mystery A)

Continue reading

Six On Saturday: Spring at Holehird Gardens

Mum and I called in at Holehird Gardens in the English Lake District this week to see what Spring had brought so far. I’ve written about Holehird before, here and here, but today I’m joining in with The Propagator’s Six on Saturday. I had thought that the ‘Six’ had to come from your own garden, but the helpful participant guide says six things from a garden visit are also welcome, so without further ado:

1. Chionodoxa (Glory of the snow)

Blue star shaped flowers with white centres

Blue and pink Chionodoxa were at their peak in and around the rock garden. We were a little early to catch the daffodil field in full flower – I’d guess it was a week or so off looking its best.

2. Fritillaria michailovskyi

Bell-shaped dark maroon flowers with bright yellow tips

A visit to a garden is always a treasure hunt, so I was happy to spot a few of these, hidden away just past the hellebores, not far from a small clump of Fritillaria meleagris. The bell-shaped flowers are an unusual colour combination – rich purple-brown with bright yellow tips.  Continue reading

Regular Random: Double Hellebore

Close up of a flower, held up to look inside

When you photograph a hellebore, you’re faced with some stark choices. Show the plant as it is and capture the natural essence of the bloom, or lift the flower to show the inside. It’s tempting to go for a macro shot like this one to reveal the beautiful pattern of veining but it gives me a weird feeling of misrepresentation; invasion, almost. It feels uncomfortably like peeking at a Victorian lady to get a glimpse of voluminous, lacy underwear.

A cluster of double hellebore flowers on sturdy stems

I would have said that this shot gives a better impression of the true character of the plant if the one in the back didn’t seem to be wearing a superman cape and keeping a watchful eye on a couple of conspirators in the foreground.  Continue reading

How To Make A City Garden In A Small Space

Garden with curved paths and benches

Want to make a, easily maintainable city garden? Just follow this plan, as illustrated above.

  • Select your space. The heart of a medieval city is ideal (the more souls that can overlook the garden, the better), but almost any space will suffice.
  • Create one or more organic shaped beds in the centre and another around the perimeter, leaving room for a sinuous, scrollable path (experts advise laying out the path first).
  • Edge the beds in a stone coloured material, selecting a darker tile to define the perimeter border.
  • Scatter shrubs, small, decorative conifers, grasses and herbaceous plants that can tolerate some neglect in the central beds. Keep it on the minimal side – you don’t want to crowd things.
  • Artfully place decent-sized rocks in small groups or piles.
  • Mulch with crushed slate.
  • Add curved, benches that will invite passers-by to linger. Chocolate coloured metal ones will match those tiles around the outer borders.
  • Fix trellises to the walls and encourage vines to soften them, creating the effect of a glade within a city (if you lack walls, add a fence or baffle first).
  • If the same vines can be pruned low to provide ground cover for the perimeter beds, so much the better. If not, plant something green to do the job.
  • Pave, staying true to the neutral, natural theme.
  • In winter, tie the grasses up into neat bundles by wrapping a few of the long outer strands around the clump.
  • Sit back and enjoy.

Continue reading

A Visit To Harlow Carr Garden In Winter

Colourful Winter Garden

In January, dogwood steals the show in Harlow Carr’s Winter Walk

We set off for Harrogate on a whim, inspired by the weather forecast, and booked into a hotel within walking distance from the RHS’s most northerly garden, Harlow Carr, a favourite haunt. The idea was to wake up next morning to find an artistic covering of snow or a hard frost – the added winter garden ingredients only nature can provide.

The forecast had been an exaggeration but, luckily, it turns out that a winter wonderland doesn’t need snow: it can cloak itself just as wonderfully in reds, oranges, browns and greens.

Snowdrops in a winter garden with a sprinkling of snow

Early bulbs are starting to appear, including these snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’).

We were too early to see the thousands of snowdrops, cyclamen, irises and eranthis hyemalis that will be at their peak in February and March. A small number of the advance guard could be spotted in flower in the woods, along the Winter Walk or sheltered in the glasshouse, giving a hint of the pleasure to come. But if you find yourself wondering whether a winter garden really has anything much of interest to offer in January, other than peace, you’ll find plant after plant lining up as if to say: ‘You misjudged me. You doubted there would be colour.’

Continue reading

Leafy Coleus With Beautifully Patterned Leaves

Leafy plant with green and purple leaves

Some plants have to wait for flowers to become colourful. Others, like this coleus, don’t. Purple, bright pink and cream splashes and veins do their best to crowd out the lime green, creating a bouquet on every leaf. Some varieties actually do flower very well, but for me, the tall spires of salvia-like flowers merely gild the lily… er, make that gild the coleus.  Continue reading