Gate leading into wildflower field with foxgloves

Hay Time In The Dales: People’s Choice Award Winner At RHS Chatsworth

Chris Myers and I were chuffed to bits by the turn of events at The RHS Chatsworth Flower Show last week. We both had good reason. After a slow start (the judges’ Silver Medal theoretically rated it worst in show), the garden he’d designed was validated by the popular vote, being named the one the public loved most. Me? I’d been rooting for it!

Foxgloves and wildflowers growing beside a cottage

Naturalistic plantings were a theme of this year’s show, but his garden was a hymn in praise of wildflowers (or more of a folksong). I enjoyed lingering awhile, listening to the sighs of pleasure as people glimpsed Hay Time In The Dales for the first time and felt its emotional pull. I knew this garden would haunt me, and it already is.

I thought of it when our evening walk took us past a flower-rich hay meadow between Edgworth and the Wayoh Reservoir. Around its peak now, the wildflowers include buttercups, yellow rattle, meadow vetchling, red clover, wild blue lupins, and a blend of grasses. A public information sign beside the meadow explains this patch of land represents what is now one of the rarest habitats in the UK.

It all seems so normal, and that’s part of the problem.    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

Weekly Photo Challenge: Resilient

I’m often surprised to see plants growing in strange places with little obvious means of support, such as this colourful succulent on top of a wire cage filled with rocks. Luckily for us, nature is resilient. These hollyhocks seemed quite content with poor soil at the base of a stone cottage in the Cotswolds, adapting to their surroundings by leaning outwards to catch more light.

I posted earlier this week about resilient plants that grow almost wild in a cemetery (if you’re a rose lover, and missed the post, you can find it here).

It’s impossible for me to write on this prompt without mentioning my belief that climate change is a real threat to us all. Let’s not push nature too hard or blithely take for granted her ability to bounce back. Resilience doesn’t mean invulnerable.

Digitalis Purpurea: The Essence of Summer

Foxglove and bee

The summer solstice seems an appropriate time to feature one of Britain’s most evocative wild flowers: Digitalis purpurea. Close ups of their spots, hairs and pouting flower lips, combined with dire warnings of their toxicity, help explain why so much lore has been wound around them.

Colourful folk names variously link them to fairies, dragons and witches, while scholars dispute the derivation of their commonest name, foxglove.

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

Viola Odorata: Sweet Violets

Violets

This picture of sweet violets was taken with my iPhone: it’s a blessing to be able to have it with me for moments like these. The heart shaped leaves are scrolled up, perhaps  to funnel rain water down to the roots and the scented flowers are tiny but radiant. This is a quintessential cottage garden flower for me and I love to see posies made with them. Continue reading

Grasmere: an uplifting walk round the poet’s lake

Grasmere lake view

During our visit to Grasmere yesterday, clouds lay low over rolling hills, but the greyness just added atmosphere to the water, hills, woods, dry stone walls, ferns and wildflowers along our way.

Grasmere woodland view

We’d stopped off here to walk around the lake: my idea of exercise! Our route took us past houses, lakeside businesses, farmland and woods before swinging down to the path around the shore.  Continue reading

Wild violets

White violets

Perspective and a macro setting turns these small violets into giants, compared to the tiny chickweed flowers at their feet. I find it really hard to see violets as lawn weeds, even the more common purple ones. For me any patch of grass, natural or cultivated, is made more beautiful by wild violets.

I’m not usually quite so charitable about chickweed, though I can appreciate its delicate beauty in this setting. I know that’s unfair – after all:

A weed is any plant having to deal with an unhappy human.

J C Raulston