Miniature narcissus look best at eye level on the display table. This piece of advice is offered freely as I dirtied my knees from taking a photograph of a tiny daffodil planted with its fellows in the border. So this is ‘Camborne’, a lovely pale miniature that would look sensational if I was peering at it from eye level, focusing the camera to get the best shot, moving the pot a little for the best angle, perhaps bending my knee a tad, all to get that spontaneous, natural shot. As it is the trousers need to go to the wash.
Helleborus Harvington Double Purple looks a million dollars in photograph and garden. I bought it for £1 a few years ago from one of those bargain benches for sad plants, those that have passed their best or never achieved it. Advised by my wife not to bother, I took a chance, invested wisely, fed it, molly coddled it, gave it time, and it has repaid that investment richly. I’d recommend this variety.
Talking about plants for nothing, how about species crocus that seed themselves freely in borders and lawn. Various shades of these exquisite gems are all over the garden and at some time I’ll have to consider the grass mower…. but not yet.
It’s the end of the road for the snowdrops as time waits for no man. One or two left. ‘The Whopper’ is an Irish snowdrop that doesn’t quite live up to its name, certainly not in its present pot. Unlike the miniature narcissus this deserves to be grown in the border where it can gain sustenance and live up to the billing.
Hellebores have infiltrated my winter garden consciousness. They provide a rich colour to the winter border, in sun or shade, rich or arid soil. ‘Anna’s Red’ is a commercial success and generally I like to grow something less obvious. However I sought this cultivar out in the autumn having seen it at RHS Harlow Carr. Anything they can do I can do …. less well. Do look at that rich red/purple and the yellow stamens; and although my photograph fails to show it, the foliage is beautifully marked. It was named after The Independent’s gardening correspondent, Anna Pavord, by breeder, Rodney Davey.
Galanthus ‘Priscilla Bacon’ is my newest snowdrop, obtained from an authoritative and delightful friend via my #galanthus69 Instagram account. Social media can do this. I now have a clump of this textured, late flowering snowdrop. She’s similar to ‘Augustus’, still in flower here, only more globular and slightly bigger. It was named after the late galanthrophile, Lady Priscilla Bacon, discovered in her garden at Raveningham Hall in Norfolk.
And one of my hepaticas, shown here as a pot of blooms all showy, temperamental, glorious. The flowers of Hepatica japonica Momohonabi have a deep purple to commence their display then expand to this bit of magic. Oh for an alpine house.
And just time to throw into the mix just one of a number of yellow seedlings discovered in a border today, all very adjacent to named varieties. Easy this breeding lark.
Narcissus ‘Little Stuff’ is a cheerful, orange nosed miniature daffodil that is new to me this year. It was bred by the late New Zealander, Peter Ramsey. I can testify to its hardiness having twice survived being knocked off my shelving, first when the clay pot disintegrated in my hand and second due to my clumsiness. The corona truly is as richly coloured as the image. Beautiful. I wish I had bought more than three.
Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Early Bird’ is a miniature all right though somewhat larger than ‘Lemon Flare’ featured recently. I loved these hoop petticoats when I first spotted them at RHS Wisley’s alpine house. Perhaps my regard has waned slightly in favour of the miniature cyclamineus varieties – see below – though this particular variety looks vigorous to my eyes and I believe they look better in clumps, though I photographed the first to bloom. The miniature was bred in Worcestershire by the writer and breeder, Michael Jefferson-Brown.
So to those cyclamineus varieties. Smallest first, in fact one with the same diminutive frame as the species. Narcissus ‘Snipe’, not to be confused with ‘Jack Snipe’, has the same corona as Cyclamineus and the same reflexed petals except they are cream. A charmer. A smidgen larger than the species come to think. I’ll plant them side by side for next season.
I’ll conclude my parade of early miniature narcissus with one I’ve covered before. Half as big again as ‘Snipe’, which means tiny, is one I’ve featured before from Matt Bishop, he of the glorious if pricey snowdrops and encyclopedic knowledge of his subject. I doubt whether ‘Userpa’ is registered and certainly it was an impulse buy added to a snowdrop order but it has been dependable up until last year when it broke down into several grass like shoots, fleshing out this season to five or six flowering buds, of which this flower is in the vanguard. Theme: don’t give up. Plants are worth persevering with. For this year think ‘Green Tear’, last year a shoot, this year a thin shoot with a flower. Snowdrops and all plants sulk some years.
As the narcissus show yellow, some snowdrops are reaching their height, some faltering. ‘Mrs Thompson’ is a very interesting variety. Frankly I find it difficult to recognise the lady amongst other varieties as she varies so much. Here is one with six petals, though it may just as easily have three. I read that it is medium sized whilst discovering very large ones in our garden, providing a distinctive display. I remember walking around a lovely snowdrop garden at Goldsborough Hall, near Harrogate, just before I got the bug and, amongst all the wonders, one variety stood out. ‘Mrs Thompson’ is one of the cheapest varieties and one of the best.
‘Wandlebury Ring’ is a graceful beauty if you don’t expect a deep yellow, richly coloured yellow, illustrations from sellers notwithstanding. It’s not been that successful in clumping up for me and this year only one flowered. However hope reigns supreme. The variety is taller and more svelte than the admirable ‘Wendy’Gold’.
I purchased the hoop petticoat miniature daffodil from Anne Wright’s Dryad Nursery four or give years ago before she focused her sales on Ebay and the bidders drove prices to nerve wracking levels. I have not looked after some of my other purchases from that time, the grass like, tiny bulbs easily missed as the sessons change. Anne’s breeding of narcissus and snowdrops is legendary. ‘Lemon Flare’ is early and sweet. When I look back on my feature on hoop petticoats five years ago I feel sad I’ve lost some bulbs. I’m keeping an eye on Anne’s new varieties….
Hellebores are certainly features of the winter garden though here in Yorkshire we tend to see them open out towards the end of February – now! I love them. Over the years we’ve accumulated quite a few. So from this afternoon’s photographic safari here are three delights. Harvington x hybridus double purple is such a deep rich colour made all the more beautiful with its contrasting cream stamens. Like many hellebores it does have a tendency to droop however. Gorgeous though.
Second up and a more upright variety, the outward facing German introduction, ‘Ice n’ Roses Red’. This vigorous plant has a rich claret colour and dominates the border, or at least it will in about two weeks as it fully opens out.
Last up from today’s display is ‘Harvington picotee’, one of our oldest plants in the border. It has only just opened out but such is its beauty with purple veining and picotee margin, the camera came out.
Finally, I’ll revisit a hellebore I featured a week or so ago as a seedling. I might, characteristically, have got this wrong. I do have many seedling hellebores although I received an incorrectly labelled plant last year from a nursery. The nurseryman had no idea of the variety, telling me he didn’t stock such a colour. So I received one for free and, on reflection, this is it rather than one of our seedlings. Its outward facing habit suggests it is from the ‘Ice n’Roses’ range that it was included in. It might be ‘Ice n’Roses Rose’. However it is not quite the same as images I have seen. But that’s what I’ll term it. I wouldn’t wish to claim a valuable introduction with which to earn the fortune I’ve always aspired to. And I’m just going to have to label my plants because my memory is not what it was. I think you will agree, whatever the name it is rather attractive and almost brash staring you in the eye.
The UK is now enjoying milder if not necessarily sunny weather. Still, it has triggered an explosion of growth. So I’ll commence with the first of this season’s narcissus, the lovely diminutive Cyclamineus. I’ve not enjoyed undiluted joy with this joyful miniature. It requires a moist, sheltered position and my first batch was planted in a dry sunny spot and simply disappeared after their first and only flowering. Undaunted I tried again and the first flower appeared today. This is a gem or rather gems because there is a mass of buds.
Two rather similar snowdrops next. One is so rare I am unable to discover anything about it save it was purchased two years ago from a specialist and expert. It failed to flower last time round. ‘Wayfarer’ and the still rare ‘Prague Spring’ make a good contrast with the more conventional snowdrops in the garden, always a good thing when planting.
If the previous pair is rare, ‘Augustus’ is a well established variety named after the famous EA Bowles, the ‘A’ being for ‘Augustus’. The foliage is distinctive though it is the puckered appearance that stands out. This short, sturdy snowdrop is a must for the garden. It stands repetition: the cost of bulbs does not signify better quality.
Two more snowdrops before I publish. First is ‘Greenfields’ which I like very much. In a sense it is a very conventional snowdrop but the outer petals open out to reveal that very dark, inner marking to make the white all the more pristine. And a snowdrop I find superior to the famous ‘Grumpy ‘, Galanthus Big Eyes’ is a large, rounded plant that is prominent in the border even without that appealing face.
No theme for today’s post except to update my blog records for some of the snowdrops to open out in the sudden thaw as deepest winter literally changed overnight to spring like warmth and brightness. I’ll commence with perhaps the most rare plant in the garden. Looking very like ‘Walrus’, ‘Green Maid’ was considered lost. I’ve had it for years and until this year it hasn’t deigned to flower.
Three snowdrops next that have bulked up extraordinarily well over the years. ‘S. Arnott’ is just sensational really. Photographs fail to do justice to this plant. It is a big, shapely flower and indispensable in the February garden. Definitely in my top five. That little green dot on the tip of each outer petal of ‘David Baker’ may not seem so great in the image but, trust me, it catches the eye in situation. And ‘Magnet’, looking similar to ‘S Arnott’ but with a long, arching pedicel, captures every gasp of wind – a captivating sight.
Two yellow snowdrops have prospered in the garden. ‘Spindlestone Surprise’ is fresh and easy, standing comparison with any more expensive, recent varieties. I’ll feature ‘Wendy’s Gold’, the other success, shortly. ‘Pat Mason’ is large and distinctive. The green tip and that sumptuous inner green, plus a rounded, shapely look. Wonderful. And finally, the genuine article, after several false starts. This is ‘Big Boy’. A wonder. I’m sorry but I confused this in earlier posts with ‘Louise Anne Bromley’ – the foliage looks the same but this is the more attractive plant.
Heyrick Greatorex was the first of the great breeders of snowdrops. He died in 1954 though his name lives on through his renowned Greatorex doubles, a vigorous group of still popular, showy varieties. I had intended to also feature ‘Jaquenetta’, though it is not fully out yet, and somewhere in the snow is ‘Cordelia’, ‘Desdemona’, ‘Titania’, ‘Dionysus’ and more prosaically, G71. However I do have ‘Ophelia’….
Double snowdrops are usually photographed or sold with someone’s hand turning the underside to the camera – hardly a natural perspective. ‘Ophelia’ looks good from above, its outer petals splaying out to reveal the inverted green heart and a flash of yellow. It’s a lovely snowdrop and invaluable in the garden. As is ‘Lady Beatrice Stanley’ below. Both were photographed yesterday in areas where the sun had melted the snow though you wouldn’t know that this morning as we have just had our coldest night and the snow is back. The snowdrop season is way behind last year as the Beast from the East 2 roars its way through Yorkshire.
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to snowdrops with a green mark on the petals and the more dots, bigger splodges, shapely hearts or whatever the higher the price. I like this one. The weather was a little intimidating for it to fully open out to reveal the inner markings though its little ‘face’ is a rich green to match the upper part.
Another very nice snowdrop is ‘llo ‘n’ Green’. I’ve featured this beautiful snowdrop before as it is Mr Reliable or, given its beauty, ‘Miss’. I was rather staggered to see it raise almost £100 on Ebay recently. People pay what they think a snowdrop is worth and I find it lovely and distinctive. But £100. Wait a year or so.
Snowdrops are bright flowers in winter. They speak of spring, reminding us of times to come. Into this world a host of variations on the theme have developed. Someone posted on Facebook a week ago a dark green snowdrop, as yet unnamed, that some might say defeats the object of the bulb. I’m not sure if I liked it or not. Which brings me a better known curiosity, the slow growing ‘Walrus’.
I’ve had it in a pot for four years and this is its first flower. The nivalis selection has been around for forty years and in my garden has only now commenced thickening ready to be transplanted into the border. As for ‘marmite’ – you’ll either love it or hate it. Can you see the ‘tusks’?