Galanthus woronowii "Elizabeth Harrison" & Galanthus "Primrose Warburg"

Galanthus woronowii ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ gained some fame four years ago when it sold for very, very considerably more than I purchased it for though the seller was the same, the Scottish grower, Ian Christie. Ian was courtesy personified and the bulb a good one. The traditional thick, wide leaves of the Russian (or Georgian) snowdrop are much in evidence and the flower is a pretty thing. If it is as robust as the woronowii it will do well for I have had mixed fortunes with yellow snowdrops.

Another yellow snowdrop in flower at the moment is Galanthus “Primrose Warburg”, named after the famous gardener at South Hayes. This variety has done splendidly in the garden, establishing a small clump and displaying a welcome splash of yellow amidst the white “normal” snowdrops. Neither of the images here have been embellished to emphasise the yellow. I shall have to wait a year or so to decide whether or not the former is worth considerably more than the latter for, as the images show, they are very much alike in flower certainly. As for habit, well, time will tell.

Narcissus cyclamineus – "Jetfire" & "Mite"

I determined on growing a variety of narcissus this year and so perused the catalogues, remembered to use tags so I remember what I’ve placed where, planted the pots and skinned my hand burrowing holes in the borders. Unlike some of the gardens in the south of England, my daffodils have held back and will flower more or less when they should albeit the two featured today are early. Here are two related cyclamineus cultivars, the first “Jetfire” is really a stunning, showy flower with its bright orange trumpet and reflexed petals of the most fresh yellow. I know they are freely available everywhere, and I know they look best in drifts, but my pot in front of the kitchen window is an eye-turner and it allows one to study this detail.

“Mite” will cost more than “Jetfire” and you will need to go to a specialist. It is also smaller, perhaps half the size of its already petite cousin. What a pretty flower it is with a piercing yellow, long tubular trumpet and slightly curved back petals. It is larger than the species. And exquisite.

Galanthus "Little Ben" & "Big Boy"

Return of the “Might Atoms” today with “Little Ben”, an easy member of the clan to grow and quite showy with the large petals splayed out on its short stem. I featured it in January here, revisiting it to reveal the developing flowers. The biggest flower in my collection so far may be “Big Boy”, purchased from Matt Bishop in September at a good price, “Big Boy” has just opened out in the strong sun this afternoon to reveal a dark green inner colouring and large, shapely outer petals. There is the merest green tinge on the tips, a feature that develops as the bulb matures through the years. He is shown braving yesterday’s rain then this afternoon having opened out nicely for the photographer. He was discovered by Alan Street at Frinton on Sea in 1994. Choosing a snowdrop is an individual matter but I recommend this boy.

Savill Gardens, Windsor, selected plants, 6th February 2016

We were on a weekend break in Windsor and Surrey, an area that was even more enjoyable than I had envisaged. One of the highlights was to visit the Savill gardens, a woodland garden created by Sir Eric Savill in the 1930’s, a royal garden of note and a must for any lover of plants, of whom there must be many judging by the sheer numbers of visitors on the weekend of 5th – 7th February. We visited twice, once in the tranquility of late Friday afternoon, secondly with our family on a busy and sunny Sunday. Cutting to the chase, here are some plants among many that I found interesting.

The stream and display of dogwoods was inspiring.
Mucronulatum “Cornell Pink” was particularly interesting seeing as I have one in a pot awaiting a decision from the head gardener about positioning.
Three children were paddling in the stream, or rather one managed it! Notice the Narcissus cyclamineus enjoying the moist conditions and seeding itself.
Crocus planted in an ideal setting.
When not paddling our grandchildren posed in front of the camellia. “Inspiration”, I think.

Acer tegmentosum ‘Valley Phantom’ was dramatic and so well named. Whether it is to my taste is a different matter.
Betula utilis jacquemontii “Grayswood Ghost” is more to my liking.

Cornus sanguinea ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ is an inexpensive shrub and the brightest orange dogwood on the market. I may now replace a variegated form that grows like bamboo.


Hopton Hall Snowdrops, Derbyshire

The story of Derbyshire’s Hopton Hall can be traced back to the 1400s but the modern hall and gardens owes its growing fame to 1996 when estate manager, Spencer Tallis, took over clearing the grounds and laying out a garden full of features. Two of my roses owe much to a visit there last summer. Today’s post concerns the snowdrop walk taking one along a meandering walk, along well laid paths, through the grounds, ponds and house. The visit is well managed with directed parking and articulate people on hand to point out features. The hall is situated in the Derbyshire hills and the altitude seems to have kept the snowdrops fresh and at their best. The tea shop is the best I have encountered this year and cost of admission fair. This may be compared with the better known Painswich Rococo Gardens in the Cotswolds, visited last week, overpriced – costing twice as much and not nearly as nice. (Our HHA card got us in both for free.) Hopton’s thick carpet of snowdrops on a bright sunlit day was uplifting, as were the topiary, general garden and vintage cars. As a self-confessed galanthophile I have to admit I would swap each and every snowdrop there for just one of the Bentleys, Jags, or Rollers on display!

Primula allionii, RHS Wisley Alpine Houses, 6th February 2016

There were many scintillating alpines on view in both the alpine houses at Wisley a week ago. I’m sure I shall post images of many more over the weeks but for starters there were a number of Primula allionii varieties. A native of the southernmost range of the alps, between France and Italy, they breed freely from seed, forming a varied group of cultivars. They are noted for the brightly coloured flowers that perch just above the foliage. There’s an interesting article on the plants by Jim Jerbyn, a man who knows both plants and the alps.
Primula allionii “Gavin Brown”
Primula allionii “Julia”
Primula allionii “Emily Charlotte”
Primula allionii “Apple Blossom x Crowsley Variety”
Primula allionii “Stephen”
Primula allionii “Little O”

Galanthus "Wasp" & "Lyn"

Galanthus “Wasp” is wonderfully distinctive snowdrop, and one well named. Is there not a similarity to the insect, particularly when blowing about in the wind? It was found by Veronica Cross at Sutton Court in Herefordshire in 1995. It has increased steadily in my garden.

Formerly the National Trust’s chief gardens adviser, well known Galanthophile John Sales discovered “Lyn” in Cirencester in 1981, naming it after his wife.  It is an early flowering version of “Atkinsii”. I only have the one though I am assured it will clump up well.

Ipheion uniflorum ‘Charlotte Bishop’, ‘Froyle Mill’ & ‘Wisley Blue’

Ipheions originate in South America but seem hardy enough, certainly providing invaluable early colour. They have a garlic smell when bruised that is not unpleasant.  I have a number of varieties. They do not like over rich soil, getting rather leafy and failing to support the flower. I shall grow mine in a more gritty soil in future, cutting back on the feeding. They certainly increase quickly. To show the various colours, here is ‘Charlotte Bishop’, ‘Froyle Mill’ and ‘Wisley Blue’, the middle one just showing colour.

Hellebore "Janys"

Here is a new hellebore variety named after my wife. “Janys” is a selected seedling chosen for its upright appearance. I liked the semi double flower. The pot grown seedling has not been given a nitrogen feed yet. Sometimes growers boost them up for the winter sales. I prefer to feed them later in the season. It does not look it but there are five crowns here so I expect a bigger plant next year.

Narcissus cyclamineus, Saville Gardens and Wisley, 6th February 2016

Saville Gardens in the Windsor Great Park was a picture at the weekend, snowdrops, camellias and narcissus all looking fabulous. One bulb took my fancy however to the extent that I have purchased some from Twelve Nunns for delivery soon I hope. The diminutive Narcissus cyclamineus, at only 4.5 cm long, a native of northern Spain and Portugal, and the parent of many popular varieties, is a distant relative of the cyclamen, hence the name, and as the images below show. I read that it does not do well from a dry bulb so my late additions will arrive in pots. At Saville it was prolific, huge drifts of them particularly by the stream. I will also need to ensure the soil does not dry out so will need to consider the position carefully. It increases by seed, a four year process that again requires an area suitable for naturalising. The second image is from the giant rockery at Wisley the following day. Again, totally captivating.