Ipheion ‘Jessie’ – March Starflowers

 I can’t claim great success with ipheions in pots. They have grown lush in leaf and flowered erratically. This year I’ve divided them, hardening my heart and discarding the surplus,  and this morning gave the various pots a dose of slow release fertiliser. My favourite is ‘Jessie’ for its deep neo-blue. I don’t like the garlic smell of the leaves though that  is a non-issue for all practical purposes. I’ve laughed at some of the descriptions of the starflowers from sellers; I’ve not noticed any honey fragrance, for instance. However in the depths  of winter the plants throw out the odd flower and can seem truly exotic in that context. When the sun shines and massed blooms appear they are pretty things indeed. Three in close-up: ‘Rolf Fiedler’, ‘Charlotte Bishop’ & ‘Jessie’. Plus ‘Wisley Blue’ in the garden. 

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My Snowdrop Year

 I’m attempting to move my snowdrops from pots to borders out of necessity.  I have too many. However in the meantime here is a photograph of one of the racks replete with weeds to trigger a quick synopsis of my snowdrop year which commences after flowering when I split up the clumps and, in this case, transfer from pot to border. The second image shows a newly planted area of the garden, beefed up with compost and divided snowdrops, cyclamen and daffodils. If I remember I’ll feature this very spot in the spring. The pots have been fed with slow release fertiliser, so all I do is water them frequently.  I have discovered the perils of compost drying out when the bulbs are busy plumping up. After the bulbs go into dormancy I repot at my leisure, mixing potting compost, grit and vermiculite. This can be an ordeal as it is depressing to root through compost to discover not discover a solitary bulb, perhaps the remains of bulbs or grubs of the narcissus fly. E.A. Beale has disappeared  from two pots, the third and final time I’m growing the damn thing. Anyway, I discard any soft ones, and where there is any sign of rot apply a fungicide I was given by a friend. About now the autumn flowering ones are placed in a prominent position and I move the rest into a sunny area. Labels are a bete noire because they go walkabout. Then of course there’s the little matter of adding to my collection. I only have three new ones this year, a major change. Only very distinctive snowdrops will be added. I’ve certainly started to diversify. Bavk to the photograph of the pots. Plastic pots on top, terracotta ones at the bottom to ballast the racks. I’m not risking another collapse. And finally, the last man standing this year, a little glum in the wet.

Rosa ‘Birthday Girl’ – Top Performer

 Redesigning the garden has meant sacrificing some roses. However ‘Birthday Girl’ is not one. It has been a magnificent rose, repeat flowering in profusion, fresh and bright. I have read that it makes a good hedging plant: true enough I’m sure but for me it is a feature not a boundary. Standing at a modest 3ft it needs no support and seems disease free. It was bred by that prolific French nursery Meilland and released in 1992. A good, commercial name too for that garden centre birthday gift. I photographed it on 20th May when it first bloomed and it continued to autumn. Meilland has been around since 1850 and bred some mammoth successes – ‘Peace’ (‘Madame A Meilland’), ‘Papa Meilland’. 

Fritillaria meleagris

Another fritillaria today. I have no idea what happened to our white form of Fritillaria meleagris though I suspect unintelligent weeding accounted for the lot. Like a number of plants I’ve featured lately they are a member of the lilaceae family and a plant even the uninitiated notice in the garden. The Snakeshead Fritillary is named after the chequered, tessellated pattern – fritillary means chequered. They flower in light shade in our backgarden and I confess I sometimes mistake their leaves for grasses when I’m tidying up. I have planted some more of the ‘Alba’ form expecting to see them unmolested in April. There is some variation in the colour. I’ve posted two images from April 1st though sadly no white one.

Fritillaria meleagris

Fritillaria imperialis “William Rex”

The crown imperial is well named. It is a dominant plant in the spring border. You smell it before you see it – quite a feat given its size. I’m sure the neighbours believe I’m smoking something I shouldn’t. The skunky smell deters deer, cats, rodents, delivery drivers and burglars. All right, I exaggerate – the latter like the smell. Fritillaria imperialis “William Rex” has a lovely bronzy-red colour. I wouldn’t want a garden full otherwise we would fail to have deliveries.

Fritillaria imperialis “William Rex”

Gloriosa ‘Tomas De Bruyne’

Gloriosa ‘Tomas De Bruyne’ has a great name for a plant. Flemish, or northern France. A touch of class. And judging by the image taken on the 26th August it looks sensational. Of course it was an impulse buy, an addition to a more considered order. And I gave it the prime spot in a huge terracotta pot on a south facing wall. When it arrived it was an untidy cigar shape and size, wrapped up in tasteful brown paper. But this, dear reader, was the solitary bloom. I’d been fascinated by the thin leaf that eventually developed a wire-like tentacle to grasp the trellis. And, by gosh, it gets the full treatment in the publicity campaign. It was named after an international floral designer by its Dutch breeder, Van Ruiten. Gloriosa is a form of Colchicaceae, a tender South African lily and I think that’s the problem with my cultivation. Its natural home is a frost free greenhouse and, despite the warmest outdoor position I can offer, it seems not to have been hot enough. And it arrived a little late to get started properly. It has been stored and insulated for the winter and in the new year I’ll get it started early because that first and only bloom was truly breathtaking. A challenge.

Colchicums – ‘Purpureum’, ‘Byzantium’, ‘Autumnale’ and ‘Dick Trotter’

 Colchicums lighten the garden as we move into winter. I have quite a collection. These are not in any order because I’m no authority but ‘Purpureum’, ‘Byzantium’, ‘Autumnale’ and ‘Dick Trotter’ are shown flowering today. They were photographed in pots but are now planted in the borders and mixed in with daffodils, snowdrops and spring flowering crocus. Friends dropping a parcel off this afternoon commented on the size of the front garden now the central bed is missing but had most to say about the autumn crocus. When flowers are so flamboyant at this time of year their membership of the lily family is clear to see.

Nemesia from self-sown seed

 I bought four nemesia plants four years ago and have been treated to literally hundreds of new plants since then and, strangely enough, there’s been a decent variety of colours, most with that delicious vanilla fragrance that carries in the air. They seed in plant pots and in the cracks between the patio flags. The seedlings are easy to distinguish  from weeds – something I’ve apparently not done with one or two valuable perennials lately. And I like the soft colours. They look great in hanging baskets. The little detail was photographed on the 23rd March. The whole plant had over-wintered. Hardy gems. One of my favourite plants.

Harlow Carr’s Rudbeckia Trial

 My wife’s favourite flower is the Rudbeckia. Well, certainly for autumn though I’ll punt for the dahlia. It cannot be denied that the burst of beaming yellow dominates  the border in September and October. They look sensational. The photographs were taken on 31st August at RHS Harlow Carr from their trial of varieties grown from seed. They intend to leave them to see how many of the annuals survive the winter. Sadly I note that Thompson and Morgan have sold out of their mixed seed. Chiltern Seeds have their own mix however.

Papaver Orientale ‘Pink Perfection’

 Difficult decisions today or rather yesterday – I work in arrears – as the turf was laid on our front garden, the large island bed covered up and its plants moved elsewhere. It’s always difficult for me to throw plants away. And I have the taproots of a rather lovely oriental poppy, Papaver Orientale ‘Pink Perfection’, that has been with us for a decade or so. Poppies tend to be short-lived but nobody told this version; the oriental poppies are long lived and resent disturbance. It really is an exotic bloom though it doesn’t flower for long I’m afraid. However when in bloom it is special.  Anyway I’ve retained some healthy carrot-like taproots and will give them a go in the new border. Meanwhile I was out in the drizzle using up the remainder of the turf to edge the lawns where plants had encroached onto its space. Waste not want not. Which also applies to the bulbs salvaged from the contractors’ wheelbarrow.