I have a modest collection of hepaticas and have no intention of adding to it any time soon from Ebay. It seems prices have gone through the roof. Three years ago I bought Hepatica japonica ‘Haato no Kingu’ from the very same lady who yesterday sold the very same plant for three times the sum on the auction site. The one I had my eye on, though for interest not buying, was ‘Yoichichioya’ but it went for three times the sum I would have paid. Nice work if you can get it and I can testify to the quality of Renata’s plants. There are other sellers …
Purely because I care for my reader may I recommend an alternative from Edrom Nurseries, a splendid Scottish specialist. ‘Akane’ is very similar and a third of the price. Indeed Edrom is offering a discount on multiple purchases. Sadly, very sadly, I’m not on commission.
Then there’s your free gift. It dropped through our letterbox today. The sumptuous David Austin ‘Handbook of Roses’ 2021. Tempting, enticing, seductive. And free. I’m just about to dive in. Their roses are magnificent, as readers will discover from this summer’s posts. I have a number.
We are all familiar with images of hepaticas in close-up to reveal their almost unnaturally perfect symmetry. They lend themselves to posed shots. Indeed I have posted one myself a time or two. Given their almost unnatural cost you’ll not see too many sprinkled through the typical suburban garden here in the north of England. Candidly you’ll not find many in my borders either but here is one scarcely attended pot that features miniature narcissus, a hardy fuschia, whatever annual takes my fancy and four hepaticas, three in full flower on a chilly, blowy Mother’s Day. It brightens up a spot that at this time of year only gets an hour or so of morning sun. They flowered last year and are healthier this.
The only ingredient hepaticas lack is fragrance so let me recommend a sweet smelling beauty I’ve featured before, one of Bill Welch’s introductions from 1986. ‘Avalanche of Gold’ is sensational. Imagine a bulb that provides up to fifteen small though not insubstantial flowers per stem and up to four stems at that. Add a sturdy quality that stands up to gales and clumps up readily and we have daffodil heaven. Every garden should have them. And have I mentioned the fragrance….
They are not the easiest plants but hepaticas have a huge appeal. From what I understand the doubles are the more expensive, most sought after and most rare. Personally speaking, as a garden plant I rather prefer the single ones. So the beauty below is the most striking. There are two main suppliers of hepaticas in Britain, both absolutely superb – Edrom Nurseries in Scotland and Ashwood Nurseries in the West Midlands. I have purchased hepaticas from both and frankly can’t remember which this indigo seedling came from. You can buy unnamed seedlings, singles being less than doubles. When the wind diminishes sufficient for me to photograph outside, I’ll feature an expensive named variety that bears a striking resemblance to the japonica seedling.
Hepatica x media Buis was purchased from Edrom Nurseries and has repaid the investment. The meaning of these terms perhaps requires a little explanation. The ‘x media’ strain is a cross between the two European species, noblis and transsylvanica, pioneered in the late 18C by Prof. F Hildebrand. I have one of the professor’s cultivars bearing his name … when the wind calms down. Meanwhile ‘Buis’ is a lovely cultivar indistinguishable from ‘Blue Eyes’ which I do not possess. The photograph below captures the magic of hepaticas.
As more and more of my embarrassingly large collection of narcissus varieties burst into flower I’m going to risk boring myself and readers of this blog. Perhaps I should change the name of the blog to ‘My Daffodil Garden’? Meanwhile I’ll try and suggest sizes of blooms when presenting them here, miniatures looking just the same as larger daffodils judged in isolation. ‘Gambas’ may be judged by placing them alongside some iris reticulata flowers in one of our stone troughs. ‘Gambas’ was one of the Cornish breeder Alec Gray’s cultivars first registered in 1964. I have quite a few of this wonderful breeder’s introductions. Perhaps I’ll write a blog post devoted to him.
Hepatica japonica ‘Hakurin’ self-seeded a few years ago much to my surprise when I spotted it as I was weeding the pots. I’d previously collected the ripe seed from several plants only to discover the seed tray waterlogged. I threw it out, probably rashly as there’s always hope. Luckily nature stepped in where nurture failed. Here then is the proof of the pudding, so to speak. Mother, daughter. Mother is semi-double, daughter single. Beauty is in the genes. Sadly there was only one seedling and, come to think, it may just have been there in the pot when I bought it from Edrom Nurseries.
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.
Hepaticas are the most expensive plants. Frankly, for anyone but absolute experts and an alpine house, paying hundreds of pounds for the exquisite double, named forms, is a game for the very rich. However the range of colours of the Hepatica japonica f.magna make for a delightful addition to the early spring garden. In the pot below I added a few seedlings to brighten up what had been full of cyclamen coum. This was pictured on 16th March. I notice flower buds are already forming for this winter.
Hepaticas are miniature jewels and temperamental ones in my garden. I lose a few and given the cost I’ll leave it for the specialists. Hepatica japonica Gosyo-Zacura grows in a sheltered spot in the garden where it has protection from the summer sun. It has sent out new shoots so I know it’s still with us. The photograph was taken on the 11th March. Hepaticas look best when the flowers festoon the plant though I liked this one for the texture in close-up.
Narcissus ‘Altruist’ was described in the catalogue as April flowering. Well it is despite having been in bloom since February. Perhaps the absolute freshness has gone out of the blooms, but it was photographed yesterday at 6.30pm on a gloomy day and it still evinces the colour of summer, a scare commodity this spring. Tall and elegant, they stand upright in the large containers for my clematis varieties. Indeed, they were planted as an afterthought after their original container disintegrated in last year’s frost. I’d forgotten about them and suddenly in the February frosts and snow they were in flower, drooping dramatically until the temperatures rose and, like springy plastic, they jumped up to attention again. And I have not yet mentioned the sweet fragrance. The catalogue never mentioned it either. Descriptions vary. Some sellers declare it is non-fragrant, some fragrant. Mine are the latter variety of the variety. As long lasting as the snow that is falling on a dire Easter Monday.
I take a lot of photographs of snowdrops at eye level, so as best to appreciate their finer points. Of course, the natural viewpoint is from above so here are two snowdrops I have written about previously, ‘au naturel’: ‘Phil Cornish’ and ‘Barbara’s Double’ are shown directly from above so it’s hardly natural, just another perspective. Don’t they make a bonny couple! I’d venture to suggest the former is one of the nicest marked snowdrops on the market. It’s not a cheap buy but better than some, possibly all, that I have seen for huge sums on eBay or at plant fairs. ‘Barbara’s Double’ is one for the collection, just such a pretty snowdrop.
When one pays a pretty sum of money for a single snowdrop cultivar it is reassuring to know that s/he will not stay single for long, and one hopes for large families. Such is the case with the very handsome Galanthus nivalis poculiformis, often referred to simply as ‘poculiformis’. It is a pure white form possessing six petals and is particularly good when fully open which today it was not. That apart it is towards the inexpensive end of the Poculiformis Group or, for those whose education was unhampered by Latin lessons, ‘little cup’ from the Latin ‘poculus’. I studied Latin to a decent level at school but believed the form denoted something to do with all white flowers. I should have studied harder for it refers to the form where the inner and outer petals are very similar. So my little fellow may be forgiven for the spot of green on the inner petal. I digress. The original bulb has clumped up very well indeed.
And another hepatica is in flower, the Hepatica japonica ‘Imaizumi’. There is a huge range of such varieties sharing one thing in common: they’re not cheap. So my collection is limited and will remain so until and if they seed themselves as did the seedling that closes today’s blog. it is minuscule in reality.
Normally I have little problem deciding which plant to feature first: I normally go with the more spectacular. On a brilliantly sunny if chilly morning there was no problem. Returning home this afternoon, another plant took my eye. So in no particular order …. Hepatica japonica Haato no Kingu is spectacular with a cluster of showy flowers startling in that they brave the cold without the unaffordable alpine house. I give more attention to hepaticas than any other plant. This one is sited in the most sheltered and sunny part of the garden during the cold months and I give it shade in summer as it needs moisture. In nature it would sit under trees, only obtaining direct sunlight in early spring before the leaves unfurl. Narcissus ‘Lemon Flare’ was photographed first thing this morning, delectable despite a light frosting. From grass-like shoots, hoop petticoats emerge in profusion if well grown. In the last few years I have become a fan and even my family notice them, not necessarily the case with all our plants. ‘Yes, Dad, did I tell you about the er yawn.’ (Our grandson takes another approach: ‘It was the ball’s fault.’)