Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Long purples, Mary-buds and lady-smocks

There with fantastic garlands did she come,
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them
                                         Hamlet act 4, sc.7, l. 167

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula
To mark the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth today, here are a few botanical references from his work. Many more could be thought of, but these are all in flower at the arboretum today, and on what has been a glorious English spring day they seem most appropriate for this commemoration.

When daisies pied and violets blue

And lady-smocks all silver white
And cuckoo-buds of golden hue
Do paint the meadows with delight
               Love's Labour's Lost act 5, sc.2

Daisy, Bellis perennis: Lady's Smock, Cardamine pratensis

Hark! Hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,
and Phoebus 'gins arise,
His steeds to water at those springs
On chaliced flowers that lies;
And winking Mary-buds begin
To ope their golden eyes
                                     Cymbeline act 2, sc. 3

Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris

On her left breast
A mole cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops
I' the bottom of a cowslip
                                               Cymbeline act 2, sc. 2

Cowslip, Primula veris

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Out and about this week

Native Pulsatilla vulgaris in Gloucestershire - as usual only a few plants were flowering at this site.

Narcissus 'Thalia' at the Yorkshire Arboretum: we put in 3000 bulbs of this last autumn.

With the vistas and paths mown into rapidly growing grass the arboretum looks crisp and kempt, the result of a lot of hard work by my staff and volunteers through the winter.

Male cones of Abies delavayi, Yorkshire Arboretum

Male cones of Abies fabri, Congrove Cottage, South Gloucestershire.

Expanding foliage of Quercus coccinea 'Splendens' at Congrove


An extraordinary sight in an open situation in England: Acacia pravissima in full flower at Congrove (though they have had only one night of frost all winter).

A sumptuous Anemone coronaria 'Bordeaux' in the garden today.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A busy gardening weekend

Paeonia mairei
In a Facebook post an American friend, Mike Fusaro, alerts his circle that today is the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson in 1743, and gives a very choice quotation from the great man setting out his philosophy about gardening: 'No occupation is so delightful to me as the cultivation of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one thro' the year.'

With fine weather - though windy - this weekend, it has been delightful to be in the garden and to be able to get things done, preparing the garden for the rush that is to come over the next few weeks.

The view from my bedroom this morning.
  
Without a greenhouse growing things in pots, especially tender plants, is a challenge. The various house windowsills had a clear-out today to give potted plants a good watering, but it is the hardening off that presents the greatest challenge. It's not just a temperature issue: plants grown without exposure to direct sunshine or moving air are very unprepared for exposure, and I did a lot of juggling things in and out of doorways today.

Last year's fern fronds have been cut off, revealing swelling croziers. this is a Polystichum setiferum cultivar.

Later in the day: lawn mown, hedge trimmed

A temporarily upward-facing Erythronium showing the beautiful markings in its throat.

Not subject to migration outdoors, at least yet, is this Cymbidium 'Doris Dawson 'Scotch Mist' on my study windowsill, flowering again after a year in my care.

The very last snowdrop of the season, a secondary flower of 'Little Drip'.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Which do you prefer?

Narcissus 'Amabilis'

Narcissus 'Silent Valley'
A poll option is given in the righthand sidebar.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

A wet visit to Holehird Gardens

Magnolia 'Caerhays Surprise' on the lawn in the Walled Garden
A visit to friends in the Lake District gave me the opportunity to return to Holehird Gardens this afternoon. The 17 acres of neatly kept gardens are run entirely by volunteers who are members of the Lakeland Horticultural Society, and are a testimony to their competence and good will. Unfortunately the Lake District lived up to its reputation for heavy rainfall for the whole weekend, and the gardens were thoroughly drenched: it was a brief visit and these are a few iPad snaps to give an idea of the range of interesting plants currently in flower there. There is no cafe at Holehird, but I can thoroughly recommend Francine's, in nearby Windermere, for an excellent lunch.

The only dry spot: the alpine house, with nicely constructed tufa walls full of choice plants.

Saxifraga x biasolettoi 'Atropurpurea' (though the RHS Plant Finder suggests this name may not be correct).

Part of the rock garden

Rhododendron 'Pemakofairy',  ground-hugging dwarf with comparatively large flowers, rather the worse for rain.

The daffodils were sadly much bashed-about by wind and heavy rain.

I thought the planting round this runnel (taking run-off through the walled garden) was very well done: the combination of Corydalis and Dicentra  is charming. The picture really doesn't do it justice.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Wild Daffodils at Farndale

The Wild Daffodil, Narcissus peudonarcissus
Having heard that there was  good display of Wild Daffodils at Farndale, up in the North York Moors National Park, I went to see them this morning with my friend Tom Mitchell, proprietor of Evolution Plants. We got there to find a busy scene of cars milling about in a field car park, an ice cream vendor doing a roaring trade, and lots of people, many apparently clad for a Himalayan trek, setting off to walk up the valley where the daffodils grow. Although Farndale lies between quite high moors, the valley bottom is gentle, with a built path running alongside the River Dove through the fields and wooded banks. The daffodils occur in the rough places where plough and fertiliser can't reach and give a pleasant shimmer under the trees, but aren't present in huge dense drifts. It was a nice walk on a mild morning, and it was good to see a lot of people coming out to see wild flowers,but there wasn't much feeling of the wild about it (and - hush! - the display of Wild Daffodils in the Forest of Dean is much better).


The Farndale daffodils are a very popular destination for a spring stroll.

Seems a bit cheap!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

An outstanding bulb collection

Freesia cultivars
Having sent most of the day at a Biodiversity Action Plan workshop in Pickering, for light relief on the way home I called in at the famous RV Roger Ltd nursery, which has a huge range of plants, many grown there in the open ground. The proprietor, Ian Roger, is a great bulb enthusiast and in season they stock an incredible range. He combines business with pleasure by growing a display of bulbous plants in a 'bulb yard', including two substantial greenhouses, raised beds and big potting bags of the larger species. All are beautifully grown and labelled.Among the assemblage is one of the National Plant Collections of Erythronium, just starting to flower, though the early blooms had mostly been ruined by Sunday night's frost, and in the first greenhouse are a lot of rather choice Cape bulbs. It's evidently going to be a place to visit regularly during the spring.


Moraea atropunctata

An impressive array of Gladiolus species and simple hybrids.

The very elegant Lachenalia suaveolens

Fritillaria bucharica 'Hodji-Obi-Garm'

A collection of Tulipa humilis cultivars

Crown Imperials, with Fritillaria raddeana in front. The three colours flowering behind it are in the Rascal series,  a new race of shorter hybrids bred in Holland. The cultivars are named after composers.

Raised beds containing the very extensive Erythronium collection.

Even the car park has bulbs: a lovely fringe of self-sown Muscari latifolium and Chionodoxa