Thursday, 28 January 2016

Some of my favourite plants through the year

This was meant to be a short quick blog, and to read i guess it is but its taken me 4 evenings to pick out all of my favourites and then cut it down to these few.... Hope you enjoy!

Hi guys,
I'm sat going through cataloguing some of my pics from the last few years. Now i have my trusty new hard drive i can do this with no fear of losing files *Oh the horror!*
I keep coming across some really amazing ones id love to write blogs about, and i will, but I'm also dying to share them with you. So I've had a brainwave! A calender style post. So without further ado i present you ....


Taken at Ryton Organic Gardens, home of Garden Organic, in 2009
Globe Artichoke heads Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus

Viburnum x bodnatense 'Debden' Highly fragrant
The Snow drop below was from Hole Park where under the enthusiastic tutelage of Head Gardener, Galanthophile and all round good guy, Quentin Stark i discovered the joy of  these unassuming little white flowers.... i say that but actually they're pretty awesome! I'm a bit late on the boat this year for writing about them given the early show we've been seeing but i hope to put up a few of the pics from the collection Quentin has amassed. If you fancy doing some research yourself on them there are plenty of fairs held round the country, go see! You will be stunned by the varieties on offer.
A couple of my personal favourites are....

 Galanthus elwesii 'Grumpy' so named for his little face! - Galanthus elwesii 'Grumpy'
 Galanthus 'Wendy's Gold', self explanatory. - Galanthus 'Wendy's Gold'

And here's a Galanthophiles guide for beginners - Snowdrop identification.pdf

Galanthus (poss. Nivalis)

 Obligatory Narcissi 'paperwhite' its scent in a cold glasshouse is overpowering but always reliable and popular.

This is an oddity that i adore! Those of you that know me in real life know my fascination with Fasciation! The causes of this deformity are much argued and honestly I'm not learned enough to argue for or against any one of them, all i know is it causes the most amazing deformities to arise. Sometimes the plant grows out of them on others as on the this Euphorbia wulfennii which to my knowledge still grows at Ryton gardens will keep the deformity year on year. Some plants are even marketed on this freakish development, Veronicastrum 'fascination' and Cryptomeria japonica 'Cristata'
A bit more info on the phenomena - Fasciation 

 and February would not be February without gorgeous little Siberian Iris's


The weather starts to warm up, in the woods the bluebells and anemones are flowering. Primula auriculas, Primroses and Hellebores come into their own to name but a few. All of a sudden it seems everything wakes up and the further south you are the earlier you see and feel the change.
I adore Primula auriculas, they're such an odd varied little plant, some of the flowers are completely unreal in their colours. It can become a little bit obsessive once you start collecting.
There are many types suitable for showing, fancy's, striped, alpine's, edged, self and doubles to name but a few and there are many shows held around the country where you can see them being presented at their best, in their quirky little "Theatres". 
This is a "thing" with Auriculas, they're easy to grow from seed too so who knows you could raise a champion sport!
If you'd like to know more about them here's a cool little link which tells you a brief history and also points you in the direction of the various societies which hold shows around the country - Auricula and primula history

 Hellebore orientalis, a firm favourite of mine, can start flowering as early as December hence its nickname "the Christmas rose" but really comes into its own in early March. Coming in colours ranging from an almost black, through rose, cherry, pink to pure white, single and double forms, some with beautiful speckles, others a pure colour. If you cant find one you like you haven't looked hard enough.
Cut the leaves off close to the base prior to flowering (around late December) being careful not to damage the emerging flower spikes. This performs a threefold task, it allows for a clear view of the flowers, removes cover for pesky mice and voles that eat the flowers and also helps prevent any spores from leaf spot that may be lurking. Do this and you will get an amazing show followed by dark glossy leaves later in the year.

 This time a tree, Magnolia campbellii.
Now don't get me wrong I've always appreciated a good tree, provide shade in the summer, shelter in a rain shower, sometimes they have fruit on them (always a bonus if it involves food) but until i started working at Hole Park i didn't love trees the way i loved ornamental herbaceous plants. I just hadn't been taught to appreciate them though. Working with Quentin, as i may have mentioned already was a huge eye opening experience into plants, much the same way as a conversation with Sally Cunningham is. In the March of 2015 i was to get a real treat. Hole park has a deep valley which is chock full of rhodies, camellias, acers and Magnolias. As march drew on i witnessed a spectacular sight which when viewed from a distance looked like thousands of pink balloons had been released and were drifting lazily skywards through the treetops.

This was the Magnolia campellii in full flower, beautiful!. The tree itself is around 40 - 50ft high but is set in the deepest part of the valley. A closer view is difficult to capture as the flowers are so high and the tree so immense but i caught one of the lower flowers about to open. The tree needs to be about 25 years old before it starts to flower so its a real investment of time and space for most people and not one you would normally see in someones back garden but so worth it if you can.
Magnolia campbellii, more information 


Lathyrus vernus syn. Orobus vernus is a beautiful, and in my view, under rated spring plant. You rarely see it and if you miss its spring show you could easily walk past it and not notice. Standing around 12" it forms an unobtrusive clump of delicate leaves but when it flowers, oh my!
This is where it starts to get tough to choose, so many flowers! but i guess i cant ignore Tulips. Since Tradescant first brought the 'Semper augustus' to England (Tulip mania) and nearly lost everything in the subsequent crash we have loved Tulips. They have never reached the ridiculous heights of a single bulb being worth thousands ever again. That's now the Galanthus's risky provenance, but we still buy millions every year and travel to the Netherlands to see acre after acre of them laid out in their glory.

This is where i come over all silly! As May brings possibly my favourite flowering plant (who am i kidding they're all my favourite!) you may notice if you're on Twitter my page becomes smothered with pics and retweets of Wisterias. I love them all, doesn't matter if its a sinensis or floribunda, or any of the other 6 lesser known species of Wisteria 

 Its not just the colour its the scent too! and don't worry if you haven't got a wall for it to sprawl up, grow it as a standard, looks amazing!

Aah, flaming June! where supposedly the British summer starts.... so it invariably rains till mid August. Impossible to pick 1 or two at this stage so here's a few outstanding plants and then....
Zantedeschia aethiopica white giant

Eremurus stenophyllus

Ixia viridiflora

Gladiolus byzantinus
 Onto the Iris's!


Honestly i am trying to be strict with myself over this but its really difficult to not try and show you every beautiful plant there is, that's impossible in whats supposed to be a short blog... total fail there already! So onto July...
Astrantia major

Achillea ptarmica (The Pearl Group) 'The Pearl'

Achillea filipendulina 'Cloth of Gold'

Rudbekia hirta

Dierama pulcherrimum
Astrantias, Dierama& Rudbeckias come in a wide variety of colours, as do Achilleas. The one picture above are all at Waterperrys. A great garden to visit for inspiration.


Ok, my next chosen plant can and will flower earlier than August, if you start them off early enough, but by August even those late starters should be in full swing! I'm sticking with Dahlias for this month as honestly there's just too many variations on colour and form not to and these gorgeous beauties will keep going until first frosts.  Until recently they had fallen out of favour, seen as an old fashioned plant maybe? Or maybe hard work? but honestly nothing could be further from the truth and whats more you can have enormous fun trying to breed your own show stopper. 
I guess you can tell I'm rather taken by them eh!
Its not just me though, here's a link to the national dahlia collection which is chock full of info for newbies and experts alike. There's also many shows dedicated to Dahlias around the country,a great place to see the best of the best!

A crossbreed by Quentin Stark

A crossbreed by Quentin Stark

Wisley Dahlia show 2014

Pom poms, doubles, cactus, singles so many different types!

Wisley Dahlia show, with a rare shot of a HG lurking, he'll kill me if he sees this....

Vassio meggos

Mums choice

White lace


Shameless selfie for scale purposes, im 5ft 3 (and a half!)
 This is just a tiny selection of whats available from this one very special plant so go and find the one that floats your boat!

You may wonder why I've chosen this rather ropey picture of a Clerodendron bungei,after all i try to only show you the best pics i can but look closely! Theres a Hummingbird Hawkmoth! Just left of centre and for this reason i love this plant ...well not just this reason.
When you bruise the foliage it smells like peanut butter, to me anyway and growing to over 6ft tall it  creates a real impact in any border. It can be a bit of a thug though and spreads via root system so if you get it you may find yourself controlling its spread. The white version, i think its Clerodendrum trichotomum smells divine too.

Agapanthus 'Hole park blue'. Now most Agapanthus do flower slightly earlier than September but this one is slightly unusual, it starts in September and goes on till a really heavy frost knocks it back. Its origins are slightly hazy as, grown at Hole Park, it was rediscovered after the war languishing in the Glasshouses attached to the walled garden that isn't open to the public. Its since been propagated vegetatively as it never sets seed. Its thought to be a praecox hybrid.

Now for some of you based further north in the UK (and of course around the world) these monthly dates may be a little off kilter, for that forgive me. I am basing these timings on when i took the pictures and weather conditions, locations etc. can alter this. 
October for me is always based in the change in the trees around me, none more spectacular, in my eyes than the Liquidamber styracifluer or sweetgum tree. In late September as night temperatures start to fall a tint of reds and purples touches the leaves of this magnificent tree and given the right conditions it will hold those leaves well into November giving an amazing array of colours from acid yellows through to deepest purples all on one tree. I first noticed them when i ran my own business about 20 years ago in a clients garden. It was a huge specimen that honestly id not really paid much attention to through out the summer. The garden was large and neglected and id concentrated on making it presentable. Then one week i walked round to the back and this rainbow of colours dazzled me. If you get a chance, crush one of the leaves, the smell is amazing.

Another spectacular show comes from Acers, planted en mass or just from a single specimen, seen from a distance they can light up a woodland.

and finally for October parthenocissus quinquefolia, or Virginia creeper

It HAS to be this shrub for November, it looks unreal! Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion

and for a beautiful delicate show of flowers with gorgeous marbled leaves Cyclamen hederifolium (hederifolium meaning Ivy leaved) is hard to beat.

A difficult month for a gardener you may think but this is where those plants that provide structure come into their own, the topiary, box, ilex crenata, Lonicera's and other evergreen shrubs. There ARE flowers though, Acacias, Camellias, Rhododendrons but my favourite has to be Chimonanthus preacox (or is it now fragrans? name changes, another blog in its own right!) common name Wintersweet this unassuming shrub takes on a whole new dimension in December. Its not showy, the flowers are tiny but the scent, oh my life, the scent its gorgeous!

and one final one for December, one which i hope i never have to do again on this scale, Christmas trees.... oh the humanity! When you sit at home with your beautiful real tree, spare a thought for the gang of workers who have spent all of November and half of December in a wet cold field dragging your massive tree to the netters..... I will never again take that for granted! Great experience and great camaraderie but.... yeah, I've still got the scars to remind me ;)

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