In common with many horticultural periodicals and websites, we like to highlight a ‘Plant of the Month’. However, with our climate changing so rapidly as witnessed by the past few mild, wet winters, how do you chose such a plant; should it be one that we would usually expect to flower in the month in question, or one that is actually flowering that month, even though we would not normally associate it with that month?
A few years ago, at another HPS Group’s Day Conference I listened to a fascinating talk entitled ‘When will it flower?’. After an hour, our very erudite lecturer’s conclusion was basically ‘we don’t know’! I was reminded of this when recently, at the request of his son and daughter, I have been removing plants from our senior member, David Barnes’, garden. As many of you know he has recently moved to live with his son, and as the fate of the garden is not known, they were keen that some of David’s plants should be rescued. On March 2nd, the friend who was helping me, came bearing a huge clump of Paeonia mlokosewitschii – ‘Molly the Witch’ to you & me – about 15’’ tall, in full leaf, and covered with buds! It must have been in a very sheltered spot, as my clump at home – an earlier gift from David – was only just peeping through the ground.
In other years, when we have been preparing to create an exhibit at Harrogate Spring Flower Show, there has always been the agonising problem, what will be in flower for the Show? As you know, we aim to use as many plants as possible that belong to members, but as amateur gardeners we do not have the facilities of the professional exhibitors who can put their plants into cold storage and then on a pre-planned day, bring them out into a controlled temperature to ensure that the plants flower just in time for the Show. Not that this always works.
In 2009, I was absolutely thrilled when, for the first time, one of my plants was used on our stand at Harrogate. It was Epimedium ‘Lilafee’ (fig.1) and was completely smothered with dainty mauve flowers. Being shallow rooted it had transplanted very easily, without disturbance, only a day or two before the Show. It was a bit of a squeeze to fit it in to the top of a 3lt pot, and I rather begrudged all the compost that I had to use to fill the pot, but no matter, it looked stunning on the stand and created a lot of interest and admiring comments.
As we were doing Chelsea the following year, it was decided that it would be sent, along with various other plants that wouldn’t normally flower towards the end of May, to a nursery in Norfolk who had agreed to look after them, holding them back or bringing them on, as appropriate, so that they would flower for Chelsea. However, not even the professionals get it right, and by the time we got to Chelsea, ‘Lilafee’ was well past her best and never made it onto the stand.
Although not not for use at the Show, each year at this time, I hope that my Amelanchier lamarckii (fig.2) will be in flower to use as part of the Easter flowers at church. Of course this is not helped by Easter being such a ‘movable feast’, but I think in the more than 10 years that I have had it in the garden, I have managed to use it just once, possibly twice at the most. It really could do with pruning, but I am reluctant to do so as I am always confident that next year will be the one, and I will be able to cut lovely long branches of the delicate white flowers. This year with, as I write this, just over a week to go to Easter, it looks as if it may be just about right, but of course, thanks to Coronavirus, there will not be an Easter service at church. C’est la vie! However, if I were asked to make a choice, it would still be a contender, in my mind, for ‘Plant of the Month’ for April.
How often have we said, when walking round our gardens with friends, ‘you should have seen it last week’ or ‘in a day or two that will be lovely’? No matter how we try to control nature, in the end plants will do what they want, but surely it is one of the great pleasures of gardening that there is always something to look forward to.
I don’t know when I became aware of these bulbs but certainly for the last 20 years I have had some in the garden. The first were a Mother’s Day gift and they were ‘Pagoda’, a nice green leaf with some light white marbling and sunny yellow flowers that are still going strong under the beech tree in the back garden. Currently I have about 5 clumps all with buds promising flowers in early April.
Searching around plant fairs and our visiting speakers stalls I have found others such as ‘Joanna’ which has yellow flowers that age to an apricot colour. Curious as to their parentage I discovered that ‘Joanna’ is a cross between Erythronium tuolumnense and Erythronium revolutum. Pagoda is also a cross with E.tuolumnense but the other parent is E californicum ‘White beauty’. I have E tuolumnense and its flowers are smaller and more delicate looking than ‘Pagoda’ and I like its simple beauty. Buds are forming in that one too. I think they appreciated the damp autumn. Like many genera the plant breeders are busy raising new hybrids.
Then I noticed the leaf form of others like E. dens canis, mottled and spotted making them very attractive. One of the common names for Erthronium is dog toothed violet and this comes from the shape of the bulb which resembles a dog’s canine tooth. They are also called trout lilies due to the markings on the leaf that look like the markings on the side of a trout. But I digress, soon I was on the lookout for different ones. One of my favourites is ‘Purple King’, which despite having a bearded iris growing on top of it, has come up and is flowering well in the middle of March.
Every week during the Lockdown, W Yorks HPS member Kathy Howard will produce a horticultural quiz to keep our minds fresh. The answers (no cheating please!) will be attached to the following week’s quiz questions.
Quiz week one
1. Which road in Bethnal Green is host to one of London’s most famous flower markets?
2. Which English writer and poet wrote ‘the fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure’?
3. ‘Always alive’ is the translation of the Latin name of which hardy succulent?
4. Which British prime minister is remembered on ‘Primrose Day’ on the 19th April each year?
5.‘Diana Clare’, ‘Victorian Brooch’ and ‘Trevi Fountain’ are all varieties of which Spring flowering perennial?
6. Which author’s books include ‘The Curious Gardener’ and ‘The Tulip’?
7. Which fragrant bell-shaped flower is the national flower of the former State of Yugoslavia and Finland?
8. Which plant was known as the ‘Candlewick Plant’ or ‘Hag’s Taper’ due it is old use for making lamp wicks?
9. The Lost Gardens of Heligan began being restored in which decade?
10. Which flower’s name derives from Greek mythology, wherein a beautiful youth was turned into a flower whilst entranced by his own reflection?
Preston Harrison’s garden is rich in daffodils at the moment
Carine Carson has a new garden, which was due to be landscaped. Sadly C-19 means that the work is off for the time being, but she is making the most of what she has!
Cath Rochelle, new to the group, has plenty to be proud of:
One from the editor, Brian Hackett (or should that be Hacquet?)
Also locked down in Massachusetts, Nette Bricker-Barrett is envious of our Yorkshire colour. She says “Oh my gosh, the HPS lockdown photos are amazing, beautiful flowers already! Your members’ gardens must be weeks ahead of ours. We have lots of dead-looking stuff with occasional evergreens in ours.”
Diane Rawnsley submitted the next batch. She says “We are enjoying the daffodils which we don’t normally see as we are usually away at this time of year….every cloud..“
Judith Ladley sends us “My over-crowded front and back gardens, plus a plant which some people may not be familiar with: corydalis cheilanthefolia“
John and Joyce Kenny have lots in bloom at Woodroyd, Denby Dale
Peter Williams offers these delights from his garden
Terry Benton is an HPS member from Wiltshire. Not only does he offer some fine flowers, but also a very impressive insect
Weather: Our first week of isolation was dry and sunny, bringing out hardy planters as well as these blooms
Maggie Sugden is our first contributor
Next are some fine blooms from Kate van Heel’s garden
Joyce Kenny offers Pulmonaria ‘Erway Farm’. This is a conservation scheme plant that was originally distributed as P. ‘Netta Statham’, till Margaret Stone identified it. It’s now spreading across the garden.
Cath Rochelle is new to the West Yorkshire HPS, This is her garden on a lovely spring evening
Like most gardeners spring is my favourite time of year, although I love all the seasons. Iris reticulata is one of the sweetest spring flowers and if grown in pots outside can flower very early. I dry the bulbs over the summer just in a pot in the greenhouse and in the autumn plant them out in pots. I keep trying new ones and sometimes have failures in fact I don’t seem to be able to grow Katharine Hodgkin at all.
Hellebore orientalis is propagated in great numbers nowadays and we are able to buy a wide variety of different colours. They are beautiful planted on a bank so you can see the centre of the flower but there are a lot being developed now with the flower facing upwards. I love them and have quite a few even though I have a small garden. While they are in flower I have a bowl full of their heads on display inside and it never fails to cheer me up through the bad weather. Happy gardening
When I moved to my present garden, snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, were growing in one large patch under the beech hedge. Over the years I moved them first to the shrubbery, but then decided to move them to the lane side.
I have, over the following years, bought elwesii and woronowii, but no named hybrids, other than Sam Arnott which has now bulked up well, grows in good clumps, is allowed the privilege of a good garden border and smells wonderful early in the year.
Last November, I thought I would like to learn more about a plant that can spread so rapidly around my garden, obviously happy with my conditions. I decided to book for 2 snowdrop days in 2020. My thoughts ran along the lines of, if I book 2, maybe I won’t lose both to bad weather. I booked for the Alpine Garden Society Snowdrop Day at Lilleshall and the Hardy Plant Society Galanthus Day at Tuxford Academy near Retford.
The first event started with snowdrop sales from nurseries specialising in snowdrops before 3 lectures and a hot lunch. The snowdrop sales, as a non Galanthophile were an eye opener, the numbers of varieties (can you tell the differences, really?), the prices, and the number of sales. The most expensive I saw was £500, one was sold as I stood looking at £200! There are people around with deep pockets.
The lectures were good and I definitely came away with increased knowledge. The first talk was from Ian Young who writes a brilliant Bulb Log on a weekly basis about his 900sq.m garden in Scotland which is stocked with many woodlanders and bulbs, but he was not keen to know every snowdrop by name! The second talk was on Poculiform(cup shaped)snowdrops, this is where the inner segments are the same as the outers, so a 6 petal snowdrop? The third talk was “Snowdrop Potential” what is to come, pink snowdrops? The breeders are onto it!
As we have had such a mild Winter I have had no problem attending both events. The second event was the day after storm “Dennis” hit, but as this impacted more on South Wales and Herefordshire travelling East was no problem.
This day also started with snowdrop sales from private member sellers, the costs I thought were comparable to the nurseries, members received payment less a percentage to subsidise the day. I bought a snowdrop!
There were 2 lectures before eating your sandwich, then 2 gardens to visit nearby in the afternoon.
The first lecture was about snowdrops in France and some specials that have been found in the wild. The second was from a lady who gardens near Heidelberg in Germany. She gave a talk on 6 months of snowdrops. This was my favourite of all the lectures as I try to make my plantings span the year, so anything that can cover 6 months in different varieties is worth noting. I made a note of a few names here to spread to either end of the season. From the superb photography here it was also obvious she has some good companion planting in her garden.
I must mention here that there is a large free raffle during the day and I won a snowdrop. It is marked at £50! I now have the pressure of keeping it alive. I hope my theory/reason for attending the day is proved right and snowdrops like my conditions.
The 2 gardens in the afternoon were brilliant early Spring gardens. The Beeches had a snowdrop collection along a wall top, brilliant for viewing these little gems and Church Farm had plenty of snowdrops, many were named clumps around the garden.
So……last weekend I decided to visit a Yorkshire snowdrop garden. Bridge Farm House at Great Heck, apparently has 150 varieties of snowdrop. A great mix of Spring plantings, Hellebores, Corydalis, Cyclamen coum along with named Galanthus clumps.
Am I a Galanthophile? Well, we are now well into Hellebore season, I LOVE them………..
I know this isn’t the most obscure of plants to be talking about in February but I love it. First of all it comes out in February when there is very little else in flower in the garden (alright there are loads of snowdrops and they are great to see but I don’t find them quite as exciting as some).
Secondly they are just gorgeous to look at. Delicate, detailed and lightly shaded. A flower like this has no business flaunting itself at this time of year, but it does.
And nothing eats it! It looks just ripe to be lunch for something – OK maybe not the slugs and snails at this time of year, but not even pigeons, pheasants or any of those indiscriminate gobblers that spend so much time hanging around in our garden.
Generally it seems pretty bombproof. Once all the plants around it get into gear, frankly we just forget about it, as it becomes lost and neglected under a mass of other leaves. I’m thinking that’s why I’ve never propagated it – division is the way to do it, but first I have to remember it’s there.
We grow it on a raised bank, which suits the plant, because it likes to be moist but well drained, plus it suits us because at that time of year we don’t care to get down to the ground level to admire it. I believe it’s scented too, but I’ve never got close enough to confirm that.
If it were only a little bigger, I’d say it’s a candidate for the perfect early spring plant.