Sunday, 24 January 2016

Frost at last plus some B listers.

HOORAY FROST AT LAST!! Yes at long last we have been white over, the garden is starting to look the way it should and all is well in my world other than several lots of seedlings which shouldn't have appeared for another few months.

Continuing the A to Z theme here are a few pictures of the "B's", I don't seem to have too many pictures of plants in this category so I will be moving swiftly on to the "C's".

Berberis linearifolia 'Orange King' an evergreen variety. Striking with bright orange flowers against glossy evergreen leaves.
Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea' - One of the most common deciduous varieties. Will attain 4/5 metres if allowed to and is very quick growing. The yellow flowers look good against the purple leaves but the scent is not good, it is a strange smell. Small red berries follow in late summer when it frequently develops mildew. 
I quite like Berberis but tend to think of them as a utility shrub used by landscapers particularly for security hedges and evergreen ground cover. They will come from seed, as can be confirmed by the number of self-seeded plants that appear, but they will vary in most cases. Better to take cuttings of firm young growth in September or use layering in the spring. 

Bergenia 'Bressingham White'

Unknown Bergenia of Bergenia cordifolia type.
I have one problem with Bergenias or Elephant's Ear's, and that is the leaves from which the common name originates. To keep them in good condition you need a consistently damp soil in light shade or at least not in full on sun, sounds easy enough but a couple of plants I inherited years ago are well rooted into a couple of rock crevices and sometimes dry out causing the leaves to brown I persevere because they generally look good when in flower after any leaves which have been damaged are removed in early spring.

Berkheya purpurea - Ornamental thistle-like herbaceous plants from S.Africa. Known as the African Thistle.
   Lime lover for full sun, the spines are very sharp - beware! I found the purple of the flowers to be a bit muddy so assumed that the seed was from a poor strain but on checking the images on Google the colours are much the same or at best marginally stronger. A native of S.Africa they will need protection or in my case they did not survive the winter. Quite low growing so they are probably best suited to the large rock garden.

Borago officinalis
Has to be my favourite herb flower, the blue is reminiscent of Meconopsis and the hairy appearance adds to the charm, I don't have much trouble but in an open sunny garden it will seed itself everywhere. There is a rather nice white form and the blue does vary quite considerably.

Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

Brunnera 'Looking Glass'

A very useful monotypic hardy perennial from the Caucasus which has been developed in recent times to provide a variety of foliage colour combinations although some varieties such  as 'Blaukuppel' have green leaves and larger flowers than type. You do tend to get a bit fed up of people telling you that they are Forget-me-nots!
Buddleja davidii 'Pink Delight'
Buddleja x weyeriana 'Sungold'
Buddlejas seem to be despised by some and loved by others, I will always grow them as I think there are plenty of pluses. They are easy to grow, flower late summer when there can be a shortage of colour, the scent is fine and, as we all know, they attract bees and butterflies. What more could you want? The new dwarf patio strains make them an even better proposition.  

Bupleurum longifolium
One of those under-rated plants which bring character to the garden border Bupleurum longifolium is easy to grow and will even seed itself around in a suitable spot. Seed, which can be collected easily, is best sown fresh for good germination. That reminds me I think I have some in the fridge from last year!


I thought I would have a quick walk round the garden with the camera this morning under overcast skies so the results aren't sparkling. Here a few pictures of things which caught my eye.

Cyclamen coum with Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin' at the back, you can just make out a flower on the Lithodora diffusa 'Heavenly Blue' (mid-rt.). I much preferred the old generic name Lithospermum, don't know why, just sounded right and it was among the first alpine plants I grew.
Iris foetidissima, the Gladwyn Iris, insignificant flowers followed by the striking seed heads. I hate staking but the weight of the seeds brings the stems to the ground making them more accessible to slugs and snails. They do climb the plant to devour the seeds but this seems to help. This clump is coming out in the spring to make way for something more interesting and less work.
In the gloom Mahonia bealei 'Hivernant'.

Meconopsis walichii plants from seed last spring, the spacing may look wide but I have learned my lesson with Meconopsis, they need it.

The first Narcissi of the year.

Helleborus argutifolius. Why would you name a plant known as the Corsican Hellebore anything other than Helleborus corsicus?

Hellebore hybrid.

I am especially delighted with this white frilled Hellebore, first time of flowering.
That's it for today making an unwelcome re-appearance next time the dreaded Cushion Scale.


  1. Oh no,not the dreaded cushion scale

    1. Afraid so Roger, too complacent last year.

  2. Very nice photos. Berkheya purpurea seems like an interesting plant but if your winter is too cold for it, it does not have a chance in my garden. My Bergenias seem to do OK except that the edges of the leaves are always chewed by something. Do you have any idea of what it could be (sugs, insects?)

    1. Thanks Alain, the Berkheya is not something I would normally grow but I sometimes order some "Lucky Dip" society seeds along with my choices and this was one of them. I gave it a go growing them in a pot but to be honest didn't try to keep it through the winter letting it fend for itself. My Bergenias don't seem to suffer from slug damage although I believe they can be affected by them, chewing round the edges sounds as if it could be vine weevil but I don't know if they are present with you.

    2. Thank you Rick. I looked it up and indeed we do have the vine weevil in Nrth America and Bergenia is prone to damage which cause the leaves to have notched margin. That is exactly the problem. If you did not know the leaves are not notched, you might think that is how the plant grows.
      Lucky Dip is what I now consider the main advantage of seed society. For every 25 that don't do anything, you get lucky once in a while and find something that loves your garden.
      It is back to Ontario at the end f the month. I have bought seeds for all sorts of unusual vegetables. The Italian don't seem much interested in flowers but they have all sorts of vegetables we don't know.

  3. I didn’t know some berberis had strange smell, I have been wanting Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond Pillar’ for a long time, have only seen it online so I don’t know what the flowers smell like. It looks like a beautiful bush with all year interest perfect for a small garden though – less of a utility shrub perhaps?

    I agree with you on buddleja, they are great plants but in a small garden they can easily take over. I was so happy when I discovered the dwarf version, mine is evergreen and flowers for nearly 6 months.

    1. Hi Helene, Berberis thunbergii does have a remarkably strange scent in fact I would describe it rather as a smell, so it's very possible that 'Helmond Pillar' does but as I do not grow it I can't say for certain, remember it is also deciduous. Your dwarf evergreen Buddleja sounds fantastic, especially because of its long flowering period.

  4. I love orange flowers, so the B. linerifolia really speaks to me. I do grow Borage and Brunnera, and enjoy both very much, as I am very partial to blue flowers as well.

  5. Glad it pleases you Jason.

  6. You've just given me an ID for the massive shrub that grows in a neighbours garden. Those bright yellow/orange flowers are unmistakable. It's certainly spring down there with you Rick. I love the frilly white hellebore in the last picture. Did you grow this from seed? Lucky you if you did. I've often read that they can be more of a miss than a hit from seed.

    1. Hi Angie, glad to be of help. The hellebore is actually from a batch of cut price plugs I bought but I will probably collect seed from it if I can to see what results as hellebores are a great subject for this.

  7. Yes Rick, we finally had a touch of frost. The stand out in the Bs for me has to be the Buddleja x weyeriana 'Sungold'.

    1. Hi Alistair, not enough frost really and we are back to the rain again now. If I was pushed for a favourite I would agree with your choice but I do like Borage.