Friday, 14 April 2017

The final spring?

This will probably be the last year for my garden, down-sizing is on the agenda in the near future so without any idea of where exactly I am going my thoughts have turned to taking some plants with me. The house is of a size and in an area which is attractive to young families but the garden is probably not so attractive being described by my neighbour, who has a large family, as "beautiful, but high maintenance". He has large areas of grass and a maintenance contract with the mow and blow boys. Although I am contemplating possibly returning one central bed to grass I don't think I can bring myself to do it.

In the meantime we are back to business as usual after a long break so here are are the usual spring flowering suspect, plus one or two that are less familiar. Firstly the mainstay of early colour the Hellebores: 

Helleborus argutifolius
Everyone knows the Corsican Hellebore, previously known as Helleborus corsicus but still the acid green flowers are a staple of winter and early spring. 

Helleborus foetidus
Another example of winter and spring colour the Stinking Hellebore is a plant which is found growing wild in this country and I remember a story I heard  years ago that there was some controversy, possibly when shown at Chelsea or even when it was put forward for an AGM, over whether or not it could be classified as a garden plant or discarded as a weed! Although often referred to as growing on limestone does just fine in our acid soil.

Helleborus cultivar

Helleborus cultivar

Helleborus cultivar
The few examples above of Helleborus x hybridus just illustrate how useful this genus is.

Another source of early interest are the pulmonarias or lungworts:

Pulmonaria saccharata 'Pink Dawn'
A robust grower, I am not entirely sure that this is actually Pulmonaria saccharata or a form of Pulmonaria officianalis but as the flowers remain pink I am opting for the former.

Pulmonaria 'Ice Ballet'

Pulmonaria longifolia 'Majesté'

Pulmonaria 'Blue Ensign'
The three cultivars illustrated above are young plants which are not performing as they should probably because the situation they are in is too dry but serve to illustrate some of the variations in this genus.

Bergenia cordifolia
If you can keep on top of the unsightly leaves, often a symptom of being in a situation which is too dry, this is a rewarding plant which can be used on north facing sites.

Below are a few more pictures from the spring garden.

Camellia japonica 'Adolphe Audusson'

Fritillaria meleagris
Anemone nemorosa

Pulsatilla halleri
A much choicer and more delicate species than Pulsatilla vulgaris, Pulsatilla halleri is generally found on calcareous soils in some European alpine regions. This particular plant was grown from seed.

Rheum palmatum tangutica
The bright red undersides of the emerging leaves of this "rhubarb" can be seen from a distance even on the dullest of days and really come into their own when back-lit by the sun.

Skimmia japonica rubra
Now roughly a metre in height and width this skimmia has really come into its own this year about three years after it was planted. The winter buds were a really deep red and the scent knocks you over. When seen in the nursery in their pots these plants look superb when in flower and everyone rushes to buy however I have always found that they take at least a couple of years before they return to anything like their original display.

Trillium rivale
This little gem illustrates one of the benefits of obtaining society seed when you have little or no idea of what you are getting. Probably listed as a second choice these delightful little trilliums are flowering at the beginning of their third season from sowing, much quicker than some of their fellow species which can take five to seven years. 

Primula farinosa (Section Farinosae)
An easy to grow early spring flowering primula, the Farinosae has many species which, although not too different from one another, offer plants which are easy to grow from seed which flower about twelve months from sowing.

Meconopsis walachii
A rosette of Meconopsis walachii which has come through a very wet few months without damage and is now going to flower before dying.

Meconopsis walachii RIP.
This one didn't make it along with several others within a foot from the one that did giving an exceptional 75% failure rate this winter.

Returning to my favourite subject the RHS have had incidents of herbicide contamination from peat-free composts this year, would you believe it? They are also able to suggest that to avoid this we use their recommended product which incidentally costs roughly three times the price of a standard compost, peat-free or otherwise. 

After my long absence I hope to be contributing more regularly again as the future unfolds.


  1. Welcome back Rick
    It's a shame when high maintenance gardens such as our own detract from the properties value. At our age lots of our gardening friends are down sizing.
    As to the RHS - nothing will surprise me. As to compost I prefer to make my own

    1. Thanks Roger, good to be back and couldn't wait to start banging the peat drum again.

  2. Good to see you back Rick. Skimmia! I think the growers have a few tricks up their sleeve with this one. Our ones which are in pots spent December, January and part of February stored in a dark container, thanks to the removal people who actually told us our pot plants would be kept in an outdoors situation. Anyway, they looked dreadful when we first moved, now they are flowering their heads off and looking rather good, still don't know how the growers make Rubella look the way they do in Winter. Good luck with your future plans.

    1. Thanks Alistair, glad you are back too. No doubt the growers use a magical cocktail of high potash food in their growing programme which is easy when you are raising hundreds of plants at the same time.