I took these photos before seven this morning, hoping that the early light would give a truer colour than bright sunshine. They still give no idea of the wonderful, intense purple-blue of the flowers. This is a new plant to me and one I’m very pleased with. I bought it at the nursery sale last year and it came through the winter, no problem. Unlike the penstemon I perhaps mistakenly put it next to, it has a very neat, compact habit, so will never flop. Not that the big one flops because I supported it early with one of my hazel wigwams. Penstemons are great garden plants. Flower all summer, drought resistant, easy to propagate. What’s not to like?


It’s too windy today (again!) to get a decent photograph but I’ve done my best. Several hardy geraniums have started flowering this month. ‘Brookside’ is one I like so much that I brought some with me from my old garden. It will sprawl in dry weather but is usually a neat plant and no trouble at all. A bonus is that once the first flush of flowers is over you can cut it to the ground, after which tough treatment it will regenerate and give you more flowers in September. More information here. At one time I grew about one hundred different varieties of geranium, so I think I'm in a position now to say which I think are the best.


I love foxgloves and now is their prime time. They’re all over the garden, mostly two to three feet high and in an array of pinks. I’m slightly disappointed that there will probably only be one white one this year. I plant out a row of these in front of the shed each year and one has turned into a monster. I’ve already had my photo taken with it, to show that it was a foot taller than I am. It keeps on growing and is now above the guttering and touching the roof. Luckily the recent storms haven’t damaged the foxgloves at all. That’s what we like: tough plants which are good doers.
the big ones )

At one end of my garden there is a land anomaly of some sort, probably an ancient boundary. It means that the hedge dividing the garden from the meadow comes to an end and a modern fence has been put up in the corner. It used to have four awful buddlejas in front of it but I soon got rid of those nuisances. Last year I decided a Clematis montana was what I needed to cover the horrid bare space quickly, so I bought a white one. Or so I thought. The same year, it put out double pink flowers. I was quite cross and complained to the garden centre. The chap I spoke to looked at my photo and said immediately, ‘That’s ‘Boughton Star’.' After he'd checked on my card that I had really bought an allegedly white clematis, we came to an agreement over compensation.

The plant grew like mad; at one time I was having to train it every single day. As you can see from the pic below, it’s made good progress in just one year. I just wish it were white.


A very old cottage garden plant, officially called Polygonatum × hybridum.
I chose this when I saw the sun shining through it this morning. I just love the way the flowers hang so neatly and, when you look close, the green markings.

There’s a plant which comes up every year, right inside the hedge. The one photographed here is an oddity. It pops up in spring, in the grass, on the edge of a clump of daffodils. This means that every year about the end of June, when the daffodils are finally mown over, it gets cut to grass level. Yet it never fails to reappear the following spring. How weird is that?

I struggled with Solomon’s Seal in my old garden because it was always attacked by gooseberry sawfly, which shreds the leaves. Luckily, that never happens here.


In other news, the scaffolders have just arrived for the second day, ready for the rethatching.

What to choose this week, when the garden is burgeoning and the whole countryside greening up? There’s blossom on the single apple tree and aquilegias flowering everywhere. Cow Parsley and bluebells in the hedgerows, Stitchwort, Herb Robert and Speedwell in the wilder parts of my garden. This azalea is ready to burst into its fluorescent glory. I have little vases of Lily of the Valley in the house.

I’ve picked a fairly humble but uncommon plant: Melittis melissophyllum, also known as Bastard Balm. I saw a solitary and rather straggly specimen at the garden centre last year and snapped it up because you hardly ever see it. I was thrilled that it came to life again this spring and made a sturdy little plant. It’s what Christopher Lloyd would have called a rather weedy plant; no structure, no knock ‘em dead flowers but it happens to be exactly the kind of plant I like.


more pretty things )

This choosing a flower of the week lark gets harder as more and more flowers open every day. I’ve picked Lathyrus vernus because I love it, especially the original true blue plant. I had several varieties in my old garden.

The one shown here I bought a couple of years ago as ‘Rainbow’, from the sales table at a Plant Heritage (NCCPG) meeting, always a good source of unusual plants. If the seller grew it from seed it may not be ‘Rainbow’ at all, but it is very pretty. Lathyrus vernus is a low growing little plant, good for the back of a border because it doesn’t look like much after it’s flowered. It’s totally hardy. Last year, slugs got at this particular plant and this is the first year I’ll have a decent display. I must remember to save the seeds and see what I get from them.


Tiarellas are such pretty plants, and so good in shade. You have the benefit of attractive foliage which is semi-evergreen and in spring, spikes of little fluffy flowers rather like those of London Pride. The plant above is ‘Iron Butterfly’. After the cut, ‘Tapestry’.
pic )
I love wallflowers, with their velvety petals and heavenly scent. In my old garden they lived up to their name, seeding themselves into crumbling brick walls where they became quite large, shrubby plants and semi-perennial.

I should be enjoying a fine display of wallflowers at the moment, because last September I planted out two dozen nice tall ones. One February morning (my birthday, as it happened) I pulled up the kitchen blind to see that during the night the deer, the horrors, had eaten every single one. It’s a good job I don’t have a gun. Luckily, they didn’t find the self-seeders, like this one.


When I first moved here, I sowed, grew on and planted out two of my favourites: ‘Blood Red’ and ‘Fire King’. Ever since, they have kept themselves going by seeding around; the one above is growing in a paving crack by the kitchen door.
more wallflowers )

I love the acid greens and yellows of euphorbias in spring. The characias types make quite big shrubby plants, as this ‘Black Pearl’ has done, now that I’ve found the right place for it in the garden. It started off in the death bed, which killed it, but luckily I’d taken cuttings and so didn’t lose it. I’m particularly fond of the low domes of E. epithymoides . According to Margery Fish, this was once common in cottage gardens. I had it in my old garden, snapped up a new plant when I saw it but failed with it in that same doomy bed. I dug it out and now have two plants potted up, waiting for a new home.

Most euphorbias are lovely but beware the runners. E. cyparrisias is a low growing charmer but gets everywhere. I would never plant E. robbiae again except to cover rough, dry shade in a very big garden. It’s a real thug.

I’m trying to choose each week something which wasn’t out the week before. Tricky, because so many spring flowers last for weeks on end. I’ve picked Fritillaria meleagris, as here. The link takes you back to older posts on the subject (and better photos). There’s no sign yet of the Dicentra which you can see in one of those posts. I do hope I haven’t lost it.
Fritillaries look wonderful in meadows as here at Cricklade in Wiltshire. Sadly, such sights are rare.

In my garden, the fritillaries are growing on the bank under the hedge. Last year, to my horror, I saw that they were being attacked by the dreaded lily beetles and went into battle armed with a yogurt pot and my finger nails (work it out). They look OK so far this year but I’m keeping an eye on them. And I’m never growing lilies again, which is a shame.

On a dark, wet day like today, it’s cheering to see all the yellows in the garden: primroses (hundreds of them, they grow like weeds here), daffodils and in one corner, a small tree smothered in pale yellow, fluffy catkins. Most people have those things so today I thought I’d write about the lesser known epimediums, or Barrenwort.

There were no epimediums in the garden when I moved here and I could see just the space for one. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the variety I wanted and settled for Epimedium ‘Frohnleiten’ (from Crocus). It’s a good garden plant, which has the RHS Award of Garden Merit. The leaves are a bright, glossy green throughout the year, as you can see in last year's post here This year I cut down all the leaves early so that the flowers show up better.


Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of money on beautiful, newly introduced epimediums which I fell in love with. Sadly, perhaps because they came from Japan, they hated my clay soil and never ‘did’ for me. ‘Frohnleiten’, like the next one I’m going to mention, is totally reliable and will grow anywhere.
the plant I prefer )

This week, I wanted to choose a flower that wasn’t yellow, which tends to be the dominant colour at this time of year. So I picked Bergenia. Some people absolutely hate Bergenias, or ‘Elephant’s Ears’ as they are known. Those huge, leathery leaves! That repellent bright pink! If, like me, you have a difficult patch in the garden, a patch which I’ve named ‘the death bed’ because it seems to kill anything I put in it, Bergenias can be your friends. Plus, as you see from the photos, they don’t have to have huge leaves or be a vivid pink. This variety is Bergenia ‘Harzkristall’ and was a great bargain: £2.00 from the nursery sale and in such a big pot that I was able to split the plant immediately. So far it’s put up with being in the shade, in a poorly drained bed and, last winter, actually sitting in standing water.
more pics )

This cherry tree is at the front of my house (which is really the back), where it can be seen from the road. I’ve no idea of the variety. There’s something very pleasing about the mass of white blossom on bare branches, seen against a pale blue spring sky. When the leaves do emerge, they’re a coppery colour and in autumn there are large, dark red, inedible fruits.

This is a new idea, which I’ll see if I can keep up. It’s easy now, but what about later in the year when there will be lots of flowers to choose from?

The garden currently has plenty of snowdrops, primroses and pulmonarias in flower but my pick is this hellebore, for its triumph over its surroundings. It’s an absolutely bog standard hellebore such as you might find anywhere, unlike these. There were two or three plants in the garden when I moved here. They are either on the bank, and therefore covered by giant ferns for most of the year, or nestling up against the trunk of a giant berberis. I do nothing at all for them except to cut off all the leaves very early in the year; this helps prevent a horrible disease they can get which turns all the leaves black. Every year they flower again. Wanting more hellebores, I bought a lovely white one, planted it in my shady bed, stood back and admired. The next year it had completely vanished. A mystery to me as I’d never known such a thing happen before. It just makes me more appreciative of these old, semi-wild trusties.
primroses )



January 2017



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