Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Late September

With little time for blogging recently it's only the exceptional occurrence that rouses me to put finger to keyboard.  This morning was such a case.

We've had some warm weather recently and this was the sight that greeted me when I let the dogs out.

Ipomea indica on my house wall

Ipomea indica on my house wall
The true perennial Morning Glory, a weed in warmer parts of the world, but a true exotic in cool, wet England.  It's acted as a returning perennial for the last eight years but only really gets into it's stride in September - and is then dependent on warmer nights to produce the largest flowers in any abundance.

Last night was a warm night.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day July 2013

With little time for blogging recently (semi retired, hah!) I'll have to be content with pictures rather than explanation for this Blooms day.  Lots in flower at the height of summer.  Here's a few highlights.

Ceratostigma willmottianum

Crocosmia 'Lucifer'

Hemerocallis 'Children's Festival'

Repeat flowering Hydrangea 'MMe Emile Mouillere'

A star pelargonium that overwintered outside in a window box

Waterlily 'Escarboule'
My large cordyline 'Coffee Cream' is flowering

The diminutive Freesia laxa

English rose 'Graham Thomas'

English Rose 'Summer Song'
 When the hostas flower it's easy to realise that they are members of the lily family.  This one is 'Frances Williams'
Hosta 'Frances Williams'

Phygelius 'Yellow Trumpet'

As always, my thanks to May Dreams Gardens for hosting the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day meme.  Head over there to see what's flowering in many more gardens round the world.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day June 2013

These 15th of the month Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts seem to roll around faster and faster.  Once again it's time to show what is flowering in the garden.

Summer has been late in coming this year after the longest and coldest spring for many years.  Inevitably this delays plant growth.  Looking around the garden this morning I still have a couple of flowers on my little pink, double camellia, and 'Anticipation' and 'Donation' have only just dropped their last blooms.  I've grown Camellias for over 30 years and I've never known them to go on so late.

A year ago I identified that there was a late May colour gap.  I added a few plants to provide some extra interest - but even these have been delayed.  Dutch iris are cheap, come in a variety of colours, and are great fillers to provide a colour hit in late May.  Here's two flowering in mid June, weeks delayed:

Dutch Iris
Dutch Iris
In the front garden the more perennial Iris sibirica 'Perry's Blue' has thrown up a good few flowering stems this year.  The plain - but very elegant - species has flowered and gone over, but this one is a little bit later.  Iris laevigata 'Variegata' in the pond is showing colour and will probably unfurl its first flowers tomorrow - but its not in flower yet so can't be included.

Iris sibirica 'Perry's Blue'

On the south facing house wall Abutilon 'Waltz' has come through the winter in good shape.  It's still young and rather leggy but is producing a lot of yellow-orange bells.  It should now keep flowering till late in the year.  I'm still waiting for the first flowers on 'Patrick Synge' but they are only a few days off.
Abutilon 'Waltz'
Another bulbous plant that I love at this time of year is Allium christophii, one of the ornamental onions, with big spherical heads composed of an explosion of purple stars.  Bees love it.
Allium christophii
In the front garden Crinodendron hookerianum has produced hundreds of its red lantern flowers.
Crinodendron hookerianum
Adjacent is a plant of the cut leaved Sambucus 'Black Lace'.  I've let it reach a decent height - about 10ft / 3m - to produce a backdrop of finely cut, ebon dark foliage - with the result that it flowers.

Sambucus 'Black Lace'
Lower down Rhaphiolepis umbellata is producing small heads of white flowers, closed against the cold of what is quite a windy day.  In sun and warmth they'd open wide.

Rhaphiolepis umbellata
I usually have at least one hardy geranium flowering in any month from May to November.  This month Geranium sanguineum is my selection to illustrate for June.  Pretty little flowers and delicately cut leaves are an asset, especially in the shady border where this one is planted.  Yes, it would do better in sun - but I don't have any sunny spots available in what is now a very crowded garden.

Geranium sanguineum
A couple of years ago I succumbed to the lure of the coloured leaved Heuchera varieties.  They haven't all done as well as I'd have liked but 'Chocolate Ruffles' has done really well and is now producing multiple spires of tiny white flowers over a carpet of large, richly brown leaves.  Again, very attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles'
Libertia formosa has now made a decent size clump in the front garden and is producing tall spikes adorned with tri-petalled white flowers.  The reed like leaves are evergreen so it forms a permanent feature in a little border at the front of the house.

Libertia formosa
One plant that seeds itself everywhere is the Welsh poppy, Meconopsis cambrica.  Light shade suits it well and I've got a couple of dozen plants all over the garden, front and back, all providing rich yellow colour for much of the summer (providing I keep dead heading).

Meconopsis cambrica

I felt the need for a bit of orange in early summer so picked up a plant of Helianthemum 'Ben Mohr' earlier this year.  It's a pretty little carpeter for a sunny spot.  They don't live long on my fairly heavy, acid soil but a couple of years pleasure for a small price is always worth while.

Helianthemum 'Ben Mohr'
Meanwhile my largest palm, Trachycarpus fortunei, is flowering well, producing 18in / 45cm branched trusses directly from the trunk below the terminal bud.  A bit difficult to photograph given all the uncut fronds in the way but this will give you a flavour.

Trachycarpus fortunei
To one side of it is a clump of Zandtedeschia 'Crowborough', the arum lily.  I've had the plant for years and it always comes back from the deep rooted corms no matter how harsh the winter has been.  It loves moisture but this cultivar will tolerate drier soils and still produce the large white spathes which wrap the yellow spadix.

Zandtedeschia 'Crowborough'
Still flowering from last month are aquilegias, Dicentra spectabilis, Saxifraga x urbium, Geranium renardii, various epimediums and Erysium 'Walburton's Fragrant Star'.  I've probably missed a few others but I'll leave you with a pretty little weed, toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis, which insinuates itself into cracks and crevices around the garden and produces little pink and purple flowers for months on end.  I wanted
Cymbalaria muralis, Toadflax
Of course, with a name like that it would have been ideal to illustrate it with a shot of a toad among the toadflax.  But I've only got one of a common frog that I took a few evenings ago, so that will have to do.

Common frog amongst the toadflax

As always, my thanks to May Dreams Gardens for hosting the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day meme.  Head over there to see what's flowering in many more gardens round the world.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The European fan palm

No, this isn't a post about EU membership, Euro financial problems (will I ever get the €1.79 I'm owed in royalties?), or other benefits of what was supposed to be a common market.

It's a post about Chaemerops humilis, the European fan palm, one of only two European native palms*.  I have one in the rear garden.
Chaemerops humilis in the rear garden, June 2013

It was only a baby when I planted it in 2002 but it's grown a little since then.  We've had mild winters, cold winters, warm and cool summers, torrential rain and, this year, the coldest spring since 1891.  It hasn't turned a hair.  Not bad for a palm from the Mediterranean coastline, from places where winters can be cold and wet but summers are guaranteed to be long, warm and dry.  It's a tough plant, along with Trachycarpus fortunei, one of the two palms almost certain to succeed anywhere in lowland Britain.

Not only tough but good looking.  The palm fronds on mine have remained in good condition for years, clothing my - relatively - young plant to the base as the central growing point atop the stem gradually gets further and further from the ground.  In time, I'll need to trim the oldest away, slowly revealing the stem, and producing a far more palm like palm.  Having said that it will be a good few years yet before it reaches the sort of height and appearance shown below.
Trimmed Chaemerops humilis, Italy
This is a clumping palm, producing daughter stems from basal buds, an adaption to frequent fire in the garigue and maquis vegetation types.  Mine currently has four smaller offsets, their fronds hidden amongst the larger fronds of the parent, but equally capable of developing into trunked specimens.  But it won't be a rapid process.  In cool Plymouth I get about 8 - 10 new fronds a year developing from the terminal growing point, considerably less than in warmer gardens.  No matter.  At least it won't outlive its welcome for many a year.  Though it would be nice to have something like this in the garden:

Multi stemmed Chaemerops humilis, Italy
Mine now flowers annually, during May and June, the smallish branched flower stalks coming directly out of the stem.  I have, I think, a female plant but without a corresponding male I'm never likely to see the clusters of rather attractive red-orange fruit developing.

Chaemerops humilis,  female flowers

Chaemerops humilis in fruit, Italy
I have the standard form with normal green leaves but there is also a silver leafed form, 'Argentea'.  In hot, sunny climates it can appear an almost electric blue but under our cloudy skies it is less impressive.  Still attractive, with a silvery grey powdering on the leaves, it's well worth choosing as an alternative or in addition to the greener form.

As always, click the pictures to embiggen.

*The other European palm being Phoenix theophrastii, native to Crete.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On Narcissus and the Narcissus fly

Out in the garden doing a bit of photography this afternoon (in between rain showers) I came across a very cooperative hoverfly, Merodon equestris.

Merodon equestris
It's a bumble bee mimic, about the same size, and relying on its similarity in markings to avoid predators.  It has no sting.

Except for gardeners.

Normally I'd write this up on my photography blog but this is the narcissus fly.  They emerge about this time of year having spent the preceding summer and winter as larvae nestled in the heart of Narcissus bulbs.  Females will get together with males and then lay their newly fertilised eggs on the decaying stalks and in the holes left by the decaying stalks of the spring flowering members of narcissus and lily families.  The larvae then burrow down and into the bulbs, eating them out over the course of the next few months.  They may not kill them - but they do come blind.

It's not a serious pest for gardeners.  But it is a pest.  And I've got it in my garden.  Which may explain why I add narcissus varieties on a yearly basis but they simply don't establish.

Having said that it's only one explanation for rather more failure than I'd like.  I was looking forward to a good display of the May flowering Narcissus poeticus this year, having invested in a number of the comparatively expensive bulbs last year to fill a noticeable gap between spring and summer flowers.  Ambrosia, exclaimed my slugs, and gnawed them off at ground level as soon as they emerged.  For this year I'll just have to be content with photos:

Narcissus poeticus

Narcissus poeticus

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day May 2013

It's amazing how quickly the 15th of the month seems to roll round and it's time for another chance to join with other Garden Bloggers to show what's flowering in the garden today.

After a cold dry winter, it's been a cool wet spring and, despite a few warm days, things are still behind what is normal for mid May.  Which means a lot of plants that would normally be over are still in flower - and have been joined by the earliest of the summer flowers.

All of my winter / spring flowering Camellias are still producing.  Not with the abundance of last month - 'St Ewe' and 'Cornish Snow' only have a few flowers and buds left - but enough for a very welcome show.  Indeed 'Anticipation' is now at it's peak - only two months late. As always, click the photos to embiggen.

Camellia x williamsii 'Anticipation'
Also still flowering is my fastigiate cherry, Prunus 'Amanogawa'.  This is always a little later than other flowering cherries but mid May and still possessing masses of blossom is the latest I've had it in flower.  It came with the garden 16 years ago and is now about 25ft / 8metres in height, upright and narrow, forming a spire of colour rather than a canopy.

Prunus 'Amanogawa'
My other flowering tree, Magnolia 'Raspberry Ice', has finished its main display but continues to put out the odd flower.  About a dozen at the moment, some fully open, some just opening.  So I feel justified in including it in this month's listings, albeit with a photo I took a couple of weeks ago.

Magnolia 'Raspberry Ice'
In past years I've always felt I was short of perennial colour in May.  Aquilegias do well here, seeding around with moderate abandon.  I may have started with a  mix of colours but over the years my seedlings are coming out to shades of pink and dull red, the occasional white and, vary rarely, dark blue.  Time for a bit of variety, I thought, so snapped up a couple from a hybrid seed strain in purple and light blue with white picotee edges to the petals.  Hopefully, they'll cross with my existing plants and produce some more interesting seedlings for years to come.

Blue and white Aqueligia hybrid
Purple and white Aquilegia hybrid
One plant I'm glad to see again is Chasmanthe bicolor.  Related to crocosmias these South African natives really need mild, sunny winters to produce a lot of flowers.  I was given some bulbs in 2004.  They flowered the following year and then did nothing except produce large quantities of leafy spears.  I dug them up last Autumn and replanted the bed - and one has flowered this year.  Interesting rather than showy. they are quite distinctive.

Chasmanthe bicolor

Chasmanthe bicolor
In years gone by if you wanted a blue Corydalis there was only C.cashmeriana, a very capricious little woodlander.  Now, following introductions from China, there are a selection of larger, reliable and easily grown blue flowered shade lovers.  This one is C.flexuosa 'Purple Leaf' which looks good even out of flower.  The enemies are slugs and snails - so I grow mine in a decent size pot.  It will flower well into the summer.

Corydalis flexuosa 'Purple Leaf'
Corydalis flexuosa 'Purple Leaf' - close up of the flowers
Built on larger lines but with similarly attractive cut leaves is Dicentra spectabilis, another late spring flower that continues well into midsummer.  I've written about this and its white variety before so I'll just throw in a single photo this year.  What I would like to show is the other Dicentras I've added to the garden over the years.  But I can't.  As fast as I've added them my snails have grazed them to ground level.  Some things are not meant to be.
Dicentra spectabilis
Epimediums and pulmonarias are classic spring flowering woodland plants.  I grow a number but will content my self with illustrating three.  I'm planning a post on foliage in a few days - and these two genera will certainly feature in that.
Epimedium x cantabrigiense

Epimedium franchettii 'Brimstone Butterfly'
Pumonaria 'Cotton Cool'
In the rear garden the perennial wallflower 'Walburton's Fragrant Star' has thrown up this year's crop of flower spikes.  Non-fertile, these keep elongating (and flowering) all through the summer and autumn but are at their best while still compact.  In theory they are perpetual flowerers.  In practice I cut off the still productive stalks in mid winter to allow the next generation to come through.  Edge variegation enhances the leaves of this compact (and probably short lived) shrub.

Erysium 'Walburton's Fragrant Star'
Talking of woodlanders Anemone nemorosa is making an ever denser and wider carpet under my Acer 'Bloodgood'.  It's still in flower, even if they are now tinged with pink rather than the pristine white of a couple of weeks ago.  My other varieties are not as free to spread - and I wrote about them last year so won't repeat my self.

Maria likes lavender.  I don't mind it, though I'm not a cottage gardener - but my soil is too wet and acid for it to do well.  So I have a couple of pots by the back door.  Nothing special, two varieties of french lavender, one purple-pink, one white.  But they flower most of the summer, and start early.  Normally they'd be thronged with insects but they're few and far between at the moment.

French lavender

French lavender - dwarf white form
I was once advised that the best way to keep tulips as perennials was to bury the bulbs more deeply than recommended.  It certainly worked with my favourite 'Queen of the Night' for a number of years.  Unfortunately my clumps have come up blind this year so I may have to start again this autumn.  No matter, here's 'Gavota' to brighten the day.

Tulip 'Gavota'
I mentioned that I'd found a seedling of Geranium renardii a while ago.  It's now flowered.  The purple lines are bee guides, pointing the way to the nectaries at the heart of the plant.

Geranium renardii
One plant that's been in the garden from before my ownership is the common little rosette forming London Pride, Saxifraga x urbium.  I mainly use it a ground covering little filler plant, in sun or light shade but at this time of year it produces heads of little flowers.  Collectively they are just light, airy confections:

London Pride, Saxifraga x urbium
But get a little closer and the individual flowers are very attractive despite being only 7-8mm across.

London Pride, Saxifraga x urbium.  Single flower in close up.
On a larger scale, Bergenias are also good for weed smothering ground cover and also fit in with my more exotic theme for the garden.  Large, leathery leaves are a year round feature and the winter to spring flower spikes are worthwhile.  This one is 'Winter Glow'.  I only bought it last year and it's still settling in - but showing promise for the future.

Bergenia 'Winter Glow'
Finally I'm illustrating one of the shrub like busy lizzies, Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata.  This is tender, about 5C minimum, so was dug up last autumn and spent the winter on a window ledge.  It's now back outside, about 3ft tall, a little lopsided due to the uneven lighting, but covered in these lovely orange flowers.  It will be till late Autumn.  Well worth the trouble of overwintering a large plant rather than starting again with small cuttings.

Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata
What the next month will bring I don't know.  Maria tells me there was snow on Dartmoor overnight - and that's only a few miles away.  We're a lot milder here but this year has been very unusual.  Things may catch up - but they may still be delayed.

As always, my thanks to May Dreams Gardens for hosting the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day meme.  Head over there to see what's flowering in many more gardens round the world.