Archive for the ‘Bulbs’ Category

front garden tulips April 2015

It’s all looking a little funereal in the front garden. I was aiming for a bright and perky extravaganza that I’ve sometimes achieved in the past (just think Dorris Day singing ‘A Surrey with a fringe on top’).

Gloomy tulips 2

But my fave ‘Curly Sue’ (fringed) tulips seem a tad sombre without any enlivening partners to lift them and ‘Labrador’ (purple/red?) has only added to the gloomy look,

Tulipa Labrador

despite its extra frills (above). I also wonder if the bulb supplier may have sent me some ‘Huis Ten Bosch’ tulips which is a pink and cream combination instead of ‘Joint Division’, which leans more to orange and cream (with a fringe on top). Whichever of the two these are, they’ve also come up all stumpy (again!). Will I never learn! A dry spring and I wasn’t out there watering away! Strange that only some of the fringed varieties have come up stumpy though and on further chatting with friend Siew Lee, we reckon the more complex the flower is, the more stressed it is and more susceptible to difficult weather conditions etc. (By the way, there’s also the remains of some chicories in the mix and the odd sparky glimmer of a yellow and red ‘Helmar’ tulip from previous plantings.)

I recently recorded a podcast about tomatoes with Jane Perrone and Alys Fowler for the Guardian (a jolly good listen should you be interested in all things tomato by the way) and Jane admitted her disappointment when, on occasion, her home-grown tomatoes haven’t tasted that great at the end of summer, despite all her efforts. All that’s how I feel about my tulips. Hours of pouring over catalogues and planning the perfect display, planting the bulbs in autumn and the anticipation of seeing the fresh growth bursting through in early spring and the result is all rather drab!

Tulip joy at Helmi House

On a brighter note, tulips planted at a project I work on in S. London have been a joy! Here we have the gorgeously rich orange ‘Cairo’, the contained rapture of ‘Purple Flag’, the demure ‘Pink Twist’ and the odd dash of ‘Curly Sue’. A much happier combination I feel.

So it’s back to the drawing board for next year for my front garden. I have a friend living with me at the moment who’s an avid Arsenal fan, and she’s requested a red and white display for 2016. So come September, I’ll be plotting away again, and as Doris would say, ‘Que Sera Sera’. (And maybe, just maybe, Arsenal will win the league!)

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White Crocus and Snowdrops bestJust like Veronica at Through the Garden Gate, I’ve been peering into other people’s front gardens (this one in Maida Vale). Although I’m usually more partial to a blaze of colour: masses of daffodils or riotous tulips, I saw this arresting virginal combination of snowdrops and white crocuses the other day and it really moved me. I love this simple but heavenly effect and plan on borrowing the idea for next spring in my own small patch.

Galanthus S. Arnott?And I don’t think these are just any old snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) either. Possibly Galanthus S. Arnott (please correct me if you know better!), a gorgeous, gently-scented taller variety which looks so great planted alongside these bold snowy blooms.

White Crocus and Snowdrops 3

Again, I’m not sure which variety this Crocus is, but Peter Nyssen have a large white Crocus ‘Jeanne D’Arc’ (15cm tall) which is now on my wish list for ordering later in the year.

Crocus in potsThese mega Crocuses also looked rather charming as underplanting in pots of Hydrangeas and I shall be keeping an eye open (and camera at the ready) for how these borders and pots progress.

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Galanthus elwesii 'Millers Late'Compared to Chelsea and Hampton court, shows in the RHS halls in Victoria are small, almost intimate affairs and I love them for this. It’s the sweet spring scent that first hits you as you enter Lawrence hall, then as you hone in on the plants, it’s the details of all the different cultivars that lure you in. Choice nurseries from all over the country have their finest plants (and wares) on show and I have to admit being instantly smitten by this whopper of a snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii ‘Millers Late’ on the Harveys stand (@£16 a pop). Friend Catherine is holding a smaller (nivalis sized-ish) snowdrop next to it to give some idea of scale. Most of the snowdrops here are varieties you’ll never see in garden centres and they’re an absoute joy to behold.

Crocus Korolowii from HW Hyde & sonAnother beauty that caught my eye is Crocus korolkowii on the HW Hyde & son nursery stand and it’s definitely on my list for next year. Looks like it clumps up beautifully too.

Plant Belles plant supports allNow I’ve bought natty metal hoops from Plant Belles before to make a cloche to wrap up my winter veg, and they’ve worked really well. This time I was on the lookout for supports for slightly floppy Dahlias and the Sidney support at 87cm tall, 46cm wide (bottom left of pic) should hopefully fit the bill. I also have a client with a rather untoward climbing rose in the middle of a large bed and I’ve been hunting around for a tall support that I can wrap the rose around, inspired by the rose training at Notre-Dame Prieure D’Orsan in France. Always keen to help, Jenny at Plant Belles has been asked by another designer to develop a taller version(1.5-2m?) of their wider (74cm) George support (at back of pic), so looking forward to seeing what she produces for both us later in the season (will keep you posted on this). I can’t wait to start experimenting!

Iris Histriodes and Reticulata on Jaques Amand standAs Clive commented on in my previous post, Jaques Amand’s reticulata Irises were absolutely gorgeous. Plant breeder Alan McMurtrie was over from Toronto, generously sharing information on the new cultivars he had developed alongside Dutch bulb growers.

Iris Histriodes Gerorge

Iris histriodes ‘George’ seemed to glow in the light,

Iris Clairetteand the two-tone blues of Clairette were very appealing.

Iris Frank ElderThe softer tones of Frank Elder however finally won me over,

Iris Sorm

until I espied Storm

Iris Sea Greenand the more subtle tones and slightly torn looking petals of I. ‘Sea Green’. George, Clairette and Frank Elder will be in the Jacques Amand autumn bulbs catalogue and I’m in the process of checking whether ‘Sea Green’ and ‘Storm’ will be available too. Will let you know. Hope so!

Bronze tools from  from implementations.co.ukAnd finally, these lovely shiny bronze (94%copper) tools from Implementations had ‘buy me’ written all over them. The tool heads come with a 25 year guarantee (tool shafts 2 years) and according to their brochure their sharp edges stay sharp. I thought the pointier of the trowels looked fantastic for bulb planting, and was very tempted by the hoe. This has sharp edges back and front of the head, so it will cut through weeds when you both push and pull. As I get more into ‘no dig’, this seems like a perfect tool to keep weeds down and copper tools, allegedly, deter slugs and snails too. Now firmly on my birthday list!

These ‘small’ shows are such a treat. You have the opportunity to chat and buy plants and tools from some wonderful growers and makers from all over the country, right there on your doorstep, and I for one can’t wait for the next RHS show on 14-15th April.

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