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Posts Tagged ‘winter scent’

Iris unguicularis Mary BarnardI just popped out to place a new bird feeder (more about this later) in the back garden when I noticed that this gorgeous Iris unguicularis ‘Mary Barnard’ has started to flower. I bought this plant last February at the RHS early spring show (this year’s show is Fri 21st and Sat 22nd Feb) and am very pleased to see it bloom so early as Hellebores and snowdrops are yet to flower (although my Eriobotrya is still in bloom).

Iris unguicularis Mary Barnard 2Mary Barnard reaches about 10 inches (25cm) tall, so I had to carefully get down on hands and knees to see if I could detect a scent. It’s a small and gentle perfume, but it’s definitely there (and possibly more on a sunnier day?). This Iris hasn’t taken long to start to clump up and looks like there’s quite a few more blooms to follow, so I’m quietly delighted!

squirrel acrobatically noshing from squirrel proof bird feederMeanwhile, other antics in the garden are not quite so pleasing. Here’s a furry beast gorging itself from a squirrel-proof bird feeder,

Relaxed one-legged approachand back again with the more relaxed one-legged approach. Although more than a tad annoyed that yet another attempt to feed the birds has been hijacked by this irritating pest, my fury is also laced with a sneaking admiration for such confident and agile acrobatics.

Still, an air rifle would come in handy every now and then! I hear they make a nice pie.

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Eriobotya in bloom_Winter fragrance has to be the icing on the cake for this gorgeous shrub. I wrote a post some while back about all year round scent and I was scratching my head for plants that would perfume the air in early winter. Clusters of these creamy white blooms have appeared all over what is now a small-ish tree in my back garden, supplying an intoxicating, very sweet, honey-ish, mellow fragrance that I imagine could perfume a high quality soap! I can’t remember if there was such an abundance of blossom last November, and maybe this year’s wealth of flowers is due to our hot summer. Fruit develops over winter, ripening in early summer, but again, I can’t recall seeing a really ripe fruit to try one, or did the squirrels manage (as ever) to get there before me? I must be more vigilant next year.

Erriobotya,  in bloom 3Also known as a Loquat or Japanese Medlar,  Eriobotyra japonica can easily be pruned to keep it as a large shrub and it’s a plant I see in many gardens (front and back) where I live in North London. Universally described as architectural, its multi stemmed form creates a generous, wide canopy, with its large glossy leaves hanging candelabra-esque at the end of the branches, giving a fantastic evergreen structure.

Erriobotya, underside of leavesOn late summer evenings, the velvety, paler underside of the leaves magically seem to catch the last rays of the day, providing another reason (should I need one) why this shrub/tree is greatly cherished in my N.London back garden.

P.S.

A few people have asked how hardy this plant is in the UK. Good question!

Architectural Plants say on their website that this plant is hardy in the home counties. I spoke to the lovely people at Big Plant Nursery, who said that it was a really hardy plant, but avoid planting in exposed sites and possibly wrap up smaller plants in cold weather until the plant is well established. It’s also supplied by Victoriana Nusery in Kent and the Palm centre in Richmond in London. If you do grow Eriobotrya japonica outside the home counties in the UK, do let me know!

P. P.S

Loquat and almond cakeNow in June, and my loquat tree has produced a good crop of fruits. This is a most tasty loquat and almond cake (from a Diana Henry recipe)!

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Ever since I wrote about year round scent a few weeks ago, I’ve had it in mind to look our for some Iris unguicularis at this week’s show. ‘Mary Barnard’ is a tallish variety, up to 12inches in height and spread, and comes with a gentle scent too. I’ve planted these at the bottom of a south-facing wall as they like sun and poor, well-drained soil, and right by the back door so as they clump up over the years, I’ll have this cheerful sight and delicate perfume at the beginning of each year.

I saw these Irises along with the sumptuous and uplifting display of  Snowdrops on the Avon bulbs stand.

Helpful as ever and always supplying quality bulbs which return year after year, I also caught sight of the exquisite Crocus tommasianus and have written a note to self to order these in the autumn for a lush pink carpet in our community front garden come next spring.

Ashwood Nurseries always delight and I particularly liked the gorgeous simplicity of this Hellebore ‘Anna’s Red’,

shown en masse on their stand this year. Hellebores, Crocus tommasianus and snowdrops are also great for pollinators who will be on the hunt for food early on in the year so doubly worth planting.

Further back in the hall was Sea Spring Seeds, supplying a tempting selection of veg seeds which have been put through their paces in their own market garden. I picked up some interesting Japanese leaves, such as Red Knight Mizuna, Golden Streak Mustard leaf and Tatsoi Yukina Savoy and also got chatting about their comprehensive selection of Chili seeds. Chili seeds can be sown indoors now and into March and grown on indoors in a greenhouse or sunny windowsill. I also wanted to know if Sea Spring seeds supplied any varieties that could be grown on outdoors. Joy Michaud recommended ‘Super Chile’ as it’s such a fast grower and hopefully it will ripen out-of-doors if given the sunniest of spots. Worth trying as part of our community veg growing project this year for some neighbours who like it hot.

Further travels around the show revealed the creative use of recycled objects and pots on the D’Arcy and Everest alpine stand,

and I did purchase a few Sempervivum to try out some recycling of domestic objects at home too.

And finally, couldn’t resist buying a Rubus lineatus on the Crug Farm Nursery stand for its crinkly yet soft palmate leaves. Rubus is such a great family of plants including the Japanese wineberry, Rubus phoenicolasius, Blackberries, Rubus fruticosus and I did spot a rather intriguing plant,

Rubus ulmifolius bellidiflorus, wild, but with amazing pink pompom flowers, at the Hampton Court Flower Show last summer. Can feel an obsession coming on.

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