Wordless Wednesday – Iris ‘Benton Menace’

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The kaleidoscopic Iris ‘Benton Menace’ is one of the bearded irises that were bred by Cedric Morris at Benton End.

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It was possibly named after his cat 🤣 !?

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Six on Saturday – Honey all round

07/05/2022

Thankfully, we’ve had rain this week. A good amount, as it turns out, and on several days too, including this morning. I was very relieved to see it fall, in spite of having to drive to Kent through thick road spray. Our clay soil had already turned to concrete and started cracking up. Now, with luck, I will be able to get the new plants and seedlings in the border.

And we’ve made it to Saturday again! It’s been a stressful week, so it feels like high time to enjoy our garden sanctuaries and share our treasures via Jonathon’s Six-on-Saturday meme. Join in if you can!

1) Honey lilies at the ready

I know that they are only just starting to burst their papery wrappings and will look truly fabulous in a week or so, but I really love the appearance of Nectaroscordum siculum in our front garden just now … when they look as though they could be an army of foot soldiers, advancing with lances held aloft:

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An army pf Nectaroscordum siculum (or Honey lilies) ready to burst their papery wrappers.

2) Honeywort

Meanwhile, the Honeywort (Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’) is already looking hot. I just wish I could persuade it to self-seed in the flower borders rather than the gravel drive. (Yes, I realise it is trying to tell me something, but I can’t change my soil!) The ‘Wort’ bit of its name is supposed to imply that the plant has medicinal or food use, but I can’t find that honeywort has either. Gerard, of  ‘The Herbal’ fame, grew it purely as an ornamental plant, although he is reputed to have enjoyed sipping the honey-like nectar from its flowers. Honeywort is most definitely a great pollinator plant, offering a nectar reward at the base of small, twinned purple bells. It is the colourful bracts that are the real star for me though. They transition through metallic shades of green/blue/purple up to the flower bells, just like heated steel.

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Honeywort (Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’)

3) Now is the Wisteria’s moment

Our wisteria this year’s is, sadly, not as floriferous as it usual, because about a quarter of the racemes were stopped in their tracks by frost a week or two back. Fortunately, the frosted, brown flowers have faded into the background as the unaffected flowers tumble over the pergola and open. It is a heartening result and, as a bonus, smells absolutely delicious when we take meals under its canopy!

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Wisteria floribunda ‘Violacea Plena’ over the pergola

4) Bilbergia nutans

I bought a Billbergia last year and I have to say that it has been surprisingly easy to grow. It’s been in an unheated greenhouse over the winter and has come through just fine. Apparently, it’s common name is Queen’s Tears. Flowers hang delicately down from powder-pink elegant bracts. I love the reflexed, blue edged petals. I can imagine Cleopatra (as portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor) crying these for sure!

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Billbergia nutans

5) Dicentra ‘Alba’

Yes, I know it’s got a new name, but I am afraid that has not stuck in my head yet. This is another plant with wonderful, dangling flowers, heart-shaped this time. I prefer the white form and since I lost my original plant when we re-vamped the pond, I seem to have magically acquired three replacements 😉

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Dicentra spectrabilis ‘Alba’

6)  The poppies are coming

This little perennial poppy, Papaver rupifragum, is the first to appear in our garden and will flower, on and off, all summer long. It’s not the most sumptuous or refined looking poppy, but its ruffled orange flowers certainly shout ‘look at me’ when you turn into our driveway! 🤣

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Perennial poppy, Papaver rupifragum, will stop you in your tracks!

And that is my Six for today.

Have a great weekend!

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Wordless Wednesday – Setting seed with style!

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 The large Pasque flower colony that’s established on Therfield Heath is now going to seed.

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It’s a wonderful sight. Thousands of feathered headdresses adorn the slope.

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Those stylish, seedy quiffs exude a pinkish glow …

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And the flowering stems have grown considerably taller, so that the seed heads will easily catch the breeze.

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Wordless Wednesday – Carpets of Cowslips

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Cowslips have established large colonies that spread across the South Avenue, Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire

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This view shows the context slightly more clearly. It looks north, towards the Hall and was taken from the busy A603 road that bisects the ~2-mile long lime tree avenue.

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Six on Saturday – If I could hold back time …

It feels like I might have a chance to: sow, prick out, pot on, plant, weed, crop (salads) and stand back to enjoy the chaos. Actually I wouldn’t miss this period of activity for anything! It’s such a relief to be doing, after months of planning and waiting. The main problem seems to be the rate I get through compost, grit and vermiculite. What a shame to have to make those tempting trips to the garden centre 🤣.

Anyhow, I’ve just scrubbed my hands, made a cup of tea and am ready to pause, so what better time to write about six garden stars this week for Jonathon’s Six on Saturday post. If you feel like having a go too, head there and check out the format.

23/04/2022

Here are my six:

1) Bunny Tails

Bunny Tails is one of my favourite annual grasses, Lagurus ovatus. I am just sowing this year’s crop, but luckily, I have a clump in a patio pot that seems to sow itself each year and therefore flowers really early. It’s doing it now. Look! Makes you want to reach out and touch it, doesn’t it?

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Bunny Tail Grass, Lagurus ovatus

2) Loud or beauty or both?

I didn’t buy any tulip bulbs this year, because of the destructive tendencies of our garden mice, voles and squirrels etc etc. Too heart-breaking, but I have a few that have survived their ravages from past seasons and have returned in triumph. This one I didn’t buy. It’s appeared next to the rhubarb patch (Squirrels?). I’ve no idea where it came from, but I am enjoying it nevertheless!

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Parrot tulip, possibly ‘Flaming Parrot’ or maybe ‘Estella Rijnveld’

3) The only constant is change

(Yes, I did a Management Leadership course once upon a time)

The pair of Erysimum mutabile that I bought from The Salutation Gardens, when they were still open to the public, are even bigger and better this year. They are charming and, like the rainbows they echo, you never seem to get to the end. There is always one more flower to open!

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Erysimum mutabile

 

4) Bellevalia pycnantha

I’ve grown Bellevalia (also known as Muscari paradoxum) before and lost them over winter, but this time they have popped back up and are extending the grape hyacinth season for a little longer. I like them because they form neat clumps and the flower spikes are wonderfully geometrical.

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Bellevalia pycnantha

5) Monkey Flowers

Grown from seed late last season this Mimulus is off to a flying start. I’m going to plant it out by the pond, but as there are a few enthusiastic plants there, I might have to clear some space first.

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The Monkey faces of Mimulus

6) Camassia amongst forget-me-nots

My wild meadow patch is full of camassia leaves, but strangely they rarely seem to flower, so no Dixter tributes here. (Ideas? Too deep? Too dry?) Happily, the ones in the border do better and they are starting to flower. Beautiful!

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The dazzling stars of Camassia leichtlinii

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Enjoy your gardens!

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Wordless Wednesday – Bursting with Orange

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The stunning Tulip whittallii

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Azalea Orange

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Double Tulip Sunlover, whose orange colouring intensifies with age.

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Wallflower Fire King, burning through an almost inexhaustible supply of marmalade flowers.

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Classic Ballerina, endless flair!

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Wordless Wednesday – Anticipation

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A female hairy-footed bee flying around, tongue at the ready to sup down that delicious wallflower nectar. The ‘Blood Red’ strain seems to be her favourite (probably because it smells of cherries!!)

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Silent Sunday – Promise

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Malus ‘John Downie’ crab apple blossom – 10/04/2022

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Six on Saturday – Maraschino anyone?

02/04/2022

Aye! Always with the ice and snow when the blossom starts to open! Tempted into full bloom by a couple of weeks of close to 20 deg C there are currently gorgeous displays of magnolia and cherry blossom about locally. Sadly, as many of us have experienced, over the last couple of days there’s been intermittent snow/hail showers and sub-zero night-time temperatures.

Let’s not get depressed about it though. Let’s move on swiftly to some positive garden highlights to share for Six-on-Saturday, the weekly gardening show-and-tell hosted by The Propagator.

1) Vegetable garden revamp complete

There are no longer any disintegrating, purple, finialled, raised beds to be seen. It’s tough, solid sleepers all the way … and honestly, even if they rot, the soil they contain is not going anywhere! Although I was fond of the previous quirky constructions, this is much better (or at least is more practical).

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2) Fritillaria meleagris

Fritillaria meleagris, aka Snake’s head fritillaries, have started to flower in the meadow grass. Their purple chequered bells punctuate the yellow swathes of wild daffodils, celandines, primroses and cowslips. This year it’s noticeable that the fritillaries have established much better in the damper, shaded bit of the wild area, on the north side of the summer house.

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3) Wallflowers

I’m not good at remembering to sow wallflowers at the right time. It’s almost always too late in the season when I do and plants end up three years in the making, rather than being biennial. This means that the plants that, understandably, missed flowering last year are now pretty huge and are covered in gorgeous, sweetly scented flowers. The ‘Blood Red’ strain in particular smells amazingly like maraschino cherries to me. It’s heavenly! I need them made into a perfume! In the meantime, I’ll be picking them regularly to bring indoors, so that they can be sampled at close quarters.

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4) Muscari ‘Grape Ice’

These were an end-of-season sale purchase, for a bit of fun: a grape hyacinth that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And it has been fun, watching the flowers burn up the spikes, opening from dark plum, up and up the stalk, to the snowy white peaks. Fun, but in the end, disappointing, because the dark coloured bells get rather lost from the picture (especially against bare soil) and you only notice the rather short, top section of white bells. So, I don’t think that I will bother to get any more. Better to buy an all white variety like ‘White Magic’ I think.

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5) Greengage Blossom

In spite of the current run of frosts, snow and icy winds, I have been enjoying the greengage blossom and am hoping for a lovely, large crop of my favourite stone fruit in August. Nothing compares with that honeyed taste of greengages, picked straight from the tree, warmed by summer sunshine. Fingers crossed then!

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6) Hybrid primroses and primulas

I love the natural variations that occur in my primrose/primula populations. Mostly, their colours range from pale yellows to a dusky pinks. Many of the pink flowers have different degrees of contrasting, pale edging markings. Well, this one (below) appeared in the front garden and seems to have gone one step further, It has a rather nice ruffled form, with patterning running all along the petal edges. It’s also a purer pink than normal I think. I must mark the plant, so that I can check its survival and/or evolution next year.

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Well, that’s it for this week. I am off on grandparent duty this weekend. Check Jonathon’s post to find the links for other Sixes.

Have a great weekend. Hope the weather allows for plenty of gardening!

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Wordless Wednesday – Oh my! Anemone Bordeaux

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The fabulous Anemone coronaria ‘Bordeaux’ enjoying a week of sunshine. This flower is at least 10cm across. That’s certainly bigger than last year and a lot of velvety goodness!

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