Mighty Atoms, "Tubby Merlin" & "Bill Bishop"

Today, the final two snowdrops from the "Might Atoms" family covered elsewhere in the blog. Both are noticeable for their large flowers that stand out in a border. "Tubby Merlin" is slightly smaller than the second snowdrop featured here, or at least it is in my garden where they both sit close beside each other. I did see some in gardens this year that varied in size and I believe it is important for snowdrops to be in the sun for at least some of the time. Visiting Goldsborough Hall a week ago I enjoyed the increasingly varied collection planted in the shade, although I did feel that the differences of the various select varieties are not always shown to best advantage under the shadow of trees. It was discovered in Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds in the 1960s. We were there a fortnight ago and if there are any there now they had flowered and gone home by the time we arrived.

"Bill Bishop" is clearly very similar to Tubby, though if one is squirming through the grass the differences in marking might be discerned. Mine is a little larger than its rotund cousin perhaps on account of the clump being established for an extra year. It has a longer pedicel than Tubby, the flowers hanging down in an attractively ponderous fashion on such a short stem. It has begun to increase with lots of baby Bills. It is known of as an early bloomer and in this season of seasons when winter never happened it has grown a tad confused and is now at its heavily laden height, or lack of it. Both these snowdrops are comparatively inexpensive and worth the modest investment.

Hodsock's Victorian Apiary, 18th February 2016

The Victorian replica collection of beehives at Hodsock Priory forms a living attraction on a bright February day when the bees visit the early flowering plants that are planted throughout the grounds. They are maintained by Brian Wilde who was tending the bees when we visited last Thursday. The Apiary was established in 1994 and has been restored by Harris Joinery. The final photograph shows one of those very bees visiting a crocus. Cyclamen also seem a popular plant for bees.

Wisley Alpines House, 5th February 2016

I featured the primulas earlier in the month and today feature other alpines and a means of using broken clay pots.

Galanthus 'Ginns' Imperati' & 'Falkland House',

There are several "Ginns Imperati" in circulation but I believe I have the correct form. They were discovered near Rome by the garden writer Robert Gathorne-Hardy, and grown on by Ron Ginns of Desborough, Northamptonshire in the 1950s. My original bulb has increased steadily in three years and I have to say it has stood up very well to the recent gales and frost. The flowers have also lasted far longer than many other varieties, a factor often overlooked when assessing snowdrops. Of course today it would be given a more punchy name and a high price on eBay. There is a scent though talk of highly scented snowdrops is something I have not really noticed. (I recently saw a snowdrop on sale on eBay with the tag line "Scented Snowdrop". That's a bit like selling a pair of shoes by virtue of the plastic ends on the shoelaces.)

"Falkland House" belongs to the "Mighty Atom" group I believe. A little early to comment yet. As with many snowdrops it will look better in a clump.


Belted Galloway Cattle, Barrow Wake, Gloucestershire, 9th February 2016

Turning off the main road to take in the view from Barrow Wake in Gloucestershire, we were much taken by the photogenic cattle with a white band through their middle. Introduced to the Gloucestershire hills in 2000, the Belted Galloway Cattle are a hardy breed capable of cropping the excess vegetation on the slopes throughout the year, "without additional feed or shelter!" Their hardiness is not surprising seeing as they hail from the Galloway hills of south west Scotland. I can't imagine eating them but they are superb beef cattle though it their role in taming the wilderness that is responsible for their increasing popularity, not that one finds much wilderness in Gloucestershire. Two colours, black, brown and friendly. The Belted Galloway Cattle Society has a great deal more information and a vacancy for a secretary at the present time.

Galanthus plicatus "E.A.Bowles"

Galanthus plicatus 'E.A.Bowles is my favourite snowdrop. It raised some £357 at auction when launched on the plant world in 2011 and is still pricey. It repays the investment for the poculiform flower is a fabulous sight. Almost as if the petals had been inflated with air, the petals form rounded bowls of the purest white. And the very size of the snowdrop makes it even more showy.

"E.A.Bowles" was named after the gardener who did so much for the Royal Horticultural Society in the first part of the 20th century. Many great plants carry his name, a sign of quality. The  E. A. Bowles of Myddelton House Society celebrates his work and his Enfield garden.

Google the bulb and you will be certainly be made aware of the price, historical and actual, but sometimes quality costs. My own bulb has multiplied this year. It is a strong grower. Recommended.

Snowdrops: "Melanie Broughton", "Tiny", "Cowhouse "Green", "Curly", "Elizabeth Harrison","Sandersii", "Sarah Dumont", "Viridapice" & "Sam Arnott"

This has been an early season with the narcissus varieties bursting out into bloom while some snowdrops are fading far more quickly than I can remember. However here are a few varieties photographed today and still vigorously in bloom. First off is "Melanie Broughton", bought last year and still only showing one flower. It looms over Galanthus nivalis "Tiny", a snowdrop whose name says everything.

"Cowhouse Green" is supposedly slow to increase and yet my plant has thrown out three blooms since purchasing it last year. It dates back to the 1980s. This is an attractive snowdrop, and so far the most reliable of the green tinged brigade. I lost both my "Green Bush" featured here last year for reasons that I can't explain as they were in different pots and both extremely vigorous plants.

"Curly" is one of those snowdrops whose sharp features are appealing in close-up. The fragrance is appealing from close-up too but don't buy it for that. It is clumping up well. A survivor from the 1960s.

Another look at "Elizabeth Harrison" so that it might be compared with two other yellows.

The Galanthus nivalis Sandersii group has some variation though my strain is very yellow indeed. I potted a few bulbs with a special winter aconite that I'll be featuring shortly when it pops its distinctly yellow head out of the soil, which is just about what this little fellow is doing given that I have obviously planted it too deeply.

And a second yellow, the rather elegant "Sarah Dumont", in its first year with me and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment on its colouring as I understand it deepens in colour as it becomes more established.

 "Viridapice" has been successful in spreading around the garden helped by periodic splitting. It is a fresh and reliable snowdrop with the inverted "V" on each of the petals. Well, "reliable" save for the boldness of that "V" as it does vary.

"Sam Arnott" appears towards the end of the snowdrop season, replenishing the stock. A 19th century bulb, it is a great colonizer of our garden, pushing up through the grass, a classic and much loved variety.

Narcissus cyclamineus 'February Gold'

Another cyclamineus cultivar today with a very well known bulb that has certainly stood the test of time. "February Gold" does not always live up to its name although this year it has been in flower since January in many gardens. Some years it is "March Gold".  Here is a spectacular display from RHS Garden Wisley taken on February 5th and certainly "Gold". The close-up was taken on Friday in our garden. Sadly we do not have the space for a massed display. We do however have it along the beech hedge in our front garden and very bright it is too. A product of Dutch hybridization, the bulb has been around since 1926.

Crocus Art

As with snowdrops and daffodils, here is a quick perusal of art concentrating on that vibrant flower of spring, the crocus. Most of the works are still for sale, though not all. Artists always give their own impression and it has been interesting just how the flower has been depicted. Interesting too to look at the widely different prices. And my choice were I to embellish my study wall with one? Easy. Stanley Spencer. (The reason why his wonderful "Madonna Lilies" is included at the end.)

Tracey Allyn Greene - "Crocus, an Oriental Symphony"
Luiza Vizoli - "Crocus Flower - Spring Floral"
Tracey Allyn Greene - "Crocus"
Jacqueline Gnott - "Crocus Family"
Janet Zeh - "Bewick's Wren & Crocus"
Gail Niebrugg - "First Color" 

Theresa Shaw - "Crocus"
Micheline Ryckman "Crocus Purple"
Alethea McKee - "Spring Crocus"
Joann Perry - "Blue Crocus in the Snow"
Brigid Birney - "The Crocus Garden"
Vickie Warner - "Midnight Crocus"
Joyce Luiderween - "Purple Crocuses"
Ronald Egan - "Crocus"
Ben Young - "Blue Crocuses"
Stanley Spencer - "Crocuses" (1938)
Nora MacPhail - "Let the Gardens Begin"
Stanley Spencer - "Madonna Lillies" (1935)

And remembering .....

Galanthus 'Mighty Atom'