Plants to savour at Felley Priory

Felley Priory in North Nottinghamshire is just off the M1 motorway and we pass there at least every fortnight.  It has a lovely cafe and garden centre, plus the most amazing gardens packed out with plants in immaculate condition and presided over by gardeners who know their stuff. I always end up buying something. Not the following however, plants for my wish list, and yours perhaps.

The Japanese flowering apricot,  Prunus mume 'Beni-chidori' is first, a stunning sight this early, still in winter. Its deep pink blossom stands out like a beacon among the muted colours.

Prunus mume 'Beni-chidori'
Prunus mume 'Beni-chidori'
 Hamamelis x intermedia 'Spanish Spider' was only a young specimen and a comparatively unknown variety. I'm not sure about the similarity to Iberian spiders but I do feel even those suffering from arachnophobia would like this particular arthropod.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Spanish Spider'
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Spanish Spider'
Two snowdrop clumps that captured my attention are ones I have in our garden if not in such quantity. One, 'Edith', is new to me.

Galanthus 'Trumps'

Galanthus 'Primrose Warburg'

Galanthus 'Edith'

 Finally there is always the fine house and topiary to admire.

Doddington Hall: Crocus Heaven

Doddington Hall has just got better and better. They must realise it too for they are open all week. Crocus heaven? so why have I commenced with a Japanese Pink Pussy Willow, Salix gracilistyla 'Mount Aso'? My wife liked it. I liked it. I ordered it.

Doddington has the most wonderful cafe. We got there at 10.30am, the cafe having only opened at 10.00. The restaurant was full, the cafe full and we just snatched a table in the cycle cafe. There's also a recently extended farm shop. I digress. Here's the main course.

Crocuses galore, of varying colours too. All the natural forms in profusion, bees mad for them. Crocus Thomasianus as I have never seen them before.

The Sweet Chestnuts are ancient, blissfully swathed in bulbs right through to early summer.

The combination of late winter or early spring flowers is a remarkable thing.

I also have, of course, to feature one of the the witch-hazels. I noticed they had added new varieties. This specimen was huge.

And in case any reader has not visited, here is the house itself, completed in 1600 and occupied by the same family ever since.

Galanthus 'Midas', 'Phil Cornish', 'South Hayes' & 'Trymming' - sought-after varieties

Galanthus 'Midas' has not disappointed, just appearing this afternoon and pictured against an artistic dark background, that happens to be our fountain although I wouldn't have known. Developed by Avon Bulbs, 'Midas' was their star attraction for the season and one can see why. The mirror reflection is indeed a second flower, whilst if the thickening growth is anything to go by there will be quite a flourish next year. Indeed already a small offshoot has developed, for swaps!

'Phil Cornish' pictured is one I placed in a small pot last year and forgot about. The main planting is just coming into flower in a shaded section of the garden. One of my favourites.

'South Hayes' has formed a large clump. These spotted or striped forms are all similar. They do attract attention in a border.

Galanthus 'Trymming' is another beauty, again placed in a small pot. I've tried to safeguard my finer forms in case of catastrophe. Of these, I've had a few, as the song says. The photograph I use for my blog heading is of this variety.

RHS Harlow Carr in Colour: Sunglasses Required

RHS Harlow Carr is our local garden must see. Whatever the season and, indeed, if one considers the Alpine House, whatever the weather, there's something to yearn for. Today it is the colours.

Crimson is for Helleborus × 'Anna's Red'. So rich, so upright, so resplendent in the winter sun that graced us today. So badly named, for surely this is crimson, not red, with that hint of purple and the yellowish stamens. Photographed here with a backdrop of green cornus stems. I want one.

Orange is for Cornus sanguinea 'Anny's Winter Orange'. The stems do have red in there as well though, oh dear, was this an eye-stopper today with  everyone pausing to take a photo, to the point that I found it difficult to dodge their shadows from the low winter sun. Shopping list.

Pink is for Erica carnea 'December Red'. So pink and purple as the flowers age. And it's February. When I first commenced gardening heathers were very popular along with dwarf conifers.  I'm not so keen these days with two exceptions ....

Purple is for Erica carnea 'Nathalie'. Oh boy what a lovely purple,red. The variety is courtesy  Kurt Kramer from Edewecht, Germany and is developed from the Scottish 'Myretoun Ruby', a variety I used to love before I fell out of love and needed the space. 'Nathalie' has turned my head.

Violet is for Crocus thomasii. And there are one or two other varieties there adding to the splendour. We have it on our front lawn in increasing abundance if not as abundant as here. When the sun shines there's nothing nicer, even Nathalie. It seeds itself everywhere, disappearing when one cuts the lawn or hoes the earth. To return.


Gold is for the shot before my battery ran out unexpectedly. Never buy cheap batteries on ebay. Yellows, golds, oranges. A mixture of aconites, Hamamelis and cornus. The focus is all a mess, not that it matters.

Green is for Galanthus 'Edith'. I'm very fickle. Now I love Edith. The sparse information on this gorgeous snowdrop does not mention the lime green inner markings that were so evident this afternoon. I must have this variety. There were so many varieties to choose but I chose you, Edith.

Turquoise is for the Bramall Learning Centre & Library. Have I mentioned my battery running out? Well not before I photographed this sensational modern building with my macro lens. When I come into money I'm going to get the architects to make me one to live in. Opened in 2010 it is everything I desire in a building save that it is not mine.

All the colours of the rainbow. The alpine house. Heaven should be so inviting. Feast your eyes on this. Sunglasses required.

Galanthus 'Springwood Park'

Galanthus 'Springwood Park' is now in flower and radiant. This beautiful poculiform snowdrop is reliable and has increased well. I had to water the pots and borders today, such is the sunshine. 

Galanthus 'Big Eyes'

Galanthus 'Big Eyes' is new to me and purchased last year from Matt Bishop. I have 'Grumpy' in the border, one of the first specialist snowdrops I acquired years ago. I can't say I notice it.  'Big Eyes' stands out a little more in the garden. It originates from Berkshire where we stayed last week. Discovered in a colony of nivalis x plicatus, one can see why it was picked out by the eagle eyed scrutineers who do such things. I've never found anything in a field of wild snowdrops save my lens cap lost, and replaced, a year previously. It made my day. It might not be grumpy but it's hardly an emblem of delight. I'm told it looks like a clown.

Galanthus 'Mother Goose' living up to the hype?

Well I think so, despite some commentators suggesting the colour is not so good second year round. This is my second year with Galanthus 'Mother Goose' and I think it rather lovely. It still commands huge sums on eBay. Is it worth it? A different question entirely. Mine was purchased for a modest sum from an enthusiast who has twin scaled one of the original bulbs. So, it has been reliable, sending up two flowers and suggesting a nice thickening out of foliage for next year's crop, It also has a pleasantly rounded appearance setting off the extremely yellow inner markings, the colour of egg yolk. It is certainly a favourite. The colour, by the way, is stable.  It was introduced by North Green Snowdrop in 2014. They of course built it up a bit, as they are entitled to do for it is a superb new variety.

Winter Beauties? Clematis urophylla 'Winter Beauty', Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill, Hamamelis Intermedia 'Diane' and Galanthus 'Starling'

Last one first. Ok then, Galanthus 'Starling' is not a traditional beauty. Indeed I struggled to take a photograph of different flowers to show off its consistent characteristic.  It owes its breeding to 'Hill Poe' I think, from the Avon stables and is named after a star not the bird that flies in huge murmurations over our house when the fancy takes them. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder though and as its face is always turned outward and upwards its inner beauty, that most true perfection and one which I'm sure I possess in abundance, is clear for all to see. (I'll take a snap of 'Hill Poe' tomorrow, come to think.)

Clematis urophylla 'Winter Beauty' is an incredibly vigorous climber. Glancing up my neighbour's side entrance the other day I was amazed to see just how far our plant has advanced into their garden, suffocating some of their shrubs. I noticed one specialist grower of the clematis recommends no pruning. Sorry but .... It will have to be tamed. It is one of my wife's favourites however and gazing up towards a welcome blue sky one can see why. No scent however. Vigorously beautiful perhaps.

And neither is Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill a film star stunner in the looks stakes, no magnolia or climbing rose. Then, from New Year's Day onwards, she comes into her own, a sophisticated beauty and her priceless quality, scent to die for, all over the garden, night and day. A head turner. She makes you feel wonderful. Our favourite plant in the whole garden. It oozes quality. Buy one.  My London based daughter posted a photograph of one she's seen evidently for the first time at Kew. The grass is always greener ....

To conclude, may I offer a snap of Hamamelis Intermedia 'Diane', another for the connoisseur. I'm not sure this is the best shot ever as the auto-focus got confused but I like it, with the red haze of all the hundreds of flowers lightening up the winter garden. Beauties of winter!

Galanthus 'Elworthy Bumblebee' and Galanthus 'Bungee'

Galanthus 'Elworthy Bumblebee' is one of those smaller snowdrops best viewed on the display stand for with its reflexed outer petals revealing pretty markings, and a healthy imagination, it could be mistaken for a bee in the middle of winter. Or maybe not. It is nevertheless a bonny flower.

Galanthus  'Bungee' meanwhile is another well named variety, its long, arching pedicel taking flight in the winds we've had recently. Another for the eye level display stand. Unlike images I have seen on the internet mine also feature reflexed outer petals making for a better stretch I think. This is the only bungee jump I'd ever countenance.

And remembering .....

Galanthus 'Mighty Atom'