The pencil-like stems and tight buds of the diminutive botanical Tulipa clusiana 'Tubergen's Gem', photographed here on 1st April, are beautiful even before they open out. When they do the star shaped yellow inner and outer red make for an arresting display. It's a strong grower, braving wind and rain. These dwarf, species tulips naturalise well. Certainly in our sink garden anyway. (Note to self: plant them in the garden.) It is so good it has the Award of Garden Merit from the RHS. Introduced in 1969 by van Turgen. His gem and the joint winner of my prestigious Tulip of the Year Award. AGM and TYA.
Tough challenge to choose the favourite tulip. Actually 'Blue Diamond' is the joint winner with one of the species varieties. Photographed on 13th April, it flowered forever, had huge blooms that stood up well to the weather, a pleasant if faint fragrance, that rich blue-purple colour and, most importantly for me, a silk sheen to the petals. And no new bolter from the breeder: the tulip is tried and tested since its introduction in 1962.
One of the brightest and most unusual narcissus I grew for the first time last year was 'Sabine Hay'. Its orange petals and darker cup are just startling. I planted it in a large terracotta pot in the shadiest section of the patio to preserve its colour. The bulb is no kid on the block having been bred in the 60s. To the best of my knowledge no other narcissus has this colouring. I planted some annuals in the same pot and, clearing them out before top dressing, the new shoots are already sprouting. The photograph was taken on the 28th March this year.
Torrential rain, shortening days, almost November. Not quite though. I grew a collection of hardy fuschias from plug plants and they are astonishingly prolific and have formed substantial plants. Whether or not they are genuinely hardy I'll discover in the Spring. Anyway all varieties still have flowers. This one is 'Snowcap' and oblivious to the passage of time. I grew them in the large pots containing bulbs and now have to either hope the bulbs will grow through them or, more probably, transplant them to other pots or the garden.
Hepaticas are miniature jewels and temperamental ones in my garden. I lose a few and given the cost I'll leave it for the specialists. Hepatica japonica Gosyo-Zacura grows in a sheltered spot in the garden where it has protection from the summer sun. It has sent out new shoots so I know it's still with us. The photograph was taken on the 11th March. Hepaticas look best when the flowers festoon the plant though I liked this one for the texture in close-up.
I have grown to love narcissus varieties that are not freely available in the local garden centres. Each year I buy a few more. Next year promises to be a bumper one because I ordered in lockdown, early, and so my order was completely satisfied. The new ones are potted up, the old ones planted in the garden. But back to this spring: 10th April. 'Lundy Light' is well named: a bright beacon of colour. The corona is a bright red. Frankly I don't enter the competitions and the different classifications and categories of narcissii are not something I've taken heed of. If I was entering a pot of daffodils at a show this bright variety would be a contender. Vigorous and oh so cheerful.
Our garden has been changed over the period of lockdown through Covid 19. Obviously I have had more time for the garden. Shrubs and indeed trees have been cut down to allow in even more light into what was a dark part of the garden. The spur was the removal by our neighbours of a row of towering leylandiis that sapped nutrients from the soil and light from the skies. So new plants can be introduced and it's been a renaissance and an opportunity. Lilies are spectacular plants and I'm always discovering new varieties. 'Lady Alice' is new to me, a bulb grown from seed. But notice the red lily beetle. These pests devastate lilies and indeed fritillarias. If you track them down they drop to the soil. Still, it is a satisfying experience to crunch them between fingernails. However I confess I've resorted to insecticides and they work. A nice variety though without the strong perfume that is such a feature of lilies.
Galanthus nivalis Sandersii Group is an odd name for a snowdrop. It doesn't trip off the tongue. Essentially it is the yellow equivalent of the common snowdrop. Trust me, there are lots of versions on sale. If they have the sulphur yellow colouring they are to be welcomed. Mine, I'm led to believe by the original seller some seven or so years ago, comes from Howick in Northumberland from the original clone. I bought it on Ebay so it must be true and, knowing something of the seller, it is as original as can be. For a vastly inflated sum you can buy Galanthus nivalis Sandersii Group 'Golden Promise'. It promises to be sturdier, more stable, more yellow, more compact and, crucially, more expensive. I'll stick with my dependable, yellow, compact little charmer from eBay. They are pretty little plants, those bright yellow ovaries brightening up the winter gloom. The photograph was taken on the 22nd February. I should say by explanation of my lack of snowdrop 2020 posts that for eight weeks we were in the Caribbean, my first time away from our winter garden. Glorious experience but not to be repeated. I like winter here. Quite a clump of these charmers were waiting for us when we returned. Then Covid ...
They are called 'naked ladies' on account of their sudden appearance in autumn, flowers and no leaves. Later in winter and at the beginning of Spring the leaves appear, to die back and recharge the bulbs for the next glowering period. They appear in the garden just as cyclamen hederifolium are on the decline. 'The Giant' oozers out of the bulb, a splurge of colour in a rapidly darkening landscape.
Autumn flowering snowdrops are not my favourites. Yes it's novel to see them so early in the year but they are overshadowed by the brighter colours still around at this time of the year. So 'Cambridge' is a lovely fresh snowdrop beside a showy colchicum and huge dinner plate dahlias. Everything has its own season. Perhaps in a pot, on the display bench, it might look better. For the record, 'Cambridge' has slightly textured petals and clumps up well. If snowdrops float your boat in October, there are few nicer than this variety.
I watched a YouTube video in which a man and woman sold three varieties of exotic dinner plate dahlias on a shopping channel. $20 or so, less postage. Their son had discovered these 'hard to obtain' plants from the Netherlands, that's Holland we were informed. Last year I bought some by mail order. These are spectacular plants and have flowered here from the third week in July onwards. There is a drawback. When the huge flowers get saturated in our English summer they topple over like pins hit by a bowling ball. So support is the answer, something I'll attend to next year. I've already bought pointed 4ft and 6ft wooden stakes for only fractionally more than than their bamboo cane equivalents. That's for next year. Meanwhile this I believe is 'Islander' and a stunner. My favourite. The plant is so large that until the frosts cut it down I simply can't discover my obviously too small label. I've got another fifteen on order for next year at a small cost. Perhaps I'll set up my own shopping channel. Inexpensive and glorious plants.
'Prague Spring' pictured on the 23rd February this year. I first saw it in John Morley's North Green catalogue three or four years ago though I obtained it from another source. The virescent snowdrop is distinctive enough though it was the name that captured my attention, As a schoolboy preparing for the General Studies examination I used to read 'The Guardian' newspaper's account of Alexander Dubček's all too brief liberalisation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The Russians put paid to that. More prosaically the bulb was found in Prague in spring. One of my favourite cities and a lovely snowdrop. No emblem of freedom however.
Over time labels, especially near grass and therefore lawnmower range, disappear so I'm not entirely sure of the variety of this first survivor of a tidy-up. It could be one of the following: Galanthus reginae-olgae 'Cambridge', Galanthus elwesii monostictus ‘Barnes’ or Galanthus peshmenii. All three snowdrops are pushing up now and soon I'll be able to compare them. I'm not so sure about my feelings about snowdrops this early. There's still a lot of colour in the garden. And by the retrospective laws of blogging I can now confirm, having found the label, that this is 'Rainbow Farm Early'.