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May 2012
9th May: Doubling up

Our Geums are in full bloom now and I love their dainty, often nodding, heads of flower. There are some double varieties and occasionally single varieties will throw out a double flower or two, just like Herterton Primrose pictured today. This of course leads to great excitement and the hope that the plant has produced a sport that will always bloom with double flowers. Alas no. 

Some varieties do this more than others - I've never before seen a double flower on Herterton Primrose, and this flower has flecks of orange not seen on normal blooms. Leonard's Variety, on the other hand. often produces double blooms, leading to the, (in my opinion erroneous), introduction of the variety Leonard's Double.

Some varieties like Hannay's and Bell Bank are always double.



10th May: Nature's gift

Chance seedlings can be a bane or boon to a gardener. If its a muddy pink or white Achillea seedling amongst your pride and joy named variety then not only does it spoil the look of your plants but also its a right bind trying to get the rogue out completely.

Sometimes nature gives you a gift: a seedling placed perfectly and a new or different colour to enjoy. 

This lovely Geum sprung up on the corner of a bed, just where I would have planted it. The flowers glow with warm orange on the outside and are pure yellow on the inside. The foliage is healthy and full. 

All it needs now is a couple of years hard testing to make sure it doesn't flatter to deceive and eventually a name!

14th May: Despite the rain...

I think this could become the catch phrase of 2012. Despite the rain... the Red-Tailed Bumblebees are out in force and enjoying our Centaureas like Jordy here which is flowering like mad at the moment. Its also a bit taller than usual, probably due to the rain and may need a few twiggy branches among its stems to hold them up in the rain (this could get repetitive). 

We have a bit of a dilemma with our Centaurea at the moment. We have our first National Collection weekend open garden in about a month (16/17 June) and many ate now at their first peak of flowering. I've got a feeling that they may finish this first flush just before then, so I need to cut them back now to get them to flower again at the right time. Only who could cut off all those lovely flowers?


15th May: As you might have guessed...

... I chickened out and have left the flowers on the Centaureas. Purple Heart looking great despite the rain...

By the way, I saw the "new" patented variety "Amethyst Dream" in flower on another nursery's stall at the weekend. It looks very like Purple Prose, still I had to buy one just to try it out.


16th May: Perfect partners

Geranium Stephanie is in full flower at the moment and looking so elegant alongside the new leaves of our Cardoons (Cynara carduncularis). 


17th May: Perfect partners (to be)

The forget-me-not blue of Brunnera Jack Frost contrasts so well with the apricot tones of Heuchera Caramel

I have to admit to a cheat here. The Brunnera is planted in the ground but the Heuchera is a tray of potted plants I put down on a path while I fetched something. But they look so good I'll have to plant a Heuchera next to the Brunnera now


18th May: Bug watch - Chafer Grub

Over the last couple of days I've been renovating a flower bed in our front garden. It was the first one we dug and hasn't really been touched for 12 years now. Today I took out some Lonicera Baggescens Gold that had outgrown their space and dug up some Achillea Red Beauty that hadn't been doing to well. I soon found out why - lots and lots of chafer grubs in the ground attacking their roots.  

These larval  stage of a brown beetle are more commonly found in lawns and do dreadful damage to the turf. They can be identified and distinguished from, say, vine weevil grubs by their yellowish brown heads (not dark or reddish brown), the obvious legs (not stumps or none) and by their habit of curling up when disturbed. They can grow to 1/2 inch long but newly hatched ones are tiny - less than 1/4 inch long.

You can buy chemicals to treat them in lawns but I spent an hour or so going over and over the soil, turning it and breaking down lumps to expose them. Our local lady Blackbird and Robin soon polished off the ones I collected in a tub for them.

May 24: Whatever You Do, Do Nothing

Garden visitors often ask me what I do to my Giant Spanish Oats (Stipa gigantea) to make them flower so well. The answer is simple - I do nothing at all - I don't feed, I don't water, I don't cut the leaves back. I do pull off the old flower stems and comb out any dead leaves with my (gloved) hands. 

These plants come from Spain and Portugal and thrive on hot sun, dry soil and I suspect low nutrients.

So whatever you do to your Stipa gigantea - do nothing!

May 25: Angelic Upstart

Our self-sown Angelica archangelica have really gone for it this year and assumed giant proportions. Just waiting for those lovely balls of flower to open now.


May 27 End of a Hot, Hot Day

I was at the Adlington Hall Plant Hunters' Fair today as temperatures soared into the high 20's and I ended up well baked by the end of the day. Plenty of plant lovers came along and it was good to see lots of old gardening friends again. 

By 3.30pm most of the 720 visitors had gone home with their new acquisitions and I had a little time to enjoy the views around the lovely garden and grounds. 

May 29 Busy Bees

I really enjoyed watching the bumblebees on our Verbascum phoeniceum Violetta today, mainly Carder Bees and these (I think) Buff-Tailed with particularly full pollen baskets. 

May 30 Beautiful Buds

Its not just flowers that provide beauty in the garden and I'm really enchanted by the buds of some perennials, like Cephalaria alpina here. 

Its worth getting up close to your plants and seeking out their hidden beauty.

I picked up this plant at a Hardy Plant Society sale and I'm keen to see how it differs from Cephalaria gigantea, which I've grown for some years. These are a little behind and the buds are very immature as yet so its good to have a photo to compare.

May 31: Perfect Partners

The perennial poppy Curlilocks looks stunning in front of the bronze fennel.  

Both have big ambitions - the poppy spreads quite rapidly and the fennel seeds magnificently. 

Both also thrive in hot, dry, sunny sites.


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