Iris unguicularis

FEBRUARY: Iris unguicularis – The Algerian Iris. This beautiful, winter flowering iris used to be called Iris stylosa; sweet sounding and easy to remember. Easy to grow too, just plant it at the base of a dry sunny wall with no added compost, and it will thrive. It seems to love poor stony soil which is no surprise when you look at its natural habitat. For most of the year you wouldn’t give it a second glance … a scruffy collection of strap shaped, dull green leaves which often as not are brown at the tips; and horror of...

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Battle lines are drawn over snowdrops

If snowdrops flowered in midsummer we would probably  barely notice their presence. We might even find them a nuisance the way they clump up so quickly and leave behind a great mound of boring foliage which must be religiously left to feed the cursed little bulbils for next year. I can almost feel myself reaching for the Roundup. Louise’s Great Plant this Month shows a far more attractive winter flowering star. But snowdrops have the immense good sense to flower at a time when we are all sick of cold cheerless days of frost, when their promise of better things to...

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Salix fargesii

FEBRUARY: Salix fargesii. During periods of hard frost it is not difficult to find stunning subjects to admire as you wander around the garden; every stem, seedhead and leaf is enhanced by the sparkling white dust of  air hoar. The challenging days are when it’s grey and dismal and the light levels are at their lowest. But even then I know that there will always be something to brighten things up, and at this time of the year I look to Salix fargesii, which we have planted at the edge of our pond. There are about 400 species of...

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King John’s Lodge – East Sussex

Every once in a while you come across a place with a timeless air about it – not flashy or cutting-edge, but with a calm, gracious look of antiquity and love about it that grabs your heart.  That’s King John’s Lodge in Etchingham. It’s plonk in the middle of East Sussex off the A21. The house is a Grade II listed Jacobean manor restored by the present owners and the garden opens regularly for the National Garden Scheme.  The garden with its rose walk, wild pond, meadow areas etc. is not full of ‘specimens’ – but has a lived-in, relaxed feel, with hundreds of cranesbills jostling...

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