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Pulmonaria rubra

Pulmonarias are among the earliest herbaceous perennials to flower in springtime, and Pulmonaria rubra is the first; its hairy stems and fresh green leaves emerging in January are soon followed by the flowers. These are a delightful shade of coral pink or red (with not a hint of blue!) and they associate well not only with some early bulbs, (snowdrops being the perfect partner), but also with hellebores, evergreen ferns and the delicate, bronze-tinted, fading leaves of many Epimediums. Pulmonarias are happiest in partial to full shade, but they need light in the spring and so do well beneath deciduous shrubs...

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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 horrors, it is a five star hotel...

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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

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 deciduous willow, their...

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