Lovely lily of the valley


Lily of the valley

Sometimes the simplest plants are the loveliest. I have a patch of lily of the valley under the camellia in the front garden and it never fails to delight. It is unassuming in the garden – quite a lot of leaf to a small flower. But pick a few of the strangely wiry stems and you’ve got one of the loveliest Spring posies possible.

The little white bells are so perfect…and the scent! I drove down to my parents this weekend and brought my mother a little bunch. The car was heady with their scent.


Lily of the valley






Regal splendour – gold and silver laced polyanthus


Silver laced polyanthus

Sometimes a plant suits being kept simple. And I think you appreciate the beauty of these gold and silver laced polyanthus best when there’s just a stem or two in a vase by your bed.

I bought two plants this year, one gold laced and one silver. Wild primroses do really well in my garden so I’m hoping these thrive and multiply in the same way, though I’ve heard these laced polyanthus can be more tender and harder to establish.

The one I’ve picked in these photographs is the silver laced one. I can’t quite decide which one I prefer but both plants look like they should be adorning a Tudor cloak.


Silver laced polyanthus

A very pink posy

imageThis is a very pink posy!! I think it is just saved from looking sickly by the refreshingly acid lime green spurge.

It really isn’t us to new stems cut short and plonked in a jam jar. The three camellias first – their wood stems and foliage then supported the two tulips and three stems of euphorbia.

I cut the the euphorbia carefully and  did steer their stems to try and reduce the ooze of white sap – I’ve not suffered a reaction to this sap yet but don’t want to risk it as I have heard it is unpleasant. But I wouldn’t be without this euphorbia, or common wood spurge, in the garden in spring. It’s a lovely foil to many flowers, making reds, blues and even pinks like this sing.

It is a bit invasive though and I must dig up some of the patch this year to slow it down a bit.

Small vases; spring posies in blue

PI love the idea of a cutting patch – a “spare” sunny border devoted to flowers grown specifically for cutting for the house. Like most of us I don’t really have the space in the garden. What sunny borders I do have have to to double duty – look good outside and provide flowers for inside.

So I can’t usually pick great swathes of one flower – but smaller vases can still have an impact. Take this one – it’s a salt and pepper set, brought back for me by a friend on holiday. The two vases are supposed to hold toothpicks (I think!) but they were the perfect size for a couple of small posies. I love the blue and white against the bright white china.

There are the last of the grape hyacinths in here and blue and white bluebells. I’m not keen on either of these in the garden – too invasive – but they keep reappearing. Actually, I do love the concentrated blue of the grape hyacinths but ideally they need to be contained in something. Where I used to live in Highgate, the was a low garden wall that was just full of these lovely little flowers in Spring and the colour was amazing.

And bluebells really belong in beech wood – that’s where they are at their best, a sea of blue-y purple carpeting the floor. Once picked they can wilt quickly, so I conditioned these by searing the cut stems in a few centimetres of boiling water for 15 seconds. Try it, it really does make a difference.


Bluebells, grape hyacinths, forget me nots and honeywort cerinthe in china cruet



A vase a week – utility room

imageNot every vase quite works – and while this one is bright and pretty, I don’t think it’s best placed against the tangerine walls of the  utility room. Although it’s nice to have flowers to welcome home you as soon as you open the back door – will paint a more neutral tone next tine!

Going back to the flowers, it’s spurge from the huge patch that I really must  start controlling. I love it this time of year when the flowers are such a bright acid green. And for the first year in this garden I have some purple honesty planted next to it – love that colour combination.

Here in the vase though that colour is provided by perennial wallflower ‘Bowles mauve’. I can’t recommend this plant highly enough. I bought two small plant last year and they have bulked up and flowered pretty much non stop all through our unusually mild winter. And now it’s spring they’re in full bloom again.

They’re easy to take cuttings from too.  I have two small plants just from sticking shoots in old pots that held tomatoes or cucumber plants over the summer. The only negative point about the plant is tha they are unscented.

Finally, there are the dog tooth violets with their elegant curved petals – but I’ll leave the main description of these to the next post



Narcissi “Yellow cheerfulness”

imageA beautiful primrose colour and a delicious Spring scent. I’ve planted two clumps of these – one of the yellow and another of the white cheerfulness. The White isn’t out properly yet, but I don’t think I like them nearly as much as these buttery charmers.

This particular case is from the pot by my back door. A sudden overnight hailstorm cut them down so I had to cut them – otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to bring myself to pick so many at once.

It’s what I call the “plonked in a vase” school of arrangement. An old fashioned wedding present vase that used to be my mothers, a couple of the whippy growths from where the plum tree pruning went wrong, a couple of white daffs from the back of the veg patch and then a handful of scented narcissi. I didn’t condition the stems or do anything about the sap that leaks out of cut stems – haven’t even changed the water and it’s lasted brilliantly for a week now.

I took the pic in the dining room – better light – but the vase is on the bookshelf in the hall at the bottom of the stairs. So every morning when I come downstairs or when we move from room to room, we’re greeted by their cheerful little faces and their happy scent.

Tulip: Exotic Emperor

Isn’t this a beauty. I planted this container up late last autumn – unlike other spring bulbs tulips are best planted in November. I’d spotted the variety in the Sarah Raven catalogue but bought the bulbs locally.

It’s a fosterina variety so I should be in with a chance of the bulbs lasting at least a few years (I’m feeding the pot weekly now it’s in bloom). The stems are shorter than some tulips, so they suit pots and stand up to poor weather. We had a hailstorm the other night which flattened a swathe of “yellow cheerfulness” narcissi, but this pot was unscathed.

The flowers are creamy rather than the pure white you get with pureissima, but they open up like peonies. The’re extraordinary in bud too – little green and cream globes. I love it!