Thursday, 27 February 2014

What's in a name?

When we buy a plant do we ever give consideration to it's name?  We may well do if we want a plant to remember a loved one or to commemorate a babies birth - in fact there are lots of reasons we would chose a plant with a specific name.  The breeder will have as many reasons for choosing the specific cultivar name, a family member, a friend, acquaintance, someone that had inspired him/her or indeed been paid to do so by A.N.Other, to name a few. 
I want to share a story with you and introduce a new comer to my garden.  You may well have heard this story before, I certainly hadn't come across it before now.

I'd like to begin by setting the scene.  I was carefully studying the selection of Snowdrops that were being showed by members of the SRGC - there was a varied selection and as I already stated in an earlier blog - it was a eureka moment in so far as Galanthus appreciation was concerned.  I had long admired G. Diggory.  This lovely snowdrop with it's seersucker petals was top of my shopping list.  I really wanted to see it in the flesh, so to speak.  Alas, Diggory was absent that day.  I began studying the exhibits for an alternative.  All the time I was doing so, exhibits were being laid on the table.  It was getting difficult to keep up.   There was a decent sized pot of a snowdrop, I now know as G. plicatus Sophie North - she was sturdy, lush green foliage and the flower shape really stood out.  That was me, smitten!    

Just before I stepped away from the table, an elderly lady asked to be excused.  She wanted to place her exhibit on the table.  Certainly, I said.  She then asked me if I was admiring the pot of G. Sophie North, I told her it was difficult not to.  She then went on to say, her exhibit was also G. plicatus Sophie North.  She was quite disheartened that the other pot looked so much bigger and better than hers.  I told her they were equally beautiful in my eyes.  She asked me if I knew the story of how she got her name.  Obviously my answer was no!       

The lady introduced herself as Evelyn, I now know her to be Dr. Evelyn Stevens.  She had found a new snowdrop growing in her garden near Dunblane many years ago.  When it came time for naming, it coincided with a tragic event, we here in the UK, know as the Dunblane Massacre.  For those who don't know the story - 16 young school children (most were 5 years old) and their teacher were gunned down in a 3 minute carnage that took place in their primary school gym in March 1996.  I've added a link here to the BBC 'On this Day' website if you want to read more.

Dr Stevens decided that she wanted to name the plant after one of the children that suffered that terrible day.  She had been talking to Dr. Mike North, father of Sophie, about the events that awful day.  He also told her that Sophie had lost her mother to cancer just 2 years previous.  It was then she decided to name her special snowdrop in honour of Sophie North.  She told me that all the proceeds  she made from subsequent plants sales were donated to the Sophie North Trust.  

To say I was moved is a bit of an understatement.  It was hard to contain the lump in my throat - memories came flooding back.  The events of the day are still vivid in my memory almost 20 years later.  My own son had been the same age.  Myself and many of the mothers at the school gates that day were in disbelief.  As we watched our youngsters coming through the gates without a care in the world, words were not needed.  The mothers and fathers, in fact the whole community, in Dunblane would never look at those school gates the same way again, ever.  That tragic day was one of Scotland's saddest moments. 

I knew then, I just have to have this beautiful snowdrop in my garden.  When I relayed this compelling story to my friend - she knew too.  Come hell or high water - Sophie was coming home with each of us.

Both of us purchased a single bulb (they were quite expensive) that morning.  My snowdrop budget had been blown completely for a single bulb.  Not that I mind, each spring, it will be nice to have this reminder.


As I look down my plant list, there are umpteen that have a cultivar name referencing someone or other - it does make you wonder just what their story is.

Do you know of a plant with a special story - I'm sure we'd all love to read about it.  Have you chose a plant because you heard the story behind its name?  Maybe you've bought a plant with a specific name and to grow on as a memory plant.

Since doing my research, it appears that Dr Stevens opens here garden under the Scotland's Gardens Scheme - it sounds like a wonderful place to visit.  I'm going to try free up one of her open days so I can visit.  Here's a link if you'd like to read about her garden

The Snowdrop Campaign (Wikipedia link) was founded by friends of the bereaved families and was so called as March is the time of year that snowdrops are in flower here in Scotland.  The campaign called for a total ban on privately owned hand guns here in the UK. 

I hope you've enjoyed reading this story as much as I've enjoyed sharing it with you all.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

SRGC Early Spring Bulb Show 2014 (Part 2)

Thanks to all my readers who commented on my previous blog SRGC Early Spring Bulb Show 2014 Part 1.  Ending where I left off - making my way to the trade stands.  I don't know about you but I'm always keen to buy 'just a wee thing' as a momento of the day.  Hah, I wish! - I'm far too easily tempted.  I get round this by leaving all bank cards at home and only take the cash I'm willing spend. 

I had my eye on one special plant but that in itself has a rather nice story attached to it - therefore it deserves a post all to itself.  More suspense but it will be worth the wait, I hope.

Before the first talk started we had around 30 minutes to make the first pass of the tables.  There was 8 trade stands and as is normal at these shows, a table with plants offer for sale by members.   On my wish list for today had been a pretty pink/mauve flowering Corydalis but as I made my way around the room, each vendor gave me a shake of their head, offered me a yellow flowering varieties or C.malkensis and C. Beth Evens, both I already grow.  As much as it pained me to do so - I offered a simple no thanks reply.  What now, the money was burning a whole in my pocket!

I returned to Kevock Garden's tables, they are an award winning specialist nursery - there is always some nice plants, in particular, Primula on offer.  Of course, being this early in the year - choice was limited.  They had a few little pretties but I already had some of them. 

My first purchase was P. Calderiana.  A petiolares type Primula.  Apparently it is supposed to smell of fish.  I've had it up close to my nose and fortunately, can't smell it!  It needs a cool shady damp postion - lots of those in my garden!  P. forrestii was my second purchase, this one needs a gritty lime soil - therefore will need to be grown in a container if I'm to keep this going.  Lastly, P. juliana Garryarde Guinevere.  Guinevere is an old variety dating back to the 1920/30 and I had been after her for a while.  I'm pleased to welcome her to my garden.   

It was time now to take our seats - we had already decided that sitting up on the balcony would be better.  The main hall by now was filling up.  Sheila was keeping her eyes peeled for the doors to the balcony opening so we could get front row seats.

In this picture, you can just make out the Beechgrove Garden crew directly in front of the stage (right hand side).  Someone else I recognise in this shot is Billy Carruthers (red lumber jacket bottom left)  he is the owner of my local nursery Binny Plants.  They didn't have a stand at todays show but mental note to grab him later and enquire about the elusive Corydalis.  Sadly, I couldn't find him, I suspect he didn't hang around for long.

Both speakers today were women.  Which, from what I could gather, was quite rare at these events.  There was a huge German contingent in the audience and their translator stood up and introduced the first talker.  I thought this was a rather nice touch.

The first talk - the picture says it all!
Make your own Daffodils (and Snowdrops) by Anne Wright
I had never heard the words Chipping and Twin Scaling until recently.  A gardening friend shared pictures on how to propagate Galanthus bulbs in this manner.  Whilst in theory, I could kind of understand just what he was talking about - slicing those teeny weeny bulbs scared the proverbial out out of me!

Anne Wright made a very useful comparison in her slide show.  She showed us how to chip and twin scale onions, who knew - certainly not me!    What a clever comparison that was, I may not be familiar with the internals of a snowdrop bulb but the insides of an onion is no stranger!  Each of her slides was detailed and along with her narration I found I had a better grasp on this method of propagating.  Whether or not I'd actually give it a go would be another thing.  Mind you, if at anytime there is a spare onion kicking around the kitchen, it had better watch out.  I'll have it chipped as quick as look at it!  My immediate thought was just how much would all the equipment and sundries cost me?  Depending on the bulb, it would likely be more cost effective to buy more bulbs.  On a commercial scale though - probably far more cost effective her way.  I'll leave you to do the math!

She then touched on the subject of Hybridizing, how to prepare the flowers and carry our artificial pollination.  For a complete novice like me, I found it useful in terms of learning about the sex organs of a plant.  Again, whether or not I'd give it a go - I doubt it.  I'm far too lazy a gardener!  Maybe one day in my retirement, when I get the greenhouse of my dreams and have much more time on my hands, a girl can dream can't she?   Never say never though!

We were then treated to a slide show of the various plants she had produced through Hybridizing - some nice, some not so nice but as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I thoroughly enjoyed this talk, the room was then opened for questions before we broke for lunch.
Anne Wright's sale table
full to bursting with her Hybridized Narcissus

Lunch consisted of a packed lunch we brought with us, saves time queuing in the canteen or spending money, that could be spent on plants.  After our sandwiches, we went for a wee stroll around Dunblane.  Had we more time, it would have been nice to have wee stroll around the Cathedral and it's grounds.  I could not resist a cheeky little shot of Andy Murray's gold painted Pillar Box.  Most of you are probably familiar with our bright red pillar boxes here in the UK but to commemorate medal British gold medal winners in the 2012 Olympics - pillar boxes in their home towns were permanently painted gold by Royal Mail.  I've provided a link here if you want to read more about it.

We made a quick dash back to reclaim our seats for the second talk.  Diane Clement - Hepaticas, a growing obsession, began with an introduction to Hepaticas and their species.  We were then give an explanation on their taxonomy - these little woodland wonders used to attributed to the Anemone but were separated from them due to the green sepal like bract that appears just below the petals.  It's not only the flowers that are interesting, their foliage can be just as eye catching.  In Japan, Hepaticas are extremely popular, obsessive even and like Snowdrops, can command extremely high prices.
It's at this point, I'm utterly ashamed to say I nodded off!  Those who read my previous post know that I had attended the show after only 3 hours sleep, I just couldn't help myself - I did ask my companion if I had snored, she then had to admit that she too had fallen asleep.  How embarrassing? 
In my defence the hall was hot and stuffy.  Just in case I have whetted your appetite - I found a very similar article here.  In fact the more I read of this article, the more familiar it became, perhaps I wasn't asleep for as long as I thought!  Thank goodness I don't make a living as a journalist!  You know, it would have been just as easy to say I hadn't made the 2nd talk but that would have been dishonest and not quite so funny.  Anyhow, I'll bet  Sheila and I are not the only ones to have fallen asleep in such circumstances.

There was just enough time to make a final pass of the trade stalls, of course, by this time they were somewhat depleted of their stock.  I picked up a rather pretty Hellebore - not something I would have expected to buy at such a show.  Here's a preview of it's foliage.  As you can see it has some lovely fat buds on it and I'll let it have it's blog debut when those are out.

Helleborus x sternii Silver Dollar

Ashwood nurseries describe it as 'Quite outstanding with bright silver serrated leaves and small green cup shaped flowers flushed with pink'.  I also took a punt on a couple of Narcissus seedlings - they are very tiny at present - N. jacetanus and N. cyclamineus x asturiensus.   They may well find their way into my miniature garden sometime soon.

I hope you have enjoy a look at this show through a newbies eyes - the last part in this series will be about a rather special plant I bought.  I hope I haven't bored you too much already and you will come back to read it.  Coincidentally, the pink Corydalis I was seeking, has since been purchased - Corydalis solida First Kiss not quite pink but beautiful just the same.  Click on the link for a wee sneaky peep.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

SRGC Early Spring Bulb Show 2014 (part 1) - Snowdrop and other bulbs

It was a bit of an early start, well for me any hows! I didn't finish work until a little after 3am and I was getting picked up at 8.15 for the journey to Dunblane. Ordinarily it would have been a real struggle to get out of bed after only 3 and a half hours sleep - but not today. I was really looking forward to our outing to the SRGC's early bulb show in Dunblane, Scotland.

The journey to Dunblane is around 40 minutes from my house and as I was being picked up last, it was directly onto the motorway from here. The reason for the early start was that both my companions had pots of spring bulbs to take to the show and plants to sell at the member's table. The Early Bulb Show in Dunblane is not run on the same format as other shows and although there appeared to be some sort of judging going on, it was not on the same level as other shows I have been too. SRGC members had been asked to take along pots of bulbs and spring flowering plants to put on a good display as a crew from the BBC's Beechgrove Garden (a popular TV gardening show here in Scotland) was filming an article on the show. Luckily we managed to get parked very near to the door and thus didn't have far to haul those boxes of plants.

For me, a complete newbie to this show,  it was great to get in so early. After helping Sheila and Susan put their pots out, I took the opportunity whilst the room was relatively empty of bodies, to have a wee nosy. It didn't take long for the benches to fill up.

One couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the aroma from this bench. It was the first bench coming through the door. A Galanthophile's dream! Until that very moment, too me, a snowdrop was a snowdrop, was a snowdrop! It was a spring flowering bulb that produced a tiny white flower, with blotches of green on it's petals. I mean the snowdrop no disrespect believe me.  I could clearly see the different markings and shapes of all those named varieties many of you grow but until that very moment I just didn't get it!  It was a kind of eureka moment.


The sheer difference between the species and the varieties had been something that had escaped me until now.  Size, height, leaf and flower form - I truly had no idea!

Those white sheets covering the tables and used as a backdrop provided far too much of a glare to get decent pictures - I took hundreds to share with you all as I know many of you have a snowdrop thing!  The best of the bunch and it's not a terribly big bunch I'm afraid.
Galanthus Fred's Giant
Galanthus Brenda Troyle
Galanthus plicatus
To the rear Galanthus Lavinia
Galanthus Augustus
Galanthus Wasp
Labelled as Galanthus Rozella
 I can't find any other reference to it online
I did not expect to be so impressed with the special Snowdrops but had G. plicatus Diggory on my want list. I immediately fell for G. plicatus Augustus, sadly neither was available on either the trade or the members tables for sale.  I had more of a drawing towards the plicatus type of Snowdrop, I suspect it's because they look like sturdier plants.  Which one/ones did I buy?  I'm keeping you in suspense just a wee bit longer - I've a bit of a story to tell about my choice and I know you'll all want to read about it.   

It wasn't all about the Snowdrops - there was lots more to see.  Please join me for a wander around the room.

Primulas are a favourite here in my garden - they grow well here and no matter where I go I'm always attracted to them.  This show was perhaps a bit too early in the year to have a lavish display of Primula but those that were there were lovely healthy plants.

Primula on display
I like how these has been displayed - this I think, could easily be replicated in a larger trough and make a lovely display on a patio.  I've no doubt I'll give it a try sometime.

Primula allionii
A selection of wild collected specimens displayed
to show the natural variations in the plant
Cyclamen are easily recognised - in varying shades of pink and even more variable markings on their leaves, a very pretty display indeed.

Cyclamen display
I liked this delicate pink coloured one but I forgot to take a note of it's name and can't make it out on the label.

As we moved around the room, it was by this time getting a wee tad busier. It was getting harder to get up close and personal to admire the plants.  The Crocus display was vibrant to say the least.  It's not until you see them all grouped like this can you appreciate just how different the species are, just like the snowdrops.

Crocus display
One of my favourites was Crocus cvijicii, a native of Serbia, Albania and Macedonia according to the Alpine Garden Society. 
Crocus cvijicii
and one of my not so favourites - Crocus angustifolius.  To me they look rather plastic and resembled those foil bows you buy at Christmas time.  Each to their own I suppose - beauty is in the eye and all that!

The Narcissus on display were not in their masses either.  In fact when I was taking pictures early in the day there was only 3 or 4 pots on display.  Luckily I popped back in at the end of the day.  Until a couple of years ago a daffodil would never have seen the light of day in my garden.  White and dwarf Narcissus  now grow in the garden as I have learned to appreciate their value in the spring garden.  These species Narcissus are little treasures - I haven't really done much research on these yet but think one or two would make a lovely addition to the miniature garden I grow in a trough.   
Narcissus display
I was particularly drawn to this Narcissus cantabricus - a white hooped petticoat daffodil, so called because of the characteristics of it's flower.  It's delicate and very pretty.

Another I like but didn't get it's name, of course if you know do tell.  The scent around this table was every bit as pleasant as the snowdrops.  I took a wee fit of sneezing soon after I bent down to take a closer sniff! 
Suggestions of ID of plant to the rear please?
No early bulb show would be complete without the Iris would they?  They were out in their masses on Bloom Day Posts this month and as many of us grow them, I thought you'd like to see more.

It was love at first sight - you could not fail to be bowled over by this beauty.  There is very little information out there on this particular Iris but according to the American Iris Society it is a cultivar of Iris histrioides, there after it all gets far too technical for my beginners brain.  If added a link here for the American Iris Society should you like more information.

Iris Reine Immaculee

Iris Reine Immaculee
close up
Iris Sheila Ann Germaney

Iris Pauline

Iris Display
The pot of Yellow flowering Iris in the middle was gorgeous - of course guess who forgot to get a close up and a note of it's name.  It could be I. danfordiae - if you know and can tell from this picture I'd be grateful.

A few individual plants that really caught my eye - as they do!

Eranthis schwefelglanz, the camera did not pick up just how apricot coloured these were.  Apparently the name schwefelglanz means sulphur gloss in German.  This would make a lovely change to the yellow ones we are used to.

Eranthis schwefelglanz
Another plant on my shopping today was a pink flowering Corydalis - I immediately fell for this little beauty.  I aleardy grow C. Beth Evans in the garden but wanted something a little different.  Sadly, the only Corydalis I could find was the yellow flowering variety or C. malkensis - which I also grow.  Corydalis shanginii is quite rare therefore I doubt I'll be sourcing those sometime soon! I love dark tips on the flowers.

Corydalis shanginii
This next plant was a complete new one on me - from a distance it actually looked like a wallflower - however as I got closer the resemblance got less and less!  I do hope I haven't hurt it's feelings!  I found information on the Alpine Garden Society website if you want to know more.   These are herbaceous members of the  Berberidaceae family and native to what was once the Soviet Central Asia area.

Gymnospermium albertii
Last and certainly not least  Ipheion dialystemon were beautiful.  It would however require an alpine house or cold frame if it were to survive here in my garden.

Ipheion dialystemon
Once we had finished oohing and aahing at the members plants - it was onwards and upwards!  There was just enough time to give the trade stands a first pass before the first talk commenced at 11am.

The talk, Make your own Narcissus (and snowdrops) by Anne Wright.  I was looking forward to this.  I had seen images of how to propagate from bulbs and read articles on the subject but just couldn't get my head around it.  Again, my fear of tiny little things always gets the better of me.  There will be more about the talk(s), what I learned and of course what came home with me in part 2.  

Monday, 17 February 2014

Peacock Butterfly

As testament to how unseasonal our weather has been this winter - I was startled as he/she flew past me.
Peacock butterfly
Aglais io
I ran back indoors like a madwoman hoping not too miss a photo opportunity.  I sat around for a good while before it reappeared and settled here basking in the sun. 

Of course it had to choose to settle beside a big dollop of bird pooh!

Off into the undergrowth next door it crawled!

These butterflies are widely distributed around the UK and will awake from hibernation in warm weather.  However, it was rather cold, miserable and wet today.  I do hope it found somewhere safe to go. 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day February 2014

The post I'm about to put together really is a rushed job.  Two reasons for that, the first is that I'm having a little away day tomorrow with a couple of gardening friends and since it will be dark when I get up and dark when I get home - there will be little chance of getting some pictures together.  The second, here's me in a hurry to get some shots of what's in flower and realise the battery in the camera is as dead as a dodo!  Just as a watched pot never boils - uncharged batteries don't replenish themselves as quickly as you'd like.  With light fading fast, cloud coming in, rain threatening and wind battering almost everything around - I stood little chance of getting decent pictures.

Unlike most of you putting together some wonderfully written blogs this Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, mines is rather short and sweet - a bit like myself, eh, maybe not!  Short, certainly but sweet, I doubt that would be an adjective used to describe me, EVER!  However, all is not lost, there's lots more to see over at May Dream Gardens where Carol hosts the Garden Blogger's Bloom Day meme on the 15th of every month.  I'm just a few hours early and I will get round to linking and reading on Sunday.

It was nigh on impossible to get a decent picture of snowdrops today.  I have no named varieties growing in the garden.  All are plain old Galanthus nivalis - with a few doubles thrown in for good measure.   Every snowdrop growing in my garden was rescued last year from a garden that was about to be covered in concrete - the elderly lady who lives there needed her path widened and an access ramp put in.  These little beauties would have otherwise been ripped out.  I jumped at the chance to rehome them.  I divided up the large sized clumps and planted the smaller clumps around the garden in the hope that they will naturalise and spread around. 

Everyday is a school day isn't it.  A common name for Snowdrops I had never heard before was Fair Maids of February - they are indeed this February.  I found this verse which really does sum up the weather here right now.

FEBRUARY fair maids,
  All along the lane,
Dancing with the breezes,
  Nodding to the rain,
Whispering tales of Springtime
  Through the snow and sleet,
February fair maids,
  Brave and bright and sweet.
February fair maids,
  Soon you'll disappear,
Soon the swallow's twitter
  Tells that Spring is here.
Soon the rose and lily
   Laugh 'neath skies of blue
February fair maids,
  None so brave as you.
February fair maids,
  Dancing down the lane,
Bowing to the breezes,
  Smiling at the rain,
Lifting laughing faces
  Through the snow and sleet–
February fair maids,
  Brave and bright and sweet.   
    by Norah M Holland (1876-1925)
The hellebores are just about coming into their own - a few will be the first time they have flowered in the garden.  Plugs plants bought back in 2011.  They have now reached flowering size but are as yet still tightly budded.  They were a mix of White Spotted and Red oriental type hybrids. 
My favourite Hellebore - Helleborus x ericsmithii Winter Moonbeam is rather fickle.  Turning it's first flowers away.  Still, lots more to come over the next few weeks.  Mental note to self - do not cut out old foliage, it doesn't look nearly as spectacular as it did when it was new last year.  Gardening is a learning curve isn't it?  That's one mistake I won't make again. 
Another Oriental Hybrid, which should have a name but was purchased a while before I realised how useful it would be to keep labels.

Winter flowering Violas and Pansies still doing their bit.  I am fair pleased with these Violas and Pansies but boy does it give me concern as to where those pesky slugs have gone.  I have visions of them gathering in their masses just beyond the fence waiting to do reek havoc.  In years gone by the war against those slimey garden critters always began on Valentine's Day.  I am now coming into the 3rd year of using no chemicals in the garden.  Perhaps the garden has reached a natural balance and is now taking care of itself.  I really would like to think so, time will tell.
Many of the Primula are budding up and starting to look good again, they took a right knocking in the long dry summer.  Primula bracteosa is the first to open it's flowers.  I almost missed these - Heuchera Obsidian has all but collapsed round about it.
Primula bracteosa
Just in case any of you are interested - here's what Kevock Garden, a reputable nursery and garden to the south of Edinburgh say about it. 
The petiolarid primulas (section Petiolares) are classic Himalayan (and Chinese) plants, thriving in cool, damp places (where there is humidity in the air as well as moisture at the roots), and complaining when it is hot and dry. But they are worth every effort to please, including some of the most beautiful and sought-after of all primulas. Many of them produce little seed in cultivation here, and so these ones are propagated by division, which they love, as they flourish in rich soil. Some kinds are evergreen, and make small mats of rosettes, with the mass of flowers at the centres, and others spend the winter as large resting buds, flowers and leaves appearing amazingly early in the year. 
The large dutch Crocus are still barely above the soil but the smaller Crocus chrysanthus have been stuck in limbo for what seems like weeks now - they might just flatten before they get a chance to open which would be a shame.  They too are naturalising, albeit slowly, around the garden.  This little clump will soon be joined by Corydalis, Narcissus and Muscari.
My regular readers will know that here in my garden I've often got the odd plant flowering out of season - back in January it was Lupins, Geums and Heuchera.  Those are still holding on and for this month - I was most surprised to find this Eryngium, albeit a bit wintery looking, flowering.
Eryngium bourgatii Graham Stuart Thomas
Now I know many of you will be wondering just where me and my gardening friends are off to tomorrow - we are having a day out for the Early Bulb Show organised and held by the SRGC in Dunblane.  I'm hoping there will be plenty of time to get some photos (yes, batteries are now fully charged) to put together a blog and more importantly a chance to purchase some lovely new plants for my garden.  My first port of call will be the Snowdrop stalls, I really do fancy a few named varieties and then who knows what will come home with me.
I'd like to end this post to extend my thoughts to all those who are right now experiencing such freaky weather.  The situation, particularly in the South of England, is particularly awful right now.  Those terrible scenes in news reports is heart breaking and I could not begin to imagine what those poor folks are going through.  I do hope there is some respite soon.
What ever you are up to this weekend, stay safe and stay warm!