Multiflora hyacinth ‘White Festival’ AGM

Back in autumn 2019, I planted 50 multiflora hyacinths ‘White Festival’ as a necklace inside my new curved rose beds, each bulb a foot from its neighbours – and thank goodness for that bit of accidental foresight. Here’s what they look like today, 16 March 2023. At least, this is ONE of them.

And this is another one of them.

Can you believe it? Each bulb has increased every year, and if I can count, each of these two neighbours has 19 flower stems pushing through the soil. Amazing.

I’d never grown multiflora hyacinths before, and was a bit sceptical when I received some lumpy bumpy bulbs, especially since they’re rather more expensive than their ordinary brothers and sisters.

But, the first spring, in 2020, just when we all needed a bit of cheering up, up they popped. A couple of bulbs produced 6 stems, all the rest produced 8. And the fragrance, for someone standing in the centre of the semi-circle, was positively heady. They’ve prospered each year since then.

If these bulbs are new to you, forget the normal hyacinths (which someone once described as looking like loo brushes stuck into the soil – and I can’t get that image out of my head.) Instead, think of rather muscular bluebells, just white. Well, you can get them in pink and blue as well, but I like the white ones. Each individual flower is the size and shape of a standard hyacinth flower, but they are more loosely arranged on the stem, and much more natural.

And yet, they aren’t natural. The bulbs are tampered with, to produce the multiflora effect. I didn’t know that.

it is a procedure that takes a full five years. The bulbs are grown for 3 or 4 years, then harvested in July after flowering. In the middle of the bulb is the embryo of next year’s flower.

The new flower is removed by cutting a small hole in the centre of the base plate, which sounds a little bit like a variation of the propagation practice of scooping – removing the whole base plate except for the rim, after which the bulb produces a lot of baby bulbs around that rim.

Instead, though, the multiflora hyacinth-to-be produces small bulbs inside the original bulb. In October, the whole bulbs are planted out, by hand. Machines can’t be relied on to get the bulb pointy bit up (I’m sure we can all relate to that). During the growing season that follows, new leaves start in the base plate between each layer of the bulb, and the young bulbs start to grow.

The summer after, the lumpy bumpy bulbs are ready to harvest. They are more a cluster of satellites living in the same skin, and are definitely different to normal bulbs. And you can see why they’re more expensive.

I’m often asked whether these multiflora hyacinths will eventually revert to normal, full-sized hyacinth bulbs. I’ve no idea, but they haven’t done so far, as you can see from the pictures above. Maybe I’ll find an expert to ask!

Autumn Jewels

We’ve had a bit of a break from looking at our members’ lovely gardens, so I’m going to pick some out in a sort of retrospective. The timing is a bit tricky, because it’s also the start of the Gardening Groups’ Advent Calendar, a daily piece of virtual chocolate which is shared by email. So we might get an odd entry here before Christmas, but I think most of the retrospective will be between Christmas and the start of Spring term in mid-January.

Still, here is a lovely reminder of an earlier part of autumn.

I hope everyone is safe and well.

The Soul of the Rose

John William Waterhouse ‘The Soul of the Rose’ 1908 (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

It’s been a bit of an absence – there’s a lot going on here – and I have a file full of images that people have sent me for the blog. I think a good thing to do would be to have a retrospective of these in the long, dark days of winter.

In the meantime, one of those images gave me pause for thought – and those thoughts turned to John William Waterhouse and his painting ‘The Soul of the Rose‘.

I’m sure we’ve all had a moment like this – the heady scent of a rose catches you as you pass by, and you have to stop and get closer. Was that all that Waterhouse depicted in this canvas? I don’t think so.

There are different interpretations of this picture. Christies, who sold it in 1981 for £1,140,000 have an essay to accompany its illustration on their site. It’s here if you want to read it, under the heading ‘Lot Essay’:

The premise is that it is rooted ultimately in the 13th Century romance Roman de la Rose by Guillaume Lorris. In it, the narrator embarks on a journey with the god of love, who leads him to a rose symbolising perfect love.

Hmmm. That’s not my preferred interpretation.

An alternative comes from the John William Waterhouse website. They, too, have an essay, and you can read it here:

This essay tells us that ‘The somewhat romantic belief of art critics is that the female’s adoration of the smell of the rose in her hand is due to it sparking a memory of a lover, perhaps someone lost or away from her company. This fits with the depicted role of women up to only recently as sensitive creatures who lived in the debt and admiration of their male counterparts.’

Well, maybe, bearing in mind the date of the painting. But this same essay makes, to my mind, a much more important suggestion – that the painting was inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, ‘Maud‘, published in 1855.

I confess, I’ve never read ‘Maud‘, having been given to understand that it makes ‘Romeo and Juliet‘ look positively cheery. And yet, despite this being perhaps the darkest of Tennyson’s poems, it also contains some of his most lyrical work.

If pressed, I could vaguely recall the first few lines:

Come into the garden, Maud,
      For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
      I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
      And the musk of the rose is blown.

The garden in question is that of Harrington Hall, Spilsby, Lincolnshire, not a million miles from here, and that garden certainly saw some activity that inspired the poem.

Part 1 of the poem is here:

You can read all the other parts, too, ( I definitely will be doing that) and there are many of them. But for this discussion, part 1 is the important one.

The garden described is beautiful, and it contains references to many flowers that could be used in planning such a garden – perhaps someone would like a Maud border…

It also contains the important piece:

And the soul of the rose went into my blood,’

And there we have it, I think: the nub of the painting.

Have you ever really allowed yourself to fully enjoy the the fragrance of the headiest rose? To allow yourself to be subsumed by that fragrance and to clear your mind of everything else? Perhaps only the old roses do this, but it seems to me that there is a chemical reaction in the blood, a physical feeling of…delight. Of the ecstasy that we see on the face of the woman in the painting.

No wonder that so many rituals use incense, or that the Romans fragranced their orgies with basketfuls of rose petals, or that Attar of Roses has been around for so many centuries.

That is what I think Waterhouse is showing us. The soul of the rose going in to our blood and working its magic.

This has been a fairly philosophical series of thoughts, but I’m not apologetic!

And the image that got me thinking? It came from one of our members, and it was entitled ‘The Last Rose of Summer’. Here it is:

The Last Rose of Summer

I wonder, could this be ‘Josephine Bruce’, which had a wonderful scent, and this deep red colour, but has fallen out of favour nowadays?

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday Treats

Last week’s Tuesday Treats answers are here:

How did you do?

Hopefully, this is the last week of my long hiatus from teaching. My course starts again next week, online for the Autumn Term, provided I can get onto the last part of the training. There is some performance anxiety here…

The course is enrolling now (anyone and everyone welcome, despite the performance anxiety!), and the first week’s course materials are available to students. That gives me a bit of a teaser. The images up there for the first week’s Nature Table are the ones I would expect to use for here. Today. Hmmm.

Also, I need to consult with the students who have run a mile from the idea of an online course (the way I feel right now, I can’t blame them!) on what to do about Tuesday Treats – the course runs on a Tuesday.

So, for this week, I’m flipping things round again. This is just to keep you on your toes, you realise…

Today, we’ll have a look at a finished project we’ve seen taking shape. I present to you – The Shed! Well done to those gardeners. It looks good enough to host a cocktail party (even socially distanced!)

Isn’t that great!


Tuesday Treats

It’s Tuesday again, and I am overflowing with images! Enough for next week, too, I think, or almost. Let’s see how many I use here.

Last week’s Tuesday Treats on Friday have been edited to show the identities of our mysteries, and you can see it here:

So, today’s Nature Table… See what you make of these:

1 Edited to add:

Japanese anemone, Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ AGM. One of the best, discovered in Verdun, France in 1858. Grows to 1.5 metres.

2 Edited to add:

Another Japanese anemone, Anemone x hybrida ‘Pretty Lady Susan’. This is part of the ‘Pretty Lady’ series, from Blooms of Bressingham via Mr. Yoshihiro Kanazawa of Japan.

3 Edited to add:

And yes, another Japanese anemone, Anemone x hybrida, an old planting, name lost in the mists of time.

4 Edited to add:

Arum italicum ssp italicum ‘Marmoratum’ AGM, late summer spike of orange-red berries. ‘Marmoratum’ means ‘marbled’, referring to the white-veined leaves.

5 Edited to add:

Lathyrus latifolius ‘Rosa Perle’ AGM. Commonly known as ‘Pink Pearl’. The only thing these lovely perennial sweet peas lack is a scent. So, grow a few scented ones through them. And yes, the flower on the right is a passionflower, Passiflora caerulea.

6 Both flowers and foliage, please.

Edited to add:

A lovely clump of Cyclamen hederifolium AGM, growing next to a Heuchera.

7 This shrub is flowering for the second time.

Edited to add:

Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ AGM. Well, that was a mouthful. The gardener tells me this is a second flowering – I think that’s unusual, unless you know different?

8 Edited to add:

The beautiful blue Salvia patens AGM. The image was sent as ‘Blue Ensign’, but I can’t find any reference to that cultivar. However, many names such as ‘Oxford Blue’ swirl around the species itself.

Good luck! Get as far as you can with the name, even if it’s only the genus. Further is good, though. Answers next week.

Edited to add: So, how did you get on? Treat yourself to some virtual chocolates! Well done!



I’ve got some images for you that were originally slated for last Friday, but got bumped because of the Tuesday Treats debacle.  So, let’s have a look at them now.

We’ve already seen a couple of the images that this gardener sent – the Choisya and the Fatsia, and these are also of the foliage plantings that add so much to her garden at all seasons.  See what you think.



I hope you enjoyed that little stroll down the foliage path!

Please can it be Tuesday again?

When I posted on Tuesday, I understood what I was doing. When I come to post today, WordPress have changed EVERYTHING, and I really mean EVERYTHING, and I have no clue. There’s just this blank page with no apparent controls. How do I add images? No clue.

So, there’s my whinge.

Let’s see how much of a mess I can make of this.

Hopefully, here are some plants on the Nature Table. See how many you can identify.

1 Edited to add

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Goldilocks’ – short lived half-hardy perennials that are grown as annuals in the UK. Sometimes called Gloriosa Daisies. Grown from seed sown this spring. ‘Goldilocks’ has a Fleuroselect Gold Medal.

2 Edited to add

Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Herbstsonne’ AGM. The cultivar name means ‘Autumn Sun’. This is a robust clump-forming perennial, with a long flowering period.

Here’s a closer look

3 Edited to add:

Don’t try eating this. It’s poisonous.

Aconitum napellus flowers for ages, with these gorgeous royal blue flowers. Just put it at the back of the border, and not in the salad.

4 Edited to add:

Clematis ‘Arabella’ AGM. This is a non-climbing scrambling clematis. We saw it early in the season when it started flowering, and it’s still going strong.

5 Edited to add:

Sorghum nigrum, Black Millet. An annual grass that is grown round the world as a food crop. It also deserves its place in a mixed border, and I’ll see whether we can save seed.

6 Here’s something different. I’ll tell you that the plant is a fuchsia. It’s the caterpillar I’m interested in.

Edited to add:

Yes, these are the caterpillars of the Elephant Hawk Moth, and apparently they like fuchsias. The adult is spectacular. Look it up.

Here’s another one

I’m going to quit there while I’m nearly ahead.

Next week, Tuesday Treats will be back on Tuesday as normal, and with some of the lovely images that have come in following my plea!

Good luck with these!

Edited to add: So, how did you get on? Treat yourself to a lovely chocolate biscuit.

Tuesday Treats

It’s Tuesday Treats time again, and I have a small problem.  Before I get into that, last week’s Tuesday Treats has been edited to show the identities of the plants.  It’s here:

So, the problem for today…  I’m certain that I had more images picked out for today, but I can’t find them.  No, they aren’t accidentally deleted – I checked.  I do seem to have a large cluster of unread emails from a few weeks back, and I wonder whether they’re in among those, but it’s midnight, and too late to sensibly go hunting in my bulging in-box.

So, just for this week, we’re going to have a look at someone’s garden today, and we’ll have the Nature Table on Friday.  Provided I can find some plants to put on it…

All the following came from one of our gardeners, and are images of her lovely garden in August.

Glynis's Garden August 2 A


Glynis's Garden August 3 A


Glynis's Garden August 4 A


Glynis's Garden August 5 A


Glynis's garden August A


Thanks for sharing.

Divide and Conquer


One of our gardeners had a rather crowded Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’.  So, a couple of weeks ago, here’s what happened:

1   Yes, a bit crowded…

Glynis Hosta Mouse Ears 1 A


2  No sign of vine weevil, at least.  Good root systems here…

Glynis Hosta Mouse Ears 2 A


3   Plants for free!

Glynis Hosta Mouse Ears 3 A


Good job well done, there.  Even better, it’s pretty much not stopped raining since that clump was split up, which will help the divisions settle in to their new circumstances.

Tuesday Treats

It’s time for us to guess our way round the plant world again!

Last week’s Tuesday Treats has been updated to show identities, and can be seen here:

Well done if you got all those.

Here we have this week’s bouquet…

1  Edited to add:

Hemerocallis ‘Sammy Russell’.  This was introduced in 1951 by Hugh Russell, one of the most influential American daylily breeders of the 20th century.  It starts flowering early, and continues after most other Hemerocallis have finished.

Jo's Hemerocallis Sammy Russell


2  Also, do you know which group within its type this belongs to?

Edited to add:  This is Dahlia ‘Mary Evelyn’, and is a collerette dahlia.

Jo's Dahlia Mary Evelyn


3  And again, what is it, and which group within its type does this belong to?

Edited to add:

This is Clematis ‘Princess Kate’.  It is a Group 3 clematis for pruning, and is in the texensis group – these clematis have lovely bell-like flowers.

Meg's Clematis Princess Kate A


4  Recognise it?  Surprised?  I saw this flowering a week ago.

Edited to add:

Yes, this is a Hellebore, a double flowered Helleborus x hybridus, which would have flowered in Spring, but is now in flower again.  I can only assume that the hot weather in April and May, followed by a period of hard frosts in early June, made this plant think that it had gone through 4 seasons, and it’s now Spring again.

Hugh's hellebore A


5  The yellow thing.  But have a go at the others if you can.

Edited to add:

Choisya ternata, the Mexican Orange Blossom.  I don’t have the cultivar name, but it’s probably ‘Sundance’.

With it, we have Trachelospermum jasminoides (the climber), and Cotoneaster horizontalis under the Choisya.

Meg's foliage 6 A


6  Edited to add:

Fatsia japonica AGM.

Meg's foliage 10 A


7  The orange thing.

Edited to add:  No-one got this right.  It’s Agastache aurantiaca ‘Apricot Sprite’ with lovely mint-scented foliage.  I grew it from seed this year, and like all the seeds I grew, it suffered from the uneven weather, but it’s come good, although it should be a bit taller.

It’s sold as an annual, but is a tender perennial.  Well, there’s a challenge.  I haven’t got any seed left, so I wonder whether I can overwinter the plants in the greenhouse?  Can’t hurt to try…

Jo's Lavatera and Agastache


8  This is from the Dorothy Clive Garden

Edited to add:

This is Bougainvillea.  I’ve no idea which sort, so I defer to anyone who does!

Hugh's Dorothy Clive Garden (66)


9  Edited to add:

This is a Monarda.  Its owner has put in the comments that it’s Monarda ‘Kardinal’, and she should know…

Glynis's Monarda A


Good luck!

So, how did you do?  Have a chocolate digestive if you got any of them right.

Well done!

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