From the allotment


We’ve seen Willow the border collie before.  Last time she’d been getting underfoot, um, helping dig a pond.

This time, she’s been helping dig a new bed for the cabbages, and she definitely needs a bit of a shower down.

Nat's willow helping A


Her owner says that it went from miniature jungle to workable soil, seemingly in 5 minutes flat.  I wonder how she is at turning the compost heap?

It’s said that dogs have owners and cats have staff.  Looking at the state of that pup, I’m guessing she’s got staff as well!

Seriously, what a great companion to have.

Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday Treats


Time for Tuesday Treats again!

Last week’s Tuesday Treats has been edited to give you the answers, and they’re here:

See what you can make of this week’s Nature Table – all the pictures except one were taken on Monday afternoon, so they are all flowering right now.  And apart from one, they are all from my garden.  Excuse the weeds….


1  Edited to add:  This is one of the Bishop Dahlias – Bishop of Oxford, the single’ish flowers much loved by bees and other pollinators.

Jo's Dahlia Bishop of Oxford A


2  This flowerhead is almost 12 inches across.

Edited to add:  Allium cristophii AGM, a beautiful and long-lasting explosion of silvery-lilac stars.

Jo's Allium cristophii A


3  Edited to add:  Campanula glomerata ‘Caroline’.  This campanula, the clustered bellflower (or Twelve Apostles, as we used to call them when I was a kid) is normally a deep purplish blue with yes, about 12 flowers per cluster.  ‘Caroline is a newer cultivar with soft lilac-pink flowers.

Jo's Campanula glomerata Caroline A


4  Edited to add:  Clematis ‘Arabella’.  This was raised in the UK in 1994 by Barry Fretwell, and is a non-climbing clematis, in the Integrifolia group.  Here, it’s scrambling through other plants.

Jo's Clematis Arabella A


5  Edited to add:  This is another clematis, Clematis ‘Hendryetta’.  It was introduced from Holland in 2003, and is another non-climbing cultivar in the Integrifolia group.  It’s a seedling from the lovely ‘Alionushka’.

Jo's Clematis Hendryetta A


6  Edited to add:  This is a martagon lily.  It’s Lilium martagon ‘Claude Shride’, with these gorgeous shiny flowers.

Jo's Lilium martagon Claude Shride A


7  This is bidding fair to be this year’s Public Enemy number 1.  Can you hear the gritted teeth?  It just keeps on coming back!

Edited to add:  Lysimachia punctata, or yellow loosestrife.  The RHS calls it ‘a determined spreader’.  I concur.  It has pink rhizomes that could give lessons to bindweed, and if you’re tardy in deadheading, it will seed freely.  It’s said to be named after Lysimachus, the Macedonian king of Thrace, while ‘punctata’ refers to dots of colour in the flower.

Jo's Lysimachia punctata A


8  Can you also identify the plant in the background?

Edited to add:  I think it’s a marsh orchid, or one of their hybrids.  The marsh orchids (Southern, Northern, Early), together with other Dactylorhiza cousins such as the Common Spotted Orchids, are promiscuous, and hybridize freely.  So do their children and their children’s children.  Even orchid experts can’t reliably tell them apart.  So, it’s one of those.  It appeared in my lawn, and is now scattering seed around.  It seems to prefer to seed into old, neglected pots, so every one has to be carefully checked before the trip to the compost heap.

The background plant is not Corydalis, but it’s a cousin.  It’s a native wildflower, Common Fumitory, Fumaria officinalis.  This plant grew from a seedling in 3 weeks.  A week later, it’s even larger, with many more flowers.  It’s a very welcome annual.

Jo's Marsh Orchid A


9  Edited to add:  This is not an oriental poppy.  It is that very distinctive species, the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum.  The blue-grey foliage is always the give away, and so are the large, smooth seedheads.  In rich soils, they are large, architectural plants.  They’re annuals, but very much more striking if they can be grown as biennials, with autumn or late summer sowing.  And no, you can’t get opium from these ornamental sorts.

Jo's Papaver somniferum A


10  Edited to add:  Penstemon ‘Hidcote Pink’ AGM, a lovely perennial penstemon.

Jo's Penstemon Hidcote Pink A


11  Edited to add:  I bought this as Thalictrum speciosissimum, but apparently it’s now Thalictrum flavum ssp glaucum.  It gets to about 5 ft, with large heads of these clear yellow fluffy flowers, and aquilegia-like blue-grey foliage.

Jo's Thalictrum flavum ssp glaucum A


12  This is a real mystery shrub.  One of our class members has asked me to identify it, and I have no idea.  Anyone recognise it?

Edited to add:  I think the jury is still out until the plant flowers!

Lesley's Mystery Plant A


So, there we are, a good dozen for you to get your teeth into.


Good luck!

Edited to add:  Well done everyone who had a try.  Have a chocolate digestive and a cup of tea!  And very well done indeed to anyone who identified some of these.  Have another biscuit!



‘Sumer is icumen in’


We’re in the first days of summer – real summer, not the meteorological summer that weather experts keep trying to foist on us.  So, this 800-year-old song seems an appropriate title – it means ‘summer has arrived’, and it has.  The rain is going away again, and temperatures will rise this week.  More watering then….

Here are some summer flowers from our gardeners.


Rose ‘Candy Land’

Nat's Rose Candy Land A

One of our gardeners got this as a half price bargain – and it’s a striking addition.

‘Candy Land’ was bred in the USA by Tom Carruth in 2006.  It’s a climber that can reach about 15 feet, but if pruned hard in spring, can be kept as a large shrub.


Nothing says ‘summer’ like a delphinium and, no offence intended, but I don’t think that anywhere does delphiniums like the English Garden.  Another of our gardeners has sent the following two images of her beautiful blue plants, teamed with some lovely tall campanulas – perhaps C. latifolia, from the look of them.

Meg's delphiniums and campanulas A


Meg's garden view A


And from the same gardener, another herald of summer, a pot full of eye-popping Asiatic lilies.

Meg's Asiatic lily A


Thanks for sharing!

Simply lovely


Sometimes the simplest things are the best.  One of our class members has sent me these images.  Two are of roses.  I don’t have their names, or anything about them, but they are very pretty.  The third picture is something a little more unusual.


Hugh's rose 1


Hugh's rose 2


And now for something different.  This is a whorl of flowers from Phlomis russeliana AGM, or Turkish Sage.  The stout stems carry several whorls of these soft yellow flowers, and when the flowers have fallen, remain architecturally attractive, a spire of green pincushions.

Hugh's Phlomis russeliana


Thanks for sharing!

Summer Solstice


Saturday 20th June is the Summer Solstice, at least in the UK.  We went into lockdown pretty much on the Spring Equinox, when day and night are equal in length, and here we are at the Summer Solstice, the longest day, when the sun is seen to stand still at the northern-most point in its travels along the horizon, and starts to return south again.  These were – and to some, still are – days of mystical significance.  The time between them is one quarter of the year.  That’s how long we’ve been locked up for.  Now that things are easing up, let’s hope that by the Autumn Equinox, we’re back to a more normal carry on.

Here are today’s lovely images, from one of our gardeners.


Philadelphus Belle Étoile AGM

This is a compact version of the usually towering Philadelphus, or Mock Orange, and a very garden-worthy shrub.

Hugh's Philadelphus Belle Etoile 2


It has these large white single flowers, with the characteristic maroon flush in the centre.  It is very highly scented, perfuming the garden with the scent of oranges.  For non-French speakers, the name means Beautiful Star (as in the ones that twinkle in the sky).

Hugh's Philadelphus Belle Etoile 1


Here’s the white version of our native foxglove, Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora, self-seeded, I’m told, as foxgloves love to do.

Hugh's White foxglove self seeded


I have a little tale to tell about foxgloves, prompted by this picture.  All the websites that I have consulted this week tell me that rabbits do not like foxgloves.  Because foxgloves were the original source of the heart medicine digitalis, the plants are very toxic, especially the leaves.  A rabbit might have a small nibble at a leaf, but no more than that, because they don’t like the taste.

Earlier this week, the rabbits that invade my garden felled a blushed ivory foxglove flower spike, as a lumberjack would fell a tree, and ate every single leaf down to the stem.  Then they ate all the leaves on its neighbour.

Do I have a self-medicating rabbit with pre-existing heart problems, or are there a lot of rabbits with serious palpitations down in their burrow?

Thanks for sharing those lovely images!

Three Pretties


I was running out of images, and now I have a pool of pretties.  Here are three, from one gardener.


Cytisus (Broom)

I’m not sure which one this is – it looks like ‘Lena’ or ‘Goldfinch’.  Whichever, it’s a real pop of colour.

Hugh's Cytisus



It’s been a very good year for alliums – they have enjoyed the hot spring, and some sorts are still going strong.

Hugh's allium 2


Scilla peruviana

You might be forgiven for thinking this bulb comes from Peru.  That certainly seems to have been the belief when it was named in the 16th century.  Its common name is much more accurate – Portuguese squill, because it does, indeed, come from Portugal.  There is a possibility that the confusion arose because the bulbs arrived on a ship called ‘Peru’.  A lovely bulb, well worth looking out for.

Hugh's Scilla peruviana


Thanks for sharing!

A Visit to Harlow Carr


The Northern Horticultural Society was founded in 1946, with the aim of developing horticulture with special reference to conditions in the North.  In 1950, it opened the Harlow Carr Botanic Gardens in Harrogate.  However, in 2001, the NHS merged with the RHS, and Harlow Carr became an RHS site.

It’s a lovely – and busy – spot to visit, although it’s been a lot less busy during lockdown.  It’s open again now, and one of our class members went for a visit.  Here are some of her pictures from the Bog Garden.


Glynis's Harlow Carr 1 A

Yes, it’s rhubarb, but not exactly as you know it.  If you have rhubarb and let it go to seed, you get something a bit like this, but not nearly as elegant.  This one is probably Rheum palmatum.


Glynis's Harlow Carr 2 A

Harlow Carr has some excellent plantings of Candelabra Primulas.  I gather they’ve made another one – give it twelve months and this will be magnificent.


Glynis's Harlow Carr 3 A

Here are some of the primulas, with a stand of hostas that seem not to have a single slug or snail toothmark on them.  How do they do that?.  And the blue flowers, shading into violet, are Himalayan poppies – Meconopsis betonicifolia – that many of us lust after.  It’s an ephemeral thing, demanding in the conditions it requires, and most often acting as a monocarpic plant – that is, one that may live as a rosette of leaves for several years, but once it flowers, it dies.  Some of the other species hybrids, such as the lovely ‘Lingholm’, are more reliably perennial, but they aren’t betonicifolia…  Mind you, neither is betonicifolia – it should probably be called M. baileyi, its original name.  And see next picture, too…


Glynis's Harlow Carr 5 A


Glynis's Harlow Carr 4 A

These may not be the true cultivar, but they seem to have more than a touch of ‘Hensol Violet’ about them, a lovely deep violet variety of Meconopsis baileyi.


Thanks for sharing these!

If you want to visit Harlow Carr at the moment, you have to book a timed slot in advance…



Looking good now


Here are three images from one gardener of what’s looking good right now.


Geranium ‘Ann Thomson’ AGM

Hugh's Geranium Ann Thomson A

This is a more compact version of Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’, so seems to carry more flowers.  It was an introduction from a garden in the Orkney Islands, so should be up to indifferent weather.  It has a scrambling habit, and one suggestion is to make the most of that by using some birch twig supports to let it show off a little more.


Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ AGM

Hugh's Geum Mrs Bradshaw

Easily grown from seed, this lovely semi-double geum makes a bright splash of scarlet-orange, and will keep flowering if dead-headed.  The seed is often sold as The Two Ladies, including the golden yellow ‘Lady Stratheden’ AGM.


A striking piece of wildflower meadow

Hugh's natural patch

The bees will love this!


Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday Treats

It’s Nature Table time again.

Answers to last week’s Tuesday Treats are here:

Let’s see what we have in store for you:


1  Edited to add:  This is Sisyrinchium striatum.  It’s one of those where sellers keep trying to invent common names so that people will love it.  The latest effort is Pale-eyed Grass, presumably because a very pretty smaller relative is called Blue-eyed Grass.  Sisyrinchium are not, of course, grasses – you knew that, right?  They are relatives of the Iris.

Rob's Sisyrinchium striatum A


2  Edited to add:  This is the hardy succulent Sempervivum arachnoideum, or Cobweb Houseleek, from the Alps, the Apennines and the Carpathians.  You probably see a lot of them if you go mountaineering in Europe, then.  If you have a sempervivum, do not give away all the little baby plants to your friends.  Here, the central rosette is flowering, and once it’s done it will die.  So, keep some of the babies for next year.

Rob's sempervivum A


3  Edited to add:  Glorious Candelabra primulas, from one of the local parks, backed by a lovely orange rhododendron.

Rob's candelabra primulas A


4  Edited to add:  This is one of the newer dwarf alstroemerias – so pretty.

Rob's alstroemeria 4 A


5  Edited to add:  Not a true scabious, but Cephalaria gigantea.  It comes from the Caucasus and grows to about 2 metres, most of which is thin, wiry stems.  You just can’t get a photo of them without bees getting in the way!

Nat's Cephalaria gigantea A


6  Edited to add:  Alchemilla mollis.  The way rain sits on the leaves is just magical.

Hugh's alchemilla mollis


7  Edited to add:  Passiflora caerulea, Passionflower.  If you don’t know the story associated with the structure of the flower, do look it up.  You won’t think of the plant in the same way again.

Hugh's Passion flower


8  What do you think is happening here?

Edited to add:  These are the flowers of the common elderberry, Sambucus nigra, and someone is making that wonderful, fragrant summer drink, elderflower cordial.

Glynis's Elderflower cordial making A


9  This is not my image – it’s from Butterfly Conservation.  I saw an insect that I’m sure is this in my garden today, and I have never, ever, seen one like this before.  In the sunlight, it was coal black.  What do you think it is?

Edited to add:  I’ve now seen three more of these – black in the sunlight but glinting blue and green like a magpie’s wing as they fly.  It’s a day-flying moth, the Chimney Sweeper.  The caterpillars live primarily on Pignut, a relative of cow parsley.

Chimney sweeper moth Odezia atrata


Good luck!

And thanks to those of our gardeners who have shared their pictures for this.

Edited to add:  Well done to everyone who had a go.  And well done indeed if you got any of them right.  Treat yourselves to some chocolate!



One thing we do almost every week in the gardening classes (the ones where we meet, rather than any virtual substitute!) is to give spare plants away.  Some weeks we’ll have half the garden in there.

It’s nice to see what became of those plants.  One of our gardeners has sent me a couple of lovely images of her garden, featuring plants that I have given away.


Meg's my lupin astrantia and Diascia personata A

She tells me that the lupins, astrantia and diascia personata were from me.

The lupins were Russell lupins, from Kings Seeds, which germinated and grew very well.  I grew a number of the separate colours, and all have come true.  The diascia is from cuttings – all that is needed with this plant is to chop a few pieces off and stick them in a bottle of water.  Hey presto, lots of little plants!  The astrantia is interesting.  This would have been from self-sown seedlings, and looks like a cross between Astrantia ‘Wattisfield White’, with large white flowers, and Astrantia ‘Gill Richardson’, a very dark red cultivar, which are growing quite close together.

I’m glad they’ve all grown so well.

Meg's garden view A

And a lovely rose behind them.

Thanks for sharing!