Treat: Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

Iris unguicularis 'Walter Butt'
Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

Today’s post is in response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Treat.”

I have been completely enthralled by the flowers of Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’, a real treat on a cool misty day.  This is the plant’s third year of flowering and last year the paltry two flowers didn’t start to appear until Boxing Day.  So I was completely stunned when something pale and paper like appeared towards the top of the steps at the weekend.  On investigating I discovered not one but three flowers and when I cleared away some of the fallen leaves there are clear signs that there are many flowers to follow – how thrilling.

As for Walter Butt who the plant is named after, he was the former owner of E Bertram Anderson’s house in Porlock.  Anderson (1885-1971), a distinguished plantsman,  worked as a chemist and bacteriologist before retiring to Porlock in Somerset. He was a founder member of the RHS Joint Rock Garden Plant Committee which first met in 1936. Other members included E A Bowles and Walter Ingerswen both with huge reputations in the alpine and bulb worlds and reading the article about Anderson in the RHS ‘The Plantsman’ (Dec 2010) it is clear that Anderson was one of those plantsmen who seemed to have been part of a cycle of eminent horticulturists all sharing information and plants. Anderson is well known for  his raising of the beautiful Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ (Katherine Hodgkin was the wife of his friend Elliot Hodgkin). He was also responsible for raising Galanthus ‘John Gray’ and Galanthus ‘Mighty Atomas well as collaborating with Helen Ballard in the raising of new hellebores and numerous other plants.

Going back to my iris, Anderson considered it as ‘noteworthy because of its size, very pale lavender flowers, almost white in the sun, and its strong perfume’ a description I completely agree with – indeed it is a real treat.

 

My Garden This Weekend – 18/10/15

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The arrival of Autumn has been more noticeable this weekend with the first flurry of fallen leaves on the paths.  But just as you start to feel sad you spot the first signs of snowdrop leaves beginning to push their way through the soil and you are reminded that Spring isn’t that far away.

With that in mind I have been busy planting more bulbs.  The narcissus and crocus went in a few weeks ago so this weekend it was the turn of Alliums and Dutch iris.  I discovered Dutch Iris, or Florists Iris, a few years ago more by accident than design.  I think I must have bought some in one of the bargain buckets at the local garden centre without really engaging in what sort of iris they were.  However when they flowered they were beautiful although a little stiff on their own at the front of the border.  I have since learnt to plant them further into the border so they grow up amongst the stems of early perennials such as Aquilegias.

Callicarpa (Beauty Berry)
Callicarpa (Beauty Berry)

I have been tidying up the patio which is cluttered with pots of perennial seedlings.  Some have been tucked away in the cold frames to give them protection over the winter whilst others have been planted out.  Some 10 Barnhaven Primulas have gone into the Cottage Garden Border along the edge of the bottom path and under the roses.  They have been grown from a ‘Enthusiasts Mix’ so who knows what their flowers will be like but the idea is that they will compliment the spring bulbs and add some real colour that I will be able to enjoy from the house.  I also planted out 15 variegated white flowering honesty in the woodland border.  I wonder is 15 is a little over the top given the size of my garden but hopefully they will add a magical zing amongst the young shrubs.

Impatiens stenantha
Impatiens stenantha

This week’s scare-mongering by the media that we are about to be plunged into some sort of ice age has focussed my mind that although it all seems quite extreme I do need to make sure that I have taken care of my tender plants just in case we get a sudden frost or significant drop in temperatures.  The Pelargoniums have been cut back and stored away in the greenhouse along with the succulents and tender ferns.  Their place on the outside staging has now been taken by pots of bulbs.

Anigozanthos flavidus (Kangaroo Paw)
Anigozanthos flavidus (Kangaroo Paw)

There are still some tender plants outside such as the Kangaroo Paw and a Burgmansia which is full of wonderful white trumpet flowers.  We have allocated a space for them in the garage and as soon as the temperatures drop to a point when I start to worry they will quickly be moved inside.  In the meantime I am really enjoying them especially the Kangaroo Paw which I grew from seed about 4 years ago and am so thrilled with.  Its flowers are quite magical especially when the sunlight is at the right angle and back light them.

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There is still a little space in the green house for one or two more specials but I am pleased with how good it all looks.

Plant of the Moment: Salvia Phyllis Fancy

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There are some plants which worm their way into my heart quite unexpectedly and I become completely obsessed with them.  Melianthus major is one but it is getting tough competition this year from Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’.

Salvias are a family I have toyed with over recent years but they haven’t really grabbed my attention.  I have a couple of hardy shrubby ones, the dark blue Salvia ‘Amistad’ and Salvia involucrata ‘Boutin’. I really like the latter although its hugh Barbie pink flowers on gangly rangy stems can be hard to accommodate in the border.  However, Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy is a far more elegant affair, a real lady of the border.

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Her elegant stems tower above the foliage with the flower stems gracefully bending downwards.  In the photograph above they are towering over the favoured Melianthus so you can see how much height they can bring to the border.  This plant is a two year old cutting and has really put on substantial growth this year. It is a taller form of Salvia ‘Waverly’, which is a leucantha hybrid.

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The glaucous blue foliage adds a nice contrast to other plants in the border and the leaves are sufficiently large enough to have their own presence.

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In my opinion the flowers of Salvia Phyllis Fancy outstrip Salvia Armistad by a long way and I really can’t understand why it is not more popular. The combination of the lilac white flowers with deep lilac calyxes remains me of an elegant piece of 1920s costume jewellery.  The pale flowers show up in the border, twinkling in the sunshine unlike Armistad whose dark blue flowers in my garden create a dull dark spot in the border.

As with the other more exotic looking salvias, Salvia Phyllis Fancy is frost hardy so  here in the UK I will be taking measures to protect it over winter.  I think I will heavily mulch the larger of my two plants and lift the smaller one.  I have also taken cuttings which I hope are rooting well in the greenhouse.

I was lucky enough to acquire my original plant from my local HPS group where it had been introduced by Olive Mason, a real plants woman, but I know it is available from a number of nurseries including Ashwood Nursery near Birmingham.

My Garden This Weekend – 4th October 2015

IMG_2970What a lovely autumn weekend.  Misty cool mornings followed by warm sunny afternoons. I do love Autumn; its my second favourite season after Spring.

Turning leaves on witch hazel
Turning leaves on witch hazel

We were busy with some family gatherings and a need to buy a new wheelbarrow – yes my lovely purple wheelbarrow is no more. But I did find time to start the mammoth bulb planting project I have on my hands.  I would like to say that this was planned but whilst it may have started like that the reality is that whims and too many opportunities to buy from wonderful bulb merchants have led to a glut of bulbs.  I did make some notes and plans when I place my annual bulb order with Avon Bulbs but then there was last weekends purchases at the AGS Bulb Day and a lack of self-control at the local garden centre when we were buying the wheelbarrow.

Rosa 'Lady Emma Hamilton'
Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’

Continuing with my learning to love my front garden project I have planted some Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ and also Sternbergia lutea near the front door.  Also more Colchicums were added to what is sort of becoming a collection.  Both Colchicum agrippinum and Colchicum speciosum album were purchased at the Bulb Day and have been planted out in the back garden with a dash of slug pellets to keep the molluscs at bay.  For the last two years I have grown lots of small bulbs in terracotta pots but this year I have decided to plant the hardy ones out in the ground, mainly to free up space in the greenhouse but I believe a lot of them will do better in the soil.  So I have been tipping out the pots and planting out ,or for those that need some protection repotting.  I was thrilled to discover that my two bulbs of Galanthus peshmenii have bulked up and there were 5 or 6 chips/bulbs.  Hopefully they will flower before Christmas.

Nerine bowdenii
Nerine bowdenii

I wanted to get on today as I am conscious of how much I want to get done before the winter hits but as is often the case with my gardening my plans went astray.  I have been conscious that the nights are getting colder and so I wanted to get my succulents in and under cover.  However, having tried sand in the deep staging this past year I have decided that it isn’t working well for me.  It retains too much moisture despite the drainage holes and moss has been growing.  So today I spent the morning digging out the sand and lugging it up the garden to go on the very top path.  We then filled the staging with horticultural grit.  The staging is the type you use for plunge beds so the drainage is very good and it won’t hold the water as much as the sand did.  This should reduce the moisture levels in the greenhouse and keep it warmer over the winter.

Sellinum wallichianum
Sellinum wallichianum

Having played mud pies with the soggy sand for the morning and spent a delightful afternoon with my niece I quickly stored away the succulents in their new refreshed home.  Needless to say the list of jobs I wanted to do this weekend hasn’t really been reduced at all but the greenhouse was a job that I had been dithering about for ages so I am really pleased I got it done – one less worry.

 

End of Month View – October 2014

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October seems to have been a wet and windy month but it has certainly been a busy month for me resulting in not much gardening time and of course with the evenings drawing in things aren’t going to improve until the Spring.

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I’m amazed at how much the succulents have filled out in the trough in the front garden.  I was worried when I planted it back in the spring that I hadn’t included enough plants but now I am far more happy.

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Here it is in situ and I am again pleased with how well the succulents planted in the border have done.  I do need to lift the Aeonium but I am going to risk the other succulents.

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The staging area is entering its winter period and is currently home to various pot of mixed alpines.  There are also a number of tender perennials in pots that are being collected here ready to overwinter storage. This area continues to work well and keeps my rapidly growing and eclectic collection of plants in some order.

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The patio border is now loosing its summer clothing but I know that there are lots of bulbs waiting to appear come the spring and this is one of the first areas I am going to tidy this weekend.  It is definitely more balanced since I moved the edgeworthia to the left which just shows you shouldn’t shoe horn plants into spaces rather than make an appropriate space for them.

2014_10300021The cottage border hasn’t really changed.  There are still some roses appearing but the plants are definitely shutting down for the winter now so I will give it  bit of a weed and tidy and wait for the bulbs to appear.  I am pleased with how this area has developed over the last couple of years.  When I dug up the back lawn two years ago I was completely intimidated by the space and procrastinated for ages trying to work out where and if to put in paths.  In the end the path showed itself as it was the logical route to the plants.  It was meant to be a narrow access path not a feature but its now my favourite route around the garden and also the cat’s favourite sun-bathing location.

I need to do some tweaking to the Big Border on the right of the path.  Its just a case of re-positioning some of the plants so the lower ones hide the legs of the taller ones.  I find that planting a slope, as this part of the border is, quite challenging as you not only have to take into account the view from the front of the border but also how the plants relate to each other as they go up the slope and in this case the border is also viewed as much from the back so in fact it is a sloping island bed – what a ridiculous idea!  I am still pondering moving the Cotinus at the end of the border.  Its rather large and whilst I know I can prune it I think the rest of the border will work better without it so I am considering a new location for the shrub.

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The far end of the Big Border is quite shady and home to several spring flowering woodland plants and a small Magnolia but I need to add some interest for other times of the year – maybe improve the foliage textures and find something to go in the bare patch in front of the magnolia.

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Finally my favourite part of the garden – the new seating area.  Its looking a little messy as I have added some fine gravel from the greenhouse which might not have been the best idea but with use the small grit will work its way down between the larger stones and hopefully it will look OK.  The tin bath pond is being emptied over the winter and I will start again in the spring once I have decided what plants to use in it.  It has had Zantedeschia in it but they won’t overwinter in the pond so I will probably store them overwinter under cover.

I think there is still a lot of interest in the garden but mainly from foliage which is rapidly becoming more important to me than the flowers. I do think that there needs to be some stronger structures included to give it winter interest so I will have a think about this over the coming months and see what ideas I can come up with.

If you would like to join in with the End of Month View meme you are very welcome.  There are no real rules, you can use it as you want. You can feature one area through the year or you can do a tour, whatever.  I do find it is very helpful in making you look critically at your garden but also it helps you to see how things have changed and improved over time.  All I ask is that you put a link to this post in your post and add a link to your post in the comments box.

 

 

 

 

My Garden This Weekend – 26th October 2014

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A nice horticultural weekend has been had with yesterday spent at my HPS group meeting.  As ever an excellent day was had with an interesting group discussion in the  morning about what is looking good in gardens mainly chrysanthemums. A bit of plant buying over lunch including a rather nice Nerine ‘Kinn McIntosh’ and a Polyxena corimrosa to add to the bulb collection. I also was given a rather large Viburnum which has been planted today; I am always amazed at how generous gardeners are not just with plants but with knowledge as well.

Polyxena corimrosa
Polyxena corimrosa

The afternoon talk was on mistletoe which I have to admit I thought might be a little dull but as with the fungi talk last year it was completely fascinating.  Our speaker, Jonathan Briggs, dispelled many myths about mistletoe, explained amongst other things how they were our only native white berry evergreen semi-parasitic plant, and how the real centre for mistletoe in this country is the Severn Valley including Herefordshire and Worcestershire.  Hardly surprising given that there seems to be mistletoe everywhere around here but I don’t think I had really noticed how little there was elsewhere.

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Despite the weather temperatures being warmer than normal for this time of year we have had really stormy skies and strong winds so some of the trees around the boundary are nearly bare of leaves and I need to start the big leaf collection.  I am particularly keen on the autumn colour of the Prunus kojo-n0-mai which simply glows at the moment.  Having planted the viburnum my focus today was planting the latest bulb purchases and making a decision about what should and shouldn’t be overwintered in the greenhouse.  I have been procrastinating and dithering because I didn’t really know what winter conditions I should give my bulbs or some of the borderline hardy plants.  Thanks to

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the contributors on the Alpine Garden Society forum I have received advice and I plan to leave the greenhouse unheated and open for the winter unless the temperatures really drop in which case I can shut the door and if really bad turn the heater on.  Research has made me decide to overwinter the tenders in the garage.  The majority will be allowed to dry out but there are some that need a bit of moisture and I will put these to stand in saucers so I don’t flood the garage.

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Having finally decided to dedicate the greenhouse to the bulbs I have relocated all the succulents and the bulbs have now taken over the whole space.  There are also some primula marginata which I have a love/hate relationship with as I haven’t managed to get them to flower this year and some crusted saxifragas which are the nearest to alpine dome plants I plan to get.

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I have even had a go at some cuttings which are in the propagator on the shelf.  I know how to take cuttings but I never have much luck.  Most of them, the fuschia and pomegranate, are from display stems brought to the club meeting yesterday but I have also had a go at some cuttings from Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’.  I expect I am a bit late doing these but who knows they may take which would be fab.  Actually I did manage to get the Malmaison carnation cutting I got from the club last year to take so who knows my luck might be changing. Moving all the pots around was quite time-consuming but at least its done now.  I have a few succulents I want to dig up from the garden and overwinter under cover but the rest will be left in situ and get a thick mulch of used compost  topped off with straw.

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I have a couple of days off at the end of the week as hopefully, weather permitting, the tree surgeons are coming to tackle the weeping willow which swamps the top of the garden.  This time next week, all things being equal, this view will be very different which I find exciting but also a little scary.

 

My Weekend This Week – 18/10/2014

Primrose Jack in Green
Primrose Jack in Green

Autumn has decidedly arrived although not the crisp dry Autumn that I prefer, instead it has been a bit grey and quite damp leading to soggy piles of leaves to collect; many have already been collected.

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I have noticed that despite the lower light levels there is still interest in the garden mainly from the various asters.  I think the smaller flowers add some real texture although I want to add some of the larger and brighter flowered asters next year and maybe some more rudbeckias to lift it all.

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The first job was to weed the slope where the Hardy Exotic Border is and plant a mass of mixed daffodil bulbs.  I am conscious that many of the plants will die back over the winter and I don’t really want a large bare area so I am hoping the daffodils will add some spring interest and colour until the main planting reappears.  As my garden is quite small I need to make ever area work as hard as possible. I am trying to adopt the idea of layered or succession planting as advocated by Christopher Lloyd and also David Culp but of course although I understand the logic and purpose putting it into action isn’t as easy as it appears. I think you really need to understand the plants well and I haven’t quite got there.  To help me out I am thrilled to have signed up for a study day at Great Dixter next June.

2014_10180007At the moment my starting point is to give each area a key season of interest.  So the border above is a spring/winter border with the conifers and some bulbs which will appear in the new year.  Today I have added a few cyclamen to give colour.  There is a sprawling geranium in the front of the border which looks wrong and will be relocated elsewhere.  I think a Japanese Painted Fern, yes I know another fern, would look good here and I fancy some white vinca or maybe periwinkle around the tree trunk.

A small achievement was finally sorting the area in front of the shed and fence.  This has been a bit of a dumping ground since the shed went in over a year ago and has been irritating me for some months.  My son plans to put a wood store here, the shed is his workshop, but he is so busy it is well down his list of priorities so I decided to take charge.  It is amazing how much things are improved with a quick tidy up, a thick layer of gravel, a bit of fence paint and a few pots.  The little auricula is far too small so I need to find one of my other pots to go here.  I am thinking maybe a pot of bedding cyclamen.

Elsewhere I planted out the shrubs I bought at the Hergest Croft plant fair last weekend.  The Hydrangea Merveilla Sanguine at the top of the slope to add to the foliage interest.  I was told it needs good moist conditions and maybe at the top of a slope isn’t the best place but the soil is very heavy clay based here and doesn’t seem to dry out too fast so fingers crossed.

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More bare soil but this is where the dead acer was and I am quite pleased with how it is coming along.  I have added a Leptospernum myrtifolium ‘Silver Sheen’ and Berberis seiboldii which is quite electric at the moment and should be wonderful in a year or two. Also planted out today is an unnamed double hellebore and some bedding cyclamen.  There are lots of spring perennials under the soil here at the front of the border so I have added the cyclamen for interest until I am reminded what is here and where it is!!

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I thought I would show you a border I replanted just over a year ago – The Japanese Fern Border.  A grand title for a small area alongside the patio which admittedly has other perennials other than ferns but they are all from Asia – apart from the stray Welsh Poppy in the back there.  The ferns have really filled out and it looks lush and full and makes me smile.

Just for Yvonne I have include the Primrose Jack in Green at the top of the post which I look at when I sit on the bench.

My Garden this Weekend – 27th October 2013

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I had the benefit of a three day weekend this week and despite the weather forecasts of doom and gloom it turned out to be much better gardening weather than I had anticipated.  However, overshadowing the weekend is the forecast for storms on Sunday night/Monday morning with winds up to 90mph.  I wonder how many of the plants in the garden will still be standing in 24 hours.

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I am quite philosphical  about it especially as there isn’t much you can do when faced by Mother Nature.  My biggest worry, if it’s a worry, is the fences will come down and maybe the obelisk will topple.  All these things are fixable of course.

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Friday I took the opportunity to continue with the fence border and plant up the conifers I had bought the previous weekend.  I’ve never been one to follow fashion in fact I have a rather perverse satisfaction in going against it so I have no issue with planting reviled conifers.  Somewhere in the recesses of my mind the idea of prostrate conifers under the maple tree was the obvious choice. I had intended to only go for one conifer, its not that large an area but I couldn’t choose at the nursery and they weren’t that expensive (being so unpopular) so I bought three – opps.  I went for two Junipers: Juniperus media Gold Sovereign and Juniperus communis Barton.  The second one has creamy new growth in spring and will not get any larger than 18″ x 3′ in 10 years.  The Gold Sovereign, as the name implies, has yellow new growth and is a slow growing prostrate variety.  The third conifer is Cryptomeria japonica Elegans which I fell for as apparently its foliage turns purple in the winter and I do like interesting foliage.  This one too is slow-growing 1.5m x 1m in 25 years and as a plus the reference book says it responds well to coppicing.  I don’t get sentimental about plants unless  they  have been given to me by someone I care very much about so if the conifers start to out grow their space they will  be removed.  I have interplanted them with Narciuss recurvus (Pheasants Eye) and Muscari latifolium and Muscari Blue Magic but it occurs to me that this might also be a good space for special snowdrops.

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Saturday I spent at my HPS group meeting where we enjoyed a fascinating talk on fungi which showed what a vast subject it is and how you really really need to know what you are doing before you collect and eat.  Needless to say I bought a couple of plants (succulents not fungi) and I also booked on a snowdrop day in February which is something to look forward to.  I had also plucked up courage and taken in some stems of salvia for the display table and for Bob Brown to discuss – it was OK and next time won’t be so daunting.

Sunday was preoccupied with clearing the patio of all my various pots and plant purchases.  Storing seedlings away until the spring and tidying away furniture, watering cans and anything else that might be thrown around by the wind.  As the sun was still shining I took the opportunity to start clearing the shorter end of the slope border.  This is full of crocosmia which has been lying flat most of the year and not produced any flowers.  I don’t know what variety it is but it was in the garden when I moved in and I suspect it is what some people still call Monbretia.  It was a little challenging clearing the crocosmia as I also have snowdrops and other bulbs in this border so there was quite a lot of distangling of bulbs.  I am planning on using this border to extend my woodland plant/bulb collection and this was started with the addition of Epimedium pinnatum subsp. Colchicum, Blechnum chilense and Dryopteris sieboldiiWith the addition of Narcissus Sophies Choice and Narcissus Elegans as well as the replanted snowdrops I am hoping this will present a good show in the Spring.

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Sadly the rain showers got to a point where it was just too much for me to carry on so I retreated indoors.  Looking at the lovely Autumn colours on the Acer I wonder how many of the leaves will still be there tomorrow.  We will just have to watch and wait.