Peony Love

Peonies.  Oh, how I love them.

Let me talk you through some of my favourites….the first to appear is a little species peony called Paeonia Corsica.  It’s little with grey-green leaves and reddish stems but the flower is astonishing on such an insignificant plant.  It is a big blousy cerise pink with a shock of yellow anthers and purple stamens, and it is native to, well, the name is on the tin, Corsica, and Sardinia.

Another favourite of these species peonies (this just means the wild type – as in, they are native wild plants somewhere – is Paeonia cambessedesii, which has a slightly less knock out flower but is taller with a more pronounced red to the stems and leaves that look vaguely metallic.  This comes from another rocky place, Majorca.  They thrive in my stony Cotswold garden, despite being half frozen to death in the winter.

But for an instant love affair, clock Molly the Witch.  Her proper name is Paeonia Mloskevitchii but given no-one can say it, let alone spell it, she gets a nickname.  I have several big clumps, one had 37 flowers on it this year.  The flowers are lemon yellow, papery and simply gorgeous.  Teeny things, years from flowering, sell in some garden centres for £20.  In my garden, they seed all about the place and I have to pull them up.  Another thing I love about them is that they are harbingers of Spring.  When the weather is just warming up, their big fat purplish shoots muscle up from bare earth and slowly unfurl.

Finally, here’s an example of what is called intersectional peonies – these are crossed between tree peonies (woody eight footers usually with yellow flowers) and herbaceous peonies (the pink or red ones that appear in June).  Think of Lady Gaga at the Met Ball in her pink number and this is the peony equivalent.  Again, they are really expensive to buy unless you get tiny ones (which I did) and are patient.  My history with this type of peonies is not happy.  I had one in a pot, grown from a twig, which was finally sporting a big fat bud.  To my horror, I saw my youngest son, then about 4 years old, who had not only found a pair of garden shears but was demonstrating his ability to cut things with them.  He chopped the peony off at the base before I could sprint from the kitchen and rugby tackle him.  He then bought me the bud in triumph at his accomplishment.  Reader, the whole peony plant died so seeing this one so floriferous fills me with joy.

I am in mourning.  My greenhouse has just been knocked down and I am finally exchanging its holes and leaks and wonkiness for a brand new model.  It meant I had to empty it.  I even shocked myself at how much was in it.  My kitchen is now crammed as frosts haven’t quite gone away and I am not a popular girl.

September Garden Update

What about the garden this year? It was the strangest of weather.

We had the Beast from the East (a snowstorm) in March. Around us, there are many open fields interspersed with hidden small roads. Strong Winds from the East blew the modest layer of snow off the fields, dumping it in the lanes in huge grubby piles. We were completely cut off for 2 days and the snow drifts in the garden persisted for nearly 2 weeks. It delayed Spring, which then came and went in a couple of weeks to be followed by scorching drought for months. Continue reading September Garden Update

January Garden Journal

I’m surrounded by seed and plant catalogues because this is the time of year when I reflect on what worked and what didn’t in the garden and decide what to grow next year.  I have to start by confessing that I don’t learn.  In fact, I am remarkably similar to the pheasant I spotted taking seed from the feeder today.  Every time he pecked it, it swung back and hit him.  But he still staggered forward for another peck, undeterred.  Why don’t I learn for instance that if you plant 20 courgette plants, you will get 20 tons of courgettes?  And I don’t mean those cute little ones either.  The cuties hide under leaves and morph overnight into monster marrows that are no good to anyone except as assault weapons.  How many did I plant this year? Oh yes, dear reader, 20.  And boy did they do well.  Can I report my faves?  Bianca di Trieste (a little pale one), Romanesco (striped and ribbed) and Soleil (yellow).  You can get all of them as seeds from Sarah Raven.  I also like Nero di Milano which is a very deep and shiny dark green.
Continue reading January Garden Journal

Tulips. I love ’em

I love tulips.  I can enthuse about almost any sort, except those funny ones with fringed petals.  Some people treat tulips like annuals, digging them all up once they have flowered which gives you the luxury and fun of choosing a whole new colour scheme next year.  Fine plan but it comes expensive, not to mention time consuming.  So I’ve been looking for tulips that you can leave year to year.
Continue reading Tulips. I love ’em

Girls, girls, girls

Iris 15 (2)How gorgeous are these girls? All are dwarf iris and all named after girls which seems appropriate as we come up to International Women’s Day. Katharine Hodgkin, the unmistakeable pale blue and yellow, Lady Beatrix Stanley (that mass of mid blue) and Pauline, elegant in deep purple. The great plantsman, E B Anderson crossed two rare irises in the 1960s and named the stunning result after his chum Eliot Hodgkin’s wife. Katharine. The colours are so elegant, the patterns a joy – how wonderful to have something quite so beautiful forever bear your name.
Continue reading Girls, girls, girls