Monthly Archives: April 2015

Butterflies and blooms

Well, one butterfly – a Peacock:

peacock-on-bergenia-april

The flower it’s basking on is a pink Bergenia cordifolia, good old elephant’s ears, and it made such a pretty picture I couldn’t resist snapping it.

This past week has been the first time this year that I’ve seen butterflies out and about, which is a clear indicator that temperatures are on the rise and that summer is just around the corner, though of course there will still be a danger of frost in this area until mid May, so I won’t be putting any tender plants out just yet!

 

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Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’

One of the most welcome sights in my spring garden each year is the return of my pulmonarias, particularly ‘Blue Ensign’, which I’ve been growing now for about a decade.

I have yet to capture an image of its true colour, but this is as close as I’ve come:

pulmonaria-macro

 

Pulmonaria species flowers are generally a mid-violet-blue colour, but those of ‘Blue Ensign’ are a significantly richer, deeper blue, almost electric blue in some lighting conditions. This cultivar also stands out from the crowd in that it has plain, dark green leaves with none of the characteristic white spotting that one associates with the genus.

Growing it couldn’t be easier provided you have a moisture-retentive soil and a sufficiently damp place in partial shade. Pulmonarias do¬†not take kindly to being dry at the roots – persistent dryness will leave them vulnerable to mildew – and they will quickly wilt if exposed to too much sun.

Having said that, they can be grown in less than optimal conditions. Mine aren’t ideal, in fact: my soil drains fairly freely and bakes hard in hot weather, and my chosen location for ‘Blue Ensign’ gets midday sun all through the summer, but it seems to tolerate these adversities reasonably well as long as I remember to water it from time to time.

One objection that people may have to pulmonarias is that they can be rampant self-seeders, but I haven’t noticed ‘Blue Ensign’ being a problem in that way. It doesn’t seem to spread much either, although that may be because it isn’t entirely happy with its location.

All in all, if you’re after a small, clump-forming perennial to inject a splash of vibrant blue into your shady spring borders and provide a valuable early season nectar source for bees, I’d say you can’t go far wrong with this one.

 

Counting the Cost of Winter

Every Spring it’s about now that I start looking around to see what has and hasn’t made it through the winter season.

Last year was exceptionally mild, so mild in fact that my non-hardy fuchsias in containers not only survived but didn’t even drop their leaves, which is a first for me in this garden. I didn’t lose a single plant, as far as I can recall.

This year was a more typical Southern British winter in respect of temperature with many nights touching or dipping below freezing, so for the past few weeks I have been casting anxious eyes at my newer and as yet untested-for-hardiness acquisitions to glimpse signs of re-emergence.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, the plant I was perhaps most concerned about was Agastache “Blue Boa”. I have grown agastache from seed in the past but never had it survive a winter outdoors; “Blue Boa”, however, is clearly made from sterner stuff and is already sending up some sturdy little shoots. Not only that, but a couple of insurance cuttings that I took late last summer in order to hedge my bets also appear to have survived the winter in my coldframe, so that’s a bonus!

Next on the will-it-get-hit list was my collection of alstroemeria. I bought them early in 2013 so their first winter was no test at all: this year they have had to contend with protracted periods of freezing, but from the looks of the fresh green shoots that I am beginning to see pushing up through the mulch, they have passed with flying colours. All five varieties, the two in containers and the three in the ground, appear to be present and correct, so I am mightily chuffed at that!

It hasn’t all been good news, though.

As ever, I have lost a few things that were over-wintering in my coldframe, namely half of my rosemary cuttings, 3 or 4 lavender cuttings and my orange-flowered diascia cuttings (all the pink-flowered ones survived, strangely enough!).

And once again I have failed with my begonia tubers: only 2 out of the 6 that I attempted to save show signs of life. Whether I left them outside too long, kept them too damp, too dry, too warm or too cold I just don’t know, but they were mostly rotten when I came to examine them in late January and have had to be replaced. Better luck next year, I suppose!