April blog Euphorbia 2

I know we have had posts on euphorbias already, but these plants are such a delight in the month of April that I am adding yet more. The little Euphorbia Chameleon, below, self -seeds happily, but in such a delicate and restrained way that it is welcome everywhere I find it. In addition to this, it politely dies back and allows summer flowering plants to take over.

 Euphorbia Chameleon

The Euphorbia below (amygdaloides purpurea) is a stunning contrast with the lime green flower head and the stems which are an intense dark red. It has seeded itself in the gravel path and I’m not entirely sure where it comes from.

 Euphorbia Amygdaloides Purpurea

In Euphorbia, flowers occur in a head, called the cyathium. Each male or female flower in the cyathium head has only its essential sexual part, in males the stamen and in females the pistil.  The flowers do not have sepals, petals or nectar to attract pollinators, although other nonflower parts of the plant have an appearance and nectar glands with similar roles. Euphorbias are the only plants known to have this kind of flower head. It should also be noted that, when the stems are cut, they exude a thick white substance which is extremely irritating to skin.

And, of course, there is the magnificent Euphorbia Mellifera (Honey Spurge) which rightfully deserves its common name and is a delight to be near at this time of year when the scent fills the air. Every garden should have one – it keeps its shape well or can be cut back. Mine originally came from the garden of Jillian Smith, CABAHS ex-Chair, who many remember fondly. Jillian, if you are reading this – thank you!

 Euphorbia Mellifera (Honey Spurge)

Vija

Did you ‘Follow the Carrots’ for Easter Bunnies, Plants and a Gorgeous Garden?

Thank you to everyone who came to last Sunday’s ‘Bunnies in the Beds’ and open garden at Charlton House. The ‘Follow the Carrots’ signs worked out a treat, and lots of small people arrived at the Peace Garden ready to find the Easter Bunnies and claim their prize. We gave it an International twist this year, after finding out how other countries celebrate Easter. So as well as Bunnies, the children had to find eg a Bilby from Australia, a Witch from Sweden, and some Willow sticks & feathers from Finland. No-one could really miss the kites (Bermuda) and we had a set of beautiful eggs from Ukraine to find too.

Here they come! Queues for the trail, and let the Hunt begin..

Ladies giving out Easter Egg prizes

The day included a successful plant sale too, and Blackheath Flower Arranging Club joined us for a bit of promotion. Not to mention the Producers Market and Frilly’s cafe open all day.

Thank you everyone, these are wonderful gardens in which to hold an event!

March blog

Euphorbia myrsinites

Spurred by Kathy’s post on Euphorbia in the Old Pond Garden I have taken this photo of E. myrsinites which sits outside my back door all year round. As Kathy points out, Euphorbia are a large and adaptable genus and at this time of year are a real treat. I have found they do particularly well in my gardening conditions and now have several varieties.

In my front garden (such as it is) Euphorbia characias s. wulfenii is usefully seeding itself in a way which looks like I have planted it deliberately, but is actually nothing to do with me at all.

Euphorbia characias s. wulfenii
Euphorbia characias s. wulfenii

Vija

We need to talk about the shed

Shed: noun. a small building or lean-to of light construction, used for storage, shelter, etc.

In times past, every garden path had a little wooden shed at the end of it, for keeping the boring bits to do with gardening – the lawn mower, spades, other tools and a few noxious chemicals for blitzing any insect daring to land on the beds.

So, in 2022, is your shed still just used for storing tools? Is it still small and wooden?  If so, you are in the minority. I have just had a fascinating browse on the Cuprinol SOTY (Shed Of The Year) website – which has been running for 16 years, I can’t imagine how I missed it! You have until April 19th to enter your shed by the way, but I recommend you check out previous winners to see what you are up against before you bother. My favourite is definitely the Roman Temple shed complete with colonnades and portico. It was entered in the ‘Unexpected’ category. You think?

Continue reading We need to talk about the shed

Snowdrop fever

As Anna writes in the latest Newsletter, January and February are the months for snowdrops.

Galanthus nivalis - common snowdrop
Galanthus nivalis – common snowdrop

Joe Sharman, the owner of Monksilver Nursery and who has come to be known as ‘Mr. Snowdrop’ has produced a variety called ‘Golden Tears’, described as ‘A narrow-flowered yellow pterugiform with a very large mark and bright yellow ovary. Very beautiful and distinct.’ The bulb apparently sold for £1,850.

A few years ago, I visited the Snowdrop Sensation weekend at Great Comp where a number of specialist snowdrop growers had stands. Some very beautiful varieties were selling for £100/£100 a bulb. I thought this a bit of a stretch and compromised, buying one for £10.00. I have watched this like a hawk each year, willing it to grow. There would be a great many tears and gnashing of teeth if I bought a more expensive bulb and lost it. I cannot imagine what one would do with a bulb worth £1,850.

Vija

Coincidences

In a fit of New Year zeal, we started (note that I said ‘started’) a bit of a clear-up of what for want of a better word you might call ‘stuff’.  Out of this stuff emerged some old family photographs, reminding me that I should organise them a bit better and finally get around to finding out more about the people featured in them, adding to sometimes unreliable family tales.  Those with subscriptions to Ancestry or other genealogical databases will know immediately what’s coming:  I was soon addicted. 

What might this sorry story have to do with horticulture? Bear with me, please.

Amongst the stuff were box-loads of index cards recording research material that we had produced literally decades ago in pre-Google times.  The purpose of the research was to compile a database of British and Irish Journalists – at least that task was accomplished and published!-  and my Ancestry  addiction offered the chance to do a bit of editing. 

Here we reach the point of this post.  Among the information gleaned from the records of the Society of Women Journalists at the British Library and other sources was a biographical sketch of Helen Colt, a fellow of the RHS.  In the 1911 census Helen Ann Mary Colt, of 4 Priory Court Mansions, Mazenod Avenue, West Hampstead, gave her occupation as ‘jobbing gardener’.  Indeed the project had already noted one of her appearances in print on the subject:

Woman’s Platform, interviewed on jobbing gardening as a career for women, March 1912.

Continue reading Coincidences

Trispen

I have just come across The Meaning of Liff, a satirical dictionary by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, published in 1983. In it is listed:

Trispen, n., A form of intelligent grass. It grows a single tough stalk and makes its home on lawns. When it sees the lawnmower coming, it lies down and pops up again after it has gone by.

The Meaning of Liff, by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd

I wonder what this might look like?

The New Gardening Year

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when everyone asks you what your New Year resolutions are. The magazines and papers are full of good ideas, here are some I’m going to copy:

Don’t fence me in:

There are 22 million gardens in the UK, so they are very important for our wildlife – as long as they can get in and out! Fences are a barrier to many mammals, reptiles and even some insects, but if all those gardens had little gaps between the fences (or better still fences replaced with hedges) wildlife could move freely between them all and biodiversity would increase.

Kick the peat habit for good:

Continue reading The New Gardening Year