Froggy!

One of this years additions to the cutting garden was Chrysanthemum ‘Froggy’ from Sarah Raven and it has produced a bumper crop of small green button flowers, perfect for a contemporary looking vase. Obviously it would work well teamed with white, yellow or pink but it also looks good just on it’s own set off by the darker green of the foliage.

Glad for Gladioli

I’ve always loved Gladdies. Such theatrical flowers on dramatic tall spikes which shoot up from relatively small corms and with so few roots it’s a wonder they stand up at all. They are also neat and slim, taking up very little room in the garden which makes them good value plants in my book. Continue reading

‘Allo ‘Allo! Allouise

Just in case you were wondering, the new header picture for my blog is Chrysanthemum ‘Orange Allouise’ bought as a plug plant from Sarah Raven in April 2011 and propagated into 5 further new plants this March from basal cuttings. It is utterly gorgeous, like dripping creamy butter, and I hope to keep it going for many years to come. The header picture has been cropped a little so here is the full shot with water droplets after a shower of rain.

Big, Beautiful Boy!

This beautiful China Aster, Callistephus chinensis, deserved a posting of it’s own just because of it’s glorious deep purple colour. Definitely worth remembering and sharing. It was grown from a packet of seeds called ‘Big Boy Mix’ and certainly lives up to it’s name with strong, 90cm straight stems which make wonderful cut flowers. Oh, that colour!!

Plant of the Day – Cosmos

One of the easiest plants to grow and one of the most reliable to flower and put on a great show all summer is Cosmos. I think my favourite is ‘Purity’ simply because it has such pure white flowers which highlight and accentuate the rich colours of other plants.

Equally stunning are the single and double pinks and purples which seem to come true from seed every year despite the bees hopping from colour to colour all day long.

Cosmos ‘Double Click Cranberry’

This year I tried a couple of new varieties from which I will collect seed, the unusual ‘Double Click Cranberry’ and the pretty ‘Picotee’ with delightful pinky purple edges.

Cosmos ‘Picotee’

The taller varieties can get a bit ‘top heavy’ and begin to lean or even topple over in high winds but they usually survive if pushed back up and staked. The shorter varieties make colourful front of border plants. They are all very attractive to pollinating insects, flower for months if deadheaded regularly, are drought tolerant and will grow in almost any soil. What more could any gardener ask for?

Pollen-Free Lilies

One of my mini trials this year has been to see if so called ‘pollen-free’ lilies are as worthy as the fully loaded versions. The main purpose was to find a group of lilies that I could grow as cut flowers but which did not have the usual annoying habit of dropping their pollen and staining hands, clothes, tablecloths and runners, and even furniture. Strong stuff that pollen! Incidentally, the last thing you do if you want to remove pollen from material of any kind is to use a damp cloth. This just makes things worse. The best thing to do is to use sticky tape and lift the pollen off without rubbing.

I bought 3 pink varieties for the trial; ‘Elodie’, ‘Miss Lucy’ and ‘Brokenheart’.

First mistake was ‘Elodie’. Absolutely no scent! What a waste of time and money. It looked like a lily which should have had pollen but had it washed off. The style and stamens were in place but there were no anthers or stigma and no pollen. Weird!

‘Elodie’ a pretty lilly and no pollen, but no scent either!

Next to open, two weeks later than ‘Elodie’ and thirteen weeks after planting, was ‘Miss Lucy’, a beautiful white and shell pink lily with an intense fragrance. Unlike ‘Elodie’, the reproductive parts are hidden by sepals which do do not open but form a central ‘cone’. Two stems in a vase filled the room with scent.

‘Miss Lucy’ pollen-free and highly fragrant.

A week later than ‘Miss Lucy and fourteen weeks after planting, ‘Brokenheart’ finally opened and is pleasant but not as striking as ‘Miss Lucy’ in my personal opinion.‘Brokenheart’ was certainly the most branched and with the most flowers, approx 6 on each stem, but the buds opened pointing downwards and gradually lifted their heads to reveal their beauty and amazing scent.

Overall, I would rate this trial a success because it has proved you don’t need the pollen to get beautiful scented lilies. However, the colour palette is currently limited and would therefore not satisfy every occasion. There is also one slightly worrying aspect which I need to investigate further. Although there is no pollen, the flowers appear to exude a colourless sticky residue which falls on to the leaves and then on to the surface holding the vase. In our case, this was an expensive oak side table! Fortunately, it does not seem to stain and is easily wiped off but annoying and unsightly nevertheless.

Plant of the Day

My plant of the day is Gladiolus callianthus commonly known as the Peacock Orchid. It is a simple, beautiful, pure white flower with a maroon centre and strappy leaves. Unlike the usual gladioli where a straight stem is a must, these charming cousins from the high mountains of central Africa droop modestly.

Sometimes also called Acidanthera murielae or Abyssinian sword lily, they have a light scent, especially in the evenings, which may indicate it is a moth attractor.

The corms are not fully hardy but it will be easy to lift them in November and store them in the shed in a paper bag with some shredded paper until spring. I will try them as cut flowers when a few more come out to see how long they last. They are supposed to be good and, being white, would work on their own or with other stronger colours.

Update 31 August 2012

The blooms work well as cut flowers, particularly against a dark background as this photo shows