Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Bloom and Grow (February 2015)

Planning to have blooms in the garden year round is not as hard here in my wee corner of Scotland as it might be in other parts of the world.  We rarely have the extreme winter weather that would hamper winter blooms or the grueling summer heat and drought that might bring some plants to their knees. Taking the garden as a whole, there is always something in bloom but there are some areas around the garden looking better than others and where I think even the smallest of blooms would provide a wee bit of cheer along side the structure that the evergreens provide.  These gaps are none more apparent than at this time of the year.  This monthly series will feature plants I buy in bloom in order to address the issue.        

My February post has, theoretically, been in the making for a whole year.  It all began last February - the point at which I became an admirer of what some call 'special snowdrops'.  The day out to Dunblane would bring with it an opportunity to add to my small collection of special snowdrops.  I started saving my pennies and I do mean pennies.  Each Saturday morning when I finished work, any loose change I had in my pocket would be deposited in the wee glass jar I had labelled 'My Snowdrop Fund'.  Whether they were pennies or pounds, in they went.  It soon all mounted up.   Last weekend I emptied my jar, counted out all the change and took it all to the bank on Monday morning for changing into notes.  It amazed me at just how much I was able to save in this way.  If like me you garden on a budget, it's a great way to save up for that something special you otherwise wouldn't buy.

Off we went, my friend Sheila and I, early on Saturday morning.  It is the first show of the year held by the Scottish Rock Garden Club.  The Early Bulb Show does exactly as it says on the tin.  The day begins with much oohing and aahing at all the wonderful exhibits on show.  It's a chance to see what the growers have looking good this early in the year.  Behind the scenes, the judging of said exhibits takes place and medals are awarded.  The day is split into two, with a break for lunch in between. The talks for this year's show were presented by Kit Strange from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  Kewing for bulbs with Kit Strange - the talk would be in two parts, first would be about growing bulbs at Kew Gardens.  It was detailed and well put together.  For a complete novice, like me, their methods and practices were explained clearly and in a manner that was easy to understand.   For the second talk of the day Kit shared with us images and tales from her trips overseas.  Her experiences and excitement at seeing many of the bulbs growing in the wild, in their natural habitat.  Explaining to us the often harsh growing environment the bulbs have to cope with was quite an eye opener to me.  I had never really considered the bulbs in their natural environment before.  One important lesson I will take away from this talk is to look more closely at the natural environment in which not only the bulbs grow but indeed, some of the other plants I grow.  This should help me make a more informed choice when selecting plants to grow in my garden.

There was time between seeing the exhibits and the commencement of the early talk for our first sweep of the plant stalls.  I did not have a shopping list, per se, you could never guarantee what the growers would have for sale.  The growers would only take with them a small selection of plants and then that would only include plants that were growing well this season.  I commented to my friend that I did not think there was as many growers represented as there had been at previous shows but she disagreed.  I was proved right later in the day as we met up with the owner of my local nursery, who this year, was not selling his wares!  He also mentioned that there was another couple of growers missing.  I digress, I'm sure you don't want to hear me rabbit on about a conversation held over a tuna sandwich - let's get down to the nitty gritty!   What did I buy?  A selection of snowdrops, ranging from around a fiver a pot to the most expensive at £25 per single bulb in a pot.  I think £25 would be the maximum I'd spend, I don't think I could justify to myself spending any more than that.        

Galanthus Wendy's Gold

At last year's show, I passed up the opportunity to purchase Galanthus Wendy's Gold in favour of buying the more expensive G. Sophie North.  The opportunity was not going to pass me by this year. It was the first snowdrop I sniffed out.  I was determined it was coming home with me.  3 stalls later, I found it, phew!  The flower had been in perfect condition when I bought it, I suspect that it was burnt in the sun coming through the car window.  It was beautiful while it lasted!  

Galanthus plicatus Augustus

G. plicatus Diggory was on my wish list, that too would be coming home with me if I was able to source it.  Sadly, none of the stalls had it on offer.  I had been attracted to its dimpled petals. I did however notice that they had G. plicatus Augustus on offer today.  I think Augustus makes a suitable substitute.  Diggory can remain on the wish list for the time being.   Of all the pictures I took, this one shows up the effect on the outer petals best.

Galanthus Merlin
For the best part, I wanted snowdrops that differed somewhat and of course did not fancy spending the kind of funny money that is synonymous with Galanthophiles and their obsession.  My wee glass jar could not possibly hold that amount of dosh!  Fitting the bill, Galanthus Merlin, did just so earlier when I spotted it in the exhibits hall.  I was quite taken with it. Nor did it cost a fortune, again proving the point that you need not spend a lot of money on snowdrops that are noticeably different. The green markings on the inner petals makes this easily recognisable from a distance.

Galanthus S. Arnott

I had read on so many blogs that G. S. Arnott is a much admired cultivar, reliable and scented and at an incredibly low price, who could resist?  Not me, that's for sure!  I grabbed pot to add to my haul. Not that I needed to be quick about it, there were lots of this cultivar for sale.  So much so my friend grabbed a few of them to give away as gifts to visitors she is expecting this week.  Of all the ones I bought, I think G. S. Arnott had the strongest scent.

Galanthus elwesii Fred's Giant

The large showy G. elwesii Fred's Giant, which I've since read was discovered in Aberdeen, Scotland - is described as one of the first to flower, it really did tower over some of the other cultivars on offer today.  It really stood out. The cost too was not prohibitive either.  It will be interesting to see how early it flowers here in my garden. This should be another that will easily recognisable by it's inner markings.    

Given enough time and experience, I do hope that I will be able to identify some of my snowdrops at a glance.  It truly fascinates me how some growers and plants folks, not forgetting the Galanthophiles out there, can, at the drop of a hat, put a name to the face.  I think that by introducing those with different markings will help me to distinguish between the one I want to grow.

We had time to nip back out to the car to safely store our goodies before the first talk commenced. After the break for lunch, we had a stroll round the town.  Again, as in previous years, the Cathedral was closed for lunch.  One day we will get to see inside.  Returning back to the hall, we had our second and what would be our last sweep of the sale tables.  I laughed out loud at a passing comment made to me by an elderly gentleman as I was admiring more snowdrops."Be careful hen, there's nae cure!"  Now he tells me!

Corydalis solida Purple Bird
I hadn't intended to by any more snowdrops, there was other things on my wish list for today but most of them were not available.  I could have had any amount of Iris reticulata I wanted but I already have enough of those, I didn't fancy any more. There was nothing different in the Crocus department either.  I wanted to buy some Corydalis specifically, Corydalis malkensis, Corydalis do well here in my garden and again they were either sold out or not available.  I did however pick up a couple of pots of Corydalis solida Purple Bird.  The seller only had 2 pots left or else I'd have taken more.  I think they'd look quite effective planted en masse beneath the Enkianthus.  A good bit darker in colour than Corydalis solida Beth Evans that already grows around the garden.

Time was catching up with me and it wasn't long before we had to take our seats for the second talk of the day.  I decided to have another look at yet more snowdrops. Yes I know - I probably had enough for one day but my money was really burning a hole in my pocket.   I hadn't bought any double varieties, maybe I could take a look at some of those.

Galanthus Hippolyta

The ever so pretty Galanthus Hippolyta, it's bloom appears far shorter and stouter than some of the others on offer, whether or not this is fact or just an optical illusion, I just don't know.  Those faint markings on the outer petals give it just enough 'something different' to make it stand out from the crowd.

Galanthus Hill Poe

Labelled as one of the best doubles, I could not resist G. Hill Poe. I am reading only good things about this snowdrop since coming home, although I can find no reference to a scent and can't detect one either.  This cultivar is another that is said to flower slightly later than others. I look forward to it opening fully in the coming days.

Galanthus Millhouse

I was recommended Galanthus Millhouse by the grower, another that has markings on it's outer petals.  The marks on the outer petals are lighter than those on the inner.  Another plant that was damaged in transit, the stem is dangling rather precariously.  It held on long enough to let me get a picture at least.

Galanthus elsesii Jonathan
Another snowdrop with something 'a bit different', is said to be G. elwesii Jonathan.  Described as a non white, in this image you can make out what is described as apricot flush on the inner petals. I'm not sure it matches the colour of Apricot though.  The markings on the inner petals remind me somewhat of one of those sock puppets I used to make when I was a child.  Quite possibly an odd description but it's how I see it.  The vendor tells me that in her garden she does not see flushed markings. She knows the provenance of her plants and is at a loss to know the cause.  It will be interesting to see how what it does in my garden.

I came up trumps on my last purchase, Galanthus Trumps, that is. My most extravagant purchase of the day.  I kept going back to it over and over again.  My friend finally gave me the nudge I needed. Telling me that we only had 5 minutes to spare before the next talk began.  I hesitated no more.  G. Trumps was coming home with me.
Galanthus Trumps
I'm seeing this snowdrop described as stunning, beautiful and gorgeous and whilst that might well be, vigorous and reliable are two I was pleased to read.

What about you, do you get the whole snowdrop thing?  I know many of you don't.  Until last year, I just didn't get it either but the more I look, the more I see and then more I like!  Am I on that slippery slope or is it just a whim at the moment?   Who knows, time will tell.

Thanks for reading.  I know many of you mentioned last month that you'd like to join in with this series.  Please feel free to add your link in the comment box, I'm sure we'd all love to see what you've been buying.  It maters not if they are blooming or otherwise - we gardeners always appreciate the chance to drool over something plants.