Thursday, 7 April 2011

Bloom, Blooms and Bold Birds

This week I moved a few things around to refresh the displays in the courtyard garden in honour of the seconds sale - strangely people often forget that this is possible and keep the same pots in the same positions year after year even if it means that some are flowering in obscurity. I often find that simply moving a few pots makes some of my colleagues 'discover' things that have been there for ages. That is one of the many joys of pot gardening - you can rediscover plants and combinations just by having a shuffle.

Violas and Scilla siberica
in a straight-sided basket pot
There is plenty to look at outside and it is changing by the minute. I make sure I have a good look at the pots every working day (I'm only at the pottery for three days every week)  because warmer temperatures and windy weather mean that I have to watch for drying out.
Paradoxical irrigation
Container gardeners can't rely on rain to wet their pots at this time of year as the lush foliage, especially of tulips, will prevent a lot of the water from reaching the compost. I don't water every day but I do make sure that the pots are not too dry before a heavy spring shower. This often puzzles people but flowers are much less likely to get squashed or snapped off if they are fully turgid than if they are a bit on the limp side.  As the drainage is so good in our pots I am less worried about waterlogging than about plants collapsing under the rain, so I am often to be seen out with the hose when there are juicy black clouds looming over the village.
Narcissus 'Bath's Flame'
Dating from 1913

N. 'Mrs Langtry'
 The other reason for loitering in the garden is that new flowers are opening all the time. I have really enjoyed Rene's collection of vintage daffodils. Narcissus 'Bath's Flame' opened soon after N. pseudonarcissus and is a real beauty, tall and strong even though the flowers are large, with lovely clear colour.

N. 'Butter and Eggs' dates from 1777. Variable but surprisingly strong for a double.

Unripe tulips
T. 'Rococo'
My favourite visual treat at this time of year is the changing colours of the tulip tepals (neither petals nor sepals), many enhanced by a beautiful glaucous bloom. T. 'Rococo' almost looks better before it turns red, with hints of yellow, purple, green and turquoise in its curly flowers.

T. 'Princesse Charmante'

A Greigii tulip, 'Princesse Charmante', is beginning to colour up, too - this modestly blushing flower will soon turn bright red and smell of freesias when the sun shines on her.

Fritillaria persica
Other bloomy blooms include the fritillaries - the Snakesheads have been going for a while and the F. persicaria have now raised their spectacular heads of dark purple bells.

More modest F. uva-vulpis are looking good in a couple of small pots.
Fritillaria uva-vulpis in a small Parsley pot

And finally - Bird News
Yackety jackdaws visit every morning to check for cake crumbs. They have an uncouth look about them but they are very clever birds - they were quick to learn that Whichford Pottery is a good source of cake!

Mr Right?

Mrs B has been dividing her time between excitable suitors and very busy nest building. We had had hardly any rain for ages and she scuttled into the greenhouse to join me when I had been watering plants and pottered about gathering mud to stick her nest together. I think Chez B is in the hedge beside the gas tanks for the kilns this year.
The robin has also been in the greenhouse looking for caterpillars and picking off a few greenfly, so I have had some company while I prick out seedlings. Better get back there now...


  1. why are my persica fritillaria leaves yellowing(pale) and ill when they looked fantastic a week ago. - in pots on 4th floor balcony - could it be wind damage / sun???? help they were nearly great!

  2. Hard to say without seeing the plant but did the pot get very dry? That would seem likely on a high balcony. It could also happen if the pot got extremely wet with impeded drainage in which case the bulb has probably rotted. If you think dryness is the problem don't panic, let the leaves die back and save the bulb for next year, it may be OK. They are quite tricky to grow but worth persisting for those amazing flowers.

  3. Check for damage at the base of the stem too - it may just have broken. In which case the bulb may still be OK if it has managed to build up enough strength. If this or dryness is the case and the bulb is still OK it may take a year or two to build up enough for flowering but will still produce those nice grey leaves.

  4. Thanks for your help - I appreciate it. Don't think it got too dry as I regularly water - perhaps I overwatered or even worse perhaps its vine weevil AAh! as I found some in my primula vialli which I promptly threw out - checked other pots but they didn't seem to be anywhere else.
    The frittillaria were fantastic bluey/green healthy foliage- behind a balcony wall but were reaching out for the sun so I moved them to centre spot beside the railing to get more sun - then there were april storms/winds and after that they began to look ill, the winds up at this height are terrible. The frittilaria just keep getting paler yelow - sicker and sicker - I may have to give up on them this year which is a pity as the flower buds(small green/white) are on them at the top. Your frittillaria look great by the way - am jealous with frittilaria envy!

  5. Definitely sounds like it might just have broken. Haven't ever had a problem with vine weevil on them (but that doesn't mean it isn't possible....)Don't chuck it out if it isn't squishy. Vine weevil love primula of all sorts. Sometimes you can save the plant if you catch it early enough, before all the roots have gone, and just wash off all the compost and replant. I find re-potting at least every year is the best way to keep the vine weevil population down. The Provado (imidacloprid) drench works well too if you don't mind using insecticide.

  6. Oh and my frit pers aren't always that good - I didn't take a photograph of the one that came up blind!!

  7. Brilliant blog - long may it continue!