Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Subtle and unsubtle spring bulbs - take your pick!

My good news is that after about a month and a half my camera is back from the menders. Not in perfect working order but it'll do for the moment. I was watching spring roll past me unrecorded and it was driving me crazy.
So this week I'm not going to write too much, I'm going to squeeze in as many photographs (all taken this week) as possible because the spring starting gun was fired a few weeks ago and if we don't get a move on we'll get left behind.
One of our robins pauses for thought in a pot full of alpines

Crumbs of comfort
Narcissus 'Bridal Crown' and Pansy 'Frizzle
Sizzle Twizzle' in a Pastry Pot at the entrance
to Whichford pottery
Today I ate my lunch as usual on the bench in the courtyard garden, I kept my camera with me because two robins and two dunnocks had been skittering about. The dunnocks disappeared (they don't like publicity) but the two robins shared my bread and one of them kindly posed on a pot. It's one I planted with alpines at the end of March when I went to talk to the friendly people at Kennington Horticultural Society near Oxford.

Top heavy
After a ridiculously warm March, April has brought hosepipe bans for many - and showers for most, so bulbs are throwing flowers up with gay abandon wherever you look. The crocuses and little irises have been and gorn but we still have lots of Narcissus on the go. N. 'Bridal Crown' was a sample from René, it's quite sweet and frothy, but I'm not terribly keen on double narcissi, they are a bit too blobby for me and they fall over too easily.
Narcissus 'Minnow', on the other hand, is one of my favourites, a cluster of tiny, soft yellow, simple flower heads at the top of each stem.

Narcissus 'Minnow' in the courtyard garden at Whichford Pottery
White narcissi are always popular at our annual bulb sale, I sometimes suspect that this may be because some people think white is classier than yellow. This is a shame because yellow is delightful in the slanting spring sunlight among fresh, bright foliage.

White can be quite hard to use at this time of year because it can look a bit cold and bloodless, but I find if you use it in bulk it looks best. Perhaps I just don't "do subtle" very well.
From left to right : Narcissus actea 'Pheasant's Eye', N. 'Jenny' and N triandrus 'Thalia'.
The little flashes of blue you can just see are Pansy 'Moonlight Mix' and Muscari latifolium.
Tulipa 'White Parrot' in Whichford stock yard
Not utterly white.
Most white narcissi have a tinge of yellow or green about them, I prefer these teamed with strongly contrasting colours like blue or red. If you are going all Sissinghurst and choosing white tulips to go with them try T. 'White Parrot' because the young tepals have a hint of yellowish green on their pleasantly wrinkly backs.

Very few 'white' flowers are purely so. Even the pear blossom coming out this week has a tinge of pink.
Blossom in the seconds field at Whichford Pottery

An auricula in a Whichford Jekyll Pot
among cowslips and white hyacinths
Growing stronger
I keep meaning to dig out the white hyacinths that escaped into one of the borders years ago because they usually just look a mess. But they looked quite fresh the other day with the cowslips, and the little mauve auricula in a Jekyll pot. Perhaps I'll leave them for now.

My hunger for stronger colours is beginning to be assuaged by tulips. T. 'Uncle Tom' is looking plump, glossy and promising, 'Jan Reus' is as gorgeous as ever and I am very pleased with the sample of T. 'Big Chief' which René sent us, it's a sturdy tulip in a toothsome colour which I would like to try again.
Plump and glossy, Tulipa 'Uncle Tom'

Tulipa 'Big Chief'
in a Whichford Basket Lily Pot

Purple wave
In the courtyard garden one of the most reliable tulips, 'Negrita', is oozing purpleness from its perch on top of the well. No matter which tulip I plant in this pot I always enjoy watching the wave of colour run from the south-western side of this huge pot round to the shadier northern side until it can be seen from every angle.
Tulip 'Negrita', Narcissus 'Hawera' and Viola 'Jester Mix'
in the giant Orange Pot on the well in the garden at the pottery
Looking up into Fritillaria imperialis
Someone to look up to
Playing with pots means that you can gaze lovingly up at some of your favourite plants. Here's Fritillaria imperialis 'Rubra Maxima' in a large Lemon Pot made and decorated for Trinity Hall, Cambridge, on display by the doors into the main pottery building.
Fritillaria imperialis 'Rubra Maxima' and
wallflowers in a Trinity Hall Lemon Pot

My love of spring bulbs is fed regularly from The Netherlands by René Zijerveld, he is fond of our pots too, and recently emailed me this picture of his prize-winning Tulipa schrenkii in a Whichford basket pot. Congratulations René!
René Zijerveld's Tulipa schrenkii in a
Whichford shallow Basket Pot

Drip, drip, drop little April showers
I must go now - but before I do here's a picture showing yet another April shower (hurray!) on its way to Whichford Pottery this week.
Spring foliage glows as dark blue shower clouds gallop up to Whichford Pottery