It’s time for Irises!

I enjoy this time of year because there are so many lovely flowers around. Some in my own garden, others in the gardens of friends and neighbours. And of course, there are the temptations of nurseries and garden centres.

One of the flowers that has attracted me most over the years is the iris. There’s a wonderful array of flowers of all sorts of colours, markings and sizes and I’d love to grow lots of them. But where would I put them? For now, I’ll just have to settle for having a few that I especially like, and that are easy to grow.

Siberian irises are amongst my favourites. The flower in the top photograph was simply labelled ‘Iris sibirica’, so I have no idea of the cultivar. I do know that the iris in the bottom photo is ‘Currier’ and I also have ‘Silver Edge’. (I photographed ‘Silver Edge’ for this post last spring.)

With all of these Siberian irises, a large part of the appeal for me is the intricate veining on the lower petals (actually sepals, known as ‘falls’). The combination of lines and spots is irresistible as a subject to photograph. Of course they are there to serve a more important purpose – that of creating a well-signposted route for bees to the flower’s pollen. Lucky for us that practicality in nature can be so beautiful!

Iris sibirica 'Currier'
Iris sibirica ‘Currier’

Days of Celebration

There have been two special days this week, both celebrating something dear to my heart. The first was the sixth international ‘Fascination of Plants Day’, coordinated by the European Plant Science Organisation on Wednesday (May 18th). The second was ‘World Bee Day’ on Friday (May 20th).

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know how crazy I am about plants. Flowers and plants have been a special love for me for many years now. That has gradually led me into a love of bees and other pollinators too. (As far as I’m concerned, you really can’t have one without the other.) It’s appropriate that both days fall within the same week.

The Fascination of Plants Day was organised to get as many people as possible interested in plants, and in plant science and conservation. It aimed to increase the appreciation of the role they play in providing us with food and products such as pharmaceuticals. Considering that we would not be able to survive without plants (for even the air we breathe), their study has to be one of the most important areas of research.

Many plants wouldn’t be able to survive without bees and other insects to pollinate them. In the UK, a project to create ‘Bee Lines’ to connect areas of habitat throughout the country has been set up by the conservation group ‘Buglife’. You can see the details of how this will make it easier for bees and others to find the food and breeding areas they need here.

Anyone with a garden, or even just a balcony with pots or some window boxes, can grow plants which will help to keep bees alive. You can read advice on how you can help bumblebees in your garden on this page by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. There is also a very informative plant list for bees written by Dave Goulson here.

This year I’ll be trying to add to the bee-friendly plants in the garden. I may even see a few species of bees that I hadn’t noticed before. (But I probably won’t be able to say what they are – I find bee identification very difficult!) It’s a joy to hear the garden buzzing with bees and to see them busy in the flowers.

Thank you to blogger Steven Schwartzman for kindly letting me know about Fascination for Plants Day.

Common Carder bee on Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
Common Carder bee on Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’, syn. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (stonecrop)

Transitory Glories: Tulips (2)

As is usual here in spring, a lot of the flowers pass me by all too quickly. Sometimes I feel that I barely have time to notice one or two of them before they are already going over. (This year it was the camassias that have disappeared too soon for me. If I had been paying more attention I would have taken some photographs of them.)

Luckily, that hasn’t applied to the tulips because they’re near where I’ve been working in the garden for the last few weeks. Even then, their departure feels sudden and many have already been deadheaded. For a little while the flowers are eye-catching in their glorious colours, flaunting their bright petals and demanding to be noticed. They are already mostly gone and I’m left wondering how the time has managed to pass so quickly!

Tulip ‘Angelique’

I guess if there’s a moral to that, it’s to make sure you stop and enjoy your garden at every stage through the year…something I’m still learning to do. The good thing is that these tulips have come back again for several years. (The ‘Angelique’ and ‘Shirley’ tulips have only been in the garden for three years, so I shall have to wait and see how long-lived they are. The yellow tulip has been in the garden for a very long time – they seem to last forever!)

I’ve been discouraged by tulips fizzling out quite quickly in the past, not realising that there are some that are just short-lived. Now I’m more likely to experiment so that I will have something new to photograph. And if they don’t last for many years, that just gives room for a new variety. Meanwhile, I’ll try to make sure I take the time to enjoy the flowers in the garden before they fade…and for those I do miss, there’s always next year!

Triumph tulip ‘Shirley’

Tulip Confusion

Packing flower bulbs must be a tricky job. If something goes awry and the wrong variety gets into a batch that’s being packed, how could you tell? So it’s not very surprising if something turns out to be different to what you thought you’d bought…like the tulip here. The pack was labelled ‘Hollywood Star’ but that tulip looks different to this one.

The flowers of Hollywood Star are much more red than the magenta here, and a different shape. They’re more the usual rounded tulip shape that you might expect. This one is different. It’s a lily-flowered tulip, with narrow petals that curve backwards. Happily for me, that has made this a more interesting flower to photograph because the petals have some lovely wavy curves. To me, the shapes they make suggest energy and a tendency to do their own thing. It also makes each flower slightly different from the next, so that gives more variety to my photographs.

This labelling mistake has turned out well for me. As a garden flower (rather than just a photographic subject), I find I prefer the unpredictability of this tulip over something more uniform. That makes me wonder if it’s good to sometimes have less control in the garden. Unexpected planting can certainly make life more interesting!

I still don’t know what this tulip is. There is a slight green marking at the base of the petals, so, like Hollywood Star, it is a viridiflora type. From looking at photos elsewhere, I think it’s probably ‘Doll’s Minuet, so if I want to grow more, that’s what I’ll look for. Will I end up with something different? Haha, maybe!

Red viridiflora tulip

Blossom Time (2)

This year the old cherry tree (‘Kanzan’) in our front garden has only about a quarter of the flowers it used to produce. It’s probably not going to survive a lot longer and I’ll miss the fluffy pink blossoms. (They’re double flowers, so not so good for bees – if I had chosen the tree, it would have been a single-flowered variety.)

While there may be less pink blossom, we do have lots of white cherry blossom in the garden on a young fruit tree. To me, the flowers are every bit as pretty as those of the ornamental varieties. Plus, you have the added bonus of fruit. (Or the blackbirds do, if you’re not fast enough off the mark!)

I’m not sure what this tree is now – probably a morello – because it was an impulse buy by my husband along with a plum tree. Not the best way to buy things, but I have to admit to doing the same thing with perennials. But if it is a morello, then it’s much less sour than I would expect. I like to eat them straight off the tree – but then I do like the sour cherries you get in Turkey too. Mmm!

Given how good the flower display on the fruit trees has been this year, I’m keen to somehow find a bit more space for fruit in the garden. Having some organic food of your own seems like a very good idea these days and this is a fairly easy way to do it. (But not always successful. The plum tree planted at the same time as the cherry has never yet produced fruit. It does look very pretty when it’s in flower though.)

Space may be the only problem with my plan. I have a pear tree that I bought as a bare-root plant and planted up into a large container. It’s still waiting for a home after a couple of years. (Good thing it’s in a big pot!) It should get planted out later this year, but first we have to move our greenhouse and then work out the best place for the pear. I’m looking forward to some fruit from it in the future!

You can see my post from last year about our ‘Kanzan’ cherry tree here: https://annmackay.blog/2021/05/02/frothy-pinks-cherry-blossom/

Cherry tree blossom