Waiting for Sunshine

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

It has been very wet here over the last couple of weeks. That’s actually a very good thing because this part of England (East Anglia) has still been in ‘drought status’, even after the winter. Suffolk doesn’t get a lot of rain, so the rain we’re getting now should help keep everything growing for a good while. (And, I hope, top up the region’s reservoirs too.)

But after so much grey weather, I’m starting to long for sunshine. And flowers! It feels as if spring has been slower in arriving this year. At the end of March last year our fruit trees had come into flower. By the start of April we had a wonderfully frothy display of apple, plum and cherry blossom. That outburst of flowering seems a long way off still.

Happily, there are some flowers appearing. Daffodils have recently opened their gleaming yellow flowers both in the garden and on the green at the front of the houses here. Those on the green are particularly cheerful, with warm orange coronas surrounded by the brightest of yellow petals. En masse, they are an impressive and cheering sight. Up close (as above) they are simply delightful.

Hot Spot: Ranunculus

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

Red always demands attention and there’s nothing subtle about the way this ranunculus flaunts its frill of glowing petals. It makes me think of the over-the-top style of dress that a Hollywood star might wear for an awards ceremony.

Well, maybe that’s my imagination getting a bit carried away, but Ranunculus asiaticus (or ‘Persian buttercup’) certainly has a glamourous look. The flowers provide a stunningly beautiful and richly-coloured display. (And of course, they’re irresistible to this photographer!)

Like the primulas from my last post, these are currently in stock in garden centres. Here in the UK they’re often treated as bedding plants because they aren’t hardy and it’s difficult to save the tubers for re-planting a second year. Plants bought now can be put outside once there is no risk of frost and will give colour in spring and early summer. Or they can be grown from tubers planted in late spring, to then flower in autumn.

I haven’t yet bought any ranunculus this year (the photo is one from a couple of years ago) but I know that I’ll buy them again in the future. They’re too lovely to miss out on. And it would be fun to try to photograph the rest of the colours that they come in…a project for next spring perhaps?

Sweet pinks: Primulas

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

The colours of these primulas make me think of children’s sweets (candies if you’re in the US). Radiantly bright, they’re just the thing to make the still-cold days of late winter and early spring feel better.

Polyanthus primroses (AKA ‘English primroses’) like these have been bred to have a great range of brilliant colours. Garden centres have row upon row of them in gleaming reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, blues and purples. There are even striped flowers like this ‘Zebra Blue’.

Jolly as they are, it can be difficult to make these plants look at home in the more restrained borders of my garden. Gradually I’ve been trying for a more natural look to some areas, so the colours of highly-bred primroses can look too brash and artificial.

Rather than trying to find a place where they might look right in a border, I potted these up and parked them by our front door. They looked good in their pots but sadly they eventually suffered having their roots eaten by vine weevils! (Vine weevil grubs eat the roots of some plants that are grown in containers. Plants growing in the soil are much safer.)

It’s a couple of years since I lost these plants. I’ll probably try again with something that will fit the look of the garden better and can be planted in the ground. (Such as the UK’s pretty yellow native primrose, Primula vulgaris.) And then there’s the rich colours of the dainty ‘candelabra’ primulas which would be happy in the bog garden that I’m making…tempting!

Pink primula flower head

Looking Up: Hellebore ‘Rosali’

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

Unlike the hellebores in my recent posts, the pretty pink-blushed flowers on this plant are upright and easy to see. Recent hellebore breeding has created a number of plants that have out ward-facing rather than downward-facing flowers and these flowers are bigger too, so make a very eye-catching sight.

‘Rosali’ is a recent purchase – I couldn’t walk past it in the garden centre! (So it may be a good thing that I don’t go to garden centres too often…) ‘She’ will join a small group of hellebores just outside the back windows of the house and where there is a change in level with a retaining wall. (That makes the other hellebores easier to see.) The area also gets a bit of shade in the afternoon, so hopefully won’t be too hot in summer.

This hellebore is one of the HGC ‘Ice N’ Roses’ collection (Helleborus glandorfensis), a new species which has been bred as a cross between a Snow Rose and a Lenten Rose (Helleborus ericsmithii and Helleborus x hybrida). This new species of hellebore is tall (at 45cm). It’s also said to be robust and long-lived. I certainly hope it is, because it will always be welcome in the garden as a joyful start to the gardening year.

Hellebore 'Rosali' flowers
Flowers of Hellebore HGC Ice N’ Roses ‘Rosali’

Sweet Spots

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

Part of the charm of hellebores comes from the variety of markings and colourings on the petals. The two flowers photographed here came from a friend’s garden. At first glance they look like they might be the same flower, but take a closer look and you can see small differences.

The top flower has larger, more diffuse spots that merge with the dark veining of the petals. You can see that the hellebore at the bottom has smaller specks of crimson that don’t obscure the petal’s veins as much. Tiny differences, but they add a lot to the appeal of a group of hellebores growing together.

A very similar hellebore is this little spotty one from my own garden. As the flowers on my plant get older, they become a lot paler than the flowers here. (EDIT: I’ve added a photo of the stages of this hellebore in my garden, so that you can see what I mean. The flower on the left side is darker when newly opened but will become a bit lighter as it develops.)

Pink-spotted hellebore flowers.
Three stages of a flower – you can see how much darker the newly-opened flower on the left is.

It will be interesting to see if any seedlings develop from it and the other hellebores growing nearby because they’re all quite different from each other. Maybe I’ll eventually have a family of related plants that have interesting variations like the hellebores in these photos.

Pink hellebore flower
From a friend’s garden: a pretty pink hellebore flushed with tiny crimson spots.

Shy Beauties

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

It’s almost time to photograph the hellebores as they start to come into flower. While I’m waiting for them to be ready, I thought I’d show you a couple of flowers from previous years.

I’ve photographed the hellebore above quite a lot because it’s one of my favourites. But it’s not getting any easier. That’s because it’s a shy little flower, like most hellebores, and keeps its flowers facing earthwards. To photograph them I have to get down really close to the ground – and then get back up again!

Hellebores are lovely flowers, so getting into awkward positions to photograph them is worthwhile. There is good news though, in that there are newer varieties that have more upward-facing flowers. I’ve just treated myself to a new plant (but not photographed it yet) that has taller stems and much more upright flowers. This makes them far easier to see. (You’ll see photos of that one soon.)

For the bottom photo I made life easier for myself by taking the flower indoors to photograph. Simply placing it higher than the camera let me look into its little face and capture its portrait. 🙂

Hellebore flower

Looking Forward

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

It feels like an in-between time in the garden at the moment. Spring isn’t here yet, but winter has become less harsh and it’s grip is not as cold as it was a week or so ago. Some mornings there may be traces of frost on the grass, but the heavier frosts that have iced the garden plants are absent. Now is a time of waiting for the new season to arrive.

There are some signs of the approach of spring already. The leaves of daffodils are well above the ground and their flower buds are slowly swelling. Hellebores are getting ready to bloom. A few crocuses have bravely opened their yellow flowers – the same crocuses as in the photo. (These are Crocus chrysanthus var. fuscotinctus, growing with Iris reticulata ‘Cantab’ and Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ behind. I grew them together in a pot a couple of years ago to make a welcome by my front door.)

The cold weeks of January have made me impatient for the start of spring. I want to see plants bring life and excitement back to my garden, to feel the sun warm me, to hear the first bees buzz past. For me, the start of spring is a time of hope and of building anticipation as I gradually see plants reappear, like familiar and much-loved friends. While I’m waiting, the photographs from previous years are a reminder of the joys to come.

Winter Roses

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

We had a few days of frost and snow towards the end of December. This created lots of opportunities for winter photographs, so you can imagine how pleased I was to see it. (Finding something to photograph for the blog can get difficult at this time of year!)

The warm autumn and mild early winter had encouraged the roses ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (above) and ‘Zepherine Drouhin’ (below) to produce a few very late blooms. I love to photograph frosty and frozen flowers because they’re like little icy sculptures. Sadly the frost brought these particular flowers to an end. Freezing damaged the cells of the petals too much for them to survive once the frost melted.

Most of my frosty pictures are photos of seed heads and leaves, so it makes a change to be able to photograph frosted flowers. Because there are only a few winter-flowering plants in my garden, I’d like to plant more flowers that will appear during this time. That would mean that I have more to enjoy in the garden in winter and more to photograph – that’s always a pleasure!

Frosted rose 'Zepherine Drouhin'

It’s Cold Out There!

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

We are definitely in the cold, dark depths of winter here, brrr! I think the drawn-out and very mild autumn had lulled me into a false sense of security and/or warmth because the freezing temperatures feel like quite a shock. But grey clouds are said to have silver linings, and frosty mornings mean opportunities for photography.

I initially wrote that frosty mornings have a sparkle, but that’s not necessarily true. If there is sun, as in the top picture of a pink-flowered salvia, it makes the image much more appealing. The tiny flowers are just enough to give a translucent gleam of crimson.

Frosted Astrantia flowers
Astrantia flowers are usually long gone by winter.

The two following images, were, by contrast, in deep shade. They have a much colder and more subtle feel, lacking the drama of strong colour and sun. At the same time, there is more detail in the frost than if the flower was beginning to warm in the weak sunshine. (Any bit of sun soon softens and melts the frost, so in brighter areas I have to work much more quickly.)

Astrantia (above) wouldn’t normally be in flower at this time of year and this late flower was a surprise. The Japanese anemone (below) would normally have finished flowering some time ago too (usually October). Maybe the late flowers were a result of the warmer than normal autumn. In any case, they were a chance to take frosty flower photographs that I wouldn’t normally get.

Frosted Anemone
This anemone flowered very late and paid a very chilly price!

Sadly, the frozen flowers will be destroyed by the frost. They’ll be like limp brown rags when they eventually thaw. I can’t complain though, because in these cooler, shady areas, the frost has lasted several days without lifting, giving me plenty of time to photograph these flowers.

The winter-flowering clematis that I posted photographs of recently has frozen too. Although I would expect the opened flowers to be badly damaged by the frost, I hope that the still-unopened buds will survive. With luck and milder temperatures soon, there may be more of these pink bells to come. I certainly hope so!

Frosted clematis flowers
The winter-flowering clematis is now a frozen clematis!

Winter Scent: Viburnum Bodnantense ‘Dawn’

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

Last week I photographed a winter-flowering clematis growing up a shrub that flowers at the same time. This week I thought I’d show you what the flowers of that shrub (Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’) look like.

As you can see, the flowers are small and not exactly spectacular. They do however, look very pretty on the bare branches of the shrub and provide some good colour on a winter’s day. After frost or snow some of the older flowers will be browned and dying, but the newly-opened flowers and buds keep going and can last over a long period.

One of the main reasons I planted this viburnum wasn’t for the flowers, but for the scent. I’d come across it in a park in winter and had been entranced by its sweet fragrance. For the first years with my own one, I’d been disappointed by an apparent lack of scent. (But I don’t have a particularly strong sense of smell, so I thought I could be at fault.) I wondered whether individual shrubs could vary in the amount of scent they produced.

This year I was very pleased to find that my viburnum does indeed produce scent. At the moment it has far more flowers than ever before, so their sweetness has been noticeable in the air. Getting up close to the viburnum while I photographed the clematis in its branches was a very pleasant experience. There are some delightful benefits to spending time in a cold winter garden!