Is it really that time?

Iris suaveolens

Iris suaveolens

I’m not sure whether this was déjà vu, or a Rip Van Winkle moment, but the discovery of this lovely iris growing in a crevice in the rock garden stopped me in my tracks. Perhaps it was the shock of being liberated from its pot and planted outdoors or maybe it is as confused as I am about the weather.
A native of Turkey and the Balkan, this dwarf bearded iris usually flowers in the alpine house in March, so it is probably the experience of a Hebridean summer that has confused its biological clock. It is one of the species which we have managed to propagate so that we could risk a few in the rock garden. It is growing in almost pure sand and grit, with a top dressing of gravel to ensure good drainage.
It will be interesting to see if it survives the winter and flowers again in the spring. It is a tough plant, on the day I took this photograph it was gusting about 40 mph.



In a vase on Monday: Tulip Time

Tulip Big Smiles

With the promise of northerly gales and wintry showers it is time to harvest the tulips from the cutting bed. I had not attempted to grow standard tulips in the garden as I doubted that they would survive our cold, blustery spring weather and so concentrated on growing species tulips in pots in the alpine house. However, last autumn two redundant vegetable beds were converted into cutting beds to grow flowers for the house and holiday cottage and were planted with an assortment of bulbs.Tulips in the cutting bedI was pleased with the result, although I felt the Queen of the Night was rather insipid, but I suspect that this is may be a due to my very alkaline soil. Now I have harvested the flowers I will give the bulbs a good feed and see if they can be persuaded to flower next year. I’ve still not decided whether to dig up the bulbs, “bake” them in the cold frame and  them put them in pots for next year. I suspect that the absence of hot dry summers may explain why so many tulips are reluctant to flower in subsequent years. The “baking” treatment certainly works for the smaller species and in theory it may work on the standard varieties.
For once I have some flowers for a Monday vase and can join Cathy’s meme.Tulips in a vase
I’m not totally convinced that I have chosen the right variety – Big Smiles is an apt name, the beautifully golden yellow is enough to raise a smile, but the flower is perhaps a little too blowsy. Perhaps they would look better in a taller vase rather than a jug?
I think, on reflection, that I still prefer the smaller species and this autumn I will be planting Tulipa clusiana and Tulipera hageri in the cottage garden, as the Head Gardener is not convinced they are not worthy of space in the alpine house. I’m inclined to agree as clusiana is perhaps too tall for a pot and I was also disappointed in the colour of hageri which is more pink than the promised scarlet. It will be interesting to see how they survive the harsher climate of the garden, although I will tuck them in a sheltered corner.
These two species are a little taller than Tulipa tarda and Tulipa urumensis which grow in the rock garden. These are very dwarf, the almost sessile flowers sitting snuggly in the leaves – perfect for a very windy garden The soil in the rock garden is very well-drained and very sandy, which helps the bulbs bake in the summer and mimics their natural environment. They’re also beloved by the bumblebees when pollen and nectar are in short supply in cold springs when the machair is late to flower.

In a Vase for Monday – a bunch of daffs

Narcissus in a vase

Narcissus tete-a-tete with jonquils

I rarely manage to participate in Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme, but sometimes I feel sufficiently inspired to make a modest contribution. As you can see I am a founder member of the “plonked naturally in a jam jar” school of flower arranging.
Although my small bunch of “daffs” may not have great artistic merit, apart from their intrinsic beauty, they are filling the house with the most sublime perfume.
Narcissi are the stalwarts of the cottage garden from February to May. Tete-a-tete is always first to flower and was the first bulb to be planted in the cottage garden. It came from my garden in Worcestershire along with the jonquil (alas un-named) which also appears in my vase.

Narcissus tete-a-tete with jonquills

Narcissus tete-a-tete with jonquills

In the orchard and the cottage garden the cyclamineus narcissi, Little Witch, Jack Snipe and Jet Fire, are already fading, but the triandus varieties, Hawera and Thalia are still to flower. There are also other un-named daffodils which flower year after year in the cottage garden which delight the eye and perfume the air regardless of their unknown provenance.
More delicate species are cosseted in the alpine house until we have sufficient stock to try them in the garden. N. bulbicodium will be planted out this summer, and if it flowers it will be a delightful addition to the garden. N. assoanus was planted in the garden last year, but it will probably take a little while to establish. This also came from my last garden, but I am not sure whether it will flower this far north. A native of Spain it needs a good summer baking to flower, not a regular feature of Hebridean summers. However, N. canaliculatus is reputedly also difficult to flower, but seems to produce some flowers every year despite the rigors of our climate. Sometimes the plants don’t follow the rules, so it is always worth a try.