garden notes no. 30 Allium angulosum, morning glory, cleansing cobwebs, bees and bulbs

Red hot pokers are named for their unattractive orangey-red nakedness. But this yellow one is nice, and in a social gathering, clustered, not theatrically isolated. This little clump has been growing at St John’s for years, and stands up well to the rampant perovskia all around it. Both plants laugh at drought, bees like the perovskia, aka russian lavender.

In spite of the obvious contrast in their habits, morning glory and evening primrose make a good pair. Now, in the middle of the day their petals have all withered. The evening primrose will open its next lot of flowers as dusk comes on, and they will still be fresh tomorrow morning when the morning glory opens again.

  Those photos were taken at about 6 30 in the morning. The next one a couple of hours later on a different day:


See what’s lurking behind the morning glory? – next door’s cordyline. Serves me right for being so snobby about them. See phormiums and cordylines . He’s got plenty of phormiums too. But he’s a really good neighbour and he takes the dog for runs.

Actually, it makes quite a nice background to the morning glory. Kind of sculptural.

At last my evening primroses seem to be recovering from what I think is a virus which has laid them low for several years. I planted the one in the picture out from a pot which produced a chance seedling, and I few it and watered it and it has prospered. Some healthy young plants which will flower next year have appeared here and there. They don’t normlly need any pampering, they’re easy. all you have to do weed out unwanted plants. I remember seeing them in their thousands on sand dunes at Formby. They’re wonderfully drought resistant.  The hard little seed cases hold on to the seed for months so that they provide valuable food for birds in winter, though the tidy gardener won’t like their gaunt skeletons. See also garden notes no 28, inside the lily

It’s a biennial, of course. Useful to understand that category, and apologies to those who do. See also http://garden notes number eight 

Here we see the cleansing power of cobwebs:


They should be installed inside and outside every home.

Here is Allium angulosum:

Allium angulosum, new to me two or three years ago. It’s called angulosum I suppose because in spring the new shoots at first grow out almost flat against the soil, at an angle instead of straight up, looking a bit like shallots. It flowers now, late July, early August, an unusual time for an allium; they are mostly spring flowering. The large flowers are a delicate pink and less than a foot tall. It comes as a weedy looking live shoot, if you order it in the autumn; nurse it through the winter and with a little patience it will spread into a thick clump. Today there were three kinds of bee on it. I grow it in stony soil, it has done well in all three gardens.
It’s a plant which announces a particular moment in the year, like, say, the snowdrop towards the end of winter, or honesty in early spring, or the lilies a little earlier in the summer. Its moment is awaited. It gives a rhythm to the life of the garden, in contrast to all those roses and pelargoniums and dahlias and all the annuals and bedding plants which sprawl nonchalantly across the calendar, as if we would never run out of tomorrows.
Is it a kind of snobbery to have plants which others don’t? It’s easy to do so, by ordering from specialist nurseries, because garden centres tend to be boringly conservative. They do introduce new plants of course, but slowly. Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ was a sensation a few years ago, now it’s common. It’s a tall, pinky-purple spring flowering allium which you can plant in amongst just about anything, bold enough to work in small numbers, a sudden, dramatic, short-lived presence which has – for a snob – become clichéd. But if you don’t know it, it’s exciting.  Allium angulosum is a good one if you’re in danger of being bored with your garden. We’re all plant hunters. Some common things of course never become boring, snowdrops will never be boring.

Yes, its time to think about ordering bulbs, especially if your garden is beginning to look tired and withered in places and you are feeling tired and withered too. Small bulbs should be planted early. Snowdrops often fail because they wither before they’re put in the ground. You won’t see any sign of life before the new year, but their roots need to get going in the autumn. Aim to plant them by the end of September. I’ve not found the much vaunted ‘in the green’ plants to be impressive. They’ve been dug up whilst in growth, of course, and the roots have been damaged. Narcissi too should be planted early. Tulips are different; you can plant them as late as November, and then the slugs don’t have long to get to work on them. But on the other hand the bulbs can develop moulds if they become too warm and damp, specially those which are crammed together at the bottom of the bag. It’s not a kindness to store bulbs inside the house while you find the time to put them in the ground. they’re better off outside, as long as they’re kept dry.
I can recommend Parker’s for bulbs. their wholesale terms are generous, i.e. you can order fairly small quantities, and anyway a generous number of a particular variety usually works better than a few of too many. they have two catalogues, retail and wholesale. their wholesale prices are often less than half a garden centre’s prices. The earlier you order the earlier your bulbs will come; at peak times there’s a much longer turn around. And you can order the old-fashioned way, by telephone. You get to speak almost immediately to friendly, efficient people. Efficiency can fall off in the packing though: occasionally you don’t get exactly what you’ve ordered. My lilies have been muddled. But that’s all right. That’s how I came by my beautiful Lilium henryi, the orange turks’ cap type.

here’s a link to Parkers’ bulbs:

We’ve got a new bee hive at St John’s, and lots of very happy bees. At the moment they’re particularly keen on echinops, (globe thistle), and helenium:

And here, since sometimes you find a whole throng of them, more excitedly crowded than on any other plant I know, except maybe Eryngium giganteum,  are bees on echinops from – after a lot of searching, it turned out to be longer ago than I thought – 2013. Notice the proboscis of the bee on the left of the second photo:

How many species of bee do you think there are in these pictures?

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1 Response to garden notes no. 30 Allium angulosum, morning glory, cleansing cobwebs, bees and bulbs

  1. Myna says:

    There were red hot pokers in Mr Goldthorpe’s garden, Mr Goldthorpe who had the surgical appliances factory/workshop. Mum didn’t grow them in our garden; most likely they were too crude and common.

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