Month: May 2016

May Posy

May Posy

When I started to look for the ingredients for this month’s posy I thought the garden looked a bit bare! The month of May is a transition period in our garden, marking the end of tulip season and the beginning of the roses. At times I looked out and all I could see was greenery. However I did deliberately plant ferns last year to enjoy the texture and green colour. I’ve written a whole Blog Post about the use of ferns in Floral Design so decided I ought to plant some!

Fern
Fern
Fern
Fern

Fern tablecentre

Another new addition was Solomon’s Seal. I loved using this beautiful arching perennial last year in a fabulous table runner on a course with Sabine Darrall so thought it would work wonderfully with the ferns in the garden. I was right. However my new stems were too precious to cut for this month’s posy!

May Garden

Solomon Seal

One of my followers has asked to see more images of the whole of our garden and not just the detail. This meant I did have a jolly good go at the weeding and tidying up this month! When I moved into our present house I introduced Mr Smiles to flowers. He was familiar with dandelions, tomatoes, rhubarb and swiss chard but that was about it.

Virginia Way-2
Virginia Way-3

Over the next 6 years I dug borders and planted whatever caught my eye when I had finished digging and whenever I went on an outing to a garden centre. I’ve learnt a lot in the process. I didn’t make a plan. I just started digging. This means that there has not been much thought to a seasonal plan and there isn’t really a grand garden design with little cosy corners as I would like. When we move I shall have more of a long term garden plan.

May Garden
May GardenMay Garden
May Garden
May Garden

May Blooms Small-129

I roped in my father in law to build me a trellis as I wanted to grow climbing roses, clematis and honeysuckle. The good thing about the trellis is it hides the bins. However the flowers do tend to put on the best show on the opposite side by the bins as they obviously like to sunbathe! I used some clematis in this month’s posy.

I’m really pleased that we have great tits nesting in the blue birdbox again this month. I provided a choice of homes. However the middle blue residence seems to be the property of the month.

Bird Hut
May Blooms

Last weekend we spent a lovely afternoon trying to capture the great tits going back and forth feeding their young. My photography skills with moving birds need a bit more practise as the images are a bit too dark for my liking.

Feeding Time

Ready to fly

Feeding time

It’s actually been quite a month for wildlife. I spotted quite a few white and greenfly on my roses which I wasn’t amused with. However there are also ladybirds about. Hopefully they will attack the aphids. That’s when they’ve finished mating!

LadybirdLady Love

We have had quite a few of my cottage garden favourite blooms out this month including Aquilegia and Love-in-a-mist.

I chose to use these flowers in my posy as they seemed to be representative of the month.

May Blooms
May Blooms

 

Purple AquilegiaAqilegia

Pink Aquilegia
Pink Aquilegia

Aquilegia

NigellaPersian Jewel

Centaurea montana is a great plant as it just keeps flowering. Not very showy, but a very useful filler.

Centaurea montana

One of my favourite flowers is Dicentra , now re-named as Lamprocapnos spectabilis. The arching stems have pink flowers which resemble pretty pink hearts. This is another shrub which I deemed too precious to be picked this month!  My peony with just one fantastic bloom was also a no go area for picking!

Pink Hearts

May Blooms

Coral Peony

Our front garden has undergone a similar transformation as the back. In fact the front garden really comes into it’s own next month when the roses get going. Again there were no flowers. I dug a small border and also planted a seaside area. Under our bay window we have stones. The area is quite damp in the Winter, but dry in the Summer. I’ve gradually been planting coastal loving plants. This is planting in the loosest terms. I’ve literally just shoved plants in among the stones and told them to get on with it. I have collected shells and drift wood from trips to the coast and added them in.

Virginia Way-5

Virginia Way-1

This was the border five years ago. Now I think I might need to make the border bigger…! I am so chuffed with my oriental poppy. In this image there is only one flower. This month I have poppy flowers galore!

Oriental Poppy

Oriental Poppy

May Blooms

As I had lots of poppy flowers I decided I could spare one for my May Posy to be star of the show.

May Posy

 

In addition to the poppy the front garden has a lot of allium flowers in shades of white, pink and purple. I planted the front up after the back so there is more of a deliberate plan. I have chosen to use a colour palette of soft pinks, whites and lilacs.

Allium

Nectaroscordum siculum

Allium

Allium roseum

As I have quite a few of the pretty blush coloured Allium roseum I was happy to pick some for my creation.

May Posy

The other flowers I am very fond of are my stately foxgloves as they remind me of walks in the countryside.

Foxglove

Foxglove

Foxglove

Foxglove

By the front door we still have little viola in pots. I managed to include a couple of these in my posy as I love their cheerful little faces.

Viola

Viola
Viola

So there we have it this month’s posy is a bit of this and a bit of that, which represents our garden rather well!

May PosyMay PosyMay PosyMay Posy

 

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Bluebell Time

Badbury Clump Bluebell Wood

Bluebells at Badbury Clump

The highlight of May for me has been seeing the fleeting beauty of carpets of Spring bluebells.  I went for a lovely run starting at Badbury Clump at the beginning of the month.  The Clump forms the remains of an Iron Age hill fort from about 600 BC and is famous for its beech trees and bluebells. They really were spectacular.

English BluebellsBluebells

I also enjoyed a lovely evening with my local running group,  Abingdon Athletics Club, running through the woods at Cothill.

A couple of years ago Mr Smiles and I had a holiday near Sissinghurst in May and the carpet of blue flowers in the woods was equally lovely.

Bluebells Sissinghurst

Bluebells Sissinghurst

We have also had quite a display of bluebells in the garden this year. This got me thinking about the difference between native English bluebells and Garden bluebells as they clearly aren’t the same.

Spanish Bluebells

My Garden Bluebells

Spanish bluebells

English Bluebells

Woodland Bluebells

Bluebell

Bluebell

Bluebell Watercolour

I really enjoyed the process of painting two types of bluebell in watercolour. I found the process helped me see the differences botanically.

Bluebell Identification

Bluebell Watercolour

Native Bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Leaf Width: 7-10mm

Stem: Droops to one side.

Flowers: Scented. Deep Violet Blue or white. Longer petals forming a straighter tube shape, curled back at tips. Flowers on one side of the stem.

Anthers: Pale Cream

Bluebell - cream anthers

Spanish Bluebell Watercolour

Spanish Bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanica

Leaf Width: 20 – 35 mm (broader)

Stem: Upright and chunkier appearance. Less dainty.

Flowers: No scent. Dark blue/pink/white. Petals are shorter and form a wider open bell-shape.The tips flare outwards rather than curl. The flowers are spiralled around the stem.

Anthers: Blue

Our Native Bluebell woods are threatened by the more vigorous Spanish bluebells.  Hybrid Bluebells result from cross pollination. The Hybrid is somewhere in between the two with broader leaves, little scent and flowers all around the stem which droop slightly. The petals are shorter and more open like the Spanish. The tips sometimes roll back.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my trips through the bluebells this month.

The Woodland Trust would like to know where and when bluebells have been seen across the country. Why not join the Big Bluebell Watch and help map bluebells across the country?

Bluebell Watercolour

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April Posy

April Posy

`From Sultans of the Ottoman Empire and Dutch Merchants of the Golden Age, to gardeners today, the tulip has captivated people around the world for centuries. This fascinating flower has inspired artists and brought great wealth and even economic ruin to people who have fallen under its spell.’ The Tulip Museum, Amsterdam.

There are at least 16 different divisions of tulips. My favourite are the more flamboyant, frilly double ones and those that are bi-coloured, rather than the simple single tulips. However single tulips do look great when planted in groups. I had several sumptuous red tulips in bloom in April and they inspired the creation of my Posy of the Month.

Double Late Red Tulip

Red Tulip

 

Double Late Tulip

Single Early Tulips

Single Early Tulips bloom early in the season (compared to other tulips). They are known for having very strong stems. This means that they will stand up extremely well to wind and rain, unlike some other types of tulips (for example, Parrot Tulips).

April tulips

April tulips

April tulips

Apricot Beauty – Single Early Tulip

 

Viridiflora Tulips

I have both `Groenland’ and `Spring Green’ Viridiflora tulip varieties. The term Viridiflora is derived from two Latin words: viridis meaning green and flos meaning flower.  All Viridiflora Tulips have a streak of green somewhere on each petal. This contrasts dramatically with the basic flower colour (white, pink, gold, etc.). In addition to this beautiful colour contrast, Viridiflora Tulips are also known for their exceptionally long flowering capability. Some of mine have been known to flower in June!

April tulips

April tulips

Tulipa `Groenland’

April tulips
April tulipTulipa `Spring Green’

 

Fringed Tulips

Other tulip divisions include the Fringed Tulips. These tulips have petals which are topped with fringes that look like the frayed edge of a piece of satin fabric.

Fringed Tulip
Lily Flowered Tulip
Lily-flowered Tulips

Then there are Lily-Flowered Tulips. These tulips have long single flowers with pointed petals, often curving out at the tips. They flower in late spring.

 

One of my favourite colour schemes this April has been these jolly orange tulips against the blue of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ and the bluebells.

April orange tulips

April tulips

 

Double Late Tulips

I have had quite a few double varieties in bloom this year. The blooms of Double Late Tulips have so many petals that they are also known as Peony-flowered Tulips. They flower in late spring.  The blossoms are extremely large; when fully open they can be as much as 4 inches (10 cm) across. The large showy flowers, resemble peonies. They often have weak stems which will not support the large flowers in wind and rain.

April Tulip

Lilac Perfection Tulip

Double Tulip

Double Tulip

Double Late Tulip

Parrot Tulips

Parrot tulips have large, often bi-colored, flowers with frilled and/or twisted petals. They flower in mid and late spring. Their stems are often too weak to support the large flowers so staking is sometimes necessary.

April Posy

April tulip

Rembrandt Tulips

Another variety are Rembrandt Tulips. These tulips are named after the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt  (1606 – 1669), who lived and worked in Holland at about the same time that tulips first became enormously popular. Actually Rembrandt himself is not known for painting flowers! Many other Dutch Masters of the time did include tulips in their paintings.

Jacob Marrel 1640

Jacob Marrel Tulips 1640

Jacob Marrel was a German still life painter active in Utrecht during the Dutch Golden Age. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

During this time, tulips became all the rage in Holland, particularly the ones with streaks and stripes of colour. These types of tulips were bought for huge sums during the so-called Tulip mania that occurred between 1593 and 1637.

We now know that these unusual markings were actually caused by a virus, which eventually caused damage to the tulip bulbs. Because of this, the original Rembrandt Tulips are no longer sold commercially. However, there are quite a few modern, virus-free, Rembrandt “look-alike” tulips available.

 History of the Tulip

Tulips are often considered a Dutch flower. However the tulip was originally a wild flower growing in Central Asia. They were first cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). The botanical name for tulip is tulipa and is derived from the Turkish word tulbend or turban which the flower resembles. Tulips abound in the design of Iznik ceramics. The elegant tulips of Iznik tiles are far removed from bulbous modern-day tulips.  They most resemble contemporary lily form varieties.

Iznik Tulips
Iznik Tiles

 

The tulip was introduced to Holland in 1593 by a botanist Carolus Clusius, who bought it from Constantinople. He planted a small garden with the aim of researching the plant for medicinal purposes. His neighbours broke into the garden and stole the tulips to make some quick money. This started the Dutch Bulb Trade. Tulip Mania followed. People bought up bulbs to the extent that they became so prized and expensive that the bulbs themselves were used as money until the market finally crashed. As the Dutch Golden Age grew tulips became popular in paintings and festivals. When I visited art galleries in Amsterdam I saw lots of tulips in paintings by the Dutch Masters.

Ambrosio Bosschaert GLASS WITH FOUR TULIPS c.1615 19 x 13 cm. Bredius Museum, The Hague
Ambrosio Bosschaert GLASS WITH FOUR TULIPS c.1615 19 x 13 cm. Bredius Museum, The Hague
Ambrosio Bosschaert – Tulips in a Wan-Li Vase c. 1619
Ambrosio Bosschaert – Tulips in a Wan-Li Vase c. 1619
Jan van den Hecke – Flowers in a Vase 1652
Jan van den Hecke – Flowers in a Vase 1652
Ambrosius Bosschaert Tulips
Ambrosius Bosschaert – Still Life with a Bouquet of Tulips

Ambrosius Bosschaert – Still Life with a Bouquet of Tulips

Beyond the Dutch Golden Age tulips remained a popular design motif in the Art Nouveau Period.

Art Nouveau Tulips

Nouveau Tulips

William Morris also included a lot of tulips in his wall hangings in the Arts and Crafts Movement.

William Morris Tulips
William Morris Tulips
William Morris Tulip Design
April Posy

My April Posy was inspired by looking at the work of the Dutch Masters. I don’t normally take photographs which are low-key as I prefer lighter high-key images. However I’m pleased with my images. I felt that a darker backdrop would show off my vibrant red tulips well. I have arranged them in two different vintage jugs. One is a traditional copper Guernsey milk can. The other was a jug which my Grandmother inherited. I don’t know it’s date or history. However I do know my Gran referred to it as `The Never Forgive Jug’. She felt it had some value and had been given to her grandfather by the lady of a big house where he was a gardener in Kent. It was called this name as no-one would be forgiven if it was ever broken! 

April Posy

April Posy

 

April PosyApril Posy

April Posy

 

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