The black Pulsatilla flowers!

A couple of years ago we were contacted by an alpines enthusiast who asked if we could identify a black-flowered Pulsatilla that had come into his possession. We can’t remember the precise details now, but the background led us to believe the plant in question was Pulsatilla rubra ssp hispanica, a native of the Pyrenees. The gentleman in question was later kind enough to bring us, when he passed through the Southampton area, 3 seedlings of said plant.

Sadly, we lost one of these, but the remaining two plants grew on strongly in one of our greenhouses. A little while back, we noticed that one of them had produced two buds, and since then we have been observing them with increasing levels of excitement as the flowers prepared to open. And today was the day when the flowers opened fully to reveal their true splendour, with petals dark as a starless midnight. They are, it has to be said, absolutely stunning, an opinion that seemed to be echoed by those nice people on Twitter, when we shared our little beauty there.

The next step, we suppose, is to find a way of increasing our rather meagre stock of these lovely little plants, whether that be by seed or by root cuttings. We will have a think about that once we have got over the thrill of seeing our little plant produce flowers of such intense loveliness.

Rob & Joanna – April 2012.

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Weathering the storm

We have certainly experienced some extremes in terms of weather over the past month or two. Already those sweltering March days when we enjoyed temperatures of 20 plus degrees seem but a distant memory, as we look up to cold grey skies and dodge the heavy rain showers.

Some days ago we had epic thunderstorms that hurled down icy hailstones from the heavens and left the ground looking just as if it had snowed. All very exciting. But what was even more remarkable was the effect on a lot of our plants. We noticed markings on the leaves just as if they had been scratched by an army of plant-hating cats, then after a couple of days cracks developed in the leaves along the lines so created.

A wide range of plants were affected by the hailstorm, but the poor Abutilon Vitifolium, with their large and not especially tough leaves, seem to have come off worst (see photo for the evidence!). They will need some TLC and better weather to get back to their full splendour, poor things.

And other plants less dramatically affected will bear the scars for a while, we suppose. Oh well. All part of the rich and diverse experience of growing plants in the British climate.

Rob & Joanna – April 2012.

On the road again

If you’ve found this page looking for the track by Canned Heat, you’re in the wrong place – you should be here.

The title of this post is simply to celebrate the start of the show and fair season after the long winter hibernation. There is no substitute for the excitement and enjoyment of a day or weekend spent at an event which attracts real gardeners who appreciate a good plant. Especially a rare plant: that gets Rob seriously excited, sad man that he is.

We have just spent the Easter weekend in the spacious surroundings of Somerley Park at one of the series of Craft & Garden fairs that take place through the year down in these parts. Saturday and Sunday saw pretty passable weather for the time of year, and the crowds turned out and people bought our plants, so everyone was happy. Monday, as predicted by the forecasters, was an absolute washout, however. So bad were the forecasts that a number of outdoor exhibitors packed up on the Sunday and didn’t bother with the Monday. Others gave up on the Monday morning. Not very professional, it has to be said. In this business you have to take the rough with the smooth, the wet with the sunny.

We stuck it out to the end, so that those brave souls who ventured out had something to look at. And we didn’t go home empty handed, selling rather more plants than we might reasonably have expected to in the conditions.

Although we had worried in advance that we might not have enough plants looking good enough for the show, given it’s only early April, we found plenty to take in the end, and we were quite pleased with the display we managed. As expected, the gorgeous Clematis Avalanche didn’t last long, and the other, perhaps surprise, stars of the weekend were the Dicentra Spectabilis which sold extremely well in both pink and white varieties. Just goes to show that the old ones are hard to beat!

And so there we are. One done, plenty more to come. We can’t wait!

Rob & Joanna – April 2012

Show season starting!

The show season is starting rather earlier than usual this year, as Easter has come forward a bit and we find ourselves this coming weekend, ie pretty early April, trekking off to Somerley Park, near Ringwood for the three-day Craft & Garden Fair. It’s a bit ironic that, having been basking in tropical temperatures in March, it looks like we’ll be huddling under the gazebo trying to keep out of the cold wind and blustery showers. Ah, the joys of the great British climate.

We have just been going round working out what to take and, for those interested, a list of the plants that have booked a place in the van going down on Friday afternoon for setup or on Saturday morning is provided below. The numbers indicate how many plants we will have on any one day, and forgive any abbreviated or otherwise mangled names. Lots of things are beginning to look good, though it’s early yet for a nursery like us that overwinters most things outdoors, so it shouldn’t be too bad a show. The Deutzia Gracilis are covered in pretty little globular buds that might be breaking out by Saturday, and we will have some rather special-looking Clematis Avalanche, among other excitements.

Hope to see some of you there. But bring your anorak.

Rob & Joanna – April 2012.