Tag Archives: erythronium

When the detail brings delight, not the devil

Tulipa saxatilis and simple cream freesias in the rockery this week

Bulbs play a major role in our garden. We use a huge range of bulbs, many no longer available commercially. Some never were readily available. Very few of those we grow are the larger, modern hybrids which are generally what are on offer these days. We prefer the simpler style of the species or at least closer to the species.

Added to that, seventy years of intensive gardening across two generations has built up the numbers most satisfyingly. Most of our cultivated gardens have bulbs incorporated in the plantings. Or at least bulbs, corms, tubers or rhizomes to cover the range.


We have a fair few that are fleeting seasonal wonders in our climate but we just adjust our expectations. The cute erythroniums – dog’s tooth violets – are maybe a 10 day delight and can be taken out by untimely storms but that is just the way things are.

Meet Beryl. Narcissis ‘Beryl’ with cyclamen, nerines and even a Satyrium coriifolium in the bottom left corner

I don’t grow any in containers now although the same can not be said of Mark. His bulb collection is currently sitting in limbo for us all to see the scale as his inner sanctum – his Nova house – is currently being relocated. He hasn’t taken good care of them in recent times but he is determined to keep some of the rarer, touchier varieties alive. It is possible to maintain a more comprehensive bulb collection if you are willing to faff around with growing them in containers in controlled conditions. I am not so dedicated. My interest wanes if we can not grow them in garden conditions.

Gladiolus tristis popping up unexpectedly in our parking area

It is the random bulbs beyond the gardens that are currently bringing me pleasure. Some of these have been planted. Some have popped up from our nursery days. When trays of bulbs were being repotted, Mark had a strict rule that fresh potting mix was to be used (granulated bark was our chosen medium). Hygiene, he would explain. The old potting mix was spread around the place and at times it had seed or tiny bulbs within it. I am guessing this is how the Gladiolus tristis, a species gladiolus, came to be at the base of a cherry tree. I certainly don’t remember planting it there and I can’t recall it flowering before.

Ipheions at the base of an orange tree

When we plant bulbs beyond the cultivated garden areas, we try and select spots where they can establish in fairly undisturbed conditions. At the base of trees is good, as long as there is plenty of light. Around old tree stumps, on margins that don’t get mown often, or in little spots where we can walk past and be surprised to see them in bloom.

Trillium red with bluebells down in the park meadow
And trillium white with Lachenalia aloides tricolor and snowdrops to the right on the margins by a stump

We have rather too many bluebells now, to the point where I often dig out clumps to reduce overcrowding. The Spanish bluebells or the ones that are crosses between the vigorous Spanish and the more refined English species are definitely rampant, bordering on weeds. That sea of blue is very charming in their flowering season but sometimes it is the one seedling escape flowering bravely on its own that makes me smile as I pass.

The simplicity of a self-sown bluebell
Common old Lachenalia aloides where a tree stump used to be

It is both the transient nature and the detail that makes bulbs so interesting in a garden context. Far from simplifying our own garden as we age, the more we garden, the more we like to add fine detail. That is what keeps it interesting for us.

Bluebells and narcissi at the base of gum tree
Narcissus bulbocodium with bluebells

Tikorangi Diary: Thursday 16 September 2011

The original Iolanthe is a wondrous sight this week

The original Iolanthe is a wondrous sight this week

Veltheimia bracteata "Rosalba"

Veltheimia bracteata "Rosalba"

It is not easy to convey the full impact of the original Magnolia Iolanthe in flower. It is a wondrous event. Mind you, at about 50 years old, the canopy does measure around 10 metres across so there is rather a lot of Iolanthe to be wondrous. As somebody commented to us, what will Felix Jury be like in full flower when it achieves the same age and similar stature? Possibly even more astounding. We never tire of magnolia time here.

We advertise that we are open for plant sales on Fridays and Saturdays which means that we will definitely be here in attendance. In fact we are here most of the time and the garden is open every day (there is an honesty box if we are not around) but we just don’t guarantee our availability on other days. You can ring first to check if you want to come on other days. Details on what we have available are listed in Plant Sales. I have to comment though that despite every page on Plant Sales explaining that we do not courier or mail order plants, (sales are to personal customers only), every single day brings enquiries from people who have either failed to read that header comment or who hope that we will make an exception for them. If it was easy to pack and courier plants, we would still be doing it but it isn’t, so we don’t. End of story, I am afraid. We will however hold plants out the back while you arrange for somebody else to pick them up for you or until you can get here.

The dainty delight of the erythronium

The dainty delight of the erythronium

The highly sought after lemon and pink variant of veltheimia (bracteata Rosalba) is just coming into flower but we only have a few plants left so be in quickly if you want it. We have plenty of the more common pink (bracteata). And just as a complete contrast to the opulent magnolias, we have plants of one of the daintiest and most ephemeral seasonal delights – dogs tooth violets or erythroniums. Spring here is all about the big pictures and the tiny treasures. Why would anybody want an evergreen garden which looks the same all year round?