Unseasonably mild and the dahlias love it

The October temperatures have been good for the heating bills and good for the dahlias, but, sadly and worryingly, not good for our future as they are another indication of the changing climate.

I thought at the beginning of this month, as I was cutting a couple of sunflowers and a few dahlias for an arrangement, that this was going to be the last floral hurrah for the backyard, but as you can see it wasn’t. We are nearly at the end of the month and I’ve just cut another full bunch of dahlias. The weather has been so mild that even the dinner plate dahlia ‘Belle of Barmera’ has had long enough to produce another three full, shaggy blooms.

Of course it’s not just the dahlias still blooming. There are some roses that can produce the odd flower up to Christmas, but this gorgeous rose ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ doesn’t usually achieve that in my backyard. Sadly, this single stem of eleven blooms will be the last for this year. And, as I conclude this post I have Yves Montand singing the plaintive ‘Les Feuilles Mortes’ on repeat in the background. It’s that time of year.

Shrub rose ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. (Introduced 2003)

A pastel pink beauty and thornless too

It is almost the summer and it is sunny. The temperature here in Suffolk yesterday topped 28 degrees centigrade. Just this last week the fat buds of the climbing David Austin rose, Mortimer Sackler, have burst into their double, pastel pink blooms. You can just see from the photograph below that the rose is planted in the corner of the small, below ground level front garden. The aim is to train it up the south-facing basement wall where most of the blooms will eventually be in full sun. This is its second year and it is coping much better now I have improved the soil with plenty of home compost and organic chicken manure pellets. Last autumn I discovered that the builders had dumped their excess sand and gravel and covered it with a thin layer of top soil, something I should’ve noticed when I originally planted the rose!

Rosa Mortimer Sackler.

Of course, sometimes a gardening error occurs that is not the gardener’s fault. This happened when I bought the clematis ‘Hagley Hybrid’. I specifically bought this variety as my late mother had grown it in the partial shade of a conifer hedge and it flowered amazingly well. Harrumphing and disappointment have ensued. From the photograph below I think you will probably know that this clematis is not ‘Hagley Hybrid’, but is most likely the very popular Nelly Moser.

Clematis Nelly Moser

Now, I wouldn’t have chosen Nelly Moser myself and it really needs full sun to flower well, but as it happens the two-tone pink of the clematis has picked up the two-tones of the pelargonium, so all is not lost.

There are always some positive surprises in the garden and this spring it has been the abundance and the long flowering period of the aquilegias. By chance it appears they’ve had the optimum growing conditions. Notably they have not been swamped by any of the towering foxgloves as they were, very unusually, totally decimated last autumn.

Aquilegia Petticoat Pink

When I first started gardening in the 1990s I often listened on a Sunday afternoon to Gardeners’ Question Time on BBC Radio 4. In those days the late Geoffrey Smith was a regular panel member offering advice and tips. I always remember one tale he told of how the gardener (the husband!) should cut the first, main bloom from each cluster of flowers growing on a floribunda rose, but not dispose of the blooms in the compost. Instead he suggested, in a jocular manner, giving them as a gift to ‘the wife’. Of course, this removal of the central bloom is a type of early pruning to allow the other three buds in the cluster to fully develop and give an overall better display. ‘The wife’ being grateful for the waste prunings was the sly joke and the audience laughed. I mused then and even more now that perhaps it was the ‘husband-gardener’ that needed to be disposed of in the compost.

Finally, wouldn’t it be lovely if ‘smell-o-vision’ was available as the scent from this little bunch of very short-stemmed, prunings is truly delicious and has perfumed the entire basement.

Time to fill the gap – a summer rambler perhaps?

Rosa-Debutante-againIt is definitive – after a year’s grace my beautiful old climbing rose is definitely dead. Last weekend I spent a few hours cutting down and removing the old skeleton of tangled lifeless branches. This winter’s tidy up has revealed quite a gap on the east end of the pergola and dividing trellis.

Initially I had been considering another pink rose planted away from the site of the dead rose, but still trailing up over the pergola. There are hundreds of pink roses to choose from and it is a case of deciding what qualities I would like such as colour, scent, length of flowering period, height and possible hip production. And, also very importantly whether the rose will tolerate my impoverished, free-draining soil and low rainfall. But another pink rose?

Perhaps not pink then. How about a white rose (the neighbouring wisteria is white) or even a pale yellow?

Of course, also, what about hips too for the autumn and winter months?

But having a good think and looking again at some of my favourite colour combinations.


And, I think that the peachy apricot colour I’m looking for could be this rose, rosa François Juranville. It was first introduced in 1906 and as it is a Wichurana Rambler it will only flower once in mid-summer, but within a few years that should make a spectacular display for July. It’s the colour and scent that wins the day!

François Juranville
Sprays of scented double flowers, rosa François Juranville.

Digital prints versus hand painted

Perhaps the inquiry ‘digital prints versus hand painted’ appears at first glance a non-starter as a challenge. After all, whether digital or any other kind of print, the notion of prints is that there is more than the single original. The collection of images here is considering the original inspirational flowers and how they have been worked into textile designs for either multiple print use or one-of-a-kind hand work.

A print is a copy of the original and the more copies there are somehow changes the value of the original – or does it? There are many reproduction copies of, for example, the ‘Mona Lisa’, but the original is almost priceless. The arrangement of a ‘limited’ print run is the intermediate solution between an expensive original and cheaper mass produced copies. In many cases it obvious the difference between an original and a print – Monet didn’t paint his many different water lilies on the side of shopping bags, but large canvases.

However, in the world of silk painting a digital reproduction on a scarf is sometimes termed as a ‘limited edition’ and then labelled as ‘hand’ made if a square of digitally printed silk has had the edges sewn by hand.

A digital print on silk from an original piece of artwork.
A digital print on silk from an original piece of artwork.

There is something uneven and unrepeatable in the process of hand painting silk that gives a finished piece a unique appearance. Even when you have an original drawing, watercolour or oil painting translated into a digital form and then printed on to silk the accuracy and consistency of the technology somehow reduces the irregular, fluctuating effect of the hand painted original. Obviously, I’m used to working with silk and examining it closely and I’ve found it hard to put my finger on precisely what the difference between digital and hand painted is, but a difference there certainly is and it is more than just knowing there is only one like it!

Not all saved from the rain!

Early-July-savedI’m English and therefore ‘the weather’ rules! I have been so fed up with the rain ruining the flowers that as it started to pour again I decided to cut the remaining roses. There will be a second flush from the repeat-flowering varieties and a smattering of blooms from the continuously-flowering, but that’s it for my summer only roses.

Small arrangement for side table.
Small arrangement for side table.

Large arrangement for mantlepiece.
Large arrangement for mantlepiece.

Sadly, as daylilies (hemerocallis) live up to their name, flowering for just one day, they aren’t really used as a cut flower. It is a case of appreciating them in the rain and taking a quick photo.


I don’t think I’ve noticed the ‘plant’ year so ahead of itself as it is this year in East Anglia. I heard on the radio that in some parts of the country the cobnuts are already forming nearly a month early. I trotted down the garden and sure enough I spotted some beginning to mature on the tree – well that will be until the squirrels find them!

Cobnuts early this year. (type of hazelnut)
Cobnuts early this year. (type of hazelnut)


A Tale of Two Roses

Last-years-gloryWell, that’s very disappointing. My once magnificent rose that showered down from one end of the pergola has just keeled over and died in the last month. I shall wait until the autumn before I undertake the post-mortem, but digging around the roots may still not yield any answers to this total plant failure.

dead rose rosa Debutante
This is what I’ve got this year an unsightly muddle of the dead rose, rosa Debutante.

Rosa Debutante
This is what I should be getting in July, but not this year.

It is rather unsightly, but its structure is supporting a clematis so I won’t be able to cut it down until the end of the season.

Pergola-thin copy

However, on a brighter note, a couple of hardwood cuttings I took from another rose, rosa Souvenir du Docteur Jamain, are finally robust enough to start flowering. I had to leave the original plant in my garden when I moved back to East Anglia from Devon. I guess on this occasion you could say you win some you lose some.

rosa Souvenir du Docteur Jamain
Intense and fragrant the rich, very dark red rose, rosa Souvenir du Docteur Jamain.

Nature’s Version of Winter Pink

Small pink bloom rose Madame Isaac PereireNormally the Bourbon rose, Madame Isaac Pereire shows off with large and glamorous blooms, but last week I noticed it had made an out of season effort to flower. Yes, the bloom is small, but nevertheless it does provide a cheery pink addition to the winter garden. The rose is grown in a moderately sheltered corner up against the wall of the house, but doesn’t usually start flowering until May. A few blasts of easterly winter wind keeps it dormant, but so far this winter we’ve had buckets of rain from the southwest, no snow and few easterlies.

Pink rose Karlsruhe

Further down in the garden a tough, modern climbing rose, Karlsruhe, has also managed to produce a fuchsia pink bloom to lift the gloomy grey. Looking at these roses again I think that undersized and blighted flowers look odd and messy. This particularly applies to the last of the winter outliers, the David Austin English rose, St Swithun. In summer the flowers are very large, opened cupped and a delicate soft warm pink, but this January bloom is small and a darker pink. Realistically, I should just cut off all the stunted flowers and save the plants their energy. Oh, how we clutch at straws.

rosa St Swithun

July Pinks and Patterns

July in the garden

Portrait of my mother
Valeria by Valeria
(my mother)
girl in garden photo
Photo taken by my mother in preparation for a portrait. (All these big hats. She was an old romantic at heart.)

Sometimes July can be a quiet time in a garden. My mother used to complain that once the delphiniums and the first flush of roses were going over you had to wait until August for any real colour interest. She had an on/off relationship with her garden as her real love was painting. She did appreciate flowers, but wanted easy plants with a long flowering season – don’t we all. She painted portraits, not flowers, but like many of us she often photographed subjects in the garden.

The pink flowers blooming in the middle of July in my garden are the stronger, brighter pinks moving into the fuchsia and magenta shades that are now taking over from the predominant pastels of June.

We can use nature’s graceful arrangements of blooms and foliage as our inspiration for colour and tonal combinations, and sometimes a quite messy shot can give rise to an interesting motif and pattern structure.

PS – If anyone recognises the ‘unknown floribunda’, the larger, dark pink photo, I’d like to know, please? I actually bought it believing it was ‘Blue Moon’ as that was the name on the label, but I know it certainly isn’t as I had ‘Blue Moon’ in another garden. Any guesses?

A Good Year for the Roses

This summer has been good for roses. Good displays as long as the roses are healthy bushes with established root runs. Within the UK East Anglia is a low rainfall region added to that I garden on a very light, sandy soil and, as you may know, not ideal for most roses.

Pink rose on pergola
Cascading down from the pergola Rosa Debutante

But I do love roses and as they really prefer heavier, rich soil I have to feed them well. I always mulch them generously using most of my garden compost to feed their greedy needs and retain moisture.

The white wisteria covering the pergola has now finished flowering, but continues to provide some welcome green shade. However, down the other end of the pergola the pink rambler rose, Debutante, has broken into a glamorous profusion of pink blooms.

Other roses flowering at the moment are the fully double pink Rosa Karlsruhe, the striped Rosa Ferdinand Pichard, the single white species rose Rosa fedtschenkoana and the single white rambler Rosa Francis E Lester . I grow both the white ramblers through mixed hedging to provide hips for the birds in the autumn.

Also clusters of white roses add highlights to a predominantly green hedge informally planted with hazel, hawthorn and deciduous viburnum.

In the evening the garden is awash with delicate perfumes as you pass under the various climbing and rambling roses. A gentle, uplifting pleasure.

Rose on pergola
The warm evening sun catches the roses and fills the air with sweet scent,

Roses – The Scent of an English Summer

peachy yellow rose
Rosa Gloire de Dijon
Being a bit of a smarty pants I have planted two heavily scented roses either side of my bedroom window so that their captivating fragrance could waft into my bedroom on warm summer evenings. But being merely human I have failed to keep them under control allowing them to thrust upwards and become top heavy.

Oh dear, during Saturday night we had unseasonal high winds here in East Anglia and both rose bushes were beaten up and the next morning I found them knocked to the ground in a thorny mess.

Roses in coffee pot
Salvaged from the unwelcome and unseasonal wind.
Following a rescue pruning I have retied them into position. It’s not been a total horticultural failure as they are well rooted and as a bonus I have several flower arrangements filling rooms with the scent of summer, and, I have some more lovely floral photos for my work.

Pale yellow & pink roses
Rosa Alister Stella Gray with pink Rosa Narrow Water.
White & pale yellow roses
Rosa Alister Stella Gray, Rosa Cécile Brunner and ox eye daisies.

roses & daisies
Floral inspiration.

Chelsea, Flowers and a late English Spring

This week in London it’s the Chelsea Flower Show. I’ve only been once in 1981 and that was before I had my first garden.  However, I’ve always appreciated flowers and floral displays.  What pleasure there is in the delightful diversity of colour and form often enhanced by a glorious scent.

Bellis perennis & myosotis
Daisies & Forget-me-nots

Interestingly, this year many of the show gardens at Chelsea seem to be all about green foliage, clipped box, yew hedges, and controlled spaces.  Perhaps these straitened economic times together with the long winter and unusually cold spring in the UK have combined to give us a flourish of densely green gardens, but gardens with few showy flowers.  For me, after viewing the photos on the RHS website, the most inspirational garden was the ‘Stop the Spread’ garden. http://www.rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events/RHS-Chelsea-Flower-Show/2013/Gardens/Garden-directory/The-Fera-Garden–Stop-the-Spread  This garden, sponsored by The Food and Environmental Research Agency and designed by Jo Thompson, combines both the capture of a naturalistic aesthetic restrained for an urban space with a message about the impact of the invasion of non-native species into our local environments. Superb.

Madame Isaac Pereire
Rose bud of rosa Madame Isaac Pereire

Green has come late to my garden this year in East Anglia and flowers that are normally in full bloom during Chelsea week are still only in bud.  Most notably I have the beautiful, strongly scented old rose, Rosa Madame Isaac Pereire, in a large pot under my bathroom window, normally the first rose to bloom in my garden, but a couple of weeks late this spring.

Dark pink rose bud
Rosa Madame Isaac Pereire about to bloom

Unfortunately and unusually for East Anglia at this time of year we are experiencing quite a bit of rain this week and all the full bursting buds of the old roses are very likely to ball. They will remain wet and tight and the buds will rot before they can open.  Still the frogs are enjoying the weather.

Pond in rain
Late spring garden in the rain, East Anglia