Aquilegias in Upper Green


The flower beds have pretty much reached confluence and the garden is a mass of colour despite the slugs. Aquilegias (Granny’s bonnet) in pink, white, blue and purple, singles and doubles, are at their peak. They seed around freely (cross pollinating with gay abandon) and most have arrived here from my neighbours’ gardens. But you can have too much of a good thing and I must get rid of some of them, when flowering is over before they set seed again.

I did plant some very decorative double hybrids of Aquilegia vulgaris – “Adelaide Addison” (blue and white), “William Guinness” (purple and white) and “Nora Barlow”, an old-fashioned variety with flowers in cream, pink and green.

Tiny Aquilegia flabellata var. pumila (blue and white), only 6 inches tall, grows in my rock bed as does Aquilegia grahamii (red and yellow), which is a little bigger. 

Peaks and Troughs

Trilliums are magical woodland plants that I have seen growing in North America. I have always wanted to grow them, but as they like humus-rich, moist, acid to neutral soil and dislike heavy clay, it is a bit of a lost cause in Upper Green garden. But of course I tried and, more than 6 years ago, I planted one (expensive) Trillium cuneatum in a tub of acid soil, which already held a rather leggy Rhododendron luteum. Trilliums are slow to establish. A solitary trifoliate leaf appeared the first spring and a leaf reappeared the second and third springs. Eventually I gave up looking – another failure. One really should not try to create a woodland in a tub. I added Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ to the tub and this is gradually taking over. The poor Rhododendron luteum looks increasingly peaky.

Imagine my surprise and delight last week, when I found a white trillium flower hiding modestly beneath the Skimmia. Has it been doing this quietly each spring for a number of years?  I trimmed the Skimmia a little (probably a mistake) so I could admire the three-petalled flower, I took some photographs and I gloated (definitely a mistake).

Trillium cuneatum (Wake Robin)

Now imagine my despair this week, when I found the beautiful flower, with its collar of leaves, lying sadly on the soil. A slug (or snail) had eaten right through the stalk. Did my trimming expose it and hasten its end? Is the the plant going to recover after putting all its energy into flowering? I have to wait yet another year- but I am going to try and grow some more.

Species Tulips

I have always loved dwarf species tulips, especially the kaufmanniana hybrids (water-lily tulips). Kaufmanniana tulips bloom in early spring and come back reliably year after year, requiring no attention at all. ‘Heart’s Delight’, planted under my sheep sculpture, is particularly successful and I now have a dense clump.

The scarlet greigii hybrid, ‘Red Riding Hood’, is another reliable early performer, but the leaves are always attacked by slugs. Tulipa hageri ‘Little Beauty’ is a dwarf species tulip doing well in a pot. The bright pink flowers have deep blue centres.

These early tulips are over by May, but now I am enjoying Tulipa linifolia and Tulipa linifolia batalinii ‘Bronze Charm’, both planted in my well drained rock garden.

My tulip season finishes with Tulipa sprengeri, an elegant bright-red species tulip that does not flower until the end of May.  I have sprinkled seeds in several places – I just have to avoid inadvertently digging them up.