Dwarf bulbs to make a giant spring impact . . . and autumn and winter too

Potterton 2019 1

DWARF BULBS that dot the spring garden with bright lights are as essential as the bigger players in the shape of daffodils and tulips in the same season.

If you’ve any doubts, check out the latest catalogue despatched by Pottertons Nursery & Garden.

There’s a feast of floral beauty and colour across its 32 pages.

Yet the flower that earns more catalogue columns than any other? Not that ubiquitous duo already mentioned, nor snowdrops nor irises, but . . . crocuses.

Yes, Rob and Jackie Potterton and their team at Nettleton, Lincolnshire, clearly adore this genus and dedicate no fewer than six columns to those irresistible species and hybrids.

Add to this another column and a half on the similar but unrelated colchicums and the dinkies are standing 6ft tall!

On the front cover are a cluster of Crocus chrysanthus Sunspot with the most alluringly bright orange petals which open to reveal a stunning and prominent black central style. At £12.50 each or £34.50 for three, you need to know what you are doing!

Not all are bank bruisers, though. Staying with the spring-flowering species, there’s tommasinianus Roseus in rose-pink at £2 for ten and £4.50 for 25, the very early ancyrensis with deep orange flowers (£1 for ten, £4.50 for 50), sieberi Tricolor with three distinct bands in lilac, white and yellow (£1/£4.50), versicolor Picturatus in pure white and striking purple stripes on both petal sides (£2 for five, £3.70 for ten), while for autumn blooming there’s goulimyi in pale to deep lavender and white throat (£1.50 each, £3.90 for three), medius in light purple and attractive orange pistils (£3 for ten, £13 for 50), nudiflorum in bright purple-violet in October (£2.50 each, £6.90 for three), or, for a couple of other “ouches,” try mathewii HKEP 9291 at £14 per bulb or £39 for three in white with violet-purple ring around the inside of the flower base, yellow anthers and red stigma, or mathewii Dream Dancer at £10 each or £28.50 for three and bearing light and purple patches dark centres and light, feathering flowers.

A pair of exclusive masterpieces, but do take care.

Elsewhere across its pages, the catalogue offers a gorgeous selection of autumn, winter and spring favourites, as well as a sprinkling of rare or tricky species.

From numerous alliums and anemones to the delights or erythronium, fritillaria and a fine assortment of bulbous and rhizome-type irises and narcissi and tulips to drool over – Potterton has the lotterton!

■ Those living within easy reach of the nursery should make a note of Saturday, 14 September, when Pottertons stage an open day from 10am to 4pm. Visitors are invited to choose from an extensive range of dwarf bulbs, alpines, woodland plants and dormant bulbs and walk the beautiful landscape gardens. Expert advice, refreshments and nibbles are all on hand. http://www.pottertons.co.uk

Potterton 2019 2

■ Beautiful bulbs: Top – Front page of the new Pottertons catalogue; above – a bulb bonanza on the back page.



2,000 flower and veg seed packs bring smiles to suffering Syrian refugees

Iraqi seeds Mr F

HUNDREDS of Syrian refugees from the Domiz and five neighbouring camps in Northern Iraq are benefiting from receiving 2,000 flower and vegetable seed packets.

This is the second year of a project that was initially inspired by a First World War seed lift from the Royal Horticultural Society to British prisoners of war living in an internment camp in Germany.

Working with the RHS, leading seed and plant supplier Mr Fothergills has again  generously donated packets of seeds to the Lemon Tree Trust projects.

Sent as part of a project set up by the RHS and Trust, the seeds were specially chosen for 200 Syrian families who, despite living in difficult circumstances, hope to gain some joy from the benefits of gardening.

The list was made up of varieties that would bring colour to the camp and could be grown in the harsh conditions, including marigolds, sunflowers, peppers and cucumbers.

Some seeds were also given to researchers of the University of Duhok as part of ongoing studies testing grey water success rates for both edibles and ornamentals. Around 250 packets of seeds were used in garden starter kits for community gardens and schools in Mosul, Iraq.

Tim Jeffries, Mr Fothergill’s commercial director, commented “We are absolutely delighted to be able to help out the RHS and the Lemon Tree Trust by donating seeds from our ranges.

“We hope that they will provide some pleasure for those living in the difficult conditions of the Domiz Camp.”

www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/0845 3710518

Iraqi seeds Mr F 2

Greenfingered hopefuls: Top – Delighted youngsters

celebrate receiving their seed packs. Above – This young

lad already seems to appreciate the colours from this vase

of flowers.

And they call it poppy love: They’re big, bold and beautiful

Poppies Secret Gardenn

FLAMBOYANCE comes as standard with poppies. So do short-lived artistry and charm per flower.

That’s typical of horticulture. It’s often the case that blooms with most allure are those that are here today and gone tomorrow . . . well, almost.

The consolation is that most poppies do pack a punch and they don’t demand much TLC.

Of the poppy’s 70 or so species, two tend to dominate our gardens – Papaver orientale, the perennial Oriental poppy, and somniferum, the annual Opium poppy. Plus all their many hybrids.

Not forgetting the California poppy in eye-squinting orange, though this one – the almost unpronounceable eschscholzia – is not a true member of the clan, but a sight that has prompted many an admiring “What’s that?” puzzle in my garden. These are botanically perennial but best grown annually from seed.

There are distinct differences between the Turkish Orientals and the widely-spread opiums, not least the colour and texture of the leaves – toothed, hairy and mid-green for the perennials, deeply-lobed, smooth and grey-blue the annuals.

But, of course, all petals are paper-thin and seldom last for a second day, so keep dead-heading!

At the end of this piece, you’ll find a few words on my own personal “adventure” with the somniferums. This week, their long-awaited colour unfolded – a lovely pale mauve-pink with dark crimson spots at each petal-base.

Leading contenders include the double White Cloud, the frilly red, white or pink Peony Flowered or various others in shades of mauve-to-purple, all capable of topping 4ft on sunny and dry sites, though 2ft 6in-3ft is the norm.

Among favourite Orientals are Perry’s White, the century-old Mrs Perry in salmon-pink, Allegro in sizzling scarlet with bold, black marks, Patty’s Plum in plum-purple, Cedric Morris in soft pink, Forncett Summer with deeply fringed, salmon-pink cups and the striking Coral Reef in coral pink with dramatic jet black centre.

If you’re a keen flower arranger the “pepper pot” seed heads of somniferum are excellent material when dried and each one holds a cascading quantity of seed. Go carefully!

Poppies Maastricht


READERS may recall how, last July, I was in Maastricht, Holland, for one of André Rieu’s home-town concerts.

While waiting as a bus stop to go into the town, I spotted a poppy head by chance on the ground and couldn’t resist picking it up and taking it home.

Curiously, after sowing seed in early August, nothing happened and by the dawn of 2019 the seed trays were still devoid of activity.

Then, in the chill of January, I spied a tiny cluster of green plantlets in one corner.

Eventually, more and more “babies” broke through the compost and I ended up with an impressive 82 poppies which I either dotted around the garden or gave to friends and family.

Finally, this week, the first blooms revealed their true mauve-pink beauty. It was to prove my Maastricht treat.

Indeed, with André Rieu in mind, they brought music to my eyes!

Top of the poppies: From top – two-tone purple somniferum; my first two blooms of what I call my Maastricht poppies; bright red Orientals; above left – a double somniferum; right – two singles, all three photos taken of display beds in Westward Ho!

Dare to be broad-minded and plant for an autumn veggie feast

Broad Bean Luz de Otono	

TOUGH, tasty and terrific – broad beans are all these praiseworthy adjectives and more, including power-packed with protein and vitamins.

Yet for all their dependability, few – if any – varieties can be sown in mid-summer to crop in autumn.

So enter Luz de Otono – with a little help from plant and seed firm Dobies – to rival Aquadulce, Bunyard’s Exhibition, Imperial Green Longpod and the like.

The Devon-based flower and veg suppliers, who are renowned for bringing new and exciting varieties and mixes to market, are now hailing the first-ever October and November-cropping broad bean.

A versatile variety, its young and tender beans can be plucked from the plants and eaten raw.

Try shelling the young beans straight from the stems – you’ll find between five and seven per pod – and eat on the spot.

Or shell the mature pods for a bright green pop of colour that’s perfect for risottos or pastas as the weather cools.

Broad beans also make super pulses for winter soups and stews or as a vitamin-rich side dish.

In addition, these beans are an excellent source of vegetable protein and fibre, rich in folic and B vitamins which are essential for nerve and blood cell development, cognitive function and energy.

Plants will reach 3ft-3ft 6in and are classed as half-hardy annuals, so they may need some protection later in the year from a July sowing.

The species – Vicia fava – has been grown since ancient times. The term “feeling full of beans” actually refers to broad beans and many Eastern European countries have developed their own beans – broads included – to replace meat.

Beans prefer a sunny location, to be well watered and to grow on soil enriched by compost and manure. As beans are legumes, they will naturally add nitrogen to the ground, thus making a valuable contribution to crop rotation.

Plug plants of Luz de Otono are despatched from mid-July from a June order – £11.99 for 30, £8.99 for 15, while a pack of 35 seeds costs £2.99.

http://www.dobies.co.uk/0844 9670303

Broad Bean Luz de Otono

Nutritious: Broad bean Luz de Otono, ready to set new boundaries for planting and picking.



It’s the luck of the iris – especially the super Siberians

Siberian iris2

WRITING a concise sketch on irises is a nigh-impossible task. For starters, there are around 300 species and umpteen hybrids, but that’s not all by far.

Such are the complexities of these supremely beautiful plants that the vast family is divided and sub-divided – enough to send your head spinning in perplexity.

Here’s what I mean – there are bulbous, rhizomatous and fleshy-rooted sorts, there are bearded irises, beardless, arils, crested ones, Pacific Coasts, Siberian, Japanese, Louisianas, Unguiculares, water irises, miniature dwarf bearded, standard dwarf bearded, intermediate bearded, border bearded, the oddly-named miniature tall bearded, reticulata, juno and xiphium.

And many, many more!

Native lands include America, the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

Above all, they are all stunningly gorgeous on the eye, albeit often maddeningly fleeting with their beauty.

It’s hard to pick a favourite from such an array, especially as they bloom from mid-winter to mid-summer, so your iris eyes will be shining for some months.

Siberians Park Ave

But if my life depended on growing just one sort, it would have to be the Siberians – elegant, self-reliant, lofty at between 2ft 6in and 4ft high, grass-like leaves and beardless petals – sadly scentless – mostly in blue-violet.

They sway gracefully in the breeze, so staking may be advised if they grow on an exposed, windy vantage point.

Siberian irises will readily expand their clumps, so do divide in early spring to spread the colour across the garden or to offer to friends.

Silver Edge (2ft 4in) is the universal favourite, bearing mid-blue blooms with distinct silvery margins and a cream blaze on each fall – the lower petals.

In total contrast is Butter & Sugar (3ft), a fresh combination of white and yellow, flowering a little later than Silver Edge and a robust choice too.

Ruffled Velvet (22in) comes in velvety red-purple in early summer and darker ruffled falls. Sultan’s Ruby (2ft 5in) produces deep magenta flowers with a round, gold patch on each velvet fall, while Wisley White (3ft 3in) is – of course – white but with cream veining and bright yellow haft marks.

Two more for you to crave over – Ann Dasch (3ft 3in) in mottled, light purple blooms, deeper margins and small yellow marks in late spring, and Limeheart (3ft) in a stunning livery of white flowers with green hafts.

All of them irresistible!

Few colours fail to be covered by the iris family – iris comes from the Greek for rainbow, so that explains its fabulous colour range. And many petals boast a “licence to frill” factor, particularly the big, bold beardeds.

Remember – once blooms are over, cut back stems, apply a general booster and mulch with good-quality compost or leaf mould to ensure a repeat and stellar performance next time round.

For irises of all shapes and statures try Pottertons Nursery & Garden, of Nettleton, Lincolnshire – http://www.pottertons.co.uk/01472 851714 or Burncoose Nurseries, of Redruth, Cornwall – http://www.burncoose.co.uk/01209 -860316.

■ Irresistible irises: From top – Silver Edge up-close; a garden full of Siberian irises in my home town Bideford; above left – my own display of Siberians; right – a patch of vivid purple Siberians at National Trust property Greenway, near Brixham, and photographed by my daughter.

Colour-crazy roses that defy convention for the wow factor

ROSES that defy colour convention and produce blooms in shades which prompt a “Wow” or a double-take will always be favourites of mine.

Not that I make a habit of defying convention, of course – well, only perhaps some of the time! – and there’s always room in my mental scrapbook for those plain colour beauties in crimson, pink or canary yellow.

Yet many modern varieties, as well as a few oldies, do stop viewers in their tracks, simply because they are DIFFERENT.

Many years ago I grew a hybrid tea called Grey Pearl which none of my family approved of, though I was fascinated. It was just that – greyish white and not especially attractive, but it bucked all the trends towards pretty-pretty varieties worthy of a bouquet.

In my garden this year, I’ve already got four oddballs that are by no means normal rosy colours but which are performing superbly well nonetheless.

Abracadabra: What a stunner! Dark red with yellow splashes and stripes on a shortish bush of 2ft-3ft. It is known as Forcasu Porkasu in its native Germany where it was discovered by specialist firm W. Kordes & Son in 2002.


Nostalgia: A large cream-coloured HT with cherry edges against handsome dark green leaves, reaches 3ft and, I have discovered, holds its classic shape well in hot weather while other varieties tends to blow open quickly. Some fragrance here.

Eyes for You: Semi-double lilac and mauve blooms and with a deep purple blotched centre and boasting a reasonably strong citrus scent. This floribunda rose was crossbred from Persica (desert) types to create a new concept in hydridising. About 3ft-3ft 6in.

Belle Epoque: Striking and most unusual. Dark nectarine outer petals, golden bronze inside. This HT is high on health, bears a decent fragrance and will top 3ft, though mine tends to stay lower. I cannot recall a rose of such intense and rare colouring in the yellow range.

Eyes for You

All four should be easy to find at garden centres, though a quick trawl online will reveal many outlets should your local search prove fruitless.

What all this proves is that you don’t need to go for those “celebratory” roses found in most catalogues or nurseries. None of my quartet is particularly well-known except perhaps for Eyes for You and all have come to the public market in the past few years.

I still adore my old faithfuls, such as the spectacular pure yellow Korresia; my lovely flawless pink hybrid perpetual Mrs John Laing, from 1887, which has grown in my gardens since 1966 and which looks as young today as 53 years ago; and my not-so-oldie Absolutely Fabulous which lives up to its famous name in supreme style.

Belle Epoque

Rarity in roses: From top – Abracadabra, Nostalgia, Eyes for You, Belle Epoque, all delightful varieties that give the rose colour code a brand new stance.

Who needs Chelsea when the gardens of Dolton come out to play!


SIX gorgeous gardens in a historic and picturesque North Devon village are all set to pull in the crowds this weekend – in aid of one of Britain’s best-known charitable funds.

Dolton is where all gardening gurus should be heading for on Saturday and Sunday to support National Garden Scheme nursing and cancer charities.

It lies between Torrington and Winkleigh on the B3217 and still boasts a thriving annual horticultural society show which I used to attend regularly – and enjoyed hugely – before I retired.

There’s also a lively community of shops, primary school and pubs and – naturally – claims to have many excellent gardens.


Those opening (from 2pm-6pm) include a couple of classic cottage gardens with festoons of clematis and roses, a couple of edgy, sustainable gardens, a large orchard garden and a mature country spread.

Visitors will also discover greenhouses and polytunnels, rockeries and ponds, multi-coloured herbaceous borders and shady woodland.

If you need to relax, there are plenty sitting spots where you can soak up the atmosphere of an archetypal Devon village.

Also on the menu – cream teas and plant sales, as well as local produce and crafts in the village hall.


If all this doesn’t spoil you for choice then just consider this . . . it’s just £6 entry to ALL SIX gardens. Which, despite my non-mathematical brain, tells me it’s a steal at a mere pound per property, five out of the six opening for the first time.

The village sextet are Court Cottage, Court House, Hillsview, 1 Thorns Cottage, West View and Higher Cherubeer which has built up a major following every February for its National Collection of cyclamen, as well as more than 400 snowdrop varieties and a wonderful assortment of hellebores.

Dolton Gardens – Saturday and Sunday, 1 and 2 June, 2pm-6pm, combined admission £6, children no charge.



■ Dolton delights: From top to bottom – seven lovely views of the gardens of Dolton which open to the public this weekend for the National Garden Scheme.