From salvia to scabiosa, here are a few flowers to transform your summer spectacle

Papaver Pink PerfectionAllplant
Papaver Pink Perfection 

MOODY BLUES and perfect pinks, they said, to perk up my publication. Well, I can’t argue with that, so here they are in all their beauty, courtesy of seed and plant people Suttons.
As the daylight hours expand and the first hints of spring waft across the garden, we look around and see colours increasing daily.
The daffodils are unfolding almost as you watch, the dinky crocuses seem to hug the ground in their myriad of shades, winter aconites are still looking glorious in gold, the first shoots are emerging on the rose bushes, the early tulips are swaying with the daffs and polyanthuses and primroses are flaunting their coats of many colours.

There are lots more flowers and shrubs out there right now, but here we see what could be glowing in your garden later in the year in the first of Suttons Marvellous Monthly Inspiration. And it’s all about beautiful blooms.

All you have to do is click on the Torbay-based firm’s website – suttons.co.uk – and follow the guide to ordering what takes your fancy. I have no idea what colours are due to follow next month, so all I can say is keep watching this space.

So here’s a brief run-down on the pinks and blues, from top to toe, both perfect and moody and all despatched in 9cm pots – Papaver (poppy) Pink Perfection, £9.99; Ajuga Blueberry Muffin, £9.99; Geranium Azure Skies, £10.99; Lobelia Starship Blue, £8.99; Salvia Blue Marvel, £9.99; Salvia Rose Marvel, £9.99; Scabiosa Flutter Deep Pink, £9.99; Osteospermum Sennen Sunrise, £9.99; Primula Beesiana, £9.99; Salvia Inspiration Pink, £9.99.

Most definitely not a weed, this tough shady star just blooms on and on – for 30 years!

Lysimachia1DEPENDABLE and steadfast, trouble-free and radiating gold – it’s the plant that lives up to its perennial status in every way.
My one clump of lysimachia is always there in summertime, sunny or stormy, as it has been for nearly 30 years. I never have to fret about it as it rises from its semi-shady station year after year – and promptly vanishes during the cold months.

Commonly known as loosestrife – not to be confused with lythrum, the purple loosestrife – Lysimachia punctata, pictured above and below, gets a fair share of bad headlines and, to add insult to injury, many sceptics liken it to a weed.  A weed, of course, is a plant that’s not wanted . . .and I wouldn’t be without this summertime companion.

Well, maybe this species is the black sheep of the family – a sizeable family it certainly is with 150 species and having primulas as close relatives.

I actually grow three species – the arching, white-tapering clethroides and the creeping, ground-hugging yellow nummularia, aka Creeping Jenny, as well as the sunshine yellow punctata which I am featuring here.

Over so many years, I’ve never been bothered by its quest to spread its roots. Perhaps, because it lives in part-shade, its expansion has not been severe but, in any case, it’s easy to dig out the wandering tapers at the end of the season. The plant never suffers side-effects!

Natives of central and southern Europe stretching across to Turkey, punctata bears whorls of star-shaped bright yellow blooms about an inch across on stems up to 2ft 6in high.

And it is totally hardy. In fact, I don’t even mulch to protect it in winter, preferring to apply a couple of handfuls of fish, blood and bone in spring.

Lysimachia4

There’s even a variegated form called Alexander that’s similar in every way except for the creamy margins to its slightly hairy foliage and a pink tinge to new growths. It’s an attractive alternative, though it has the habit of reverting to plain leaves unless they are snipped off as soon as spotted.

Garden centres should stock several loosestrife species, including one I am tempted to buy to add to my mini-collection.

Lysimachia ephemerum, from Portugal, Spain and the Pyrenees, is an elegant choice that’s non-invasive. It carries hairless, grey-green leaves and pretty off-white stars with lilac centres.

Lysimachia – a group that’s anything but show-offs yet for an enduring and secure stay in your garden you won’t find many plants so well-behaved and so constant.

 

Go crazy for this daisy: South African stars that will light up the garden all summer

Osteospermums Northam

DAISY, Daisy, give me your answer, do!
If delightful daisy-shaped blooms fire your imagination, there’s only one answer from this daisy: We’re the best.
Its name – osteospermum. Its former handle – dimorphotheca. And its popular monikers – African daisy or Star of the Veldt.

The last-named pair forms the clue. These not-quite-hardy perennials have the wilds of South Africa as their native land – and  there’s a second pointer in the balmy year-round temperatures which warms this vast nation, as many of us wish the UK could be similarly blessed.
It means that osteospermums tolerate arid conditions far better than many British favourites.

Purple osteo G

They grow wild and in abundance in southern Africa where you’ll discover massive drifts of these evergreen plants adorning roadsides as dandelions and buttercups adorn ours.

Yet despite their semi-tropical natural home, they are far tougher than originally perceived.

Given a sunny location and away from biting winds, “osteos” will explode their daisies onto the scene from late spring to autumn.

Colours are many and varied – the white Silver Sparkler, the primrose yellow Buttermilk, the deep purply-pink, reversed white Nairobi Purple, the extraordinary Whirlygig resembling a ferris wheel with purple and white crimped and spoon-shaped florets, and the delicate lilac-white Blue Streak.

All reach around 2ft high, give or take a few inches either way, and a similar spread and all dutifully fold away their slim petals by night or on dull days.

A couple of points worth noting: Don’t overfeed with rich composts as these will encourage foliage at the expense of flowers. Make them fight a little!

Some varieties may be less tolerant of frost than others, so there’s a simple fail-safe remedy – take 3in-4in cuttings in late summer, plant in small pots of gritty compost and watch them root on a bright window sill ahead of restarting their deliveries with relish the following May or June. You can also snip off longer shoots, complete with hair-like roots, and pot on in the usual way in a cool greenhouse.

Avoid tidy-trimming in very chilly weather in winter; instead wait until March and shape as you wish. It won’t be long before fresh young leaves are spotted and these will quickly create an attractive pale green tinge.

✴ Awesome osteospermums: From top – My sizeable clump at the height of its flower power; a single bloom up close; Serenity Red (left) and Sky & Ice, both from Mr Fothergill’s.

As an example of the osteo’s spreadability, a neighbour gave me a single stem, root attached, a few years ago. Two or three summers later, the gorgeous purple-pink daisies were plastering the sub-shrub that had stretched 2ft deep and spanning 3ft and are always among the most dazzling stars on my patch as it tumbles down a low wall.

They’ve given me their answer loud and clear, be in no doubt!

✴ Flower and vegetable suppliers Mr Fothergill’s stock both seeds and young plants of osteospermums. Pictured here, the glistening white Sky & Ice have midnight blue centres and a steely blue reverse and costs £4.89 for 50 seeds, while Serenity Red – along with Serenity Dark Purple and Serenity Rose Magic – is £9.95 for five young plants or five of each variety for £22.85.

Not what you expect in a handbook but a host of hostas is just the beginning

thumbnail_Forbidden Fruit

YOU WON’T find roses or radishes, petunias or parsnips, dahlias, delphiniums, magnolias or mahonias in this catalogue. That’s because Bowdens is a world away from the crowd.
What you will discover are those less familiar genera – hosta, agapanthus, ferns and bamboos. Not forgetting the gargantuan gunnera.
And what a joy it is to turn page after page – there are 48 – in leisurely manner absorbing an array of gorgeous photographs, a mine of personal and educational information and dashes of good humour.

For starters, it’s an impressive front page strap-line to reveal 26 Chelsea Flower Show gold medals and 125 RHS golds.

Those gongs place Bowdens in a rather special category, many of them won by the late Roger and Ann Bowden who established the nursery – at Sticklepath, Okehampton in Devon – in the early 90s as one of Britain’s leading growers of hostas.

In 2004 the couple’s daughter and son-in-law, Ruth and Tim Penrose, took over the business and have since acquired a prominent fern nursery, a firm selling bamboos and, in 2016, a Devon-based nursery specialising in agapanthus.

Indeed, Ruth now holds the Plant Heritage National Collection of both hostas and agapanthus,  an organisation that ensures safe conservation of secure and threatened plants across the spectrum.

Both agapanthus and hostas are enjoying a renaissance in popularity, though I cannot be sure of the recent fortunes of ferns or bamboos, both of which can add architectural beauty to a garden’s format.

So a quick rundown of the Fab Four, starting with hostas which are famed as, arguably, the plants with the most stunning variegated foliage in botany.

Bowdens showcase more than 60 in the catalogue – more online – where wonderful colour contrasts shine through. There are what growers name as blue hostas, gold hostas and green and white hostas, all of which bear handsome, heart-shaped leaves rippled, stippled, ruffled, streaked, margined or painted in yellow or cream, though some varieties remain uniformly coloured. Forbidden Fruit, pictured here, is simply out of this world!

They relish a moist home, either sunny or in part-shade, but avoid heavy penumbra as the mauve, lilac or near-white flowers will shy away. And, of course, it’s essential to set traps for marauding slugs and snails – your choice!

thumbnail_A. 'Night Sky' 208

Agapanthus – Greek for flower of love – are South African beauties that exude a tropical air. Their heads of vivid bells range from all shades of blue and purple and on to pure snowy white.

They can be either evergreen or shorter-growing deciduous, adore a sun-kissed spot and will woo you with elegance and poise.

I once visited Dick and Lorna Fulcher’s nursery at Eggesford in Devon – since bought by Bowdens – and was bowled over by the eye-opening spectacle of these blue and white aristocrats, all growing en masse.

Bowdens illustrate more than 40 in the catalogue, from the opulent, deep purple Royal Velvet to the pastel allure of the white-flushed-pink Strawberry Ice.

Ferns are all about Asplenium scolopendrium, Dryopteris crassirhizoma and Phegopteris decursivepinnata – the last two sounding like prehistoric monsters –  along with many others and I can tell you they are much easier to cultivate in the soil than their names are to unravel on the tongue.

Once you start growing them you’ll see them as lifetime fronds – that’s the fern’s version of leaves – and there’s little to match the sight of unfolding young fronds in spring or early summer, especially in the glint of morning sun.

They all team up well with hostas and other shade lovers and, once planted, they seem to live for ever. Perfect choice for filling nooks and crannies.

Bowdens’ featured bamboos are the slender fargesias – said to be well-behaved – and phyllostachys with colourful canes, fast spreading and tasty shoots.

Many gardeners may dismiss bamboo as an option, yet their value in making a statement with their hollow stems – known as culms – in many hues and or creating solid screens cannot be denied.

Don’t get bamboozled! If in doubt just give Tim or Ruth a call for immediate advice.

http://www.bowdensnursery.com / 01837 849367.

✴ Beauty of Bowdens: From top – Hosta Forbidden Fruit; Firn Line and First Blush; Agapanthus Night Sky; Liam’s Lilac and Silver Baby; Athyrium niponicum pictum, Osmunda Regalis and Polystichum munitum; above – bamboo Borinda papyrifera and Bowdens 2021 catalogue.

Rename them hya-scents! They’ll fill home and garden with fabulous sweet fragrance

HyacinthsG

ICY WINDS and plunging temperatures are every good reason to stay clear of the garden right now. Yet I couldn’t fail to notice, on a quick dash to the arctic outdoors, several clusters of fat, shiny green shoots pushing up through the near-frosted soil.
Hyacinths they were! These are the bulbs that have everything – a kaleidoscope of colours, fabulous fragrance, perfect form, elegant heads and sturdy stature.

To break with convention I’ve dared to fill a couple of hanging baskets with hyacinths, four in each. Sometime in March they’ll be flaunting their pink and blue bells to anyone who passes by – guaranteed.

Their purple or white, papery bulbs present no worries for outdoor planting. Dig a few holes, plant about four inches deep, cover up and let mother nature do the biz.

There’s not a lot to go wrong.

It’s too late to plant bulbs from scratch in February, but what I did to adorn the baskets was buy two plastic packs of sprouting bulbs from a local supermarket, gently knock them out of the compost and give them a second home six feet off the ground.

Hyacinths’ claim to fame is not just their luscious perfume. They look perfect from any angle as the florets are borne all around the stems, so this means they can be grown at any height and viewed from north, south, east or west in the garden – no matter what the spot they always spell grace and poetry.

These early spring delights, which grow wild 8,000ft into the European and Asian mountains, tolerate sun or part-shade, preferably planted as a group for maximum effect. It’s wise to snip off the spent stems after flowers fade but leave the foliage to die down naturally as this helps bloom production next time round.

Indoors, of course, they perform just as well on a bright window sill and fill the home with sweet aromas. Don’t, incidentally, confuse ordinary bulbs with the specially prepared sorts that require quite distinct treatment and which flower and fade around Christmas and new year.

Hyacinth Midnight Mystic

Varieties are many – surprisingly there are just three species – though my guess is that most enthusiasts are more concerned with colour than the actual name. Some, though, are enduring beauties like the white Carnegie, the primrose yellow City of Haarlem, the pink Lady Derby or Jan Bos, the tangerine Salmonetta, the blue Bismarck, Queen of the Blues or Marie, the red Eros and the violet Lord Balfour

Whatever the hue, there’s one for you.

After the flowers go over I leave all bulbs in situ. Most – I hope – reappear the following year, though it’s probable one or two either rot through old-age or are devoured by whatever underground critters fancy a bite.

All in all, hyacinths are worth their weight in all the rainbow colours they deliver. Whether you dig them into window boxes, patio troughs, straight into the garden border or, like me, divert a few into hanging baskets, they’ll never let you down.

Hyacinths Bude

✴ Fragrance unlimited: From top – a cluster of pink hyacinths pictured last year in my garden; a bowl of the near-black Midnight Mystic from Dobies or Thompson & Morgan; and the wild ones, spotted a few years ago on sand dunes at Bude, Cornwall.

A feast of colourful plants to inspire while the rain keeps us locked up in lockdown!

Chrysanth Bislet coll

STRANGE, isn’t it, how less than a year ago few of us had encountered words or expressions such as Covid-19, coronavirus, Wuhan, lockdown, R-rate or Pfizer jabs – and face masks were usually worn by blokes about to break into a bank.

Now these words are commonplace and masks are the latest zombie-esque fashion . . . and all the while our gardens are tapping us up for every ounce of our attention as our harsh lifestyles drag on.
And, be sure, they’ll get it!

Only today I read in the papers that front gardens are getting greener as more and more green fingered Brits rip out the paving stones across their front gardens and replace them with fully planted oases – up from a million in 2015 to just over two million today.

And the RHS – and I for that matter – are convinced the pandemic has been pivotal in boosting householders’ interest in the gardening game and working wonders for wildlife and the environment in general. Let us hope this trend accelerates!

Until the rains stop making lawns and loam soggy, however, we’ve still got plant and seed catalogues to thumb through for inspiration.

Dahlia Blackcurrant Cassis

The Woolmans handbook is a classy publication, 162 pages filled with enough colour to send us reaching for the shades.

The firm tell us that through popular demand they have extended their range of herbaceous perennials, as well as boasting an extensive list of chrysanthemums – for which Woolmans have been renowned since time immemorial – dahlias and some glorious plants for tubs and containers. My only surprise was a complete absence of collerette dahlias, those multi-coloured gems with large, flat ray petals and, inside, a wreath of shorter petals. Don’t they appeal anymore?

As a purely random exercise, I’ve selected an exclusive chrysanth and dahlia collection, one hardy annual, one from the wildflower pages and a perennial I’d never heard of.

OK, let’s go – the new Bislet chrysanth collection (4ft) is suitable for indoors, out or in a cool greenhouse. The incurved blooms come in fabulous shades from rich purple, deep bronze red and golden yellow and will flower from September to November.

Along with new dahlia collections Sundowner, Spices Plum and Blueberry Mojito, Woolmans offer us Blackcurrant Cassis (36in-48in) in rich and sublime maroon and purple on neat and well-branched plants. There’s Profundo, Sweet Lady and Maroon Fox to spice up the assortment.

On to the hardy annual – I’ve gone for lupin Pink Fairy (28in) which, unlike its perennial relatives, is blessed with a heady scent from its delicate pink and white flowers. Grow this and you’ll be a lifetime friend to those busy bees.

The need to set aside a small area for wildflowers has never been so critical. Butterflies, bees, other flying insects and small birds will flock to delights such as Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Greater Knapweed, foxglove and harebell. 

My choice is Wild Teasel (40in-60in) with its familiar bristly, thistle-like seed heads that follow the tiny pink studs. You won’t be short of goldfinches! This native dipsacus is a hardy biennial, so it takes two seasons to reach maturity, though fascinating to watch growing and plenty of seeds produce to feed our feathered pals. Great for dried flower arrangements too.

And the one that’s new to me? That’s Amsonia tabernaemontana (apologies for that!) Blue Ice (18in), a lovely mid-summer, shade-tolerant hardy perennial from eastern USA in starry pale blue alongside lance-shaped, deep green foliage which turns golden in autumn.

Clearly this is a chap worth trying. It was, incidentally, named for Dr Charles Amson, an 18th century physician from Virginia. And that’s the history lesson thrown in for free!

http://www.woolmans.com / 0845 6589137.

Amsonia Blue Ice

✴ Colour cavalcade: From top – Bislet chrysanth collection, dahlia Blackcurrant Cassis, lupin Pink Fairy (left), Wild Teasel and (above) Amsonia with its 15-letter species name. Photos courtesy of Woolmans.

 

 

This madame is a rose that prompts a ‘oui’ to a fabulous fragrance

Mme Isaac Pereire

PRUNING roses is not a task I relish. It’s the barbs, you know, and I’m always forgetting to wear mitts, so it’s my own fault that I seldom escape a few scratches and bloodied wounds.

It was during my annual ramble around  the rose beds that I landed in front of Mme Isaac Pereire, a veteran French-raised shrub rose that some of you may not have encountered.

As I tried to dodge its fiendishly thorny stems, I was left with one thought: Does this bourbon variety from 1881 boast the strongest scent of any rose that’s ever been raised?

It’s hard – well, impossible – to prove, of course, as hundreds of varieties over the decades have come and gone to be lost into history, taking with them fragrances of all sorts and strengths.

But what cannot be  disputed is that this lady is right up there in the top few for perfume power.

Being a bourbon means it is effectively a shrub rose, so pruning should not be too brutal a routine, more a modest trim and tidy-up.

All I know about Mme Isaac Pereire – the lady – is that she was the wife of a well-known Parisian banker, while the rose named after her was bred by one Garçon of Rouen who, curiously, had earlier given it a different name.

The rose bears huge, weighty blooms in deep purply-pink, clouded magenta, and is capable of soaring to 7ft-8ft, given optimum conditions. There are hints of raspberry, cerise or fuchsia to add to the mix.

Yes, ‘Mme Isaac’s’ foliage can become infected with black spot and leaves can then drop, so regular spraying is advised.

At best, the blooms are attractively quartered, resembling giant pompons, and especially so in autumn.

A wonderful old rose book of mine, simply called Roses and published in 1911, says almost nonchalantly of Mme Isaac Pereire: “Pink, hardy and fragrant, but not first-class.”

Well, like many varieties from long-time yesteryear, there are faults, though these are easily dealt with by vigilant gardeners.

The fact that this golden oldie has survived 140 years says much for its attributes and most leading catalogues and good garden centres will stock it. At the present count, the latest Find that Rose! lists 18 nurseries who carry it across the UK.

Breeders, of course, have no control over fragrance and the fact that this madame is blessed with such an intense and sweet redolence is pure chance — but a virtue that inevitably brought a smile of joy to its creator all those years ago.

Few modern hybrids can compete with these vintage varieties for “sniffability,” despite many growers’ insistence that fragrance still abounds. Some smell reasonably OK, but the wow factor? Hmmm!

Rose Megiddo

✴ One’s got it, one’s not: Top – the intensively fragrant bourbon Mme Isaac Pereire; above – Megiddo, handsome but don’t bother to sniff.

In total contrast, I also grow a near-luminous scarlet floribunda called Megiddo, raised in 1970 by a Midlands breeder I once new named Douglas Gandy.

It performs well, became nationally popular, and seems as though it should carry a decent scent, yet it’s one of only two roses I know – and certainly the only one chez moi – that’s totally devoid of any bouquet. Not a trace, zilch, zero, nuffink!

Rewind to the 1920s and a famous old white, Frau Karl Druschki – that’s the second scentless one – produced a seedling that later went into commerce and proved popular for around 30 years. It was called Marcia Stanhope and – you guessed – it had a super scent. And that’s no mean feat for a white.

Rose breeding moves in mysterious ways!

Kale and hearty! A veg like no other for pot or plot to get a crush on

Brassica Rainbow Candy Crush, edible ornamental cabbage

KALE, either curly or plain, is not normally a subject to set our pulses racing. I’d put it in the same cheerless league as listening to politicians, TV soaps or changing a duvet cover. Cheerless or no, I always enjoy a load of the  curly variety with whatever roast is in the oven.
Now seed and plant specialists Suttons, say they are “proud and very excited” to showcase an “extraordinary brassica kale called Rainbow Candy Crush.”

Yep, what used to be seen as an ornamental cabbage can now be grown for the Sunday roast – after a decade-plus to devise and generate the seemingly impossible involving 40,000 labour hours!

This Suttons exclusive features the world’s first truly fluorescent pink leaves that takes this humble veg to a whole new level – and a chef’s delight.

“Its breeding delivers a kale without compromise, where ornamental meets edible at the highest of standards. This extravagant beauty really tastes as good as it looks,” the firm trumpets.

In brief, you can grow it in garden or on the allotment or create a classy pot for the patio. Either way, it will combine style with quirkiness.

New growth is a vibrantly bright pink, while older leaves remain a traditional luscious shade of green. Plants hold well in the ground, keeping their glowing pink for months in a frilly and ruffled display.

So maybe, after all, kale should be elevated to a subject of passion and enthusiasm.

It most certainly was in Pennsylvania, USA, where a group of passionate horticulturists came together to dream up the ultimate brassica breeding challenge. They asked themselves: “Would be it be possible to create fluorescent pink leaf kale?”

A strategy took root and referred to as the “crossover project,” designed to produce ornamental edibles and edible ornamentals.

With a single objective, the boffins set out to move the brilliant pink and red colours from traditional flowering kales into edible brassicas.

Suttons add: “Having caused much excitement among our experts, we feel sure this is set to be the summer crush of 2021.”

They could be right!

This kale sprouts many more leaves than others for its height.

✴ Its crisp and tasty, so perfect raw for salads, blitzed in a smoothie or steamed for hot meals.

It is high in antioxidants and rich in anthocyanins and with no bitterness or astringency, as in conventional ornamentals.

✴ You can buy various plant sizes, including six plugs at £9.99 or three 9cm potted plants for £12.99.

http://www.suttons.co.uk / 0344 3262200.

Brassica Rainbow Candy Crush in mixed containers
A tale of two kales: Top three – ready for the pot or the salad bowl; above – adding a touch of doorstep elegance. Pictures courtesy of Suttons and Peter van Rijssen

Cracking cranesbills will spread colour to your garden for weeks on end

thumbnail_(54) Jolly Jewel Lilac

FLOWER-POWER is as essential to gardeners as fine lines are to an artist or frisky fish are to anglers.

So with floral potential foremost in mind, dare I suggest that few plants can compete with hardy geraniums? Yes, there are roses and dahlias and petunias and poppies but do these actually conquer the geranium’s enduring colour exploits?

They fell out of favour in the early Noughties, but I sense there’s a comeback on the horizon – and rightly so.

No one could be more chuffed than Gary Carroll, who owns Cranesbill Nursery in Bloxwich, near Walsall, and whose very livelihood depends on geranium sales. He unashamedly states that his aim is to provide the best range in the UK and beyond.

His 2021 catalogue – like others he has sent me in the past – is a joy to thumb through, with 120 species and varieties listed across 36 pages and around 30 extras on his website.

Gary has been gardening for more than 15 years, having studied at Rodbaston Horticultural College in Staffordshire and a career that included a spell as a gardener for a five-star hotel in Australia and a garden manager with the National Trust.

What I especially like about geraniums – don’t confuse these with indoor geraniums or pelargoniums – is their sheer dependability and coats of many colours. And no rose-like barbs!

Flowers and foliage are supremely pretty and you don’t have to wait long before they whizz into action in sun or light shade.

Many repeat-flower, particularly if trimmed back, most are happy in any non-soggy soil, colours range through deep purple and near-blue, lilac pink, vivid magenta, burgundy, pure white to almost black, many splashed, streaked or veined and leaves that often glow with rich autumn shades.

What’s not to adore about these gorgeous perennials? They are, indeed, truly British garden stars.

Most of us have heard of the trusted stalwart Johnson’s Blue – yes, there’s a dash of political pathos there! – in lavender-blue, Buxton’s Variety in lilac with silvery centres and the incredible Rozanne, voted plant of the century by the RHS.

Here I’ve picked out a varied selection from Gary’s website to illustrate differing shapes and contrasting colours.

The geranium family is sizeable and species include maculatum, macrorrhizum, phaeum, sanguineum, sylvaticum, pratense, cinereum, nodossom, oxonianum and the near-unpronounceables cantabrigiense and wlassovianum. Plus, of course, numerous hybrids such as the intriguing pink Southcombe Double, the pinky-mauve and dark-veined Sweet Heidy and the utterly bewitching pink Bloom Time.

The hardest part is sorting through the vast choice out there, so inspect Gary’s photos and descriptions carefully, noting size and sun/shade preferences before making your choice.

It’s also worth a reminder that a decent selection of plants are on sale in bare-root form – free postage with these – so you just dig them in as you would dahlia tubers or gladiolus corms.

Cranesbill Nursery, incidentally, gets its title from the geranium’s common name, so-called because of the beak-shape of the seed heads once petals and plant separate.

I could almost fill a book writing about these so-desirable gems, but rather than get too carried away I’ll leave you with some fabulous photos to reinforce my warning: “Choosing can be confusing”!

http://www.cranesbillnursery.com / 01684 770733 / 07500 600205.


✴ Colour cavalcade: From top – Jolly Jewel Lilac; l-r -Sweet Heidy, Geranium versicolor, Hexham Velvet; l-r – Lakwijk Star, Rozanne, Southcombe Double; Geranium Himalayense, Splish Splash, Kashmir Blue; l-r – Ankum’s Pride, Beth Chatto, Claridge Druce; above – Bloom Time and the new catalogue.

Pictures courtesy of Cranesbill Nursery