In and out of Season
It is not at all unusual for spring-flowering perennials to have a second go at the tail end of summer. Primroses tend to oblige and so do most Trollius cultivars, except for the wonderful and wonderfully pale ‘Alabaster’, which reserves its strength for a glorious once-a-year-only display in early June.
Now and again Oriental hellebores produce a little flurry of secondary blossom, but I’ve never known Helleborus niger produce as much as a single flower outside its usual winter slot. The Christmas rose only rarely lives up to its name and I still lament the loss of a plant, brought from the then Czechoslovakia to Germany, and finally to the Shetland Islands. Without fail it produced enough opening flowers to fill a small vase on Christmas Eve.
A seedling, planted on the Lime Bed last year, expanded its first pink-flushed petals in May and is still going strong. Tiny, still green buds nestle in the crown of the plant and I’m hoping for perfect timing….
Some roses produce a second flush now and Rosa ‘Pink Perpetué’, while not exactly flowering continuously, as its name suggests, is weighed down with buds and opening blooms once more, as is its near neighbour, R. ‘Buff Beauty’.
Some of my dwarf rhododendrons open a few out-of-season buds most years and, during a flying visit to the Glendoick nursery last week, I came across a member of their bird series I’d never seen before. Rhododendron ‘Brambling’ is an upright shrub with clear, bright pink flowers and has since been added to my wanted list as a “must have.”
South America isn’t much to write home about yet, apart from the potatoes. Both, ‘Duke of York’and ‘Pink Firapple’ have yielded bumper crops and enchanted briefly with their blossom – blossom eclipsed by the ravishingly beautiful blossom of Eucryphia glutinosa – a myriad of white cups filled to the brim with red-tipped stamens.
A friend tells me that Embothrium coccineum flowers twice a year in his native Tierra del Fuego, indicating that my once-a-year-only shrubs are somewhat inferior. Not any more, and I have a photograph to prove it.
Crinodendron hookerianum, the Chilean lantern tree, develops its little green buds in summer, before opening them into long-stalked cherry-red bells the following spring. This year, two young shrubs decided to get the best of both worlds by opening some flowers now, while reserving the remainder of their buds for next year.
There have of course been South American plants here long before “South America”, which ironically sits at the northern tip of the garden, was planted this spring. One of them is Maytenus magellanica, a small, handsome, upright, evergreen tree. Tiny lead-red flowers are produced in the leaf axils in spring and followed in September by tiny Naples yellow carpels, half hidden amongst the foliage. As they open, they reveal the pairs of dark red fruits, an echo of spring’s petals – a charming and subtle arrangement.
Charm is the operative word when it comes to Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Aglaia’, my favourite Shasta daisy. The large white flowers are a concoction of narrow, ribbon-like petals that curl and twist – swan’s down on a stem. They are reminiscent of those hats Audrey Hepburn wore in “My Fair Lady” .
And now it’s time to get on with some work. A week’s absence has brought a bumper crop of weeds, mostly groundsel, hairy bittercress and a naughty little willow herb – all flowering lustily. The pond margins need to be secured with strategically stretched fishing line – the herons are back in Shetland! Vegetables must be harvested and processed, primroses need to be lifted, split and replanted and….. I have some sleep to catch up on.