First sight of bulbs


The best thing about January is seeing the first green tips of bulbs appearing through the bare earth. I could spend hours crouching down, scanning for a sight of these precious tiny signs of the year ahead. It makes the hard work of planting them all even more worthwhile.

Can you spot the bulb?

What with the short days and being so busy during December, this weekend was the first weekend I saw the garden in daylight. At first I could see only a handful of eager muscari (always the first to show, months before flowering). Where were my snowdrops? Had they been eaten? It took some time for my eyes to adjust, and then I started spotting them everywhere, their tiny white heads so desperate to open before half-way out of the ground.


My faithful Iris ‘George’ has also come up again, for the third year running. I wonder if they have multiplied?

Iris ‘George’

Watching the first bulbs appear in January is just about my favourite gardening thing. What’s yours?



An Unexpected Journey: Bodnant Gardens, Wales

The Brazilian had to sit an exam in North Wales. I tagged along too, and left to my own devices for a whole morning I paid a visit to Bodnant Gardens.
It is said that Spring moves North at walking pace…
… and Bodnant, about 230 miles south of Edinburgh, is a good two weeks ahead of my own garden. Our own peonies are mere red tips barely peeping from the ground.
Hellebores of every colour, type and marking, maintained centre stage in the Winter Garden, now that the snowdrops are mostly over.
Have you seen a more venerable H. argutifolus than this?
This wickedly glamorous night-black ‘Harvington Smokey Blues’ will certainly find its way to my garden.
Bodnant is a place where tight structure meets beautifully with artless arrangement.
Impossibly tightly clipped hedges mark out grand terraces, formal lawns, rose gardens and mysterious paths.
As with all the best gardens, Bodnant’s mixture of botanical textures was educational.
Glossy bergenias of several types caught my eye, as they had in the Botanics a month ago.
I’m too used to the depressing, desperate little cyclamens more usually found dessicating in supermarkets and on petrol-station forecourts, so I’ve been somewhat slow in seeing much aesthetic merit in them. Yet who could fail to be charmed by the sight of healthy, naturalised colonies like this?
Tulips were springing up everywhere. None were in bud yet, save this exceptionally keen ‘Show winner’, which in fact was so keen as to be more or less over.
Bodnant has several large and impressive camellias. Ericaceous plants seem to do exceptionally well at Bodnant; you couldn’t move for all types and kinds of rhododendrons, which are bred here, as are azaleas. The petals of the camellias littered the ground romantically, which my wide angle lens has murdered somewhat…
… so here is a better view of them
And once more from the top.
And whoops! Another ‘Show winner’, not for resuscitation.
More ‘Show winners’. I adore tulips, but my own are barely green tips. I am positive they shrink back down into the ground if they don’t like the weather that greets them when they poke their noses out.
Iris ‘Alida’ were just one of several types of iris.
The lacy intricacy of Deutzia seedheads.
With so many gorgeous plants and flowers it was important to remember to look up and take in the wider view. It was a hazy day, and the distant Welsh hills could just be seen.
Bodnant is huge at 80 acres. It was easy to get lost (bliss).
There was evidence that a great deal of new planting was under way. This Magnolia ‘Wada’s Memory’ was very young.
And a somewhat more established magnolia, looking out across the five Italianate terraces.
The Pin Mill stands at the end of the canal terrace.
Mature cedars stand like deities across the terraces.
This round pool is on the upper level, from which water flows steeply down to the dell and the gorgously babbling River Hiraethlyn.

Tardy, but what the heck: June blooms

All sorts of interesting and bountiful occurrences awaited us on our return…

We not-so-recently returned from a two-week holiday abroad to find that the weather had practically been as tropical here as it had been in the, well, tropics. All sorts of interesting and bountiful occurrences awaited us on our return, including blue and white irises three feet tall like sentinels, huge flouncing peonies, a lavender flinging out Medusa-like fronds, bright pink and orange flowers cast sluttishly to the ground by the rhodadendrons and azalea, enormous crepe-y summer clematis flowers, the tomato vine doubled in height, and a general feeling of wildness and horticultural unconstraint.

I wouldn’t have bothered to talk about them so embarrassingly late (it’s July… where did the time go?) except I had some especially nice pictures of our bright pink peonies (now mere clots) that I wanted to share.

I promise to post something rather more contemporary as soon as this self-indulgence has passed.


Sadly we’d missed the best of the brief  white lilac flowers, so fluffy and pure, not shown quite to their advantage in this picture since the inevitable brown had already set in.


These irises burst out overnight, according to my sister.


Medusa lavender
Flowers cast sluttishly to the ground
…and again
…and again




Geraniums from cuttings

While staying with my grandmother over the bank holiday weekend, she kindly took me round her garden and told me the names of almost every plant, quite remarkable for a 92-year-old woman who is practically blind. ‘Gardening gets in to your blood,’ she remarked. My grandmother has a fund of gardening knowledge, and could describe the management of most plants, shrubs and trees without thinking.

Coveted salmon-pink geranium

I praised a salmon-pink geranium she had growing at the front of the house and my grandmother told me it had flowered all winter, and agreed to show me how to take a cutting that I could then take back to Edinburgh with me.  I was very pleased about this for several reasons, not least that one of my favourite childhood books, The Little White Pony, featured a great deal of salmon-pink geraniums.  I love that soft, hazy sunset hue and geraniums in general, and I also very much like the idea of taking cuttings, the idea that your favourite plants can divide and grow and be given away as gifts or multiplied around the garden so easily. If only one could do that with shoes.

My grandmother found on the mature geranium plant a smallish woody offshoot with about three leaves on it. She broke this off and left it on the draining board to dry out for a few hours. Geraniums like to be a little dry, she said. (I thought with horror about the big geranium back home that I’ve been madly and ignorantly watering.)

She then told me to take a small pot and fill it with damp potting compost, then to stick the wee geranium offshoot straight in. And that’s it. No propagating or putting bags over or any other funny business. Just stick it on the windowsill, she said, and in about six weeks pot it on, ie. put it in a larger pot. Geraniums like sunshine and will happily live on a windowsill, in a porch or conservatory, or outside.

No funny business

My grandmother lives in Derbyshire, almost 300 miles south of Edinburgh. It’s interesting what a few degrees less longitude will make to a garden. Hers is practically in summer mode, with irises and peonies (my favourite) ready to burst in to flower any day now whereas my own irises and peonies are still all leaf and no buds. She has bluebells everywhere (‘they’ve taken over’) and plenty of other gorgeous things like late tulips, forget-me-not, and blossoming fruit trees


Border from above
Bluebells taking over
Peony ready to burst
Japanese quince blossom