Froth and Fizz

In May, the Kentish country lanes are full of froth and fizz. They are overflowing with hawthorn blossom and the cow parsley. It reminds me of filling a champagne flute and seeing if it overflows.

I love my drive to work. I feel like I am absorbing the effervescence I see all around.

It is not just the lanes that are full of this airy quality. This is my wild flower patch, created just over a year ago.

The ‘orchard’!

We have planted four apple trees here (one is hiding). Last year I planted plug plants of wild flowers, and I tried both seed bombs (clay balls rolled with seed) and the more traditional seed mix. It is difficult to tell which was most successful, though I think the plug plants and the seed mix did better than the seed balls. You can see that we now have a more diverse mix of species, compared to the mown grass in the foreground.

I am pleased to see one of my favourite wild flowers making it to the second year. This is red campion.

red campion

I also added a few spring bulbs in the autumn. There were crocuses and narcissi first, then chionodoxa (glory of the snow) and snakeshead fritilliaries, which have just gone over. Now there is camassia, looking lovely with red dead nettle.

Camassia esculenta (quamash)

And a new one for me, ‘Drooping star of Bethlehem’, Ornithogalum nutans.

Ornithogalum nutans (drooping star of Bethlehem)

I like the slightly chaotic mix of textures in this wildflower patch. There are feathery things, spiky things, grassy things. Meadows are teeming with textures, colours, shape, sounds and movement. There is a constant buzz and waggle of bees, a wavering of stalks as insects and bugs crawl up and down them, and the occasional flit of a butterfly skimming the surface.

Camassia esculenta (quamash)

Now that I have spent some time in my mini meadow, I am alive to similar areas of mixed textures in the rest of the garden. These tulips are tangled up with geums and cerinthe along the front wall of the house.

Tulip ‘Antraciet’ with Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ and Cerinthe major ‘purpurescens’

Cerinthe major ‘Purpurescens’ only needs to be sown once. It will gently self-seed every subsequent year. The purple flowers are cupped by glaucous purple-blue bracts. The purple colour seems to leach from the flower down the bracts, giving a really intriguing effect. Cerinthe is lovely with tulips, and with orange flowers like geums. The very best thing of all is that bees love cerinthe. Whenever I am close to it, all I can hear is happy bees dancing and jiggling in cerinthe-induced delight.

Forget-me-nots, cerinthe, peony foliage, tulips and rose foliage

This is another combination I am enjoying. This is a perennial wallflower, Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist’. Behind is the perennial cornflower Centaurea montana. You can see I have a bit of a thing for purple and orange. They are opposite one another on the colour wheel, and so seem to intensify one another. You can read more about using the colour wheel to plan a garden colour scheme here.

Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist’ with Centaurea montana

Another part of the garden which is texture-rich is the bright border.

Bright border at the beginning of May 2019

Euphorbia palustris is shines out with its lime green inflorescences.

I almost need sunglasses to look at it.

Euphorbia palustris with Tulips ‘Ballerina’ (orange) and ‘Tambour Maitre’ (red)

Tulip ‘Ballerina’ can hold her own next to it. Tulips and euphorbias make the best combination.

Tulip ‘Ballerina’ with Euphorbia palustris

As the tulips go over, the euphorbia will look equally fabulous with the purple alliums.

Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’

Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ is possibly my favourite euphorbia.

Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’

This is one of the most handsome plants over a long period. It starts off this bright orange-vermillion, but will soften through the summer to a burnt amber, and then warm apricot, before being set aflame again in the autumn.

Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’

And third in my trio of euphorbias, here is Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’.

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ with tulips ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Recreado’

This is similar to the very badly behaved Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae (Mrs Robb’s Bonnet) which I have had to eject from the border. It is beautiful, but it likes dry shade a little too much, and invades the personal space of all other plants. The purple-leaved form is less vigorous and more respectful of others. It has the added bonus of delicious beetroot-coloured foliage. The inflorescences appear to hover over the plant, like little flying saucers.

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’

The other delight in the bright border is the peony foliage, which is just bursting from the earth and growing an inch a day right now.

Peony foliage with tulips ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Dolls’ Minuet’

The tulips are on their way out. It has been a slow-fast-slow tulip season. They were really slow to come out, keeping their unripe-but-interesting phase a long time. We then had a glorious Easter weekend, and they opened to the sun so wide that I thought they were going to go over. Then temperatures cooled again, and they have had a long and prosperous maturity.

Tulips ‘Louvre Orange’ and ‘Black Parrot’ with borage

Cathy from Rambling in the Garden is so right: you really do appreciate flowers all the more for bringing a handful inside and living intimately with them for a week. It has been a joy to watch these already advanced tulips mature even further.

Tulip ‘Louvre Orange’

Their colours have deepened, their veining and feathering has become more pronounced and intricate, their textures have become satiny, with a metallic sheen.

Tulip ‘Slawa’ with borage

I thought I couldn’t love Tulip ‘Slawa’ any more than I already do, and then she went and deepened her orange edges to a sort of rose-plum colour. ‘Slawa’ is absolutely my favourite tulip of 2019. (You can see more about ‘Slawa’ in this post here).

Tulip ‘Slawa’

There will be more froth and fizz in May. I am thinking about a post about geums, but I may get distracted by lupins. There is so much happening I can barely keep up…

Oh! I also wrote a post for Shelly Johnson’s site, Love is Stronger. The post will be published this weekend or next, and is called ‘Gardening as Self-Love’. I would love it if you take a look at Shelly’s site. She is a philosopher! She is clear-thinking, balanced and reasonable, and we all need more of that in our lives. Her posts are thought-provoking and delightful, in equal measure.

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42 Comments Add yours

  1. Sarah Joyce says:

    Fantastic colour combinations!

  2. What a gorgeous play of May light on those colours. I love the euphorbia with tulips ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Recreado’, it’s like a work of art. Any combination with borage gets my vote, too! There is something so special about wildflower patches, you have some beauties in there and it will be interesting to watch it develop during the year. I’ve just planted something similar here, as species like ragged robin, columbine and knapweed are all natives to Northern Spain it won’t look too different from a British mix,. Fingers crossed it will be as successful as yours! 🙂

    1. That combination sounds lovely. My patch has taken a year to get going. Last year it was looking very newly planted. It’s great once it has gone native!

  3. susurrus says:

    Your mini meadow is the perfect mix of art and nature, which is what gardening’s all about. I love your shining tulips too.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Susan!

  4. bcparkison says:

    Wonderful photos and I think I could spend the day watching the bright boarder.

    1. Thank you Beverley. You’ll be needing some sunglasses!

  5. Maggie Frost says:

    Ali, does Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist’ produce seeds? I have looked endlessly on Google to try to find it. I need this color? If it produces seeds, would you consider sharing? I will happily pay postage, shipping, etc.

    1. I’m not sure if it produces seeds, actually. I have seen it sold as ‘Apricot Delight’ as well, and have sen it at the larger garden centres. If it does produce seeds I will definitely collect some, but I think it probably doesn’t or I would have noticed. I have managed to take cuttings from ‘Bowles Mauve’ which is very similar. I could give that a go?

      1. Maggie Frost says:

        That would be great Ali, I’ll take any seeds. I’m going to continue to try to find the orange/apricot color. Thanks so much.

  6. I do love the peonies as they rise from the earth. I think they may be my favorite flower of all. But the riot of color in your garden is a joy to behold. The diversity of expression from such simple, common resources gives me pause. Flowers share the same beds, but they take only what they need to survive (in most cases). And with that equal access they express themselves with such variety to glorious result.

    1. I adore peonies too, Angela. I’ve got so many now, and they’ve bulked up nicely, so should be in for a treat this year.

      That is a lovely reflection. It is amazing that such diversity comes from the same soil.

    1. Thank you Shelly! You have matched the photos perfectly.

      1. I am so glad! I love the post. It is wonderful.

  7. Ann Mackay says:

    I enjoy ‘visiting’ your garden. 🙂 This week, seeing the underplanting of your apple trees is very interesting. I’m just deciding what to do with the area around some fruit trees that were planted just last year and you have given me a few ideas. There’s been some white campion self-seeding around, so I hope that comes back and I have some borage seedlings already in that area. (Apparently borage is good for apple trees. Rosemary is too, so I have a plant already that I can pop in there.) Now I’m off to read your post on Shelly’s blog…

    1. Oh, that’s interesting! Is it because bees like borage and so are likely to pollinate the apple blossom?

      1. Ann Mackay says:

        I read about it on Chris Condello’s permaculture blog. (I can send you the link if you like.) Apparently it’s not just the pollinators it attracts, but it also adds and accumulates trace minerals in the soil.

      2. Oh, yes please, Ann! I would love to read more.

      3. Ann Mackay says:

        Here they are – I’ve taken the ‘dot’ out so that WP doesn’t chuck them in your spam! https://chriscondello.wordpress (dot) com/2013/02/25/practical-permaculture-planting-under-fruit-trees/ and there’s part 2, which is better:
        https://chriscondello.wordpress (dot) com/2013/11/12/practical-permaculture-planting-under-fruit-trees-part-2/
        See also: https://www.gardeningknowhow (dot) com/edible/fruits/fegen/compatible-plants-for-fruit-garden.htm
        I am going to try nasturtiums to protect against codling moth and I already have lavender and rosemary nearby. 🙂

  8. Anonymous says:

    Lovely blog so much in colour Ali.

  9. Indira says:

    Wow… the laughter of Earth!!! Awesome! 🙂

  10. Cathy says:

    Oh, delightful, Ali, and leaves me wondering whether to use the streamside grass as a wildflower meadow, following on from the crocus and Tete a Tete… Your tulips must have been an absolute delight and they look lovely amongst the perennials – glad to read you have been enjoying them in a vase too! Sadly cerinthe don’t reliably self-seed here, just occasionally

    1. Oh yes, would recommend a wildflower experiment. I cut the first roses for a vase today. Lovely to have them to smell.

      1. Cathy says:

        I cut (hand cut as it was so long) the streamside grass today, thinking about the suitability of a wildflower meadow here. I don’t want to keep cramming features into the garden just for the sake of it but the idea is there and I shall be pondering it. What time of year did you add the wildflower plugs?

      2. I actually planted them in February last year, and they survived the beast! I would say spring is probably the best time. If you keep them watered you could still get them in now.

      3. Cathy says:

        Decisions decisions….

  11. As always Ali, a beautiful showing of your gardens. I can’t imagine how magnificent they must be in person. Happy Sunday!

    1. Aw, thanks Cindy. You are welcome to visit any time!

  12. Michelle says:

    So many beautiful blooms! It’s so exciting to enjoy the growth of these lovely flowers. They are so
    uniquely different in how beautiful they are!

    1. You are the second person to note the diversity. It is a special time when so many things are happening at the same time.

  13. Love the wildflowers! And the orchard, too, of course – guess you’ll be making delicious apple preserves soon!

    1. This year I think we will just enjoy eating them, as the harvest will be small. I love an apple straight from the tree!

  14. Heyjude says:

    I am so jealous that you still have tulips! Mine went over a couple of weeks ago! Love the Fireglow euphorbia. I have Euphorbia oblongata which is taking over my raised bed. Do you cut them back after flowering? And can I dig one up and transplant it elsewhere? I love the bright lime green colour, but I have too much in a small bed.

    1. I tend to leave the faded inflorescences if they still look good. You risk self-seeded plants, but you can dig those up and transplant them. Yes, I have always just dug up the new shoots from runners and transplanted them elsewhere, with a 100% success rate I think.

      1. Heyjude says:

        I shall have a go at digging one up and putting it in a container for the front.

  15. Benjamin says:

    Absolutely lovely! What a lovely riot of colour, shape and texture!

    1. Thank you Benjamin, I am really pleased that you enjoyed it.

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