to me - this is in my mother's garden flowering in May.
Apparently a native of Mexico this umbellifer has overwintered outside
in the West Country. Sources suggest sun and sharp drainage is ideal
but semi shade seems to be OK for this one associating with various
am not entirely sure on the naming as some people list this as M.arborescens.
It is a shortish lived perennial with silvered leaves and intensely
fragrant flowers in a mop on tall stems [a bit like a walking stick
cabbage in effect]. The more common form has light purple flowers.
Easy from seed, sow in spring/early summer for flowers the following
Balm - a rather unfortunate name for a rather pretty wild flower.
The flowers are variably pink / white with lighter or darker throat
remarks that it is known as Bug Balm in France as the leaves give
off a 'particular' smell when crushed.
May - August
Somerset Wild Flower Collection at the Carymoor Environmental Centre
- a delicate and refined umbellifer. New growth can be attractive
to the slithering
hordes. A native plant of 'mountain grassland' .
Apparently a cure for flatulence and the roots were once used to scent
snuff [Allen & Hatfield].
Quite easy to grow from seed sown fresh, kept outside in a cold frame.
Find out more about umbellifers
Four O'Clock Flower or Marvel of Peru opens later
in the day and remains open overnight. Apparently it has been grown
in gardens for centuries. I first saw mirabilis growng on the side
of a road in Italy and wondered what it was. In warmer climates it
can become quite a weed as it produces prolific seed - it is also
fast and easy to grow from seed sown in spring indoors.
The main reason for growing it is the attractive scent which becomes
stronger in the evening presumably to attract moths. I prefer the
single colours but it can also produce flowers splashed with other
colours i.e. yellow and purple. It is a perennial which forms a large
lumpy tuber which can be lifted to overwinter somewhere dry and frost
free [the foliage dies back with frost] and then started off again
in the spring. Otherwise treat it as a fast growing annual which will
be cut down by frost. Mirabilis multiflora a native
of Arizona and Utah is covered in purple blooms and said to be slightly
hardier than M jalapa and presumably scented too? >>
More scented plants
Balm' or Bergamot, originally from the US, the pleasantly scented
foliage is an added bonus especially when weeding. Can be a little
choosy as they need fairly moist soil in sun but worth it for the
Fairy's Clock is a low growing woodland perennial.
It has a small lime green clockface of
5 flowers and softly dissected foliage.
Forms very rampant carpeting mats in the Spring like many other
woodlanders. In soft friable leafmouldy soils runs easily just under
It is very subtle, so one of my favourite 'woodland weeds'. Prefers
a moistish soil and will apparently take fairly deep shade. Dies
back in late spring to leave room for the main show. The picture
to the left shows the carpeting effect, the larger leaves belong
to Anenome nemorosa and dicentra. Flowering March
Sweet Cicely, Sweet Bracken, is a trooper, and it just has
something about it. It dies down in winter, but in Spring it starts
to produce softly hairy pale green leaves with odd white splashes
and then later small white heads of 'typical' cow parsley like flowers
appear. Originally from S.Europe it is naturalised in the UK especially
in Scotland and the North.
Brushing past it releases the sweet aniseed scent of the leaves.
The leaves are used to cut down on sugar when stewing fruit such as
Rhubarb. It grows in dry shade with me although more often it is quoted
as liking slightly damper shady conditions. Even though it is not
in optimum growing conditions it is very vigorous and often needs
a quick nip here and there to stop it swamping other plants during
the growing season. [picture shows early spring growth]. Seed can
take a long while to germinate, sow fresh. Flowering May
I am not a great fan of very big daffodils,
February Gold suits me. It looks like a genteel 'normal'
daffodil but it is smaller growing and not overly obtrusive. The
outer petals 'flare' back which gives it a sunnier disposition.
The times I have grown it I think I have only had it in flower once
by late February [Update: 2004 the first flowers are open by mid
Feb]. Raised in Holland in 1923 so has proved it's worth over the
years. I have never grown February Silver, no idea why not. Flowering
late Feb - Early March
looks like a 'normal' daffodil but is half the stature. Good for
naturalising in lawns and meadows. Known as the 'Tenby Daffodil'
there is some debate as to whether it is a UK native or introduced
many years ago.
N.pseudonarcissus, 'Lent Lily' is a UK native
with variably yellow to milky white outer petals and a golden trumpet.
N.pseudonarcissus 'Lobularis' is a selected french form. Broadleigh
Bulbs say it takes time to settle into flowering - I agree.
- not exactly a favourite but again lower growing with well reflexed
petals that give it that slightly startled but perky look with a
contrasting small orange trumpet.
- a lovely little daffodil for sprinkling about amongst lower growing
plants. Has a number of heads per bulb and is very neat and willing.
Often sold in pots at the florists, just plant out when it has finished
flowering and you should get it coming up the next year.
Feu de Joie
 - my parents inherited these daffodils from the garden
of a house they used to live in near Dorking in Surrey. They multiply
well and stand up to a battering from the spring weather. They make
a very good cut flower and have a pleasant scent.
Rip Van Winkle - low growing [about 6 inches],
it reminds me of a dandelion and is frillier and more delicate in
it's overall appearance than Van Sion. It used to be quite hard
to get hold of but I have seen it offered in a local DIY chain store
recently. I prefer it to Van Sion which I haven't grown for a while.
It has been suggested they are some sort of N.poeticus x N. obvallaris
cross. Thank you to Mark Norman for a positive identification
as Feu de Joie - his father grew them commercially on Guernsey
just after WW2. Some bulbs have been sent to Josephine Dekker in
Holland for her collection.
Van Sion - said to have been introduced to the UK
from Florence in @1620. A very doubled smallish growing daffodil.
It is as if the petals have doubled and doubled in the centre of the
trumpet until they couldn't be constrained any longer and burst out.
It is 'chunkier' in overall appearance than Rip Van Winkle. March/April
>> American Daffodil Society
database of modern and historic daffs
>> Click for Dactylhoriza
Butterfly Orchid [Platanthera] growing in an open
meadow [early June]. Moth pollinated.
cernua odorata 'Chadd's Ford'
Lady's Tresses are a US
native. Said to prefer moist sandy or acidic soils it was a wide
distribution in Eastern and Central North America. One source says
that it is potentially good for naturalising where mowing takes place
to weaken surrounding vegetation. The white, lipped flowers spiral
prettily up the stem on this selected form and stay in flower for
weeks. I can just detect a faint scent.
In the UK we have Spiranthes spiralis, Autumn Lady's Tresses,
also fragrant, which likes dry grassland. S.romanzoffiana inhabits
peat bogs and wet places in W Ireland and the Hebrides [extinct in
Cornwall]; Creeping Lady's Tresses, Goodyera repens can be
found in coniferous and birch forests.
Summer Lady's Tresses, S.aestivalis another moist acid lover is said
to be extinct in Britain.;
Tresses refers to the spiralling habit of the flowering spike,
reminiscent of braided hair. Aug
Listera ovata - this Twayblade was flowering on chalk in
a moist sheltered grassy hollow pictured in mid May. Apparently
so named because it has two distinct leaves unlike other orchids
which have a ground hugging rosette of leaves. This one was about
a foot in height, others where sheep had grazed were considerably
shorter and less noticeable. The Norwegian name echoes the UK name,
Stortveblad or 'large two leaves', also known colloquially in the
UK as Adder's Tongue and Sweethearts. May - June
The Lady's Slipper Orchid is found predominantly
on limey soils and more northerly hills and meadows. Some sources
suggest that this is because it has been pushed to its habitat limits
and in the past probably had a wider distribution. Other Cypripedium
[e.g. US] tend to be woodland creatures liking leafy loam. The Lady's
Slipper Orchid has a number of large thinnish maroon top petals and
a big yellow bottom 'pouch' which gives it its exotic appearance.
Cypripedium can be bought from specialist nurseries but do
require some cosseting to get them going well which means they are
expensive to buy. May
Christian Rare Plants - supplies Cypripedium
and other terrestrial orchids, have a look at the comprehensive
Hardy Orchid Society web site has lots more pictures
and links to nurseries
Asparagus - blink and you might miss it!
Seen along roadside verges tucked into hedge edges in sun and semi
shade. Seems to be more plentiful in some years than others. Small
groups are often hard to distinguish from large grass heads when trying
to spot from a car as the flower spikes are very delicate and the
flowers pale green. The plant pictured in early June is growing in
a wildflower area in a garden situation - the bulbs can be bought
from a number of bulb suppliers - not to be dug up from the wild.
Richard Mabey in Food for Free suggests that they should be left alone
to flower rather than be picked in bud as 'asparagus' as was traditional
hereabouts. Grows widely locally not just around Bath but around Bradford
on Avon and environs too!
- a parasitic plant most people would not grow intentionally - but
interesting when they do pop up. This one has appeared in my parents
garden although it isn't obvious what it is parasitising.
Also parasitic are Toothworts, Dodder and Yellow Rattle, which is
used to reduce the vigorousness of meadow grass to help increase species
diversity. >> More about grassland
Another Broomrape species in the
French Garrigue in Spring
Duchess of Marlborough
haven't a clue which tree paeony the white one is, I bought it un-named
from a local supermarket a few years ago. The flowers are nearly pure
white with only a faint red blotching in the centre. Deciduous, it
makes twiggy ungainly stems and in 2002 gave me 3 of these enormous
flowers [In 2003 there were 8 buds and it has since had many more!].
It is scented but not quite pleasant, sweet with an off green undertow!
It grows in light shade in a fairly sheltered spot. It seems fairly
sanguine about a light prune after flowering.
The second was a rather extravagant purchase from Kelways of Langport,
this is Duchess of Marlborough, a huge silvered pink 'girly'
bloom. Sweetly scented with a faint underlying greeney smell but sweeter
overall than the white. Kelways had an extremely tempting selection
in late March ranging from rich reds to sombre mauve-grey semi-doubles.
This one is in a pot and I will move it into semi shade for the summer
to stop it being stressed and drying out too much at the roots.
Less flouncy are the species tree paeonies, Delavayi and Delavayi
var. ludlowii with much smaller single flowers than the two previous
examples, red and bright buttercup yellow respectively. Of the two,
P. Delavayi ludlowii is the more robust and showier, deciduous it
can make up to 15 feet or more. I have grown both from seed fairly
easily using the fridge/warm/fridge method. In 2003 I have also tried
Paeonia rockii from seed, two sets have germinated 4 months
apart but I will have to wait for some years yet to see what the flowers
April - May
am a total sucker for Regal Pelargoniums in particular - when in full
flower they are glorious [although
some of the colour combinations do err on the gaudy]. This one Springfield
Black as you can see a sumptuous dark red-black. April -
I also have a soft spot for some of the others too including the ivy
leaved trailer L'Elégante, dark red Lord
Bute and some of the very gaudy leaved zonals.
A good selection can be found at Woottens
wildish plant, good in moist shade and fairly slug proof. The most
commonly seen is the red version such as Firetail, the white is pleasingly
cool and airy.
From moist woodland edges in Afghanistan it is hardy to -20°C.
Tiny white flowers cluster along the thin spikes which in turn divide
at the end. The pollen is startlingly indigo blue.
Flowers from late summer until the frosts and adds freshness as other
plants are coming to an end. Dies down over winter. Attractive to
August to the frost
is a 'dwarf' philadelphus, the flowers are scented
and double white. It doesn't have the purity of some of the more select
single flowered Philadelphus, but it is 'useful'. It grows to just
over 4 feet in height but I have found it be be a fairly slow grower.
It wasn't exactly overjoyed in the shade of the woodland bed, but
in a sunny border it makes a good show being smothered in it's blanket
of small double flowers. It is easy to increase from cuttings. June
Umbellifer, and as you can see, like Chaerophyllum hirsutum [Hairy
chervil] Pimpinella major has a pink form which makes it a garden-worthy
plant in my book. The flower stems rise up from the lower growing
mound of deep green slightly shiny foliage and add an airiness to
a lightly shaded spot under a tree peony. Tim Ingram notes that
this perennial will grow to 4 feet if happy.
another 'weed' ! Confusingly called Greater Burnet Saxifrage
in it's wild state. Native to the UK, Scandinavia and around the
Baltic states growing in wood margins, hedgebanks, meadows and dunes
on mainly alkaline soils, so fairly easy going! Tim Ingram notes
that the deeper coloured variants come from higher regions in Europe,
the type tends towards white flowers. I did have P. bicknellii briefly,
unusual more glaucous frilly leaves - sadly the snails were rather
partial to it too. Flowering May - June
For more on Umbellifers see The
Hardy Plant Society publication - Umbellifers, Timothy Ingram
evergreen shrubs from New Zealand were particularly popular about
10 years ago. The Tenuifolium types have glossy small evergreen
leaves with a slight wave to them. Their growth is neat and rounded.
An added bonus are the small odd red, scented flowers. Pittosporum
tenuifolium can be
tenderish depending on where they are grown [-10C]. You can get
green, white/green variegated, gold/green or the slower growing
and more tender red-purple leaved varieties.
is the evergreen Pittosporum tobira [right]
from Japan, Korea & China, which has long glossy slightly laurel-like
leaves with swags of white heavily scented flowers in early summer.
Solomon's Seal with blue flowers from E Asia. I have
had this for a few years [from Pan Global Plants] and it's starting
to clump up and look something. It is growing in fairly shady and
moistish [alkaline] conditions. Appears quite late in the 'spring'
season around the end of May.
Seen here in a mixed planting with a Male Fern [or is it a Lady Fern?
the spores germinated in some peat based compost I used for my camellias],
Geranium Ann Folkard and Lady's Mantle [Alchemilla mollis]
May - June
image shows the rather insignificant flowers on this shrub to small
tree. It has divided leaves a little like some species roses [it is
in the Rosacea family].
Has an open growth and papery peeling reddish bark. It seems to be
pretty hardy. I read somewhere it grows at the highest altitude of
any tree in the world, up to 5000m in the Andes [despite its name].
Remains semi-evergreen through the winter.
red herbaceous potentillas are derived mainly from atrosanguinea,
and can provide some sumptuous reds, although the flower stems can
be a little too relaxed and sprawley.
Scarlet' is a survivor from the 1900's and widely available,
a good punchy single scarlet. 'Etna' is a single flowered
rich maroon red, 'William Rollison', a blowsy semi-double
yellow and reddy orange colour, 'Monsieur Rouillard' another
semi double with tawny flowers and yellow highlights.
Easy to grow
on most soils in sun but not too dry for some. June
are said to have originated in the high alpine meadows of Northern
Europe. The original plant is yellow with white mealing or 'farina'
[flour], on the leaves. They became one of the many 'show' flowers
cultivated by artisans working in towns and cities in the 18th and
19th Centuries. They now come in a huge range of colours and as
doubles. Flowering April - May
The auricula shown was the first to flower of a batch of seedlings
from Barnhaven seeds
out more about Auriculas
Norsk: Marienøkleblom Mary's key flower which echoes other
'key' associations e.g. St Peter's Keys from the UK and Europe
slop [the vulgar version!], Paigles, are natives of meadows
and open grassland, the golden yellow scented flowers are raised up
on nodding stems. Once so abundant people used to make Cowslip wine
[which sounds delicious] now it is out of the question to pick them
in the wild. In Somerset and Wiltshire a Tosty or Tisty-Tosty was
a balled posy of cowslips [Grigson*], which also tells us how abundant
they once were.
You could try growing some in your garden or if you are planning a
wildflower meadow they are one of the key species that will establish
Find out more about planting
a Wildflower Meadow, restoration ecology and suppliers of
seeds and plug plants. April
in Celtic, harbinger of spring [Grigson*] and Kusymre in Norwegian
[ku is a cow].
of our much loved native spring plants. Starts flowering sometimes
in February in favoured warm spots. A plant primarily of hedgebanks
and wood edges. Roy Genders* writes that 'primrose' is a corruption
of primaverola - first flower of springtime.
One can often see how they spread themselves on railway embankments,
almost an 'outbreak' of plants of various sizes scattering away
from the parent plants.
Softly scented yellow flowers which have an almost greenish tinge.
In low light or shade, the colour becomes almost luminous.The leaves
are crinkly and the stems slightly hairy. In some cultivars ruffs
of leaves appear round the flowers. 'Dawn Ansell' has white
doubled flowers held within an outer ruff of green leaflets like
a little posy. March - April
Many cultivars have been discovered or selected over many hundreds
of years. Find out more in my article Weeds
or get hold of a copy of Roy Genders 'The Cottage Garden' *
Mint from the USA. Rather than being a ground traveller it grows fairly
tall, one metre or more. A quiet plant for wilder places. One US website
says calling it Mountain Mint is a bit of a misnomer as it tends to
be found on lower lying woodland edges and prairies.
Flowers in later summer. The lips are delicately freckled purple-blue.
The crushed leaves as you would expect smell of mint and the flowers
are attractive to insects. Moerman states that various
Pycnanthemum species were used by the Cherokee for amongst other things,
colds and as a febrifuge.
July / August
>> More about
E A Bowles
Gold Cups, Cream and Butter, is an early flowering native of the UK.
It is cheerful when there is still little else out especially in dry
shade where it often grows. The varnished foliage dies away again
There are quite a number of cultivated varieties including 'Brazen
Hussey' which has deep purple-bronze foliage, 'Bowles Double'
[Double Bronze] which as the name suggests has double yellow flowers
with a bronze sheen and selections with white flowers.
It can be a pernicious weed spreading by little bulblets underground,
disturb the ground - spread the bulblets! They may seem to be able
to spread rapidly but I have found if the cultivars don't like the
conditions they will disappear - not as tough as you think or some
are just a bit particular! Feb
Parmentier' [@1834], I fell primarly for her
scent. The flowers are smallish and as you can see quite flat and
very doubled. On first opening the central petals are a luscious
deeper pink which fade to lightest pink. I have found her very lax
in growth and the flowering stems are quite weak so the heads flop.
I use string and canes for support. Other sources say she is robust
and a strong grower - you takes your pick! Is she worth it? Probably.
[Lovely recently underplanted with Thymus 'Silver Posy', white flowered
chives and blue Nigella, 'Love-in-a-Mist'].
[pre 1832], said to come from the Middle East. Crystalline mauve-pink
petals, neat and compact flowers over vigorous, robust
Last year put on 5 shoots each over 2m tall. These have been pegged
in the style of Sissinghurst to arch down to the ground and produce
flowers on short 'spurs'. Well scented and one of the earlier
roses to come into flower. Flowers once only but a mature plant
produces a great number of flowers which gives a good few weeks
of show. [Pictured here in mid May].
pink rose is a David Austin 'English Rose', 'Sharifa Asma'.
Pale pink outside and richer inside, large cupped very doubled flowers
and extermely well scented, repeat flowers. Not particularly tall
growing 1m x 1m [unlike Ispahan]. I grow it for cutting, if not
already quite open when cut it doesn't seem to open in water. The
David Austin web site says that she may be damaged in full sun,
personally I have not found this to be a problem. One
pink I wouldn't
bother with is 'Zéphirine Drouhin', blarey pink -
not nice. Another I haven't been impressed with in the past was
'Souvenir de la Malmaison' - something about the pink [certainly
the one I had] was not quite nice somehow, the nicest it ever was,
was a late autumn flower covered in a gentle frost, then the colour
'Louis XIV' [@1859] - not for the organic gardener as he
is prone to blackspot and anything else going,
[might be less so away from West Country damp!], a good squirt of
'Roseclear' early on and maybe once or twice more in a season
should see him through. This one is pot grown [John Innes 3 repotted
and pruned out annuallly just as it comes into growth again and
fed liquid tomato food every 2-3 weeks in summer]. Neat pointed
buds open to small well formed flowers, scented but not heavily.
I grow it for the rich red-black colour and neat habit. Grows to
about 1.5m high x 1m. Under certain weather conditions the flowers
will brown and ball but repeat flowers through the summer so if
the first flush is not so good there is always more to come.
Another very favourite -
Madame Alfred Carrière , extolled by Vita
Sackville West at Sissinghurst "... will grow to the eaves
of any reasonably proportioned house.... I should like to
see every Airey house in this country rendered invisible behind
this curtain of white and green."
The picture shows different flowering stages - palest apricot pink
in bud to almost white when fully open, the flowers are well scented
too, an added bonus. She is a repeat flowerer.
This particular plant was one of my original plants in pots grown
outside a 5th floor flat in London's Charlotte Street in the late
80's, it made the journey to my first garden in Wiltshire, after
a couple of years it was rudely dug out and transported to its current
residence in Somerset. This rose will grow on a North or East facing
wall - so a bit of a toughie all round.
du Docteur Jamain' [@1865], another
rich deep purple-red rose [slightly more purple toning
in the red than Louis I think]. Try in the herbaceous company of
Knautia macedonica and Penstemon 'Garnet' alongside the deep purple
foliage of Aster 'The Prince' and Physocarpus 'Diabolo'. Well scented
flowers. This rose is strong growing when happy, up to 3m
in height. If planted in full sun, in high summer the flowers will
scorch and you will get a browned flower or three. He repeat flowers
which makes this rose useful to have around. One of the rich red
roses I have not yet tried is the climber 'Guinée' ,
also apparently well scented, give me time!
Reine des Violettes  - perpetual flowering
and well scented.
for larger picture
first came across this shrub some years ago at Abbotsbury Gardens,
I looked for it in 2002 in the mediterranean area but didn't find
Sept - Oct
It is a curiosity rather than a real stunner. The flowerheads look
like large scaly catkins when in bud, from which pink 'whiskered
bells' emerge in succession. It looks like this for a fairly short
space of time, the flowers 'burn out' fast but are sweetly scented.
A member of the Labiatae family which includes sage, mints and phlomis.
It went on my wish list and in 2002 I found it at The Botanic Nursery.
I am growing it in a pot and cut it back hard last autumn as it
is deciduous. I keep it near the house which is more sheltered in
my town garden through the winter; I am not sure how hardy it is
as it comes from Eastern Asia according to Mabberly [The Plant-Book].
The leaves were certainly quick to frazzle with the first big frost
this year. In terms of height it seems to be a fairly fast grower
. A correspondent tells me it is very happy in South Carolina, USA
where it was bought as 'weeping buddleja'.
Geoffrey Grigson - The Englishman's Flora originally published in
* Roy Genders - The Cottage Garden
E Allen & Gabriel Hatfield - Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition
Richard Mabey - Food for Free originally published 1972
updated June 2008
Karisgarden 2002 - 2008