‘I perhaps owe becoming a painter to flowers’
… Words spoken by that great artist Claude Monet, whose own garden at Giverny was such a delight and inspiration even for himself.
I may never become a great or even a passable painter, but one thing is without doubt: flowers sing to my soul. I couldn’t imagine a world without them. It’d certainly be a duller one.
And to think, there was a time when all I wanted for my garden was herbs! Ever the practical one… (thinking culinary and medicinal thoughts)
We’re surrounded by so many flowers, it can be overwhelming to try to single out the odd one to include in a garden plan. I worry when I have a garden again that I might go crazy and cram it too full of variety…
That said, I do have 12 particular flowers that I seriously long to nurture. Some I’ve grown before. Some I’ve seen in open gardens around the country. Others I’ve only admired in books, magazines and online.
I reckon my tastes will change in future, but for now, here are the 12 flowering plants I really long to have in my next garden.
At first I loved big, blousey and brash shrub roses, regardless of their scent (or lack thereof). It’s safe to say my feelings have evolved.
I can’t walk past roses these days without having a quick whiff. It disappoints me so much when they are scentless.
I now dream of arching stems laden with simple flowers in subtle tones, trained up bare walls, their fragrance carried over the garden on a light summer breeze. The closer in appearance to the dog rose, the better.
Some varieties I’ve seen and fancy include ‘Shropshire Lass’ (blushing pink), ‘Meg’ (apricot-tinged) and ‘Altissimo’ (rich red). I’m not sure if the last two are scented, however…
Another climber – but I’m a stern supporter of taking beauty upwards and utilising the space above the ground we own as well.
Ideally I’ll have a Clematis armandii. I got one of these evergreen specimens on a birthday a few years back and loved how it brought its dark foliage and sparkling stellar white blooms up through the empty skeleton of a tree in winter.
I definitely prefer the idea of clematis winding its way up through trees than up flat faces or artificial supports.
Other clematis varieties I’d like are C.alpina (blue bells), C.’The President’ (imperial purple plates) and C.cirrhosa ‘Jingle Bells‘ (as good for bees apparently as it is for mid-winter flowers).
These once-shunned plants seem to still be continuing to grow in popularity, and they certainly won me over. Inspired by Monty Don and Carol Klein, I love the idea of growing them on and then dropping my dahlias into late summer gaps in the borders. They add exotic heat and flamboyance.
One year I bought and grew a decorative type named ‘Rusty Hope’ (orange-red-yellow), but as I moved home they perished from neglect (mea culpa…). These could perhaps be on my list again. Three others I like the look of are ‘Arabian Night’ (decorative type), ‘Bishop of Lancaster’ (a bee-friendly miscellaneous type) and ‘Chat Noir’ (a semi-cactus type).
Look these three up and you’ll clearly see I enjoy the deep, rich colours best.
I never had any luck growing these from seed. And I tried two years running! Boo.
Next time I’ll buy these ready-grown I reckon. They’re worth the extra expense to me. I have to have them for their spiky structural quality – stems, leaves and flowerheads – and their beautiful blue hue.
I have a little thing at the moment for the seating-and-summer-eating area in my next garden to be provençal in style, and no such area could be without its lavender.
Nothing fancy (I have grown the rabbit-eared L.stoechas before with great success), just the simple “English lavender” type, L.angustifolia, for that form which contrasts with things around it: the narrow spikes and pale blue specks clustered at the tips.
Of course, that scent is irresistible as well!
“Lady’s mantle” is an unassuming flowerer that supposedly spreads like mad. Never so in mine or my parents’ garden, sadly.
One day I’m adamant it will though. I yearn for its softness of shape, its ground-covering habit and the use of those acidic little blossoms in flower arranging as well as outdoors.
Also known as “Abysinnian gladiolus”, I have only ever seen these online (I’m pretty sure the fantastic photographs of @gardenlivingno on Instagram first brought it to my attention).
I was lovestruck straightaway.
It’s so simply elegant and has a crisp contrast in its blooms between a pure white edge and sumptuous purple hearts.
This one is probably popping up everywhere, almost as much as its incongruous cousin Crocosmia crocosmifolia, whose lurid orange flowers I despise (perhaps because it popped up a lot around the garden where I grew up).
Nevertheless, C. ‘Lucifer’ is anything but wishy-washy and uncertain. It is definitely and defiantly rich red in coloration. It is a brilliant statement plant.
I planted 30 corms in my last garden, but they never came to much before I moved on. They were transplanted to my parents’ place and now, two years on, are positively thriving. They have sprung up taller than ever, and the red trumpets are almost ready for their fanfare.
Most particularly, the variety R.fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, with its dark centres and radiant yellow petals. They almost invoke the sun to come out and caress them. Planted alongside Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, their heavenly glow valiantly battles the devilish red. A marvellous spectacle in late summer.
I took some tiny seedlings from my previous garden to my mum and dad’s. Little did I know they were the offspring of my last Angelica archangelica.
Boy have we known it this summer! They became towering colossi, pushing and shoving each other for dominance of the front garden. They got plenty of admiration and enquiries from neighbours.
Why? Their thick hollow stems and giant leaves lead the gaze up to huge green floral globes that bees and hoverflies can’t resist.
What’s more, these are prolific self-seeders. Once you’ve got one, you’ll never go short!
I actually used to hate these, but now I think they’re pretty fine. No winter garden is complete without a few hellebores. I particularly like H.niger and Helleborus x hybridus in their range of colours.
I think the lighter shades are perhaps better, given we tend to have dark mud as their backdrop rather than snow nowadays. I’ll probably include a few darker specimens too though, just in case we get snow…
No list of this sort would be complete without tulips. The soil around here is very heavy clay on the whole, and tulips are originally native to light, gravelly soils, so I think growing in pots is a better option.
I’ve done this before, just as the stars of Gardeners’ World tend to, and it has the added benefit of mobility. If you’ve a rather bare spot or want to dress a doorway for guests, simply shift the blooms.
I love parrot varieties, but also have a thing at the moment for the pretty pale types like ‘White Triumphator’, ‘Très Chic’, ‘Ballade’. An added beauty is, when growing in pots especially, you can change the display each year – never a dull moment!