I have set myself a monthly task, for the whole of this year, which is both pleasurable and painful, a task suggested by the late great Geoff Hamilton, who suggested that gardeners should buy a plant every month which is in flower, to ensure that there is colour in the garden all year round. I thought it was such a cracking idea, when I read about it, that I knew it was something I wanted to do throughout this year.
The 'pleasure' is obvious, who wouldn't want to walk around a nursery knowing that they 'had' to buy something! The 'pain' comes from the extent of choice, and having to make a decision. This is a long, long process for an indecisive person, such as myself...
In the end, I could not walk past the 'Snake's Head Fritillary' (Fritillary Meleagris), and it ended up coming home with me. I am cheating slightly, as I vowed that every month I would buy a plant which I had never grown before, and whilst I have had a very brief flirtation with 'Snake's Head Fritillary', they died off after one season, never to be seen again. So we are not exactly well acquainted.
It is a Native wildflower, and prefers to grow in light shade, under shrubs or in light woodland. It grows to about 30 cm and is totally hardy. Preferred soil is light and well drained.
It goes without saying that its beauty lies in the spectacular chequered flowers which come in shades of mauve and purple, and also in pure white. The flowers are large and delicate, in comparison with the rest of the plant.The buds have a very subtle check and are just as attractive as the open flowers.
When I got home I put them into a terracotta clay pot, near the back door, so that we will see them every time we go out. I could have planted them in a border, down the garden, but felt that we would enjoy them so much more if they were close by the house. I will plant them out when they have finished flowering .
Although the task is to buy one new plant per month, it doesn't say anywhere in the rules, that you can't buy more than one ! So, these chaps also came home with me - not in flower, but equally gorgeous !
This is Euphorbia 'Ascott Rainbow', a delicate variegated form with pink new growth, and yellow edging to each leaf. It is a nice compact plant - about 50cm x 50 cm, and is winter hardy in the UK. Even the heads of the dark - eyed green flowers are tinged with yellow, when they open in late winter/ early spring. It prefers shade or semi-shade, and does not like soil which is wet.
It is equally happy in a container or in a mixed border, and would make an excellent container plant as it has all year round interest.
My last choice was another member of the Digitalis 'Illumination' family. I was very underwhelmed with them at first, as my first season with Digitalis 'Illumination Pink' began in a very disappointing way, with slow growth and few flowers. In fact I blogged about it, and here is a link to my old blog, if you would like to read a little more about it - 'Dare I say disappointing ...' However, as the plant grew and matured it began to perform in a much more robust way, and I ended up just loving it. During its second season it performed exceptionally well as it has a long flowering period because it does not set seed.
'Illumination Raspberry' has rich red flowers with a paler throat. It grows to about 45cm x 75cm. It prefers a week drained soil and will grow in full sun or partial shade. I can't wait to see what those flowers are like in reality .
I have a feeling that this monthly visit to a nursery is going to prove rather expensive ...