Rebecca Smith - Garden design & consultancy

Turn of the Seasons

The weather is teasing at the moment. Lulling, caressing winds with almost a hint of warmth alternate with gales and cold. The garden responds by carrying on. Bulbs continue to flower. Shrubs continue to offer their sharply scented inconspicuous flowers this time of year, hidden beneath evergreen leaves which protect the delicate blossom from rain and wind in the hope of luring a passing solitary bee. The bravest of flowers are out this time of year.

I spent two days at both the RHS Spring Show and wandering through Chelsea Physic Garden to see what they both had to offer for late winter interest.

The RHS Spring Show at Lindley Hall is a heaven for bulb lovers, although I did think that there were less people in attendance than normal. Perhaps the new entry fee of £5 for RHS members is to blame?

Iris reticula display

The Jacques Armand display is in my mind always the most complete and offers the perfect chance to see the range of colour that the Iris reticula has. Deep almost maroon to royal purple to light blue and then to almost yellow, these blooms are small, to just about 15cm in height, and perfect for planting under winter flowering trees and shrubs. 

Galanthus Godfrey Owen

Also on display through the hall were snowdrops. Whilst I confess that I have not yet become the ultimate galanthophile, I have great fondness for these hardy bulbs which herald spring in our own garden. Every year I lift clumps from elsewear in the garden and then divide and replant these in the green in our orchard. It is slow, cold work but it will repay us and future owners of Wyck Farmhouse for years. 

The Galanthus Godfrey Owen pictured above is an interesting bloom. It's outer petals are held out and it warrants a closer look. Sadly I missed the snowdrop display at the Chelsea Physic Garden and the chance to admire these blooms up close but this is a bulb I think I will search out. 

Narcissus Tete Boucle

I also quite liked this narcissus Tete Boucle. It is a double form of Tete a Tete and very similar to the multi-petalled head of Rip van Winkle but with a smaller blossom. One for the list to order.

Tulipa Verona

Tulipa World Friendship

There were also some tulips on display which seemed a bit premature but I love both of these pale yellow ones. Not strident or attention seeking and I would think that they are soft enough to convince even the most ardent 'yellow hater' that there is a place in every garden for the hue.

My final favourite from the RHS Show is this Primula 'Gold Lace' with it's deep purple petals edged in gold. It is a charming plant and it's also on the list for the incluson in the woodland border here at Wyck Farmhouse. 

Primula Gold Lace


The following day, with warmer weather and less rain, I headed to the Chelsea Physic Garden to see their display of reticular iris. I had missed the snowdrops by a few weeks and was keen not to miss this display which did not disappoint. 

Reticular Iris at Chelsea Physic Garden

The Iris display was charming, the weathered wood edged with moss and the bulbs planted out individually in pots. My one criticism was that there were labels missing from the display and no written guide to the bulbs. 

Iris reticular

Iris reticular

Iris reticular

Iris reticular

The blue of Iris Cantab is a pale blue which is unusual in flowers and different from the more usual deep purples and darker clear blues. 

Snowdrops were displayed cleverly on the top of metal stakes to allow for close inspection. 

Snowdrops display

I am writing this from the terrace in Portugal where the Birds of Paradise are flowering and bees are buzzing away. Early spring in the Algarve is full of groves bursting with almond blossom and flowering grasses and the winter weather seems far away. Carnaval is Tuesday and there will be lots of colour and festivity to report before returning with a bump later in the week. 



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