Tag Archives: flowers

Do You Dig Our Digitalis?

Take a good close look inside a Foxglove flower to glimpse its true beauty

Take a good close look inside a Foxglove flower to glimpse its true beauty

With the weather really hotting up right now, it feels like Summer is certainly doing its best to take a hold here at Chartwell. This means that most of the Spring flowers and blooms like Tulips, Daffs, Bluebells and the like have done their turn and given way to the huge array of Summer colour that will soon be completely filling Churchill’s gardens. There are a few plants however that straddle the seasons and one of the best at doing that at the moment is the humble Foxglove, or Digitalis purpurea.

White Foxgloves reach for the sky from the aptly named Foxglove Bed!

White Foxgloves reach for the sky from the aptly named Foxglove Bed!

Foxgloves are classed as a short-lived perennial or more commonly as a biennial. We sow ours indoors in the Summer, grow them on, prick them out and pot them on before planting them out in the Autumn where they happily overwinter before blooming the following Spring. The resulting plant can self seed freely if allowed to but when the resulting flowers are as pretty as they are, who cares?! As you can see from the picture above, we actually have a small area of the garden behind the Golden Orfe Pond actually called the Foxglove Bed that is filled with gorgeous spires of white Foxgloves every year. They really sing out from this dark, shady spot but they are certainly not the only examples within the Chartwell boundaries as you will see throughout this blog post.

The Bomb Crater in the Chartwell woods looks even better studded with Foxgloves

The Bomb Crater in the Chartwell woods looks even better studded with Foxgloves

Digitalis purpurea was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753 in his important publication ‘Species Plantarum’. The Genus name Digitalis comes from the Latin for finger (digitus), referring to the shape of the flowers. The species name purpurea simply refers to the colour of the flowers of the wild form, which are frequently purple (although a white-flowered form is also fairly common). OK, so Digitalis purpurea is the latin or botanical name and Foxglove is the common name but were you aware of the sheer number of other common names by which this plant can be known as?

Bloody bells
Bloody finger
Cow flop
Dead man’s bells
Dog’s lugs
Dragon’s mouth
Fairy bells
Fairy fingers
Fairy gloves
Fairy thimbles
Fairy’s cap
Fairy’s petticoat
Fairy’s thimble
Finger flower
Flap dock
Folk’s gloves
Fox finger
Gloves of Mary
Lady’s fingers
Lady’s gloves
Lady’s thimble
Lion’s mouth
Lusmore
Lustmore
Pop dock
Thimble finger
Thimble flower
Throat root
Witches’ bells
Witches’ fingers
Witches’ gloves
Witches’ thimbles

Blimey! I’m not sure what the World record is for number of common names but that’s got to be up there, surely?

In the Cut Flower area of the Walled Garden you will find this 'Apricot' variety...

In the Cut Flower area of the Walled Garden you will find this ‘Apricot’ variety…

...and this glorious 'Pam's Choice'

…and this glorious ‘Pam’s Choice’

Foxgloves are a source of digitoxin, a chemical used in the drug ‘Digitalis’, which has been used as a heart stimulant since as early as 1785. Although normally made using Digitalis lanata leaves, D. purpurea use is not unknown. They are also well-known for their toxicity, and ingestion of the leaves can result in severe poisoning. Despite this toxicity, they have been widely used in folk-medicine throughout the ages. Foxglove Tea (an infusion of the leaves) was taken for colds, fevers and catarrh, and compresses were used for ulcers, swellings and bruises. The Foxglove’s most common use however was as a diuretic against dropsy (an accumulation of fluid in the tissues), for which it was sometimes effective, but occasionally proved fatal! William Withering, an 18th century botanist and physician, discovered that an infusion of the leaves of Foxgloves could slow and strengthen the heartbeat, which in turn stimulated the kidneys to clear the body and lungs of excess fluid. He also showed that Foxglove leaves could be used in the treatment of heart failure, but that high doses could also stop the heart!

More white Foxgloves loom majestically at the back of the Herbaceous Border

More white Foxgloves loom majestically at the back of the Herbaceous Border

Van Gogh is said to have taken Foxglove tincture as a treatment for his epilepsy and art historians believe that the yellow haze that this could cause in the sight of patients for this type of treatment may be responsible for the appearance of many of his yellow dominated paintings. Back in 1554, Nicholas Culpeper (an English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer) said that “foxglove was one of the best remedies for a scabby head”! So now you know! In Roman mythology, Flora, the Goddess of fields, crops and flowers, placed a foxglove blossom on Juno’s stomach causing her to instantly conceive. She went from Flora’s garden to the shoreline and gave birth to Mars. In Scandinavia, they say that foxes were saved by the fairies from extinction when the fairies gave them the secret of how to ring the Foxglove bells to warn other foxes of approaching hunters. The foxes were also said to put on these flower gloves so that they would tread more softly among the chicken roosts to capture an unsuspecting hen or rooster. In Wales, Foxgloves were called Goblin’s Gloves and was said to attract the hobgoblins who wore the long bells on their fingers as gloves that imparted magical properties.

Paths in the Chartwell estate are lined with purple Foxgloves

Paths in the Chartwell estate are lined with purple Foxgloves

So whether you believe any of that Foxglove folklore or not, be sure to hurry along to Chartwell soon to catch this year’s crop before they disappear again until next Spring…

Jamie

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Ellie & Agnes Who?

Elaeagnus 'Quicksilver' along the entrance path at Chartwell

Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’ along the entrance path at Chartwell

Although here in the gardens of the Churchill family we are rightly proud of all of the plants in our collection, at various times of the year, us gardeners will be asked by our visitors for the identity of a core group of recurring plants. During the Summer it might be the Phytolacca americana in the Herbaceous Border with its corn on the cob-like purple fruits. During mid Spring it might be the masses of white flowers of our Exochorda macrantha bushes on the Kitchen Garden banks that catch the eye. And in the depths of Winter the alien seed heads of our recently introduced Cardiocrinum giganteum might be stealing the show. Right now however, the delightful vanillary scent of the yellow flowers of our Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’ plants are grabbing a great deal of the horticultural headlines.

It really is a shame that scratch and sniff computer screens haven't been invented yet!

It really is a shame that scratch and sniff computer screens haven’t been invented yet!

Also known as the Silver Bush or Wolf Willow, this Elaeagnus originated in England as a chance hybrid seedling, recognized and named by celebrated British plantsman Roy Lancaster. Roy actually suggests that he thinks it may be a hybrid between Elaeagnus angustifolius and Elaeagnus commutata.

Popular with bees as well as human Chartwell visitors!

Popular with bees as well as human Chartwell visitors!

E. ‘Quicksilver’ displays striking silvery foliage on this deciduous, fast-growing shrub. It likes a fertile, well drained soil in full sun, and works well as a specimen plant, or in a shrub border. It can tolerate open or sheltered sites and grows just as well in clay, sandy or loamy soils of virtually any pH. It is considered drought resistant and also thrives in salty coastal conditions, requiring little or no maintenance, although it can reach up to 8ft in height and spread if left completely to its own devices.

We have another group of 'Quicksilver' bushes near the Croquet Lawn overlooking our Orchard

We have another group of ‘Quicksilver’ bushes near the Croquet Lawn overlooking our Orchard

‘Quicksilver’ has none of the hazardous spines of E. angustifolia and it is sterile which means that won’t seed itself about like other Elaeagnus shrubs. Although it can sucker itself, it doesn’t do this too vigorously and so doesn’t run around where it isn’t wanted. If I may keep singing its praises, it is also deer-proof, fixes atmospheric nitrogen and can also be pruned back hard to form an attractive silver dome!

The silver leaves are matched only by the golden hues of the young stems

The stunning silver leaves are matched only by the golden hues of the young stems

Anyway, don’t take my word for all this, come and have a look and a smell for yourselves and enjoy one of the unsung heroes of the gardens of this country…

Jamie

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All Hail The President!

What better way to take a breather at Chartwell than in Lady Churchill's Rose Garden beneath a gorgeous Clematis?!

What better way to take a breather at Chartwell than in Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden beneath a gorgeous Clematis?!

If you asked a cross section of garden lovers and enthusiasts to name their favourite plant, I’m betting that quite a few of them may well plump for the good ol’ Clematis. But with so many varieties and types to choose from, which particular one would be the most popular? Well, here in the gardens of the Churchill family home we have over 20 different choices of Clematis, but there is one in particular that is blooming like crazy right now, so perhaps Clematis ‘The President’ might be top of the pops for some of you! Found against one of the surrounding stone walls in Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden, it also provides a perfect back-drop to any pictures taken of friends or family sat on the rustic stone bench beneath.

When glimpsed through the group of standard Wisteria trees you can see how the flowers compliment each other perfectly

When glimpsed through the group of standard Wisteria trees you can see how the flowers compliment each other perfectly

‘The President’ was introduced by Charles Noble in 1876, a nurseryman credited with introducing many Clematis cultivars mainly by crossing C. ‘Standishii’ with C. ‘Fortunei’ and various forms of C. patens. Born in 1817, Noble followed in his father’s horticultural footsteps and set up a nursery with John Standish in Bagshot, Surrey. Noble also forged links with celebrated plant hunter Robert Fortune, selling some of the plants he brought back from his trips to China for the first time in the UK. Little is known of him after he retired in 1989 but ‘The President’ still holds its own among many modern varieties and is the holder of the Royal Horticultural Society’s prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM) since 1993. So popular is ‘The President’ that it is often used by breeders as a base for creating newer varieties today.

The flowers start off as this striking vibrant blue/purple colour...

The overlapping sepals of the large flowers start off as this striking vibrant blue/purple colour…

...before maturing to this paler and perhaps more interesting mottled mix

…before maturing to this paler and perhaps more interesting mottled mix

This Clematis can tolerate full sun or partial shade, is fully hardy and likes a well-drained soil, preferably alkaline but either heavy or light in structure. It can grow to 3m in height with a spread of around 1m. This relatively compact habit makes it ideal for smaller gardens or borders or even in a container. One of the big plus points of ‘The President’ is that the impressively=sized blooms can last from late Spring right up to early Autumn in ideal conditions.

Look, there are still plenty more blooms to come on our specimen!

Look, there are still plenty more blooms to come on our specimen!

Not as many people as you might think actually grow Clematis in their own gardens, partly due to the fact that there is an air of mystery surrounding their pruning. It is true that Clematis fall into three pruning groups but the process is relatively simple as long as you know your particular variety:

Pruning Group 1 consists of early-blooming clematis that flower on shoots produced the previous season. They require little regular pruning except for the deadheading of faded flowers. In later years some training and perhaps thinning might be necessary. If renovation is required, plants can be cut back to 15cm from the base after flowering, although this will affect flowering and should not be carried out again within three years. Prune mid to late spring, after flowering and once the risk of frost has passed.

Pruning Group 2 (which includes our C. ‘The President) comprises the large-flowered cultivars that flower from May to June or beyond on short shoots developing from the previous year’s growth. Some (such as our subject in this blog) flower again in late Summer on new growth. Prune dead or weak stems in February and remove flower heads, back to a large growth bud immediately below the flower, as soon as the first flush of flowers is over in early Summer. They can also, if preferred, be left un-pruned except for the removal of dead shoots in Spring.

Pruning Group 3. This group comprises clematis that flower from mid to late Summer on the ends of the current year’s growth. If this type is left un-pruned growth will continue from where it ended the previous season, resulting in a tangled mass of growth, flowering well above eye level with stems bare at the base. These late-flowering clematis are best pruned back hard in February each year to the lowest pair of buds.

Even the flower heads that have lost their petals have a stark charming beauty to them

Even the dark red anthers on the flower heads that have lost their petals have a stark charming beauty to them

So whether you have a Clematis of your own; you think you might chose a Clematis as your fave plant; or whether you just want to see the the loveliness of ours in close up with your own eyes, get yourselves down to Chartwell again soon and swear horticultural allegiance to ‘The President’!

Jamie

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A Blog Two Years In The Making!

The use of wallflowers in the Rose Garden borders at Chartwell

The use of wallflowers in the Rose Garden borders at Chartwell

As I sit and write this blog I know for a fact that there will at least one person who will be happy to read it, and no I’m not talking about my Mum this time! For the last couple of years, Matthew Law our Formal Garden Supervisor here at Chartwell, has been bugging me to produce a blog about the story of our wallflowers, from seed to flower. For one reason or another it never happened but now finally, here is that story!

This 'xxxxxx' wallflower comes in delicate shades of pink.

This ‘Aurora’ wallflower comes in delicate shades of pink.

'Primrose Gem' is a bright, vibrant yellow

‘Primrose Gem’ is a bright, vibrant yellow

While 'xxxxxx' is mix of smoky purples

While this imaginatively named ‘Purple’ is mix of gorgeous smoky shades

The wallflowers here at Chartwell have almost done their job as we reach the end of April. We use them as Spring bedding, along with the likes of Myosotis, Tulips, Bellis and Hyacinths, and also as cut flowers for the house before the Summer annuals start to take over. Erysimum cheiri (as Wallflowers like to called) are also still known as Cheiranthus cheiri sometimes, and are part of the Brassicaceae family that contains the likes of cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower. Native to Europe, they are also found commonly in North Africa, Asia and North America. They thrive in poor or moderately fertile soils that are preferably alkaline and in full sun.

Stage 1 - sow the seeds in trays under glass

Stage 1 – sow the seeds in trays under glass

The wallflowers we raise here are grown as biennials, meaning that they produce vegetative growth during the first year and then flower in the second year. We therefore do a lot of the work in the previous year, up to 9 months before they produce they showy flowers. You can sow the seeds of wallflowers any time from late Spring until mid Summer – June is ideal. They are quick and easy to germinate if kept moist and warm. Once the germinated seedlings produce their first sets of true leaves they can be pricked out into modules as shown below:

Modules containing various varieties of wallflowers in the Chartwell greenhouses

Modules containing various varieties of wallflowers in the Chartwell greenhouses

No this isn't the final plant, just an extreme close up of the seedling!

No this isn’t the final plant, just an extreme close up of the seedling!

The time to plant out your wallflower plants will be dictated to some extent by the weather and by how far along your plants are. Any time from late August until mid October will be fine while the soil is still still warm but has a reasonable moisture content. Always make sure that the plants have been hardened off first though, moving from greenhouse to cold frame before being placed at the mercy of the British climate.

In some years we plant out straight from the modules, as Rhiannon and myself are doing here...

In some years we plant out straight from the modules, as Rhiannon and myself are doing here…

...but perhaps a better method, if you have the time, is to pot them on into individual pots and then plant out from this stage, as Ann and I did last year.

…but perhaps a better method, if you have the time, is to pot them on into individual pots first and then plant out from this stage, as Ann and I did last year.

A little trick to create healthier, bushier plants is to pinch out the growing tips of the young plants before they enter their Winter dormancy. Allow me to demonstrate…!

Here is the young plant about to be placed in the ground

Here is the young plant about to be placed in the ground

Pinch out the tip like so...

Pinch out the tip like so…

...to leave a stockier specimen such as this

…to leave a stockier specimen such as this

The English Wallflower is so called because it is associated with ruins of old castles where it can literally grow on the walls and masonry of the old castle ruins. It was brought to the British Isles as a medicinal plant as early as the Norman Conquest and began to naturalize in England, Scotland and Ireland. Also sometimes known as Cheiry of Keiry, Bee Flower or Heart’s Ease, the former genus name Cheirianthus means ‘Handflower’, a name given because it was carried in the hand during medieval festivals. The species name of cheiri is related to the medieval common name ‘Chevisaunce’ or ‘Cherisaunce’, which means ‘Comfort’, perhaps because of its medicinal properties or because of its comforting scent and beauty.

You will find wallflowers here at Chartwell in our Herbaceous Border as Spring bedding...

You will find wallflowers here at Chartwell in our Herbaceous Border as Spring bedding…

...in the borders of Lady Churchill's Rose Garden...

…in the borders of Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden…

... and in the troughs of the Pink Terrace in the house

… and in the troughs of the Pink Terrace in the house

The Greek physician Galen believed wallflowers were useful for regulating the menstrual cycle, to relieve pain of childbirth, for liver & kidney problems and to clear cataracts. The plant does in fact contain cardiac glycosides called cheiranthosides, similar to digitalis, which can have pretty intense effects on the body. They could be potentially curative presuming of course the toxicity didn’t kill the user first! Its modern use as a herbal remedy is rare though, due to this toxic dangerousness.

Drawing of a Wallflower from 1856 (courtesy of Natural History Society of Northumbria)

Drawing of a Wallflower from 1856
(courtesy of Natural History Society of Northumbria)

The wallflower has also long been a symbol of doomed lovers. Legend has it that Elizabeth, the daughter of the Earl of March in 14th Century Scotland, dropped a wallflower from her father’s castle window as a signal to her lover that she was willing to elope with the son of King Robert III, her father’s foe. Her father, angered by her choice of lover, imprisoned her in Neidpath Castle. The prince, disguised as a minstrel, then waited near the castle wall for his beloved’s signa, when to his delight the flower fell nearby. However, Elizabeth, while attempting to climb down from the castle, fell to her death. The young prince then left Scotland, grief-stricken, roaming throughout Europe, but always keeping a sprig of wallflower in his cap.

Here is out nursery bed at the end of last year, complete with four rows of wallflowers

Here is our nursery bed at the end of last year, complete with four rows of wallflowers

And here is that bed today with most of the wallflowers removed and used around the gardens as bedding

And here is that bed today with most of the wallflowers removed and used around the gardens as bedding

We also keep some wallflowers in our raised nursery beds behind the greenhouses for use as picking for cut flowers

We also keep some wallflowers in our raised nursery beds behind the greenhouses for use as picking for cut flowers

If you pay us a visit here in Churchill’s gardens any time soon you can still catch our wallflowers before they go over and are replaced with Summer bedding. And don’t forget it will soon be time for the whole cycle to begin again so why try some for yourself?

Jamie

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Featured Plant No. 11 – Primula vulgaris

“And in yon mingled wilderness of flowers,
Fair-handed Spring unbosoms every grace –
Throws out the snow-drop and the crocus first,
The daisy, primrose, violet darkly blue,
And polyanthus of unnumbered eyes.”

From Late Spring by James Thompson (1700-1748)

As the above poem extract so beautifully hints, a few weeks ago it was the likes of Snowdrops, Crocuses, Hellebores and Winter Aconites that were lifting the spirits of the soggy, wind-swept gardeners here at Chartwell, as a long wet Winter looked like giving way to the first signs of Spring. But now as the March sun finally starts to warm both the garden soil and our pasty skin, it is another of the plants mentioned in Thompson’s poem that I would like to talk about this week: the humble Common Primrose.

A sea of wild primroses on the Orchard banks

A sea of wild primroses on the Orchard banks

Primula vulgaris, or the native Primrose, is familiar to and loved by so many people that perhaps we sometimes overlook it or take it for granted. Every Spring without fail it sprouts and spreads its way around both the beds and wilder areas of Churchill’s gardens, brightening up the day for staff and visitors alike, as it teams up with the Daffodils that emerge at the same time.
Native to western and southern Europe, Primroses thrive in full sun or partial shade such as the edges of a woodland area. A single plant usually only reaches 10cm in height and spread but it’s a case of being small but perfectly formed.

One of the best places to see them at Chartwell is alongside the Butterfly Walk

One of the best places to see them at Chartwell is alongside the Butterfly Walk

The Primrose is a must have for any garden as it well grow happily away in any soil type and any aspect, although it will prefer a sheltered spot if possible. Awarded the RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit) Primula vulgaris are pretty hardy when it comes to pests and diseases but the likes of slugs and grey mould may have a go at them in wet conditions. Wild specimens are a lovely pale yellow although cultivated varieties come in a huge range of colours, and both single and double flowers. Here at Chartwell a few non-yellow plants have crept in, possibly from pollinating bees who have visited nearby domestic gardens. They are now freely crossing with each other here which leads to some interesting colours…

...like this pure white with a cute yellow centre...

…like this pure white with a cute yellow centre…

...these pale pink ones...

…these pale pink ones…

...or these bright pink types which divide the opinions of some!

…or these bright pink types which divide the opinions of some! Pink and red flowered primroses growing in natural conditions in western Europe are usually naturalised from garden escapes, though a pink-flowered form is reported locally as a wild plant in Wales.

They are sweetly scented and are even suitable for cutting and displaying in small vases, as long as you’re not picking from the wild! In more populated areas Primula vulgaris has sometimes suffered from over-collection and theft so that few natural displays of primroses in abundance can now be found. To prevent excessive damage to the species, picking of primroses or the removal of primrose plants from the wild is illegal as stated in The UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 13, part 1b.

Primulas, Daffodils and Celandines begin to carpet the borders at Chartwell

Primulas, Daffodils and Celandines begin to carpet the borders at Chartwell

The name ‘Primrose’ is said to derive from either the old French ‘primerose’ or medieval Latin ‘prima rosa’, both meaning “first rose”, celebrating the fact that it is among the first signs of Spring each year. The common name ‘Primrose’ is sometimes lengthened to ‘Common Primrose’ or ‘English Primrose’ to distinguish it from other Primula species that are also called primroses. The species name ‘vulgaris’ simply means ‘common’.

Primula vulgaris in full effect!

Primula vulgaris in full effect!

An old tradition in England is that a six-petaled Primrose flower is lucky for marriage and love, while in Germany the Primrose is supposed to grow where there is hidden treasure and that it has some power to open locks! Primroses were also very important to farmers long ago. The butter-making season began in May and in order to be sure that the cows would produce lots of milk for butter, primroses were rubbed on their udders on May eve! In other areas primroses were scattered on the thresholds of farm houses before dawn on May day to protect the butter from the fairies. Primroses were also historically associated with hens and the laying of eggs. It was considered unlucky to bring primroses into the house if eggs were being hatched there. Primroses have also long been given as gifts. However it was once considered to be very unlucky to give just a single primrose, whereas a very full bunch would be a protection against evil spirits. In old English folk medicine, rubbing a toothache with a primrose leaf for two minutes was said to give relief from the pain. It was also widely used as a cure for jaundice. Both the flowers and leaves are edible, the flavour ranging between mild lettuce and more bitter salad greens. The leaves can also be used for tea, and the young flowers can be made into primrose wine. Not just a pretty face then!

Pink and yellow Primulas nestling together under a blooming Forsythia

Pink and yellow Primulas nestling together under a blooming Forsythia

So the next time you come to visit us here at Chartwell, spare some time to look down and admire the little and yellow gems that lurk amongst the undergrowth. Let the Primulas brighten your day like they are currently brightening ours…!

Jamie

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Signs Of Life

A Lupin growing wild on the shores of Lake Tekapo in New Zealand

A Lupin growing wild on the shores of Lake Tekapo in New Zealand

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that there hasn’t been much activity on here recently. You will have to accept our apologies but I have been on holiday in New Zealand for three weeks where I saw the likes of Lupins, Sweet Peas, Kniphofia, Crocosmia and Agapanthus growing wild by the sides of the roads. In fact the beautiful Agapanthus that we so love over here is considered a weed down under and it is even prohibited to plant it in certain areas! Having been surrounded by so much Summer colour over there it was quite a shock to return to wet and windy England where at first glance everything looks waterlogged and mud-splattered! There are however a few signs of life here in Churchill’s gardens at Chartwell that have been giving us some hope for the much anticipated Spring. It may seem like a long way off at the moment but hopefully the photographs below that were taken this week will inspire you to come along and visit us to lift your soggy spirits…

Our dedicated Winter Border in the Orchard area is probably the best place to start.  You will find it edged with snowdrops and aconites all the way along.

Our dedicated Winter Border in the Orchard area is probably the best place to start. You will find it edged with snowdrops and aconites all the way along.

It is also home to the likes of this Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price'...

It is also home to the likes of this Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’…

...these Helleborous angustifolius from Corsica...

…these Helleborous angustifolius from Corsica…

...and these cheerful Iris danfordiae

…and these cheerful Iris danfordiae

These stunning dinosaur heads belong to our new Cardiocrinum giganteum plants.  You can also find them in the Winter Border and read more about them in a blog we produced last year.

These stunning dinosaur heads belong to our new Cardiocrinum giganteum plants. You can also find them in the Winter Border and read more about them in a blog we produced last year.

At the very top of the Winter Border, near the Pet Graves, you be able to smell the sweet scent of these Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' shrubs before you actually see them...

At the very top of the Winter Border, near the Pet Graves, you’ll be able to smell the sweet scent of these Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ shrubs before you actually see them…

...while the carpet of heathers such as this Erica carnea 'December Red' are also a sight to behold.

…while the carpet of heathers such as this Erica carnea ‘December Red’ are also a sight to behold.

There is plenty to see elsewhere in the gardens too like this double white Camellia near the Mary Cott for instance

There is plenty to see elsewhere in the gardens too like this double white Camellia near the Mary Cott for instance

The rhubarb in the Kitchen Garden may not be ready to eat yet but it still looks beautiful

The rhubarb in the Kitchen Garden may not be ready to eat yet but it still looks beautiful

Most of the daffs are still to come but these early eager beavers along the South-facing wall of the Walled Garden are worth checking out now

Most of the daffs are still to come but these early eager beavers along the South-facing wall of the Walled Garden are worth checking out now

OK, so there's still a long way to go before these Paeonia mlokosewitschii are in bloom but even the sight of the buds emerging is enough to excite us gardeners at the moment!

OK, so there’s still a long way to go before these Paeonia mlokosewitschii are in bloom but even the sight of the buds emerging is enough to excite us gardeners at the moment!

At he front of the house under the Lime trees you'll find examples of our Crocus collection including these yellow ones at one end of the drive...

At the front of the house under the Lime trees you’ll find examples of our Crocus collection including these yellow ones at one end of the drive…

...and these more familiar purple types at the other

…and these more familiar purple types at the other

You'll still be able to spot some Cyclamen hederifolium dotted around the grounds...

You’ll still be able to spot some Cyclamen hederifolium dotted around the grounds…

...while even the wilder areas of the estate have hidden gems such as this little Vinca

…while even the wilder areas of the estate have hidden gems such as this little Vinca

The Spring bedding in our containers are already beginning to put on a show with these pop-pom ornamental daisies the current front runners

The Spring bedding in our containers are already beginning to put on a show with these pop-pom ornamental daisies the current front runners

The often overlooked Mahonia really comes into its own over Winter.  They have cracking early Winter foligae but now it is the turn of the lemon yellow flowers to take centre stage

The often overlooked Mahonia really comes into its own over Winter. They have cracking early Winter foligae but now it is the turn of the lemon yellow flowers to take centre stage

As the frosts haven't hit us too hard here yet this year, half hardy shrubs like this dainty Fuchsia 'Lottie Hobby' are still at their best

As the frosts haven’t hit us too hard here yet this year, half hardy shrubs like this dainty Fuchsia ‘Lottie Hobby’ are still at their best

The Chartwell snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) are also starting to make their annual burst for freedom.  Be sure sure to come back again soon to see them in full flower

The Chartwell snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) are also starting to make their annual burst for freedom. Be sure to come back again soon to see them in full flower

Well, hopefully this small selection of some of our plants that are currently strutting their stuff will help you see that it’s not all doom and gloom in the gardens of Great Britain right now. We hope to see you here at Chartwell soon where you’ll be able to check these out plus plenty more for yourselves. As they say in New Zealand, you’ll have heaps of awesome fun…

Jamie

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Planning Ahead

The Cut Flower area at Chartwell

The Cut Flower area at Chartwell

One of my responsibilities in the garden at Chartwell is to look after the Cut Flower area which can be found in Churchill’s Walled Garden. As you can see from the above and below pictures there is still plenty of colour and interest in there even though we pick about a dozen bucketfulls of blooms each week to send up to the house for their displays! I’ll be covering the cut flowers in more detail in a future blog but this week I’d like waffle on about some work I’ve been doing in there recently that will hopefully pay dividends for next year’s display.

Flowers, flowers everywhere

Flowers, flowers everywhere

We try to provide flowers for the house from March right through until October or when the first frosts hit. We use bulbs, annuals, perennials, and as you’ll see in this blog, biennials to achieve this. A biennial in horticultural terms is a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its lifecycle. During the first year the plant will grow leaves, stems, and roots (ie vegetative structures). It then enters a period of dormancy over the Winter months where usually the stem remains very short and the leaves are low to the ground, often forming a rosette. During the next spring or summer, the stem of the biennial plant grows rapidly and the plant then flowers, sometimes producing fruits and seeds before it finally dies. There are far fewer biennials than either perennial plants or annual plants but they are a valuable addition to any plot.

One of the two biennial beds for cut flowers

One of the two biennial beds for cut flowers

The picture above shows one of the beds of biennial cut flowers that I have planted out this week. All of the plants were grown from seed in our potting shed, germinated in our greenhouses and then hardened off in our cold frames. This bed contains yellow hollyhocks (Althaea rosea), blue Anchusa azurea, purple Hesperis matronalis, white and purple Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea ‘Pam’s Choice’) and blue Campanula medium (Canterbury Bells).

More of the same, but different

More of the same, but different

The second biennial bed (shown above) follows a similar pattern but uses a pink and white colour scheme to mirror the yellow and blue/purple of the first plot. The Hollyhocks are a mix of rose pink and white, the Hesperis are white this time, the Foxgloves are a variety called ‘Apricot’ whereas the Campanulas are either ‘Single Pink’ or ‘Single White’. Both beds are planted in a arrowhead pattern with the tallest plants at the back (ie the Hollyhocks) and the shortest plants at the front (the knee-high Canterbury Bells).

Last year's Hollyhocks towered above us all and where a real focal point for visitors...

Last year’s Hollyhocks towered above us all and where a real focal point for visitors…

...and the bees loved them too!

…and the bees loved them too!

We have another biennial area in the Walled Garden (cast your eyes down to the picture below) but this acts as more of a nursery bed. It contains tightly packed rows of the likes of Myosotis (Forget Me Nots), Bellis perennis ‘Pomponette’, Wallflowers (Erysimum Chieri) as well as diiferent types of Foxgloves and Campanulas. These will be dug up and re-planted in containers and borders as bedding plants come Spring.

Our incredibly neat biennial nursery bed!

Our incredibly neat biennial nursery bed!

There is still time to get your biennials in this year but don’t leave it too late or they may not have time to establish themselves in the ground before the cold Winter weather rears its ugly head once more. We may even have some spare Foxgloves or Hollyhocks on our donations trolley over the coming days and weeks so come and grab yourself a bargain and get planting! Make sure you also come back and see our biennials in bloom next Spring and Summer and enjoy the rest of the cut flower area right now while you still can…

Jamie

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