Primula auricula 'Dilly Dilly'

Plants in Season

There is always a plant of interest to look out for in Scotland, whatever the season  Whether it be for its flowers, fruits, foliage or interesting shape, there is a plant for every season.

So, from garden favourites to plants in the wider environment, we will keep you up to date with what is on show in every season of the year.


The Queen of the May

Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, is common in hedgerows, wood edges and scrub as it will grow in most soils. The flowers are scented, white or occasionally pink, and grow in clusters. They attract a variety of pollinating insects, then develop into the familiar red haws. The haws are valuable food for birds and other wildlife. They can also be made into jellies, jams and syrups. The petals are also edible, as are the leaves if picked when still young and tender. Herbalists used hawthorn to treat cardiac problems and it seems it has antioxidant properties.

It is a popular hedge plant as its spines and close branches make it stock and human proof with regular cutting or laying.

The idea that hawthorn was the source of Jesus’s crown led to the superstition that bad luck followed anyone uprooting a hawthorn. It is unlikely that it grew in Palestine.  European folklore claimed it was deadly to vampires, and stakes used to kill them were made from thorn wood. In Gaelic folklore, hawthorn, Sgitheach, marks the entrance to the otherworld and is associated with the fairies.

The saying ’Ne’er cast a cloot til May be  oot’  warns country people not to shed warm clothes before summer has fully arrived and the may (hawthorn) blossom is in full bloom. Also known as the Queen of the May, it is said to the only British plant named after the month in which it blooms. Using the flowering branches on May day is a very early custom. Since the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1752, the tree was rarely in full bloom in England before mid-May. In Scotland it often did not flower until June, though this is now changing with a warmer climate.

Various hybrids and cultivars exist, some of which are used as garden shrubs, including the popular ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ with dark pink double flowers.

Stan da Prato
May 2020


Paeonia just keep flowering

As we move into June there will be more images of Paeonia in our gardens.  Most of the blooms this week originally came from Binny Plants but one of them came from Lidl.

I am looking forward to next week as I have a few ready to burst into flower.  And I know at least one more member is waiting with his camera at the ready!


Cacti – flowering

Cacti come in a range of shapes and sizes.  Cacti are succulents although not all succulents are cacti! They grow well on windowsills and sometimes the Whittle household has found a Cacti has outgrown its space so it has been split and offered at a Caley Show or meeting.  Last year we offered some small Mammilaria at the Christmas event at Saughton. We still have a few at home which we had intended to offer at the Spring Show.  But as we couldn’t have a Spring Show they are flowering away quite happily!

This Rebutia was from a previous cutting offered at a Spring Show.  Clearly Gill has looked after it as it is clearly very happy.

But it may be some time before the next Whittle offsets are taken as this Mammilaria seems quite happy.


And finally a couple of pictures from Stan – as I said they come in all shapes and sizes..

Do you have a flowering Cacti?  Why not share it?



Paeonia in profusion

When you think of Paeonia (Peonies) you probably expect a brightly coloured, big, blousy flower

But there are a less common species which are perhaps a little less blousy.

Sometimes we can be concerned by variation in the same variety. Look as the variation in these three images of Paeonia delavayi.


Hopefully the blooms will have survived the weekend winds.  But there will be more to share soon.


The Need for Nettles

The stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, has hollow stinging hairs on the leaves and stems that act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals on contact. The tiny flowers, held in dense clusters in the leaf axils, are wind pollinated. It spreads both by abundant seeds and by rhizomes, and can re-establish quickly after fire. It likes fertile and disturbed ground so is a successful coloniser in gardens, on agricultural land and development sites.

Urtica dioica

Nettle soup


The plant has a long history of use in traditional medicine, food and textiles.  It is highly nutritious; cooking gets rid of the sting, so it was often used in soup or stews.  Rolling in nettles was a folk remedy for rheumatism!  Nettles have been used to make clothing for 3,000 years. German Army uniforms were almost all made from nettle during World War I due to a shortage of cotton. In World War 2 in this country children collected them to produce a green camouflage dye.

Nettles are sometimes used in cheese making, for example Cornish Yarg.  Since 1986, in the annual World Nettle Eating Championship in Dorset, held as part of a charity beer festival, competitors try to eat as many as possible in an hour!!



Nettles are the food plant for caterpillars of the peacock, comma and small tortoiseshell butterflies and many moths, including angle shades, buff ermine, dot moth, flame, gothic, grey chi, grey pug, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing and Hebrew character.   Many other invertebrates eat nettles which in turn attract insect eating birds. Later the seeds are eaten by finches.

Stan da Prato


Paeonia time begins NOW

It is hard not to like Paeonia (Peony) and whilst these are usually considered to be summer flowering there are some varieties that are in flower now.  Over the next few weeks we hope to share images from Caley members and friends of the blooms in the their gardens and some images from The President of Paeonia in flower.

From the President:

Paeonia cambessedesii

Paeonia suffructicosa (Tree Peony)

Paeonia delavayi (Tree Peony)









Images from members:

Paeonia delavayi (Kathleen M)

Paeonia tenuifolia (Peter W)

Paeonia lutea var. ludlowii (Shona N)









Paeonia Lactiflora picotee (Peter W)

Paeonia Anne Marie (Tree Peony) (Kirsty L)

Paeonia suffruticosa niigata akashigata (Kathleen M)









However it is not uncommon for people to cherish a plant and not know what variety it is.  In this series we will include some images labelled as ‘unknown’ and it might even be possible to suggest a name.

Unknown (Peter W)                                                            

Unknown (Douglas B)

Unknown (Tree Peony )(Peter W)


Colin’s Garden

Caley member Colin has sent in some photos of the plants looking good in his garden at the moment.  Personally, I have very few yellow flowers in my own garden (only a few daffs), preferring to have pinks, purples and whites, but the yellow certainly helps to lift your mood.  Does anyone else have a colour preference in their garden or do you favour a riot of colour?

Trollius europaeus

Trollius europaeus: Flowers May – Jun and likes damp soil.

Ranunculus acris ‘Flore Pleno’

Ranunculus acris ‘Flore Pleno’: Flowers from late-spring into summer.  Likes moist soil and will grow in sun or part-shade. According to Colin, it can be a bit of a thug but it does look great.

Tulipa sprengeri sitting alonside Paeonia daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii.

Tulipa sprengeri: A late-flowering wild tulip. Colin grew these from seed – it takes 4 years to flower!

Paeonia daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii: delightfully nicknamed “Molly the Witch” the seeds of this plant take 2 years to germinate! Macplants recently posted about this plant on their Facebook page – worth checking out if you are interested in growing it in your own garden.

I was going to add that I can’t believe that Colin has a bit of bare soil in his garden, but I can see a couple of labels there, so obviously something is still to come up.  Watch this space to see what it is.


Dwarf rhododendrons:  the birds and the bees

Dwarf rhododendron are compact evergreen bushes that have showy flowers in a wide range of colours. They look good in containers, require minimal care and are susceptible to few pests. As they naturally grow high on mountains like the Himalayas, most are very tolerant of the wind which can damage large leaved rhododendrons. They are best in full sun as they can become leggy in shade.  They like an acidic soil or compost, mulch over their roots and hate to dry out.

Warren Berg in Washington State, USA, who was also a keen beekeeper, named several of his plants after bees, notably: the yellow ‘Patty Bee’ and the very compact pink ‘Wee Bee’ as well as the very good pale pink ‘Ginny Gee’.

There are around 20 “bird” hybrids raised by Peter and Ken Cox at Glendoick on Tayside. Some of the best include the very early white ‘Ptarmigan’, the later white ‘Crane’, the very small flowered ‘Egret’, the very floriferous pale pink/violet ‘Snipe’,  the pink ‘Pintail’ and ‘Razorbill’,  the red ‘Quail’,  the lavender ‘Wigeon’,  the yellow ‘Swift’ and ‘Curlew’ and the popular (and appropriately small) yellow ‘Wren’. Not all birds are from Glendoick. The well-known ‘Blue Tit’ came from the Waterer nursery and the white ‘Arctic Tern’ was raised by another American grower, H L Larson.

Other good dwarfs include the white ‘Lucy Lou’, the excellent pinkish white ‘Dora Amateis’, yellow ‘Cream Crest’ and ‘Princess Anne’, lilac ‘Sacko’ and deep purple ‘Ramapo’.

Several of these plants along with some other ericaceous shrubs can be seen in one of the Caley’s display beds in Saughton Park. Make sure you pop in for a visit when it is deemed safe to do so.

Stan da Prato.


The last of the Auriculas

We have just for a few more Auriculas to share this week.  However this is now the time those of us who grow Auriculas will soon be removing offsets to grow on and perhaps swap or share!  In the meantime we plan to add a compilation of the entries to the website in the next few days.

Auricula Kingfisher (Sarah B)

Auricula Nymph (Colin A)

Auricula Prince Charming (Colin A)

Auricula Larry (Colin A)


Auricula Tummel (Pam W)

Auricula Joy (Pam W)

Auricula Black Jack (Pam W)

Auricula Callender Park (Pam W)

Auricula Rhubarb Rock (Pam W)

Auricula Sir Prize (Bill C)

Under normal circumstances there would be an annual Scottish Auricula and Primula Society Show in mid May but unfortunately it has, like all other shows, been cancelled.  But here are two pictures form 2016 to whet your appetite.


Caley members may recall an article in the 2017 Caledonian Gardener written by Graeme Butler of Rumbling Bridge Nursery.  It is well worth reading again. You can see it again here.



Woodland Plants

Woodland plants are very useful for us gardeners.  You don’t have to have a woodland to be able to incorporate them into your garden.  They will grow quite happily in the shade of a tree or shrub, even in the shade created by a fence.

Incorporate lots of well-rotted organic matter when planting and mulch well in the spring using leaf mould and they will be quite happy.

Caley Vice-President Jasmin Cann has given us some images of her favourite woodlanders – are you favourites amongst them?