Cyclamen hederifolium

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.


So many different daffodils

Daffodils, often in large plantings, are now brightening many parks and gardens. The more vigorous types such as the trumpets or large cupped are the most often seen.   Yellow is the predominant colour though some others, such as the large cupped, cream/white ‘Ice Follies’ (Division 2) also do well planted in quantity in public places.

The smaller cupped Division 3 group are also popular –compare ‘Barrett Browning‘ (Division 3) with ‘Professor Einstein’ (Division 2).

Daffodil enthusiasts use 13 divisions: 12 for the different cultivated forms and one for wild species and natural hybrids as wild daffodils are rather promiscuous! Two forms of wild daffodil grow in Britain, the two toned mainly in England, where it was the subject of Wordsworth’s famous poem,

and the all yellow Tenby daffodil in Wales. They are available from bulb merchants but they can be slow to establish in gardens. Both are forms of Narcissus pseudonarcissus which is also the parent of the large trumpet types such as ‘King Alfred’, ‘Dutch Master’ etc (Division 1). Not all the 13 types of daffodil flower at the same time.

The hybrids from N.  cyclamineus (Division 6 ) are quite early.

Narcissus cyclamineus

They show the ‘swept back’ look of the very small wild parent. This is a bulb that must not dry out, but can naturalise well in short grass. Its hybrids, like the all yellow ‘Rapture’, ‘Warbler’ and the bicolour ‘Jack Snipe’, are larger, but still relatively small.  The even smaller division 6 daffodils include ‘Mite’ and ‘Mitzy’ – these are classed as miniatures.

The very popular ‘Jetfire’ is a division 6 and is an excellent bulb for children to pot up for shows as it’s easy and flowers at the right time.  Probably the most popular dwarf daffodil of all, ‘Tete a Tete’, is in Division 12 (miscellaneous) but is also listed as a miniature.  It looks so different compared to its cyclamineus ancestor. All these are good choices for the Caley show.

‘Jetfire’, ‘Tete a Tete’, ‘February Gold’

Other groups of small daffodils tend to flower a bit later. The triandrus group (Division 5) have more than one flower on each stem. Easily available examples include the white ‘Ice Wings and ‘Thalia’.

Ice Wings

Also multi headed and often sweetly scented are the jonquils (Division 7). Again the hybrids, like ‘Sailboat’ and ‘Quail’, are often bigger and more vigorous than the wild species.


The daffodils derived from N. tazetta also have a scent but tend to be quite tall. Some are not fully hardy in Scotland. Paperwhites, for example, will flower by Christmas in pots, but most bulbs are imported from Israel and are not worth planting outside after flowering, which works well with most other daffodils that have been in pots. Tougher tazettas include the white ‘Avalanche’.

The latest group to flower, usually into May, are the mainly white poeticus daffodils (Division 9) derived from the old Pheasant’s Eye narcissus, the best known being the old cultivar ‘Actaea’. By contrast most of the bulbocodium group (Division 10) are small plants with very distinctive flowers without a perianth, thus the hoop petticoat name. Some, from southern Spain and Morocco, such as N. romieuxii are very early and best grown under cover. ‘Golden Bells’ is a later, strong grower which should do well in grass.

Double daffodils (Division 4) are not to everyone’s taste and of little use to pollinating insects. They do have exotic looking blooms which can fall over due to the weight of their petals. Even more of an acquired taste are the split corona types (Division 11). Some say they look as though they have been punched on the nose!


Most of the 13 categories include some very small daffodils which are also classed as miniatures’. The Caley Spring Bulb show includes classes for most divisions and miniatures.

Most daffodils are easy to grow. They are fairly resistant to mice, deer and rabbits. They like it fairly moist when in growth. After flowering allow the foliage to die back completely. If planted in grass allow to die back before mowing to ensure flowers next year. Never tie the foliage into bunches! Divide congested clumps to encourage more flowers.

You can find out more on the Caley website.


Spring – Early Iris time

Early Iris are a wonderful group of hardy plants which have flowers that rival orchids though they tend not to last as long. The genus shows a wide variety of growth forms. The yellow flag Iris pseudacorus is a common waterside plant in this country. The bearded Iris germanica likes dry sunny conditions to ripen its rhizomes. (But more about those in a later blog).

This article concentrates on three small species and their hybrids which are now in flower and can provide a very colourful show in pots or tubs as well as the garden. They grow from small bulbs and like a free draining soil or compost and full sun. They are often all called Iris reticulata – the name comes from the pattern on the surface of the bulbs and most but not all are derived from that species.  Most are blue like the old ‘Cantab’ and the newer ‘Alida’, Pixie and ‘Fabiola’.

Forms of Iris reticulata have a bad habit of deteriorating after a year, usually as they have split into small bulbs that need time to bulk up. Try deeper planting or putting them where they do not dry out too quickly in spring but do dry in summer -perhaps below shrubs.

The worst is the small yellow Iris Iris danfordiae which most people will treat as an annual. Recent crosses made in Canada by Alan McMurtrie with a fertile form of Iiris danfordiae have introduced more varied colours as with Iris ‘Eyecatcher’ or the yellow ’Sunshine’.

Iris histrioides is now usually readily available as is the very good blue ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’. It, and its paler hybrids with the yellow Iris winogradowii, ‘Sheila Ann Germaney, ‘Frank Elder’ and ‘Katharine Hodgkin’, are reliably perennial as are their two paler sports ‘Katharine’s Gold’ and ‘Polar Ice’.

There are several good hybrids that seem to have originated from histrioides x reticulata crossing. The purple ‘Pauline’ and the blue ‘Palm Springs’ and ‘Harmony’ are all good plants that should come up every year. ‘Palm Springs’ is said to be a sport from the purple ‘George’ which is also a good doer but seems to have disappeared from the market.

Apart from ‘George’ all of these bulbs are widely available in the autumn. They are not expensive; some varieties are only £1.50 for ten bulbs.

For more info on these bulbs look at the website



Crocus are now brightening up many public open spaces.  They  like well-drained soil and sun. But do watch for mice as they like crocus corms.

Unlike snowdrops crocus come in a range of colours and local authorities often like to use mixed colours. However, limiting to one or two colours can be very effective.

Limited colour planting

The type you see most often are the large flowered Dutch crocus. You can get named varieties: Yellow Mammoth, Joan of Arc (white), Flower Record (purple), Pickwick(striped).

Slightly earlier and smaller are the forms of Crocus chrysanthus. They include Blue Pearl, Cream Beauty, Snow Bunting as well as the gold and black Gypsy Girl, the purple and white Ladykiller and Prins Claus and the larger, very good white variety, Ard Schenck.

Other good small flowered species for naturalising are the Tommy crocus C. tommasinianus which has good forms like Barrs Purple and Ruby Giant- which isn’t a giant! Crocus sieberi is lilac but has various forms, notably Tricolor which has three contrasting colours.

All of these crocus do well in grass but it is essential that the leaves that follow the flowers are allowed to grow properly to create the replacement corm to produce a flower next spring. As the leaves of crocus are rather like grass they are less obtrusive than the larger leaves of daffodils.

Even in a garden you need a reasonable number of crocus to create an effective display. Fortunately Crocus are not too expensive and get cheaper as you buy in bigger quantities. If you are involved in planting a large number of crocus in public spaces your local parks dept. gardeners may be able to help with a machine to lift the turf. Very large numbers of corms can then be broadcast onto the bare earth before the turf is rolled back.

Less commonly seen types of crocus mean specialist growers can have crocus in flower from September through to Easter.

The show bench

The show bench

The Scottish Rock Garden Club website has lots of crocus information.



Despite the very cold spell recently, snowdrops are coming into flower. They are very hardy and can even push though frozen soil. The early white flowers are often seen as a sign of purity and hope.  The festival of Candlemas on 2nd February often featured snowdrops as Candlemas bells.  Galanthus nivalis is the common snowdrop. Though it naturalises well it is not a British native. It was introduced to Britain in the 17th century from south-east Europe. It likes to grow in semi-shade in damp soil, often in deciduous woodland. Its leaves are slender and grey green.

Another common snowdrop is the double form G. elwesii which is larger, sometimes called  the Turkish snowdrop.  It has tall, broad grey leaves. G. plicatus comes from the Crimea and is also easily grown. Its greyish leaves have two folds along the edges and often a central stripe. G. woronowii comes from the Caucasus and has green leaves. G. reginae olgae, named after a Russian born queen of Greece, even flowers in autumn.

There are lots of named snowdrops. Many have been discovered as unusual forms or natural hybrids among existing plantings rather than being bred by gardeners. Some galanthophiles (snowdrop enthusiasts) have collections of over a hundred. Snowdrops with all the six petals of equal length are known as poculiforms.  The Greatorex doubles are all named after Shakespearean characters such as Cordelia and Hippolyta. One of the best named varieties is the vigorous ‘Sam Arnott’ named after a 19th century Scottish gardener from near Dumfries.

One very special snowdrop is ‘Sophie North’ – a selection of Galanthus plicatus. This was named for one of the children murdered in the Dunblane atrocity.  This led to the Snowdrop Campaign to tighten the control of firearms in this country. Collectors value plants with unusual green markings on the white petals or in a few cases yellow on the ovary – the bit above the flower. These will sell for £10 or more, some even for as much as £50 per bulb.  The highest price paid for a Scottish snowdrop was £725 for a yellow form of G. woronowii at an auction in 2012, so it is worth looking out for unusual snowdrops in your garden. Recently Ian Christie raised £800 for NHS charities from an auction of bulbs of a new selection of G. plicatus he has named ‘Lady of the Lamp’.

Galanthus ‘The Lady with the Lamp’

Snowdrop bulbs hate to dry out which is why bulbs bought in packets often fail. The best time to lift and move snowdrops is when they are about to go dormant- the leaves are dying back but still visible so you can locate the bulbs.  If you are sure where the bulbs are you can lift and shift them in summer. If they are not to be replanted immediately keep them in compost and slightly damp. Many nurseries lift snowdrops when they are still in growth – “in the green”. This allows you to see what you are getting but some root damage is inevitable.  Plants received in the green should be planted as soon as possible.

In a normal year you can visit good displays of snowdrops throughout February and March in gardens participating in the Scottish Snowdrop Festival. Although travelling to gardens is not currently possible due to Covid-19 restrictions, do have a look at their website to see where you can visit locally.  There are even some virtual tours. Some gardens and nurseries have interesting snowdrops for sale online. Try Avon bulbs, Dryad nursery, Edrom nursery, Edulis nursery, or Macplants, who all have a good selection.   Good snowdrop gardens in Scotland include Cambo in Fife, Branklyn Garden in Perth, Lawton House in Arbroath, House of Dunn in Montrose and RBGE Edinburgh.

Ian Christie and Stan da Prato
February 2021


Christmas House Plants

Thousands of poinsettias will have been bought for Christmas. With care, they can stay as colourful additions to a room until Easter. They have been developed from a wild species, Euphorbia pulcherrima, which grows in Mexico so they like warmth and good light – but not too much water. Ideally, place your poinsettia near a sunny window.  Do not let the plant touch the glass. As with all house plants, avoid draughts.  Water only when the compost feels dry then soak the pot. Euphorbias have a bitter white sap, so if a stem is broken take care not to get any sap in your eyes. If your poinsettia drops its leaves or wilts despite good care, it may mean it suffered cold conditions before you bought it e.g. sitting outside a shop.  Poinsettias are grown using dwarfing chemicals and special light regimes which means they are not really worth trying to keep for another Christmas.

Florists’ cyclamen are another popular winter pot plant. They were developed from Cyclamen persicum and, unlike some of the dwarf species, they are not hardy. They do not, however, like very warm rooms. Keeping them in good light in a cool, well it room or conservatory will make them last longer. They can be grown on to flower in another year. Feed while still in growth then allow the leaves to die back as they naturally become dormant as summer approaches. Only repot if the corm is filling the pot. If a cold frame is available, they can sit there – though some very fine cyclamen are grown on window sills. In autumn water and feed again.

Paperwhite narcissus

Most of the pots of bulbs which are bought as Christmas decorations are outdoor types such as hyacinths which were specially treated to advance their normal flowering time. They will flower again if planted out into the garden, but not at Christmas time.   Paperwhite narcissi are not hardy in our Scottish climate so are not worth saving.

The large flowered Hippeastrums are still usually called Amaryllis by gardeners and are definitely indoor bulbs. The size and number of flowers depends on the size of the bulbs.  The two stems on Red Lion have 12 flowers between them. The Friends of Saughton Park had an Amaryllis challenge and Sarah Bennett’s Apple Blossom was one of the entrants. The plant has not needed staking as it has been grown in good light. A heavy clay pot helps.  Some people have trouble getting them to flower in succeeding years. Remove the flowers as they fade and use liquid feed as the leaves develop. Keep well-watered and in good light as growth continues. Move to a greenhouse if available. By autumn the leaves may start to die back but even if they are still green withhold water but keep in good light to ripen the bulb. Give them around eight weeks dry and cooler. When growth restarts try replacing the top layer of compost around the neck of the bulbs. They do well in relatively small pots so only repot when they obviously need it. With plants that will be in the same pot for more than one season most growers prefer a soil-based compost such as John Innes.

All sorts of plants are sold for the Christmas market. As a general rule, flowering plants need more light than foliage plants.  Some are really outdoor plants like this little rose. It was in ornamental packing which has had to be removed to allow it to grow. Plants like this need to be in maximum light and in as cool a room as practical.

Stan da Prato
January 2021


Just Berries

You may think that your garden can be dull in the winter months, but as Anna’s pictures show, there is plenty of colour around. All of these images were taken in Anna’s Edinburgh garden at Redcroft.


Watching the blackbirds devour the red berries of Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ has made me look at what is left of the other berries.  Here are some recently taken photos. Unfortunately, the Sorbus ‘Pagoda’ is now stripped of berries.  Anna Buxton

Sorbus ‘Pink Pagoda’

Callicarpa bodinieri

Gaultheria mucronata ‘Bell’s Seedling’

Cotoneaster rehderi with Cotinus ‘Grace’

Pyracantha ‘Red Column’

Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’

Cotoneaster ‘Rothchildianus’

If you would like some more inspiration for your garden in winter, pay a visit to the Caley Winter Border in Saughton Park in Edinburgh.  There is a plant to suit every space.


Autumn Bulbs

Many bulbs come from countries with hot, dry summers so they either flower in spring as winter snow melts or in autumn when rain starts them back into growth. Several crocus flower in autumn. Easily obtained types include the blue Crocus speciosus and lilac C. sativus.  Saffron used in cookery comes from the stigma of C. sativus. It takes c 50,000 flowers to produce one pound of saffron, which is why it is so expensive.   The saffron crocus has been cultivated for at least three thousand years but is unknown as a wild plant. It doesn’t come true from seed so is thought to be a mutant from another species.

There are many other crocus species which between them flower from September through to March, but some are better grown under cold glass. The alpine house in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a good place to see them. The yellow Sternbergia lutea is sometimes sold as a crocus which it isn’t, and it can be hard to establish outside; most people grow it in a pot.

Often wrongly called autumn crocus, colchicums are usually larger with lilac or white flowers. One species, Colchicum autumnale, grows wild in a few damp meadows in Britain. It is sometime called meadow saffron which is potentially dangerous as all colchicums are poisonous. The anti-inflammatory drug Colchicine is derived from these plants but should only be used in the correct doses. Colchicum leaves are quite different from the grassy leaves of crocus and don’t appear till spring when they are easily hoed out in mistake for weeds! With any bulbs it is a good idea to label or mark their position, so you don’t dig them up when they are under the ground. Although we associate snowdrops with the end of winter, a few flower in October.

With most bulbs planting depth should be two to three times their own height so, if the bulb is one inch tall it needs to be below two or three inches of soil. There are exceptions; one being the hardy cyclamen which are in flower now. These need to be just under the soil.   They are excellent for growing in light shade under shrubs or trees. Cyclamen hederifolium– which means ivy leaved – is the one in flower now.  It used to be C. neapolitanum as it grows wild near Naples and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. Later in the winter Cyclamen coum, with rounder leaves, will start to flower. These little cyclamen have very variable but attractive leaves. Some forms have silver leaves. There are some other species such as the dainty pink C. mirabile or C. graecum with beautifully patterned leaves, but in Scotland these are better in a pot under glass. Just now garden centres are selling pots and trays of colourful cyclamen.

These are dwarf forms of C. persicum, originally from the Middle East, so not entirely hardy if we get severe weather. They do well in tubs or pots, perhaps by a door where they provide colour and get some shelter. Another bulb which likes to be on the soil surface is Nerine bowdenii from South Africa. It makes a fine display of pink, especially when planted at the foot of a south facing wall as it likes warm sun. If you look at the website of the Scottish Rock Garden Club, they have many more examples of hardy bulbs and also Ian Young’s very good Bulb Log which he posts every week.

Stan da Prato
November 2020


Paeonia still coming in to flower

With the slightly cooler temperatures some, but not all Paeonia have decided to slow down their progress towards flowering.

These two images show the delightful change in colour over time of the first Paeonia to flower in my garden.

As you can see I have not always been good at recording the names of my Paeonia.  I thought this one was P. lactiflora Flame.  But I don’t think it is so have labelled it as another unknown!

Another unknown Paeonia in Pam’s garden!


More purples in Colin’s Garden

We seem to be having a bit of a purple day here at The Caley and it is not just because of my own particular bias against yellow flowers!

These plants are growing in Colin’s garden and are looking particularly fine at the moment. If only I had more room in my own garden for some of these.  One advantage of knowing lots of gardeners is that they are always willing to share plants.

Geranium ‘Lawhead Croft’

Colin acquired this plant at a Hardy Plant Society sale.  It first occurred in Hector Riddell’s garden many years ago and he described it as genetically unstable.  Colin admits that the pink can be variable.

Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’

Another Hardy Plant Society acquisition, this time from seed. As well as looking great in the garden, it makes an excellent cut flower.  Will grow in full sun or in partial shade.

Geranium phaeum

Geranium phaeum, commonly known as the dusky crane’s bill or, even more dramatically, the black widow.  Good for a shady spot.

Chaerophylum hirsutum ‘Roseum’

Pink hairy chervil, a relative of cow parsley, will grow in sun or partial shade.

Colin also has some non-purple plants.  This pear tree is over 50 years old and has been extensively pruned in the past couple of years.  Growing against a south facing wall, it had a crop of over 30 pears last year – fingers crossed for a good crop again this year.


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!

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