Tales from the Garden – February

 In Anna Buxton, Blog

I must apologise to Anna.  I have had this piece for about a week but due to a few technical issues with our website, I  have been unable to post it.  However, I am sure you will agree, it is worth the wait. There are some beautiful plants in Anna’s garden.

February is an exciting month in the garden. So much happens and so many plants hint at what is to come.  Bulbs are showing everywhere and some of the earliest shrubs, the white currant, Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ and a small Cornus mas for instance, are almost in flower.

In this Edinburgh garden the hellebores have been flowering for weeks.  They make a good contribution to the winter garden but they are something of a motley collection. I would like to do better with them.  We have the usual ones, argutifolius (was corsicus), foetidus a rare British native, and hybrids, which I have always thought of as orientalis of which there are many because they are enthusiastic self seeders.   H. argutifolius grows well here and gets quite tall, often looking better with support.  But as far as H. foetidus is concerned, I am always disappointed.  Seeing it grow to over a metre high in an old herbaceous border in Angus has made me wonder how I can grow it better.  We have a few good plants of H. orientalis but none have made substantial clumps and some have been swamped by other vegetation.  I like the very dark ones, but they are not easy to see against bare earth. There are many different shades of pink here and some with speckled centres, which are my favourites.   At the Caley Saughton dig day in January there were some wonderful pots of hellebores containing thick clumps with many stems and I managed to buy one when I visited Glendoick Garden Centre. They seem to be a new breed called Helleborus Gold Collection, and the one I bought was Joker (Helleborus x ericsmithii), white with gold stamens, fading to green.  It will set in motion my hellebore improvement campaign.

A beautiful dark Helleborus orientalis hybrid

Aconites provide a very cheery note at this time of year. Many years ago a kind gardener gave me a handful of their roots but it has taken many years of carefully spreading the seeds and occasional purchases to reach the generous covering shown in this photo. The snowdrops take quite a long time to reach their best, but now with a few warmer days they look less like white blobs, more like elegant dancers. I almost prefer snowflakes which are altogether bigger than snowdrops and surround some of the fruit trees in the orchard. They are more clearly seen from a distance and they are easy to grow and well worth a try.

I love the blue of Hepatica transsilvanica which was in the garden when we moved here over thirty years ago. It now grows in several places and it has flowered well this year.  I think it benefits both from having the old leaves cut off and from being replanted every few years. It is low growing and makes a very good edging plant.

Hepatica transsilvanica

There is a gem in the greenhouse, Fritillaria raddeana, which is in flower now. It is a ‘blink and you’ll miss it plant’; it starts in growth very early and flowers surprisingly quickly and then fades quickly too.  I got the idea of growing it from the brilliant plantsmen in the Scottish Rock Garden Club as they time their flowering for their Edinburgh show. This is on Saturday 13th April at Fairmilehead Parish Church from 11.30am – do go along and be inspired as I have been.


Fritillaria raddeana


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