A Mutable Beauty

Nicotiana mutabilis is such a lovely plant that I go to considerable lengths to have it in the garden. Its flowers start dark pink, fade to a paler shade and then white, with the tall, airy plant carrying all three colours at once.  I overwintered one successfully in the greenhouse and planted it out a few weeks ago, sowed seeds less successfully (only three seedlings from this sowing and none from an earlier one), but to my delight I’ve found that the leggy plants I left in the borders have come through the mild winter and are sending out new stems from ground level.  I’m going to have a go at sowing another batch because I think they may germinate better in dry heat, but in the meantime I’m enjoying the early show from the greenhouse plant. 

Nicotiana mutabilis

Overwintered in the greenhouse

overwintered Nicotiana mutabilis

Overwintered in the garden thanks to a lack of frosts

Nicotiana mutabilis seedling in greenhouse

Spring sown seedling

Petal Perfection

Petal Perfection

One of the things that I love about this time of year is that there is still time to pause and admire each new arrival – it won’t be long before there’s so much happening that individual flowers will go unnoticed. The variety of shape and colour is extraordinary when you take a close look. The tubular petals of the bright pink bellis daisies have white interiors, while the tissue paper petals of the ranunculus look far too delicate to withstand icy blasts but seem impervious to the variability of the spring weather.pink bellis daisiesranunculus

In the woodland garden the Erythronium put in a brief but lovely appearance with their recurved yellow petals – they always remind me of the hats worn by the imps in Rupert Bear Annuals of my childhood.ErythroniumIMG_4377

Natural Support

I try to support plants with natural materials whenever possible,  whether its runner beans, sweet peas or border perennials.  I’ve had lots of fun creating a woven trellis for my sweet peas with the cobnut ( a type of hazel) prunings that I collected last week.  It’s something I’ve never done before, but I was dealing with a quite narrow space where there wasn’t room for the usual  wigwams and I’m rather pleased with the result which is both attractive and surprisingly sturdy.  If you can’t lay your hands on coppiced hazel, I have noticed that jute netting is available – not the same, but more discreet than plastic and it can be composted at the end of the season.natural polesnatural plant supportspeas neatly planted
Hen & Hammock also sent me some rather ingenious plant supports made from a chestnut paling threaded with wire. You simply hammer the paling in place and the wire provides support that will soon disappear as the plant grows. A clever, durable and simple idea. £8.50 from www.henandhammock.co.uksimple plant support

Bluebell Blues

By far the greater number of bluebells in my garden are the Spanish interlopers and I suspect it is a life’s work to rid the garden of their presence, so I try to restrict them to the woodland area of the garden where they look vaguely appropriate.  I don’t like them in the borders though, so now that there has been some good rain, I am taking advantage of the soft soil to dig up as many as I can, well before they can set seed and spread still further.  I haven’t managed to get every bulb out, so some will return, but I have found that this is the best time of year to tackle them. This post will help you identify your bluebells. The leaves can go on the compost heap, but the bulbs will be going on a trip to the local tip. Hasta la vista babies!bluebell blues