Poppies, Iris and Peonies are the star attractions filling the gap between the spring bulbs and the summer perennials. Some of them are so OTT, others, more shy and retiring. The Iris come in all colours, some frilly and flouncy, some quietly unassuming. The peonies are usually white or various shades of red and pink, singles or doubles, some so double with so many flounces and frills, they can hardly hold their heads upright! Poppies that are flowering at the moment are the oriental poppies which demand to be the centre of attention, even though they are so fleeting. Colours vary from almost purple, through pink, red and orange to white.
One that certainly demands to be the centre of attention is Patty’s Plum, the colour of blackcurrant fool. After I had already planted one in the garden here, many years ago, we went on a short holiday in the Oxford area I think, and purely by chance found a nursery owned by Patricia Marrow, the Pat of Patty’s Plum. Having looked round the lovely garden attached to the nursery, I then went to have a look at the plants for sale.
All the plants were standing on a membrane and had rooted through. When I tried to pick them up to examine them, I was shouted at in no uncertain terms, to leave the plants alone. This happened twice, I never do as I’m told if shouted at, we then decided to leave without buying anything.
I eventually gave my plant away to a friend as it reminded me so much of being shouted at! But , the best way to increase oriental poppies is to take root cuttings, so guess what, she comes back to haunt me every year, each year getting bigger, better, more beautiful and more gorgeous, and to think that this plant has grown from the bits of roots that were left behind!
Just as beautiful, such a delicate pale pink, lost its name I’m afraid.
This is what we would call Barbara Cartland pink in this country, a romantic novelist in the 80’s and 90’s who always wore this colour, complete with mascara the same as the centre of the flower! I have a white one somewhere, but haven’t seen any sign of it yet, will have to go searching and I must buy a heart stopping red for a certain place in the border by the field, have to make sure there are no pinks any where near it!
The Iris year starts for me in the woodland where I have some small Californian Iris and Iris foetidissima, our native iris, these flower in early spring. They are followed by Iris japonica, which has beautiful small white, blue and yellow flowers and a dwarf bearded iris which flowered a good month ago, which is planted on the alpine scree to give it the drainage it enjoys. My first Iris photo is of a bearded iris, Kent Pride, which is in the bee and butterfly border, in the front garden. This border has had an enormous amount of gravel added to the soil, to help with the drainage, and it is also on a slope, so I can grow plants here that would sulk in the rest of the garden.
This is the variegated version of the wild iris, Iris pseudacorus, which lives in water, bogs or moist soil, no wonder it is happy with me! The leaves revert to green after flowering, but from when the leaves come through the soil in the spring, the plant is contributing its spears to the overall scene.
This bearded Iris is absolutely gorgeous and it has a delightful perfume as if it didn’t already have enough plus points! I don’t know it’s name unfortunately, I found it languishing in a pot at a church plant sale. It wasn’t in flower when I bought it and I was absolutely overjoyed when I saw it flowering a year later, then discovered the perfume as a bonus!
Another bearded Iris with no name! A gentle salmon colour which contrast nicely with all the forget me nots around it. Unfortunately some of my bearded iris haven’t flowered this year, a lovely almost black one and a yellow one, I found that the rhizomes were completely covered by forget me nots, so any sun wouldn’t be able to ripen them, not that we have had much sun, maybe that is the problem!
A Dutch Iris, Iris x Hollandica, which came in a mixed lot of bulbs, this one has rather nice markings.
Iris sibirica enjoys our heavy clay soil, there really is an iris for every situation and soil. Sun or shade, well drained or moist, there is an iris which will enjoy it.
Another of the mixed Dutch Iris bulbs.
A white version of Iris sibirica, enjoying all our rain!
A large clump of English iris, Iris latifolia, which can cope with heavier soil than the Dutch variety, there are a lot of flowers on each stem, so the clump is in flower for a long time.
Iris sibirica Butter and Sugar coping well with all the torrential rain that we have been having for such a long time now. Thank goodness there are plants that don’t mind their feet in such wet soil.
Actually growing in the pond, in the shallow water at the edge, is Iris laevigata variegata. Even when not flowering, the leaves always look so fresh.
The last of my Dutch Iris, these were ordered separately, don’t remember ordering brown ones but they are growing on me!There are more varieties to come, ending for me with Iris ensata, another for the bog garden with beautiful horizontal flowers, these should be in flower in about a months time.
Peonies really do want to be the star attraction, earlier in the year we have gorgeous single mlokosewitschii, followed by the huge flowers of a tree peony, but at this time of the year it is the flouncy doubles that take centre stage, I think this is Bowl of Beauty.
What can I say, really ott, far too many petals, so of no use at all to the bees and butterflies, just like an ice cream sundae! At least , when it rains, the petals aren’t shattered to the ground like the singles and therefore last longer. I would say that 95% of the time any plant that I buy is of benefit to bees, birds or butterflies, but occasionally I buy just for me!
I have to admit that this is my favourite at the moment, not only is it so beautiful to look at, but it has the most gorgeous perfume, have to go and sniff it each day it is flowering, its name – Top Brass.
Another frothy pink one, I think I have too many pink peonies, must buy some dark red ones for the border by the field. That border is late to start flowering so if I introduce some peonies and poppies we will have some earlier flowers in that area.
As star performers, poppies, iris and peonies compete with each other for the chance to shine in a border. Colour clashes have to be avoided, red poppies need to be kept away from pink peonies, but most iris blend with their planting partners. They really are wonderful plants to bridge the gap in the early summer planting before the roses and summer perennials start flowering, enjoy them while you can as they don’t last long!
P.S. Do you remember the post I wrote recently about a wren’s nest being built on our swinging seat? click here. Mrs Wren has taken up residence and therefore no more sitting here to have our morning coffee, couldn’t anyway with all the rain we have been having! We will have to avoid that area for a while, that’s my excuse for all the weeds that will now grow!!