White Willow Gentian

White Willow Gentian flowering stems

This is the white form of the Willow Gentian, Gentiana asclepiadea alba. It is a choice, slow growing and long-lived and reliable plant for shade or part shade. Its natural blue flowers form is native to central and Eastern Europe, where it grows in light forests. Continue reading


The Abyssinian gladiolus

This is the Abyssinian gladiolus. It’s one of those plants that has switched genus recently. Previously Gladiolus callianthus, it is now known as Acidanthera bicolor ‘Murielae’. I can see why they went for the name change, as it is quite a different animal to the gaudy floristry things we usually call gladioli. Continue reading

Bee (and butterfly) Heaven

In the background, white English lavender; in the foreground a white Hebe. Both plants have dense spikes containing hundreds of individual flowers which open over many days.

This long sunny border in front of the greenhouse is ideal for these flowers and through July attracts a constant procession of bees (honey and bumbles). They come and go all day, from dawn ’til dusk, gathering nectar from these obliging plants. Continue reading

Are Hosta Flowers Worthwhile?

I don’t grow Hostas for their flowers; partly, because my plants are in a white garden where their role is to provide foliage texture, and most Hosta flowers are typically some shade of mauve, but also because they are are a bit shapeless.

With neither hue nor form in their favour I mostly I cut them off soon after they emerge, but this year I’ve left it a bit late; so I thought I’d photograph them and give them a few final words before they get the chop. Continue reading

Success with Greenhouse Melons

Here’s how I grew 30 Charentais melons in a narrow greenhouse bed just 5 ft long and 1 ft deep.

Charentais are a fragrant variety of cantaloupe or musk melon, bred in France in the 1920s. Typically they are more difficult to grow than standard cantaloupes and rarely succeed outdoors in UK climates. Their short shelf life makes them expensive in the supermarkets and the narrow window for picking them at their best means you are always at risk of getting a dud when shop buying. Home-growing these exotic fruit can, therefore, be a very rewarding challenge. But if you have a greenhouse I’ll let you into a secret or two… Continue reading