May and June must be my favourite months in the garden: there seems to be something new in bloom every day and it is when some of my favourite flowers bloom. It is difficult to choose from peonies, iris, lupins, foxgloves or aquilegias. Some of the best are biennials or plants that can be grown as biennials and last year I sowed a lot of foxgloves, lupins and a batch of McKana aquilegias, all of which are just coming into bloom. I have already mentioned the wallflowers (it is almost time to sow more for next year) but didn’t sow sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus). I have corrected this omission by sowing and planting out a batch of the ‘Noverna’ sweet Williams which I think are great plants. They are fragrant, colourful, great for cutting and do not need a cold period to stimulate flowering so can be treated as annuals – they do not need vernalisation, hence ‘Noverna’.
The lupins were just a regular pack of Russell hybrids and although it is often written that modern seed strains of these do not have the quality of the plants that made George Russell famous the few that have bloomed so far are pretty good and I am pleased with them. Whether they all stay or whether some will be culled will be decided when they bloom. The good ones can be propagated from basal cuttings next spring.
The aquilegias are all pleasant but they may be short-term residents. Aquilegias are not long-lived and those derived from the North American species – mostly those with long spurs and in red and yellow shades – tend to prefer well-drained soil and it will remain to be seen how well they cope with the clay here – though the fact that they have coped with a record wet winter and soil mulched with mushroom compost among the roses suggests they are pretty happy. Anyway I have grown a lot (about 1000) new aquilegias from seed obtained from the UK National Plant Collection holder *. Carrie Thomas offers a huge range of seeds from her plants and I had real trouble picking just a few packets. With the packets costing just £1.50 it is easy to get carried away. The contents of the packets vary in number but from 60 packs I ended up with well over 1000 plants. Aquilegias have the morals of tom cats so I don’t expect all the plants to be the same as the parents but I should have some interesting flowers next year.
The iris and foxgloves are just starting to bloom so I will post those in the next week. The iris are all from Cayeux, though I did bias the choice in favour of American cultivars and the first, ‘Midnight Majesty’ and ‘Gnu Blues’ opened their first blooms today, just in time for the rain. I will post about them tomorrow.