In the pink

I am stretching the definition of pink a little to find a theme for this post of unrelated plants but it gives me a chance to mention a few plants that have nothing in common.

Starting with what must be everyone’s favourite peony, I followed fashion and made ‘Bowl of Beauty’ among the first I planted. Tall and showy but with fascinating flowers in pink and white it is no surprise that everyone loves his one… apart from the RHS it seems since it has reportedly lost its AGM, though I have not been able to confirm this from the trial report. Peonies are longlived plants and it takes a while for new varieties to become commonplace so, having been introduced in 1949 it is almost a youngster compared with some other favourites which are twice as old or more. It is not quite perfect. It is tall and it needs support to hold those stems up. But I am prepared to make a little extra effort to see these blooms at their best.

The peony is now in its second year but this little geranium has only been planted a few months. This little beauty is Dreamland (‘Bremdream’) and bred by Alan Bremner in the Orkney Islands who is responsible for a slew of amazing new geraniums. It was obviously special when it first flowered and was selected for trial and is bound to be very popular, though all new geraniums have to contend with the ‘deserved’ comparison with Rozanne. My little plant is not representative since it should reach 30cm high and wide but it has been very generous with its sugar-pink flowers. For me, partly because I knew its namesake, nothing can beat ‘Mavis Simpson’ as the prettiest pink geranium but I think this will give her a good run for the money. Even so, when I see Mavis for sale I will add her to the garden.
In the greenhouse, every day is made better for seeing salvia ‘Tubular Bells’. This overwintered in the polytunnel and has moved to the greenhouse. This is mainly because it is tall and very brittle and last year it was shattered by the wind. I need to take cuttings but so far every shoot ends with flowers which is very pretty but a bit awkward when it comes to propagation. I wrote about it previously.

Something I am sure I have not mentioned are the tulbaghias. Sometimes known as society garlics (because they don’t make your breath smell if you eat them, apparently), these Cape ‘bulbs’ are best known by this, the most common species, T. violacea. I have always been a little dubious about the hardiness of this and, many years ago when I had the greenhouse in the UK I collected quite a few and did some informal hybridising, mostly with T. cominsii and T. capensis. I produced some pretty plants but I am not sure they were anything very new. My poor plants were lugged over the sea and left in their pots for several years before some were planted out in a south-facing, dry bed between nerines and x amarines. In their years stuck in pots they were left outside in winter and they survived. So I am starting to think they are hardier than I previously reckoned.

This one could be one of my hybrids but I need to spend some time looking more closely because some of the various species are rather similar. Whatever it is, like T. violacea, it is a pretty plant with fragrant flowers and they bloom for a long time. I suppose that the only problem with the is that, in a dry, sheltered place, tulbaghias can seed rather prolifically and have the potential to be a weed. But they are very nice plants for drought gardens and make good patio plants for a sunny spot and are pretty forgiving if you forget to water them.

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5 Comments on “In the pink”

  1. annabel
    July 1, 2021 at 10:25 am #

    I m like everyone, I love peony! I have a few in the garden, every year I buy a new one for the last 3 years.
    Every year I hope to see the gorgeous flowers, but all i get is leaves 😦
    I thought i would be in luck this year as i swore i could see little buds but it looks as if they dried up and I have only leaves again this year. There is always next year and hope!

    Still waiting too for some flowers on my geraniums but as I sow them only this year I didn’t have huge expectations.

    Love salvias too, but ignorant me finds that they look an awful lot like my beloved agastache mexicana!

    • thebikinggardener
      July 1, 2021 at 2:11 pm #

      Peonies often fail to bloom if they are planted too deeply but if there are tiny buds that then turn black and shrivel it could be peony blight. It only affects P. lactiflora hybrids (ie. most o f them). You should cut them off once they are definitely dead, to prevent more spores being released. Next spring spray with a fungicide as soon as they start to unfold leaves and repeat to prevent the problem and if they bloom normally you know what it is. Salvias are such a varied bunch – some are like agastaches but there is a lot more to discover.

  2. Paddy Tobin
    July 1, 2021 at 1:42 pm #

    An odd thing I have noticed about Tulbaghias over the years is that you can get the smell from them even when they are not in growth so it can be a puzzle to pinpoint where the smell is coming from!

    • thebikinggardener
      July 1, 2021 at 2:08 pm #

      I had not noticed that – I will have to break a few roots and see if the whole plant is aromatic!

  3. Annabel finnegan
    July 3, 2021 at 10:04 am #

    Many thanks for the expert advice. I’ll try that!
    Might gently scrap off a bit of soil at the top too.

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