As May drew to a close, the garden was alight with flares of early summer colour.

End of May garden on a dull day

I always love watching the different stages of Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ as the tapered buds expand into a globe of flowers, growing more spherical as the individual flowers open, always busy with bees.

Allium Purple Sensation bud

Allium Purple Sensation bud opening

Newly opened flower of Allium Purple Sensation

Spherical flowers of Allium Purple Sensation

Ornamental grasses shiver in the breeze; the semi-circular kitchen border and parts of the long border have exploded with self-sown Briza maxima: serious editing was needed to allow their neighbouring plants some breathing space, but I love their pendulous flowers, tinged with a hint of red that perfectly suits the dark ruby foliage of the acer, and the flowers of Aquilegia stellata Ruby Port that dance through them.

Briza maxima romping through a border

Briza maxima

Another small annual grass which is in its element this year is  Agrostis nebulosa ‘Fibreoptics’. When I grew this from seed two years ago, I was underwhelmed by the initial plants that I put out, which did not have the impact I had hoped for. After self-sowing they have formed far more robust clumps, their airy flowerheads en masse giving a wonderful dreamy feel to the front of the border.

 Agrostis nebulosa 'Fibreoptics'

The calendula ‘Indian Prince’ in this bed and elsewhere around the garden that made it through the mild winter unscathed, to give an early display of warm colour, have begun to soften in colour as the flowers age.

Calendula Indian Prince flowers

While early June sees many of the early aquilegias fading gently away, the later ones are a continued delight. The first flowers on one of the plants I raised from seed bought at Touchwood last summer, from a mix of double yellows called ‘Shooting Stars’, have opened to reveal beautiful semi-double, spurred flowers, kissed with a warm apricot blush that I find enchanting.

Aquilegia grown from Touchwood 'Shooting Stars' seed

Aquilegia grown from Touchwood 'Shooting Stars' seed

Such beautiful flowers, I shall certainly be collecting more seed from these to see what a second generation brings, as well as watching avidly for the remaining plants from this batch, and the ‘Black n Bruises’ seeds that I sowed at the same time, the plants from which are yet to flower.

Aquilegia skinneri Tequila Sunrise

Another special aquilegia grown from seed  the previous year is this A. skinneri ‘Tequila Sunrise’ which has come into flower too; I suspect I may have lost some of my others from this batch as they have yet to show themselves this year. The pair of tall long-spurred yellow-flowered Aquilegia longissima which flanked the mounds of Geranium magnificum in the long border also seem to have disappeared; I will sow more for next year in the hope that perhaps they will be more long-lived, as I am very fond of their colour and long elegant spurs. Thankfully the plants of golden columbine, A. chrysantha, which stand much shorter for us at around a foot high, have thankfully been bringing some yellow-spurred magic to the front garden, but I do miss their tall elegant cousins from the main borders…

Aquilegia chrysantha golden columbine flower

As well as the late aquilegias, early summer brings the oriental poppies into bloom.

Field border in late May

Scarlet oriental poppies

One by one, their hairy green buds are erupting into flares of scarlet at the back of the field border. They are accompanied by smaller dashes of red from Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw’, grown from seed last year.

Geum Mrs Bradshaw and scarlet poppies

I rather love these bright reds against the lush green foliage of early summer, and the last flares of blue from the perennial cornflowers and forget-me-nots around them.

Dahlia 'David Howard'

First cucumber harvest 'La Diva'

Everything changes so quickly in the garden at this time of year. There has been a daily barrage of ‘firsts’ in recent weeks: the first greenhouse cucumber (La Diva); the first Dahlia to flower (David Howard); the first strawberries from the planters in the greenhouse… It’s all I can do to keep up!


19 thoughts on “Flare

  1. Love the shots of the Allium, as you say, they are lovely in all stages of developement, and also the dead seed heads are beautiful.

    • Yes I love the seed heads too! I scattered the seeds around this bed and in the spring there was a swathe of seedlings but they all seem to have died off since alas. Still, perhaps one or two made it and will surprise me next year!

  2. Lots of “Flair” in you garden as well, Sara. I see you are a big fan of Aquilegias. Me too! I must get round to acquiring a Dahlia – I have a particular hankering for “Bishop of Llandaff”, which looks a bit like the one you have called “David Howard”

    • thanks Mark! Yes I love aquilegias, grow more each year, and our borders are always awash with them in May and June! I like the Bishop dahlias, though we don’t have any here yet – David Howard is more orange than the red of B of Llandaff.

  3. Your garden looks gorgeous. Alliums are fascinating. I bought lots last year and they’ve made such a difference to the garden. I’m eagerly anticipating the drumsticks alliums flowering – it looks like they’re going to be early this year. I love aquilegias but most of min tend to be self-sown ones in purples and muddy pinks. I have started a small collection of named varieties. I definitely think I’ll be adding more in any future garden. Crazy to have a dahlia in flower so early but i spotted my chrysanths on the cut flower patch have flower buds on them. It’s going to make for a strange mix this summer with later flowering plants merging with earlier ones.

    • Thank you. Our drumsticks are on their way up too, though I rather suspect that the beautiful dark A. atropurpureum which captivated me last year have not returned, sadly… unless they’re lurking beneath the canopy of foliage, ready to surprise me!
      It will be interesting to watch what unusual combinations we see in the garden this year, after such a mild wet winter…

  4. Yep, it is a struggle to keep up with all that is happening – though as usual I’m behind you. No dahlias yet and certainly no cucumbers. But the aquilegias are rioting – with plenty of pink doubles which I dislike. Time for a drastic cull. Dave

    • Ah I must soon behead the spent pink doubles here before they set seed, as I’m quite happy with a few but don’t want them to spread any more!!

  5. Aqyulegias are enchanting and enfuriating, so much variety in colur and form, but favourites often seem to disappear to be replaced by sub standard washed out pretenders. You seem to be doing rather well with them, but I agree, adding in some of the named varieties can really help balance the often more chancy and fleeting seed-sown ones. Your garden is looking wonderful Sara, so much colour and texture, though I can’t believe you have dahlias flowering already! I have noticed a sudden rush to flower in recent days, but my alliums are still tightly budded. Lovely photos. Enjoy!

    • I’ve grown all our aquilegias from seed, (or they’ve sown themselves) even the named ones, apart from Red Hobbit, which seems to have vanished this year after several strong years. It is a shame when good ones disappear, but then it makes space for new ones! 😀 The dahlias were re-started in the greenhouse, so had a good headstart, put them out about a month ago when they already had buds on!

  6. Your garden has certainly got her summer robes on Sara. I enjoyed the allium sequence.The Agrostis nebulosa ‘Fibreoptics’ has a wonderful airy look about it. I think that I have an unopened packet of seed in my seed box. Must remedy the situation. A cucumber already!!! When did you sow the seed? My ‘La Diva’ plants do not look that brilliant at the moment but I live in hope.

    • Thanks, Anna. I can’t remember when we sowed the cucumbers, my husband took charge of them and the tomatoes, but it was fairly early. I’m even worse than usual at documenting things this year, being slightly distracted as you can imagine!! We’ve almost finished our second cucumber now, with more just fattening up – they’re certainly earlier than ever before. Hope yours are hot on their heels soon.

  7. I can’t quite believe how much further on your garden is than mine, nor how lovely it’s looking – despite everything else that’s going on. Beautiful!

  8. I love Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, probably up there in my top 10! Your garden is looking lovely, nice little pops of bright colours there in the border, mine is so interspersed with weeds that it rather takes the pleasure out of the flowers, I get torn between admiration for them and guilt for the nettle next to it!! Bx

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