Chelsea Flower Show is England's premier showcase for horticultural endeavors. It features several show gardens designed by top designers, extraordinary displays by many specialist nurseries, trade stands selling a vast array of tools and gadgets, outstanding sculptures, paintings, exquisite embroidery, garden clothing and, of course, plants. There are hundreds of exhibitors.
The center of the show is the Great Pavilion and to enter it is a truly jaw dropping experience. There are dozens of displays by nurseries from all over Britain and the rest of the world and every one is absolutely stunning. Some depict the traditional cottage garden with a mix of representative flowers, while others are dedicated to one particular specialty such as gladioli, carnivorous plants, hostas, house plants, vegetables, proteas, cacti or bonsai. Each of the thousands of plants and blooms is a perfect specimen! Stands of spring-flowering daffodils shown at their peak and autumn-flowering chrysanthemums are a testament to the skills that growers have in manipulating flowering times. There were educational displays on such topics as creating children's gardens, and one which detailed the results of genetic research on snapdragons growing wild in the European Alps. And then there are the spectacular floristry displays.
Outside of the Pavilion around the edge of the exhibition site are the 26 show gardens, each designed by a top designer and featuring different themes such as female-led, climate-smart agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, a Finnish garden, and one based on a Japanese herbal garden. English gardens also loomed large, such as one designed for a disused quarry site, one based on the canals of northern England, a garden designed for children in hospice care, and just too many others to mention here.
This link takes you on a tour of these gardens: http://rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/Gardens
Some of the sculptures displayed were very imaginative, especially those made from driftwood, but I was particularly drawn to a huge metal foxglove about 10 feet high, and also some metal kinetic sculptures of maple seeds and ginkgo leaves.
The shopping area had a magnificent array of tempting things to buy, but the constraints of my luggage on the airline kept my spending in check. I did however succumb to a new and very splendid garden trowel with a 75 year guarantee. After all, one can never have too many trowels!
Outside the show grounds many of the local shops had decked out their doorways with ebullient swags of fresh flowers.
As a child I attended Chelsea flower show annually but it is now fifty-five years since I was last there, and it did not let me down. The sheer magnificence, elegance and beauty of the whole experience will never be forgotten.
Now back to reality - the challenges of growing in a California high desert garden!
National Pollinator Week is June 18 to 24,, 2018.
What better way to celebrate and support the importance of pollinators than to plant a pollinator garden? Even a few plants can help support pollinators such as butterflies, beetles, and bees.
Butterflies and other pollinators are very sensitive to pesticides so avoid using them in your garden. Insecticides kill insects, so if you want butterflies, don't use insecticides. If you do feel you have to use an insecticide, even an organic one, always use minimally. Do not apply when butterflies, bees or other pollinators are active and do not apply to open flowers.
To attract butterflies, provide good food, water and shelter all from a butterfly's point of view. Here are some tips to encourage butterflies to visit your garden.
Minimize pesticide use. Encouraging natural pest predators and using other alternative controls will make your garden safer for butterflies and their caterpillars.
Pick a sunny site. Butterflies generally feed in sunny locations. Choose a place in the garden that receives about six hours of sun each day. Gravel walkways and rocks for basking are good places to watch for butterflies warming up.
Plan the layout of your plants. Plant in groups of the same flowers rather than individual plants of the same kind scattered in the garden. This works because butterflies are near sighted and masses of flowers two or three feet across attract butterflies from a distance. Choosing plants of different heights adds interest to the garden and helps attract more pollinators.
Add native plants to your garden. Many native plants have good sources of nectar, and also are host plants that butterflies seek out to lay eggs. Research has shown that local native pollinators prefer local native plants. Please remember not to cut your garden back severely in the fall or you may lose overwintering eggs for the next season.
Provide shelter. On a rainy day or in high winds, butterflies wait out the bad weather on the undersides of leaves, in trees, shrubs, or vines. They also take butterfly breaks during their day; provide them places to hide with a combination of sites to roost and shelter.
For inspiration and information our local chapter of California Native Plant Society has created excellent resources for anyone to use. They have posted photos and lists of native plants with information, including a new two page Native Landscape Planting Guide. There is information on pollinators, water use, color descriptions and more.
Please remember it is both illegal and destructive to remove plants and flowers from their natural habitats but our local CNPS chapter has a plant sale every year and lots of great information on their website. Also, many nurseries are now carrying more native plants, be sure to ask.
References and further information:
CNPS Bristlecone chapter http://bristleconecnps.org
California Native Plant Society plant information www.Calscape.org
Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu
National Wildlife Federation https://www.nwf.org
- Author: Susan Flaherty
How red poppies became associated with fallen soldiers:
John McCrae was born in Canada in 1872 and was a successful poet, physician, artist, and author. He served in the Boar War (1899-1902) and quickly became disillusioned about the cost of war in human lives. When England declared war against Germany at the onset of WWI, Canada quickly followed. Dr. McCrae offered his services as a doctor. In May 2, 1915 his close friend Alexis Helmer was killed by a German shell. The next day Dr McCrae looked over at a makeshift cemetery near Flanders, Belgium and noted the red poppies blooming among the simple white crosses. This moved him to write a poem, “In Flanders Fields” which instantly struck a chord and became a rallying post for events such fundraising and rallies following its publication by Punch Magazine in England in December 1915.
It was published in America in Ladies Home Journal in November 1918. Unfortunately, John McCrae had succumbed to pneumonia in France on January 28, 1918.
The inspirational poem may have faded into poetry books if not for an amazing young teacher from a small town in Georgia. Moina Michael came across the poem in Ladies Home Journal and believed it to be the symbol to commemorate fallen soldiers. She campaigned tirelessly, as a result, within three years the poppy became the symbol or remembrance. Sales of paper poppies have raised millions of dollars for ex-servicemen and –women in many countries around the world.
The Flanders poppy is botanically Papaver rhoeas and is an intense red. It is a common wildflower in many areas of Europe, growing cheerfully around the borders of wheat fields. This wild version seldom grows much more than 1ft. high, but now many hybrids in a wide variety of colors have been developed and these can readily reach 2-3ft tall under ideal conditions. As a garden plant the poppy is best direct sown from seed during the fall. It does not transplant well. Flowers will appear the next spring. It likes full sun and regular, but not excessive water.
Adapted with permission from "Of Naked Ladies and Forget-Me-Nots" by Allan M. Artimage
For more about growing these and other varieties of poppies check out: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24149
With Memorial Day fast approaching my thoughts have turned to poppies because a paper Red Flanders Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is often worn to remember and honor those who have fought for their country. In many parts of Europe the plants are still to be found growing in cornfields and along byways in large masses and, although in some places they have been declared an agricultural weed, most people secretly love them.
The poppy family, Papaveracae contains 25 genera, and over 100 species which generally emanate from the temperate latitudes. Many have wonderfully flamboyant flowers such as the well-known California poppy, (Eschscholzia california) with its saturated orange flowers which clothe many dry hillsides of the state in spring, to the exquisite sky blue Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia) which is tricky to grow at the best of times and would hate the dry atmosphere in the Owens Valley.
However there are many garden varieties of poppies which are easy to grow here and it is hard not to love their vibrant crepe petals.
California Poppies now come in a wide range of colors such as pale cream (White Linen), burnt orange (Mikado), yellow (Chrome Queen), and purple (purple gleam). They are perennials but can be grown as annuals where there is a long season. They have a long taproot and resent any attempts to transplant them, so the seed needs to be sown where they are to grow. Water to keep moist until germination has occurred after which occasional watering should suffice, although they will flower for a longer season if given a more regular supply.
Shirley Poppies (P. rhoeas) are annuals and do well here if sown in the fall to will bloom in the spring. They grow about 3 feet tall and about 1 foot wide, and come in a variety of colors apart from the original red – white, pink, salmon, and lilac, sometime with a contrasting white edge. Bees love them for their early supply of pollen, and I have often witnessed them almost fighting around the anthers.
Oriental Poppies (P. orientale). These perennials are perhaps the most striking with huge flowers held on strong stems in late spring or early summer. They grow a clump of hairy leaves early in the year before the flower stems develop. Large clumps of flowers each up to 7 inches in shades of scarlet, white, coral or pink with a large black blotch at the base of the each petal can make a spectacular show in May, after which the foliage dies down in the summer in response to hot weather. They are also loved by bees for their black pollen. Unfortunately the roots are also irresistible to gophers!
Papaver soniferum, an annual variety that has been in cultivation for hundreds of years, comes in a wide range of colors and forms. I love the original single violet flowers which have darker splotches at the base of the petals but now they also come in double varieties (which are not attractive to bees and can look rather like a mop head), and fringed versions. The colors range from very pale pinks to almost black. Unlike a lot of other poppies the leaves are grayish-green, and smooth.
A plant that has done exceptionally well in my high desert garden is P. atlanticum. This is a smaller poppy which produces a prolific crop of soft orange semi-double flowers and which arise from a clump of perennial foliage. It has a very long blooming season if it is regularly deadheaded. It is difficult to transplant, but volunteers readily and comes through our winters with ease. The large black native carpenter bees are particularly attracted to this flower and look ridiculous as they try to collect food from these delicate flowers.
In the deserts the native prickly poppy, Argemone intermedia, is just coming into bloom. An annual or biennial, it has large crinkly white flowers the delicacy of which belies the prickly plant's tough nature, so unless you have an area given over to plants that like dry rocky terrain, you probably would not want to plant this in your garden. It is much loved by insects of all sorts.
Another native plant with similar flowers and no prickles is the shrubby Romneya coulteri the blooms of which look like fried eggs with their crepe-papery petals surrounding a boss of golden stamens. It is native to the Californian coastal regions, and is probably borderline hardy in the Owens Valley but I have seen a spectacular hedge of them growing in West Bishop. They are quite tricky to get established since they require fire for the seeds to germinate, and have rubbery roots that do not hold a ball of soil well for transplanting. The best method is to find a rooted sucker and try transplanting that. However, once established in ideal conditions these plants can spread rapidly and reach 6ft-8ft.
There are many more types of poppies, both native and cultivated and seeds of these available, both from suppliers of native plant seeds and catalogs such as www.edenbrothers.com/PoppySeeds that specialize in garden varieties.
It is hard to find flowers that give so much reward for so little effort.
Some of the most rewarding plants that I have grown in recent years came from a packet of “Cottage Pink” seeds (Parks Seed Co.) which I ordered for no other reason than I needed a small purchase to get free shipping on a vegetable order!
These pinks, Dianthus plumarius, are traditional cottage garden flowers from Europe where they have been cultivated for hundreds of years. They belong to the Dianthus genus which contains over 300 species together with numerous hybrids including such favorites as carnations and Sweet Williams.
I planted the seeds in late winter and had an exceptionally high germination rate. I was careful not to overwater the seedlings, and they grew well and transplanted easily. Although perennials, they all flowered in their first year.
Cottage pinks are characterized by perennial mats of gray needle-like foliage up to 12 inches wide, although the growth habits of individual plants are not completely consistent, some being very tightly growing while others are more lax. Strongly perfumed single flowers in shades of pink or white with varying petal structure and flower patterns are held upright on 6”-8” stems. These are long lasting, and each flower has a couple of dormant buds immediately beneath it which provides a long flowering season which lasts, with regular deadheading, from April to September in the Owens Valley. They don't flop, and so far I have never had any pests or diseases bother them.
All my plants have now survived several winters in Bishop (USDA Zone 7b), but just one of the plants goes extremely brown in winter and looks as though it has died, only to come back very vigorously when the temperatures rise, although that particular one blooms later than the rest.
My only problem was that until they flowered I did not know which would produce the most interesting flowers, and since I had run out of space in the borders I was forced to plant them out in the vegetable garden!
Some nurseries carry named varieties, often heavily marked or with stronger colors e.g. 'Firewitch', or related species such as Dianthus gratianopolitanus, and D. Alwoodii both of which perform well.
Cottage Pinks are hard to beat – long bloom season, perfume, good cut flowers, neat foliage and not prone to pests and diseases. I highly recommend them!