Friday, 9 May 2014


One of the joys of gardens is experimenting with colour combinations. Sometimes they work, sometimes - AAAAArgh!

Some are planned some are surprises.
Here are some dark purple tulips and forget-me-nots - not a combination that leaps out at one but it works, at least I think so. Not planned as the blue is self-seeding and I forgot where I had put the tulips.
In actual fact the tulips are darker than this photo shows so the contrast is more dramatic.

A surprise came when the forget-me-nots sowed themselves in a pot with a brachyglottis. The grey foliage and blue flowers work well.

Every year some of the catalogues sell bulbs as preordained selections - like the one below by Sarah Raven.

Now, orange and purple may not seem like an ideal match and as seen here it is challenging.

One last mention of tulips, a complete change from the bright deeply saturated shades above, here white tulips and pale daffodils commingle to lift the garden.
Every garden needs white - it is an essential colour (or non colour).

The predominant colour in almost all gardens is green in all its varieties so though the alchemilla with their yellow/green flowers are wonderful, mix with catmint and one enters a different dimension.

Our garden in May becomes a sea of old fashioned Aquilegia (Granny's Bonnets, Columbine) in pinks and purples all self sown as I leave the seed heads on. They are a delight, especially where the come up through grey foliage

Some years ago, before Askham Hall near Penrith ( became a hotel and cafe the gardens were open to the public under the Gardens scheme and they had a large border of cram be and pink foxgloves - wonderful en masse.
Now you cash go to the gardens, eat in the cafe and then cross the river and see the gardens at Lowther Castle (

One of the loveliest whites is also a foxglove, here in the garden at Holker Hall with climbing tropaeolum. (

Some people find the combination of red and white has other associations (like death) and so do not use them together. This is a sad piece of superstition as the combination can be good.

Of course gardening is something that has gone on for millennia.

Here is a poem to illustrate this -

The Gardener

I took money and bought some flowering trees
And planted them out on the bank to the east of the keep.
I simply bought whatever had most blooms,
Not caring whether peach, apricot, or plum.
A hundred fruits, all mixed up together;
A thousand branches, flowering in due rotation.
Each has its season coming early or late;
But to all alike the fertile soil is kind.
The red flowers hang like a heavy mist;
The white flowers gleam like a fall of snow.
The wandering bees cannot bear to leave them;
The sweet birds also come there to roost.
In front there flows an ever-running stream;
Beneath there is built a little flat terrace.
Sometimes I sweep the flagstones of the terrace;
Sometimes, in the wind, I lift my cup and drink.
The flower-branches screen my head from the sun;
The flower-buds fall down into my lap.
Alone drinking, alone singing my songs,
I do not notice that the moon is level with the steps.
The people of Pa do not care for flowers;
All the spring no one has come to look.
But their Governor-general, alone with his cup of wine,
Sits till evening, and will not move from this place!


(Translated from the Chinese by Arthur Waley)

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