Tulips & other favourite things

DSC_0068A friend recently commented that the Mirror Garden was so ‘colourful’ … I was a bit cast down by that, because I had wanted to build on what we inherited there (the box hedging and my little dumpling box shapes) and make a very serene garden in green, grey and yellow. (The grey foliage is provided by Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ & A. ‘Lambrook Silver’, just cut back in the pictures.)

The outlook over the valley is so exquisite that it would be a shame to interfere with it.


Maybe I haven’t succeeded, but the Mirror Garden remains one of my favourite places in spring, mostly on account of the young growth on the box and the flowering euphorbias, which are properly up and running now. They are E. characias subsp. wulfenii and E. characias subsp characias, courtesy of Hardy Plant Society Seed.


Just coming into flower on the tower behind my blue pot in the picture below is Rosa banksiae lutea. It grows like a weed – thank goodness.


DSC_0055DSC_0063DSC_0058Below the Mirror Garden in the Rose Walk I find photography much more difficult. It’s looking good at the moment – but it’s never very photogenic. And unfortunately I chose to shoot it when the grass and baby box balls hadn’t been cut, which doesn’t help much.



I need to learn how to use my new camera – even Ella has a tinge of green about her!

For the first time this year I managed to get my bulb order in fast enough to buy Narcissus ‘Jenny’ and ‘Jack Snipe’. There have been no daffs in the Rose Walk since I planted it in 2012, and I knew I wanted white flowers before the tulips. Owing to the cool weather, I enjoyed them for what seemed like weeks – they’ve only just left us.


Narcissus ‘Jenny’


Hard on their heels came the tulips. In the front portion of the walk (which is divided into four) I’ve got ‘Queen of the Night’, ‘China Pink’ and ‘Sorbet’ combined.


‘Queen of the Night’ & ‘China Pink’

DSC_0186DSC_0212The ‘Sorbet’ added in autumn 2015 have been a little strange. The first bulbs I bought in 2012 had a white edge to the leaf and a quite a strongly reddish ‘flame’ on the tepals. Last year’s additions (I leave them in the ground and add a few more every year) are very pretty, but much more pastel in colour and no white edge to the leaf.


Will the real ‘Sorbet’ please stand up? I need to do some research. You’ll notice in the pictures that because I leave my tulips in the ground I end up with smaller, more graceful flowers. Not to everyone’s taste, but certainly to mine. I love to see plants growing as if they were in a meadow, not standing up to attention like my slaves.

Unfortunately, I have now learnt that my habit of jamming everything in together in these borders is not entirely healthy. The tulips are followed by lots of alliums, nepeta and the roses: then everything falls rather quiet during the summer, although I’d like to start adding penstemons as well. There’s even the odd camassia jostling with the rest.

DSC_0217But this year, for the first time (we’ve had a wet spring, welcome in so many ways), there’s been tulip fire in the borders. At the far end where ‘Sweet Harmony’ is planted with a pastel mix from 2012 I had to dig up quite a lot of bulbs. Whoever first recommended that you should burn them? I’d have to leave them to dry out in the sun somewhere first, surely? At the moment they are definitely not drying out, but lying in a storeroom in plastic sacks. (Probably rotting – the smell will draw me in to sort them out!)

It seems that all is quiet on the Western tulip Front now – and I’ve been taught a lesson. My tulip greed has got to be limited for the sake of the plants. Either that or do without them for three years.


‘Sweet Harmony’ in the Rose Walk

Walking round the corner of the Rose Walk down to the Long Border another difficult-to-photograph sight greets me. Is this actually because my borders are badly planned? Perhaps – but I think that what they really need is a bit more structure (to counter-balance my natural tendency for border madness). The Rose Walk would benefit from a paved walkway instead of a grass path, the Long Border from, perhaps, a low hedge at the front?


Looking down from the Mirror Garden on the Rose Walk (with the tulips at the far end) and the Long Border in front of it. They form a kind of oblong unit, with a bank running down from the roses to the Long Border.


Coming around the corner from the Rose Walk and looking down the Long Border. (I really do think I’ve got the ‘green around the gills’/white balance problem licked now, but the two photos above were all that I had showing the Long Border at a distance!)


‘Westpoint’ with Narcissus ‘Actaea’, about a week ago.

The first tulips to greet you are ‘Westpoint’ and ‘Flaming Spring Green’. Disappointingly some of the flowers of the latter haven’t exactly flamed as I wanted – but I’m getting used to them now.


‘Flaming Spring Green’ & ‘Westpoint’




A ‘Flaming Spring Green’ refusing to flame!


This is the real ‘Spring Green’, elsewhere in the garden

Further along a little patch of Apricot Parrot that I had up on the Supper Terrace in pots last spring.

DSC_0135This year the cheapskate gardener bought a Lidl mix for the same pots called ‘Night & Day’ (below). I think it might be a combination of ‘Queen of the Night’ and ‘Shirley’ (with a slightly pinkish rim to the tepals).





And finally the tulip that’s really had me struggling with my new camera – a nameless red lily-flowered acquired in Lidl three years ago. (Can anyone hazard a guess?) Grown with ‘Attila’ (purple).

DSC_0241Now I love my new DSLR, but my pea-brain has still to fathom its complexity.

DSC_0214I kept thinking when I looked at the pictures of my red tulip that I’d got the colour balance wrong.

DSC_0220There was something garish, luminous, almost unearthly about them. Yesterday I decided that they really are that colour … lovely in a border, but more shocking on a computer screen!

Here it’s a case of ‘the rain it raineth …’ at the moment. I had just finished digging,  planting and strimming the Hornbeam Gardens when this is what happened.


When you start to divide herbaceous perennials for the first time, as I have this year, you know you are really gardening at last. Although I’ve gardened on clay before and the garden here is very warm, I’ve never known plants to establish as slowly as they do at Châtillon. There are roses that I’m still talking to sweetly after three years in the ground … but, yes, I’ve finally made a garden!

And over the garden wall, in the chateau grounds, the apple trees are flowering …



28 thoughts on “Tulips & other favourite things

  1. jenhumm116

    How lovely to see the whole garden. And such fabulous tulips – I’m now officially besotted with them and think I’ll feel a real sense of loss when mine go over this year!

  2. AnnetteM

    What a treat to have so many tulips – I think the bright yellow Westpoint are my favourites. I always find red flowers very difficult to photograph, they always seem to have glare on them on the computer screen. I have tried all sorts of different settings, but can’t ever sort it.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks for the encouraging photography perspective, Annette. Although you’ve captured your own poppy perfectly, I should add! I adore Westpoint too.

  3. Christina

    I think the red tulips might be ‘Pretty Woman’ it repeats well here. I’m a bit surprised your tulips repeat so well each year in a clay soil. I very much enjoyed the tour around the garden.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks Christina – it could well be ‘Pretty Woman’. I even found a photo that showed some of the slightly purple colour that my red tulip has – although also found an older one called ‘Pieter de Leur’ on Jaques Amand that seems to fit. Guess I’ll never know! Most of my tulips are chosen for their persistence (having known them in the past) – but they don’t persist quite as well here as on other clay soils I’ve gardened.

      1. Cathy Post author

        I hardly water at all Christina if I can help it. But I have been establishing so many plants since we came here that I’ve done more than I normally would – I can only really plant safely in the spring and until this year spring has been very dry here. In Britain I never needed to water at all – there was always enough rain!

    1. Cathy Post author

      I seem to behind on my replies – apologies. Glad you enjoyed it. I know that I enjoy reading what you are up to!

  4. Island Threads

    my goodness it did raineth didn’t it! Cathy, I think the mirror garden looks beautiful in it’s subtle shades of green, just because it is almost monochrome doesn’t mean it can’t be colourful, it just depends on how you interpret ‘colourful’, the only thing that is imo noticeable is the blue pot, perhaps a green or grey one, the yellow tulips look lovely and I imagine when the yellow rose is flowering across the wall it will look equally lovely/beautiful,
    could the reason for the summer lull just be the heat, I have read that summer is a dormant period in hotter climates and then autumn is like a second spring,
    your garden is looking very lush and the tulips are quite beautiful, Frances

  5. homeslip

    I feel as if I’ve actually walked around your garden with you while we’ve been talking. Thank you for such an interesting walk, I think your garden is absolutely beautiful. I’ve had tulip fire at the allotment for the first time. I’ve dug up all the old and affected bulbs and just composted them and I’ll prepare a new tulip bed ready for planting at the end of the year.

  6. Annette

    Can’t get over the change, it looks absolutely stunning and your tulips are a joy to behold, Cathy. Do they come back reliably? I like your self-made plant supports, very well done. Don’t find your mirror garden colourful. Serene and green. Euphorbias like me too and especially characias is wandering about but I don’t mind and they’re easy to pull up if in the wrong place. Do you ever get birds flying into the mirror? Have a nice spring 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks Annette! And especially for the plant support comment … fortunately I think the mirror is too ‘hazed’ to have birds fly into it – you can see only ‘through the glass darkly’!


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