Though tulips are as quintessentially Dutch as windmills and clogs, they are actually an Eastern flower, growing wild along a narrow belt, stretching from Ankara in Turkey to the mountain ranges of Pamir-Alai and Tien Shan in Central Asia. The word tulip itself is derived from the Turkish and Persian names for turban, named for the resemblance between the flower’s petals and the turban’s overlapping folds of material.
A prized flower in Turkey, the tulip later became a symbol of the Ottoman Empire, with a period during the early 18th century – noted for its prosperity and relative peace – being labelled the Tulip Era. The classic tulip motif, with elongated petals, often featured in Ottoman art.
Tulips in a huge array of colours to complement any colour scheme. Crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis), with spectacular Carmen Miranda headgear. Cheerful daffodils and chirpy violas. Here’s what I found flowering this week…
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I’m not too great when it comes to delayed gratification. I want spring – and I want it now!
Actually, I wanted it a couple of weeks ago. I like the changing of the seasons. I love autumn colours and crisp winter days, but now, I’d like the seasons to change again.
With the arrival of February, spring seemed almost within the grasp of my gardening-gloved hand. And really, February’s such a little month to endure. Those missing few days at the end of February mean that by mid-month, it’s almost over! There’s Valentine’s Day, too, slap in the middle, to cheer us up with chocolates and flowers. Suddenly, supermarket shelves are laden with bunches and baskets of flowers. Garden...
In the summer, you can smell the herbs on the air as you head south towards Provence, but our visit at Easter was a tad too early for that. The morning and evening air was chilly, but by mid-morning the sun was hot enough to cast off cardigans and enjoy an alfresco café noisette.
Not too early though for the vines to be in full leaf or for red pelargoniums to be flowering brightly in window boxes at wooden-shuttered windows.
Scented Jasminum officinale – summer jasmine – was already clambering over stone walls and above blue-painted windows in St Rémy de Provence.
I’ve admired the flower displays on French roundabouts before, but here the road islands have a distinctly Provençal...
May 1st – International Workers’ Day or Labour Day – is a public holiday in many parts of the world. It coincides with the much older traditional festival of May Day – springtime festivities, associated with May Queens and ribbon-dancing around the maypole. In France, it is also the Fête du Muguet, the day when the little Lily of the Valley, with its delicate sprays of white bells, is elevated to the position of celebrated star for the day.
The earliest May Day celebrations honoured the ancient Roman goddess of flowers, Flora, and flowers inevitably feature in many of the traditions associated with this day. Traditionally, “May baskets”, containing flowers or sweets, were given at this time of year. They...
What’s the collective noun for a group of crocuses? A cluster, a crowd, a colony? A swathe, a dazzle, a drift?
On a bright, chill-nipped, late-February afternoon in Cannizaro Park, the word which comes to mind is crescendo – the pale buds, pushing up in clumps through the crumpled dead leaves and winter mud-brown soil, gradually increasing in number and intensity of colour, spilling across the grassy borders, unfurling to reveal orange stamen and deep purple petals, peaking at the very moment I reach the park gates!
Cannizaro Park is a 34-acre Grade II* listed English Heritage garden, to the south of Wimbledon Common. A private garden for 300 years, it was acquired by Wimbledon Borough Council, now London Borough...
When the children were small, I was quite taken with the idea of creating pathways around the garden. Trails for chasing round and doubling back on. Routes for Easter Egg Hunts. A pergola, clothed in climbers, providing hiding places for leaping out of on dark nights. For small children, plants didn’t need to grow very high before they could be ducked behind and screen someone in a game of Hide and Seek.
One year, we had a Princess and Prince themed birthday party held in the garden. The highlight was a game we devised which entailed leading the party-goers one by one around the stepping stone pathways on a hunt to slay the dragon. The children waited, quivering with excitement...
“Daffodils that come before the swallow dares, and takes the winds of March with beauty.”
She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
“Winter is dead.”
Daffodowndilly – AA Milne
The daffodil is the national flower of Wales. On March 1st – St David’s Day – we dressed up in Welsh National Costume, complete with frilly apron and tall black hat, and pinned on a daffodil. By the end of the day, it was a sorry, droopy little thing, but, still, I always preferred a real daffodil, with its fresh,...