Tag Archives: May

May plant Iris where she don’t belong

Right plant wrong place! Moraea huttonii

Well, as we’ve had one of the best behaved springs I can remember, and we have plants all ahead of themselves, I thought I would keep the optimism going and feature a plant that behaves better for me than all the descriptions suggest.
It’s name doesn’t trip off the tongue too easily; Morraea huttonii is a bit of a mouthful for a plant that most of us would describe as a yellow Iris.

Moraea huttonii a yellow Iris

Moraea huttonii at The Garden House, Devon

It’s a super plant that I use down through the summer garden to lead the eye all along the planting scheme. At 1 metre high it gets your attention and the vivid yellow flowers really stand out amongst some quite lofty grasses and colourful perennials.

If I believed the plant dictionary description I wouldn’t plant it though. It should be in a sunny, south or westerly position, on sand or loam so the corms; (rhizomes if you prefer) bake in heat, stay on the dry side and never sit in water. It should avoid wet winters and frosts and if it’s really cold I should have it in a greenhouse.

Poor Iris – but it does well

Well, I keep it on a slope that faces east and tips north. It’s often sat like an island in the stream in winter as the rain comes in torrents, and as if that wasn’t enough it’s planted in shale. About the only thing that’s working for it is that here on Dartmoor we’re on acid soil.
I never lift it in the winter, so it doesnt get the dry, dormant period its supposed to need. Each year the corms are raised and split after flowers have faded, which is the best way to propagate in the Iris family.

Worth taking a risk for a plant that suits your garden design

This lovely Iris is a perfect example of how sometimes it’s worth taking a risk with a plant that just feels like it’s right for the effect you need. It’s too easy to buy a plant on impulse and then keep it in a pot because you don’t have perfect conditions and you don’t know where to put it. I say get it in the ground and give it a chance. Just like the weather, any plant can surprise you and leave you smiling. Right plant, wrong place can sometimes work. Now I just need to get out in the garden and start doing a sundance!

Enjoy May  – it’s certainly off to a fine start.

Nick Haworth, Head Gardener

Arisarum proboscideum…mouse mats!

An unusual plant for April & May

We’re spoilt for choice in the garden now so I decided to look around for plants that are a bit different to the run-of- the-mill spring blooms. Take the Arisarum proboscideum for instance. It’s a great little plant with a long Latin name and a fun common name. Mouse plant. It gets its mousey-moniker because the protective cover over the flower extends to a long tip that looks like a mouse tail. It looks as though a little brown mouse has just dived for cover headfirst into each flower.

A small plant that looks like a mouse

Arisarum proboscideum

Apart from being a conversation starter, these perennial plants are easy to grow. The little rhizomes spread to form a mat (a mouse mat?!) of dark green, heart- shaped glossy leaves, before the flowers appear for April. It will spread happily in shady spots of good, moist soil. I wouldn’t say it’s an invasive plant, but like real mice, it will make itself at home if conditions are perfect, so keep an eye on it.

It grows low to the ground, about 15cm high. It’s a good idea to plant it where you can see it and enjoy the quirkiness. It’s in the Araceae family, so it’s related to the arum lilly. The small white flowers have that similar sort of funnel shape, although they tuck over rather than stand upright. It’s definitely the unusual form ‘mouse tail’ that makes it special.

Arisarum is a woodlander, and fully hardy, so it will survive a tough winter, whether it’s cold or wet or both. You can propagate it from seed, or increase numbers by digging it up and dividing it in the autumn or winter.

i’m very happy to have this plant in the garden and it’s an excellent choice whether you are a novice gardener looking for something that you can’t break, or an experienced gardener wanting to have something unusual growing in the spring.

Happy gardening!


Advice for May from the head gardener

How to grow Pulsatilla vulgaris

This bright little rock plant is one to reach out and touch. The leaves and seedheads are so silky smooth and feathery you can barely feel them. Better yet, when the light catches them from behind they almost have a halo glow.  The flowers can be upright or nod around on the end of the very slender stems. They are plants for gravel gardens and very well drained soil. They’re no more than 30cm high – usually about 20cm, so we’ve hundreds of them planted on hummocks and slopes in our quarry garden so we don’t have to bend too far down to appreciate them close-up.  A slope helps with drainage too and lets you see them backlit when the sun is out.

Close up of a single pinky mauve flower with a yellow centre.

Pulsatilla vulgaris is perfect for gravel gardens

Perfect flowers for a well drained site  – see them in our quarry garden

They’ve a reputation for being in flower at Easter and a common name of Pasque (passion) flower to go with this Easter link. Mind you, with the cold start and the early Easter this year ours were nowhere to be seen and they’re a bit later this year than normal. They’ll flower for a good 4 – 6 weeks though so they earn their place. The colour range runs from a very deep red wine through violet, lilac and pinker shades to a white.  I don’t think any are garish colours, there’s something soft and sophisticated about them.

They are best grown from winter root cuttings, or by potting on self-sown seedlings. Bear in mind they take a while to establish a long tap root and mature plants hate to be disturbed. Put them where you want them rather than mess them about.  Once established they will give you years of enjoyment.”

Man in grey jumper admiring a Magnolia Felix 'Jury'

Nick Haworth, Head Gardener