Monday, April 22, 2013

A Reluctant Spring

After Saturday's very welcome burst of sunshine, I thought I'd better make a brief exploration and see what spring flowers were braving our reluctant and very late spring. So I set off for the University campus, armed with my camera. Whilst I worked there, I used to think of it as 'my big garden' and inevitably I planted it with species that I liked. Some were planted nearly twenty years ago, so trees are getting some maturity but shrub plantings are starting to look past their prime. Over the years I was there, I also planted probably twenty big sacks of narcissus each year, that works out at around 2.5 million bulbs! I hasten to add that I didn't plant them all personally but had a team of very good staff that did the hard work - I was confined to the office! At the end of a long cold winter like this, the sheets of yellow and white flowers add vital colour and interest.


'February Gold' still flowering!
Not sure of this one but its lovely!

'Ice Follies' - one of my favourite narcissus
The following pictures show what's in bloom and a few other comments along the way! It's very much a pictorial diary of familiar plants but to so many of us, it's ordinary plants that fill our gardens, perform well and give so much pleasure. Take the familiar Forsythia - it's so common that people could be forgiven for thinking that it's a native but of course it's not, originating from Eastern Asia. The two main species from which the modern hybrids were raised are the rambling F. suspensa which was introduced in 1833 and the later flowering F. viridissima, which was brought back from China by Robert Fortune in 1844. Can you imagine the novelty value of these brilliant, vivid yellow flowered shrubs when the nursery trade first offered them to Victorian gardeners?

Forsythia 'Lynwood' - what a great cultivar - found in a cottage garden in Northern Ireland in 1935
Euphorbia characias or similar

Fritillaria imperialis 'Lutea' - planted in my time but the clumps are getting a bit thin now
The rather hideous hotel that has ruined the vista at the end of the Millennium Garden
According to my planting records this was planted as Camellia 'Anticipation' but I'm not sure that it is.

Helleborus orientalis

And the great black seedling that I discovered last year and is still surviving!

Daphne mezereum - don't eat the berries!

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Charles Lamont' according to my records

Magnolia stellata - not planted by me but establishing nicely

All of the above were in or around the Millennium Garden. Crossing the road, I gritted my teeth as I walked past the hideous  extension that has been added to Highfields House. I cannot perceive how planning permission was granted for this, bearing in mind Highfields House is Grade II listed and was the original home of Jesse Boot until he donated the land to the University in the 1920's. 

This is the new extension and below is the other side, the original house - how could they!
Highfields House - built in 1800 for Joseph Lowe
Moving on and with my eyes on plants rather than buildings, I discovered a little more colour. Ceanothus 'Trewithen Blue' was bravely trying to flower and Grevillea 'Canberra Gem' had a few sprigs of colour but neither with enough to photograph.

Magnolia soulangeana just waiting to burst into flower

Euphorbia robbiae - a toughie which I rather like

Prunus x yedoensis - growing very slowly - planted probably seven or eight years ago, although the soil was awful - that dreadful stuff that's sold by recycling  businesses and seems to be mainly pulverised concrete!

Kerria japonica 'Flore Plena' - almost there!

Can't take the credit for these but aren't they pretty
Muscari photographed in a very odd spot - can't think why they were planted

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' - looks much better when in bud with lovely red colouring

Chaenomeles - list says 'Pink Lady' but I'm not sure this is right - could it be?
Cherry glade near the School of Architecture

Finally I stopped by the rock garden which was sporting a few more patches of colour. I realise that most of you readers will not know the sleeping beauty story of the rock garden, so  I'll tell you the full saga next time! 

Lenton Firs rock garden

Erythronium 'Pagoda'

Bergenia - rather a drab one - is it dirty white or washed out pink?

Anemone blanda 'White Splendour'

Caltha palustris 'Flore Plena' the double form of our native kingcup

Euphorbia mysinites

Pity these heathers were mixed when planting - they look much better in single colour drifts

Vinca minor 'Atropurpurea.
There were undoubtedly more species in flower but as University Park extends to over 300 acres, there wasn't time or energy to check it all. If any of you readers are local to Nottingham, remember the whole site is open to the public so you can visit and check it out for yourselves. Ask at the gatehouse for a Gardens Guide - it's well written and yes,  I wrote it!


  1. The planting is superb in the University Ian, definitely worth checking out!

  2. Thanks guys - how do you find the time to read other blogs with all you do? I only posted this an hour ago!