In praise of peonies

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Fuschia-pink peonies in full bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have all been enjoying some warm sunshine these past few days. The temperature has shot up in the UK and we have all been experiencing long, hot, summer days, and records have been broken every day this week.

I am away from home this week and I know that when I return at the weekend, the lush garden I left behind last Saturday will probably be looking less so. This week’s post is a look back at one of my favourite garden flowers, the peony, which I captured before I headed away.

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Sunlight through peony petals. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There are 4 varieties of peony in the back garden. All have the delightful sweet fragrance that these blooms are renowned for, and to me, they are one of the quintessential old-fashioned blooms of  and established flower garden.

I hope you enjoy them 🙂

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Peonies and foxgloves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

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4 perfect peonies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

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Mid-summer garden

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Kalmia bush and flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Half way through the year already. I can hardly believe it. It’s also just over a year since I published my first post on this blog. What a year it’s been. So many flowers, plants and recipes. So much colour and flavour.

The last week of June has been a turbulent one here in central Scotland. After several days of warm sunshine, suddenly the winds got up and the rain came down. The flowers and shrubs certainly received a bit of a battering, but most have recovered. I have two Kalmia bushes in the garden. When in bud, the bright pink tightly closed flowers remind me of pink icing piped through a star-shaped nozzle (you can see a few in the picture above). As the buds open out, the unusual pink flowers turn into little lanterns or fairy-sized lamp shades. As the petals begin to fade and fall, it looks like someone has scattered pink confetti over the lawn.

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Blue Campanula and pink foxgloves; golden Phlomis. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Mid-June to early July is probably the best time of the year for colour variation in the garden. There are a lot dainty blue and white Campanula all over the borders as well as different shades of foxgloves – these both seed themselves year after year. I have two clumps of yellow Phlomis, with small crowns of flowers that remind me of little pineapples. The velvety, sage-green foliage comes up in mid spring and lasts long after the flowers have bloomed.

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Lilium martagon (Turk’s Head Lily). Image by Kathryn Hawkins

I discovered this small lily underneath a rhododendron in the front garden a few weeks ago. One by one the individual blooms have opened, and finally yesterday, I managed to capture them all open at the same time. It is like a small tiger-lily, so pretty and dainty. I can’t remember planting it, or even having seen it ever before!

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Iris Foedissima. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This fine fellow was new in the garden last year. Actually, it had probably been in the garden for a while, but it was hidden away in an old compost heap. When the compost was distributed, it sprouted up. Given a more prominent position in the garden, it started flowering last summer. This iris is one of only two native varieties in the UK; it is not the most colourful, but certainly interesting, and it has a rather unfortunate and unflattering common name: “stinking iris” – but this one doesn’t seem to smell at all!

My last image to share this month, is a plant not strictly in my garden, but something I am proud to have raised given the climate here. It is a small Oleander bush. I have kept it through the winter months, swaddled in fleece, in my unheated greenhouse, and this spring the flower buds started appearing. On warm days, it does stand outside for a few hours, and brings a hint of the Mediterranean to the more traditional flora and fauna.

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Potted Oleander. Image: Kathryn Hawkins