Gardens, Plant of the month

Plant of the month – July 2018 – Rosa ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’

Order: Rosales           Family: Rosaceae           Subfamily: Rosoideae            Genus: Rosa

Type: Perennial          Propagation: Seed, plant propagation, cuttings, grafting

Native to: Mostly Asia, some Europe and North America

rose souvenir du Dr Jamain for blog

I love roses, especially the ones who live in my garden. Yet few are the ones who manage to create an attachment as strong as the one I feel for my ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’. It was love at first sight and my passion never abated, even after all these years. Yet he is not easy to love. The word temperamental comes to mind: not too much sun or the petals will bleach in disgust; not enough food and it will drop down two sizes in protest; every so often it will decide not to open its buds after all and every now and then it will take on the latest fashion of black polka dots on a mid-green foliage background. And yet, and yet… the deep crimson purple and the divine perfume, the double structure giving a peep of the orange-yellow stamen when it feels like it, the velvet petals, thick and smooth… Everything about this doctor speaks to me of the perfect dream rose. Even the name is dark and mysterious. It implies that the good doctor is dead and that he is remembered fondly… Who was this regretted Docteur Jamain and what happened?

I found some answers in a delightful article written by Darrell G H Schramm for the American Rose Society. I remember reading it a while ago and loving the poetry and playful passion with which it was written. The article is no longer online but Crystal, from the society, was very kind to send me a copy. Thank you Mr Schramm for your beautiful words.

Alexandre Jamain was born on the 18th of March 1816. He was the son of Dupuy Jamain, a French horticulturalist who also had a rose named after him. His father’s occupation is probably how our Docteur developed a taste for roses and might also be how he came across François Lacharme (1817-1887), the French “rosieriste” behind the Roses Noisettes series. Docteur Jamain seemed to have many talents when it came to medicine: starting his career as a generalist, he wrote essays and pamphlets and books about surgery, ophthalmology and conditions of the scrotum. Quite a range. He died on the 12th of December 1862, aged only 46 years old. I can find no record of what happened to cause this early death. François Lacharme bred the rose in 1865, three years after the doctor’s death. What noble deed inspired a man who never named a rose after himself to name his most beautiful creation after our doctor?

‘Souvenir du Dr Jamain’ is a good candidate for a north-facing wall, as it doesn’t need much sun and the deep claret colour tends to fade when overexposed.

The flowering starts in May/June and gently keeps going until September/October, a few flowers at the time. It is a bush but can also be trained as a climber, up to 3 metres with support. The almost thorn-free stems are flexible so it can be trained in any way you like.

Rarely have I seen such a velvety rose and the scent will make you weak at the knees. It is a perfect rose scent, rich and voluptuous, heavy yet fresh. You get one sniff and you go “mmmhhhh”, you just can’t help it.

So yes, ‘Souvenir du Dr Jamain’ is a bit of a drama queen and will need some care to thrive. Then again, who doesn’t? Its shadowy beauty is reward enough, as I am reminded every time I gaze at him in admiration and its exquisite perfume is brought to me on a random breeze…

Gardens, News 2018, YouTube Channel

New YouTube video – Masking fluid tests, abridged version (with surprise guest)

Hello everyone,

Another sunny day in the UK, filled with the smell of Rosa ‘Jasmina’ as she gently sways in the breeze, giving off waves of warm rose perfume. She really is a spectacular rose.

RosaJasmina3The baby sparrows have started their yearly invasion. They are so less reasonable than their parents. For a few weeks they will entertain us with their antics, flying like bricks across the garden and landing on totally inappropriate perches, not yet aware of what can or cannot support their fluffy weight. They land on slender stems and go right down to the ground, not light enough to stay up but not heavy enough to break anything. They take off again as if bouncing on a trampoline, disorientated but not scared enough to sit still for even a minute. It is unimaginable that these tiny throats only a few millimetres long can produce such a racket. The parents follow with beaks full of seeds and flappings full of disapproval.

I posted another masking fluid video on YouTube, a shorter version of the tests I filmed earlier. In this abridged version (only about 5 minutes), I focused on the results rather than the process, marking the 10 brands on a series of criteria such as fluidity, ease of application and removal, colour, damage to the paper, precision of the unmasked marks, etc. The video is not exactly what you’re expecting. It kind of turned into something else as I was filming. The masking fluid tests results are definitely in there but they’re not alone… I had a lot of fun filming this. The longer version was 36 minutes long and entirely serious. I couldn’t take any more seriousness. The baby sparrows must be rubbing off on me.

Here is a link:

https://youtu.be/mCjDyGC7TBQ

Happy watching!

Art Tutorials, Gardens, Painting, YouTube Channel

New YouTube video – Watercolour sketches in the garden, 2 blue flowers

I have a new video on my YouTube channel.

Last Bank Holiday week-end, while we were having a mini heatwave, I spent some time in the garden and mixed some colours for forget-me-nots and Violas. It was a sunny, warm and beautiful day. I sat under the birch tree in the dappled shade. It turns out I was also sitting under a pigeon, which I realised half way through the painting. It didn’t feel particularly safe after that discovery…

Here is a link to the video (including the pigeon):

Happy painting!

 

Gardens, Plant of the month

Plant of the month – April 2018 – Muscari

Order:                   Asparagales

Family:                  Asparagaceae

Subfamily:            Scilloideae

Genus:                  Muscari

Common Name:   Grape Hyacinth

Type:                      Perennial bulb

Soil:                       Chalk, clay, sand, loam

Ph:                         Acid, alkaline, neutral

Aspect:                  Full sun / partial shade

Propagation:         Seed of bulb division

Native to:               Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa and Asia

It is always nice to start the gardening season with a new obsession.

For the spring of 2018 I present you the Muscari!

I never really noticed Muscari before. A couple of years ago I was given a clump of the Muscari in-a-cute-wicker-basket variety. As I used it to adorn my dining room table, I got to gaze at it quite a bit. Day after day, it went from “Meh!” to “It’s actually quite cute” to “I like it” to “I have to paint this”… Good progress. When it faded I planted it out and forgot about it. This year it suddenly exploded. There is Muscari all over the garden and I love it. It is also loved by bees, which is always a good speciality to have on your CV if you’re a plant and you wish to live in my garden.

The name Muscari derives from the Latin word ‘muschos’, meaning ‘musk’, referring to the flower’s strong scent. When I read that I went to the garden to check, because I had never noticed any perfume emanating from my table display… I had to go down on all four to get to Muscari level (roses are a lot more cooperative when it comes to getting a sniff), so while I was down there I took some photos. The smell is similar to hyacinth, albeit a less overpowering version.

Although Muscari is not a truly native plant, it has been cultivated in the UK since 1576. The Muscari genus was formally established by Scottish botanist Philip Miller in 1754. It is now widely naturalised and is by many considered to deserve its “native” status.

Of course I wasn’t able to stick to the common species… I had to find out about fancy ones. There are about 40 of them. I bought Muscari latifolium “Grape Ice”. The bottom flowers are dark purple, moving up to blue, then green, topped up with a tuft of white sterile florets. Let’s hope it spreads as easily as Muscari neglectum.

 

I haven’t painted it yet, but I have prepared a drawing of Muscari neglectum, so hopefully it will happen soon…

 

Happy gardening!

Art courses, Garden visits, Gardens, News, News 2016

Supermoon gazing at West Dean Gardens

I am spending a few days at West Dean College, teaching two courses in a row with a day off in between. Today I can have a lie in, admiring the ceiling in my beautiful tower room, taking the time to feel all Rapunzel like. I will go for a few walks, eat the gorgeous food in the restaurant, sit by the giant fire that burns night and day from mid-November to the end of winter in the Oak Hall, doing crochet in a big armchair while getting roasted and generally being lazy.

For a few days we have a Supermoon to admire at night. The biggest this century apparently. I went for a long walk in the arboretum last night at sunset and took a few pictures I was quite pleased with…

wdsunsetnpv162

wdsupermoonnov161

… until I came back and my friend Stephen Tattersall, who is a security guard here, showed me his.

moon-wdsmaller

Isn’t this an amazing picture?

Don’t forget to go out and watch the skies tonight. The full moon will coincide with the perigee and we won’t get our moon this bright and this close again in our lifetime. I suppose we should also skip under the moonlight through the dewy fields while wearing nothing but a garland of autumn leaves but we don’t want to catch a chill… so let’s just wrap up warm and look up.

Happy moon gazing and happy skipping if you’re up for it!

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Gardens, Plant of the month

Plant of the month – July 2016 – White lavender

Order:Lamiales Family:Lamiaceae Subfamily:Nepetoideae Genus:Lavandula
Type: Hardy to tender, annual to perennial herbaceous plants or small shrubs
Propagation: Cuttings or Seed (won’t come true in hybrids)
Native to: Mediterranean Europe, Middle East and India

Every year I have a new craze for my garden, a plant I never noticed before or didn’t use to like, which suddenly becomes an essential part of my big plan. Last year it was Sedums, the year before that it was passionflowers, and before that all sorts of Buddlejas in different shades of deep purples. These come and go on a backdrop of all times favourites such as Hydrangeas, roses and the lovely Verbena bonariensis.
This year is the year of the lavender. Probably influenced by my recent holiday in Ardèche, where the vast and lush garden was full of thriving lavender plants that attracted more insects of all varieties than all the other plants. I realised that lavender is beautiful, resilient, low-maintenance, can go a long time in the sun without need of watering and to state the obvious it really does smell lovely.
Like most gardeners I have had lavenders hanging around in the garden for as long as I can remember. However, I have no idea what their second names are and even when buying them myself, I picked randomly without realising the wide range of colours or forms that were available.
I don’t even remember buying the white lavender I chose for this July “plant of the month”. Surprisingly, it has a prominent place, in a border by the patio, next to the path, so the smell flutters up in exquisite waves when we walk by and brush our legs against the flowers. The perfume is strong and spreads easily but it is less medicinal, more floral than the purple lavenders I am used to. Unfortunately, because I haven’t been paying attention, I do not know the exact name of my white lavender. I expect that because I got it from a garden centre, it is probably one of the most common white, ‘Arctic Snow’ or perhaps ‘Alba’.

white lavender 1

Now that my interest is piqued, I am looking online to see what specialist nurseries are offering. I am finding some real beauties! I restrained myself so far and ordered just 4 varieties for now, to see how they will do in my garden. In a couple of days I am even going to visit a lavender farm somewhere around Alton.
In the meanwhile, I shall follow the advice I gathered online while looking up “lavenders” and harvest the seed heads in September to fill sachets for the lingerie drawers and the linen cupboard…

Happy gardening!

Somebody else likes having white lavender in the garden...
Somebody else likes having white lavender in the garden…

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Gardens

Lazy like a Sunday morning

I know that it’s not the exact title of the song (sorry Lionel), but it is how it feels this morning… I love a lazy, sunny summer Sunday morning breakfast in the garden.

breakfastgarden

This 31st of July 2016 is a perfect morning on the South coast of England.

The sky is a flawless intense cobalt blue, and at 10am the sun is not yet strong enough to burn but just enough to warm your skin. There is a gentle breeze swaying the Verbena and scabious but leaving the roses and Hydrangeas as still as in a photograph. The lavenders and scabious are buzzing with all sorts of insects and multicoloured butterflies, all excited at the freshly opened flowers.

butterflyscabious

Even the birds look lazy this morning. They perch on the feeder but spend more time looking around, having less than usual frantic conversations while occasionally pecking a seed, more often than not dropping it on the head of the grounded pigeon.

I treasure these fleeting peaceful moments, when you indulge in the beauty of your surroundings and take time to appreciate nature, even domesticated as it is in a suburban garden, in all its exquisiteness and magnificence. It brings to the front the good things in your life, forgetting for an instant the sad and painful times we all have scattered through our existence, as well as the terrible current state of the human world.

This morning my world stops at the garden’s walls and it’s full of sun, filled with a thousand flowers, humming with bumblebees and fluttering with a dozen butterflies, turquoise dragonflies, a few sleepy sparrows, a cooing dove and my dad’s homemade jam.

My little paradise on Earth for a few hours…

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