14 March 2012

Batty for Buttercups

I've got a new obsession -- a tiny little buttercup, Ranunculus ficaria
Here's the low down on what it needs: sun or shade, happiest in wet soils, but not picky. It is a spring ephemeral, meaning it pops up early, blooms its head off along with things like daffodils and tulips, and then vanishes underground for the rest of the year. Which, for people like me who try and cram too many plants into too little space, is a good thing.
The wild species forms a mass of shiny green leaves topped with bright, bright yellow flowers. Nice enough, but not too exciting. But never fear, the cultivars are amazing.
For foliage, try these black-and-silver leaves of 'Dusky Maiden'
Or even more dramatic, the amazing black leaves of 'Brazen Hussy'

If you prefer subtler flower color, the over-sized pale yellow blooms of 'Randal's White' are for you
Or, you can go for the tangerine blooms of 'Cupreus'
One word of warning. Some of these do like to seed around the garden, especially in wet areas they can become a weed. I don't mind this too much, because they're so small, and present so briefly that they never harm other plants, but if you are worried, there is a solution. A most beautiful solution. Doubles.
'Flora Plena' is not only beautiful, all its naughty bits have been converted into extra petals, meaning no seeds, and no seedlings. It will spread slowly, by division, but never make a bid to conquer the world.
The same goes for perhaps the very cutest of them all: 'Collarette'
How can you resist those adorable little flowers?

You can get them all, of course, from my new employer, Arrowhead Alpines

12 March 2012

Natural Companions -- a book review

This is the most beautiful book I have ever seen.
I know that is a pretty extreme statement, but searching my memory and my book shelves, I am confident that it is, indeed, true. I was expecting it to be lovely, Ken's books always are, but I wasn't prepared for it to be quite so staggeringly, breathtakingly, gorgeous. You can get a preview of what it looks like, a little, here, but they are only a shadow of the richness and beauty of the images in the book. If you see it in a book store, I defy you to flip through it and not buy a copy.
The book is huge, 240 some pages of glorious scanned images of flowers built around brief essays ranging from color theory to groups of plants to aspects of design, and the experience of flipping through it is quite magical. I find myself opening the book at random, reading an essay, and then spending a long time just staring at the words brought to vivid life by the images surrounding them before moving on to yet another magical, beautiful, page.
I only hope Ken and Ellen collaborate on many more books. I'm already hungry for a sequel.