Time for the garden prima donnas
November is the time when the drama queens and prima donnas of the flower garden come to strut their stuff. The early arrivals are the tulips, which start in mid October and go through to mid November. Last year I planted pots of what can only be described as the ‘screaming queens’ of tulips, the Parrot tribe. With names like ‘Bright Parrot’ and ‘Flaming Parrot’ they are a riot of red and yellow streaks with frilly edges. A bit too riotous for my taste, I decided, so all but the bright crimson ‘Rococo’ have been put out to quiet corners of the garden, and I have teamed pots of ‘Rococo’ with ‘Spring Green’ (green and white stripes), and planted a huge blue pot with my favourite double tulip, the soft pink and white ‘Angelique’.
After the tulips come the bearded irises, with their great range of one and two-tone flowers, and their upside of thriving in hot, dry places and being easy to multiply; and the paeonies, which are much slower and fussier as to site, but extremely long-lived and so rewarding when they get going.
I love my irises, and wish I had the room and the money for more paeonies as they are so gorgeous. But I am not repining too much about that as in November I can revel in my plethora of perennial poppies – Oriental Poppies. Three years ago I sowed a packet of mixed oriental poppy seed, potted up the seedlings, then grew them on in a special patch of the garden to see what came up (they don’t come true from seed). I was hoping for some deep reds, but only two plants were red and the rest were the various shades of salmony pink that is common in oriental poppies, and they had more of less of the black (or deep purple) blotches at the base of each petal that is also a feature of these flowers. They are all pretty, and I’m not complaining given that I just paid $18 for a named red poppy plant. They are easily propagated by root division once the plants are large enough, so it was at least a good investment in more red poppies.