Exciting AND authentic

Following Robin Powell’s insightful question about whether there was anything at Longwood that was so authentic as to make me want to copy it (though she put it better than that), I thought I’d throw down a few pics of stuff that I loved at Longwood.

How about this very Keukenhof-ish mixed bulb planting (image above – check out my earlier post on Keukenhof here if you don’t know what I mean), primarily of the white/green artist tulip (which from memory is ‘Spring Green’), which also contained one of the tall green forms of Fritillaria persica, Narcissus poeticus and snowflakes?  Sprinkled through it all were these lacy arched wands of pink bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis).

I had to take a close-up to show the bleeding heart, but it doesn’t illustrate just how lovely this hint of trailing pink was , here and there amongst the green and white.  I love the idea of tickling a touch of perennial in amongst a bulb planting.  It opens up a whole new world of combo-possibilities.

I’m always up for a bit of gratuitous retina scorching, and there was plenty at Longwood..

I’ve never bothered with the curious and (clearly only nearly) irresistible ‘black’ flowers of Queen of the Night tulips.  The black and white combo often offered as a serving suggestion feels to me like one of those ideas that is best when it just stays as an idea. (see more on that here).  But I really liked them used with purple at Longwood.  Absolutely the best partnership I’ve seen them in.

Then there’s the partnerships of tulips and daffs.  I never really think of them in the same sentence, but when their heights are carefully chosen..

There’s some nice stuff done with specimens of wisteria here, grown as non-climbers, and winding up with a bone-structure reminiscent of a japanese maple.  Curiously when they’re treated that way, they eventually give up trying to climb, and put on very little extension growth.

I don’t know that any of those single ideas really address Robin’s question.  I’m sure she was thinking about big ideas – big design ideas.  The one I’d really take home with me if I could would be a few acres of deciduous woodland, with canopy carefully lifted and de-cluttered in order to celebrate the ground-covering wildflowers ie

That’s redbud overhead (Cercis canadensis), with Phlox stolonifera (the purple) and Tiarella (the white) beneath.  Here’s a carpet close-up

In amongst them grew one of the most appealing, and appealingly named, of all US wildflowers – the wake robin (Trillium grandiflorum)

Along with its cousin, the yellow trillium (Trillium luteum)

Theres certainly stuff I’d take home with me, Robin.  As long as I could make it look right in my rather different setting.


  1. Love those purple and black tulips, Michael! Makes me want to move to a cooler climate!!

  2. Makes me wish I had a staff too.

  3. As May marches on infernally dry just those few pictures have managed to hydrate a jaded autumnal gardener.
    love the tulip combo . Even the tighter buds of Queen of the night contrasting with the lily flowers of the purple adds to the surprise. Caught at the perfect moment Michael.

  4. I love Queen of the Night tulips!! They can accent so many other colours. That photo with the purple is wonderful. Do you happen to know what the purple is? I’d say it was a dark hot pink if that makes sense. I have put Queen of the Nights here and there coming up through English Lavender ( I copied the idea from an English calendar picture of a big garden in the U.K.) It was terrific.The soft colour of the English lavender was perfect. It wouldn’t work with Italian for instance. Not enough contrast.

    1. I don’t know what the purple is, unfortunately, Claudia, and I don’t know of any purple lily-flowered tulips in Australia. Not that I’ve been hunting. And I can see how the lavender and tulips would work beautifully, as long as you could align flowering times. English lavender would be several months away from flowering at tulip time in my climate.

  5. Stunning shots, as always. May I blame you for my next adventure? I have always walked past pots of trilliums in the nursery with a steely resolution: “no, leave them, not for West Gippsland, not in the present climate.” I feel I’m weakening….

  6. So pleased to have inspired such a wonderful post! I wasn’t thinking so much of those big ideas which get copied from great gardens in other gardens with buckets of money, but much more what you gave us here – the little sparks of inspiration that make you go, ‘Ooh, why have I never seen that x is such a perfect match with y’, or in my particular case right now, ‘Oh, how fab is wisteria grown as a craggy kind of fringed parasol!’.

  7. I find bedded tulips the most wasteful and gratuitous gardening, which is possibly why I love it so much. Besides which, it is totally undoable in South Africa. Thankfully.

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