beginning of April 2019

Red tulips left from last year. Behind on the left, monkshood - amazingly surviving from last year. I've had it before but it didn't survive.

red tulips

The honesty just starting to bloom, tulips from last year amazingly blooming (I don't find bulbs last too long), in the background lots of green alkanet, self-seeded violas and snapdragons.

a few days before when the honesty was just in bud, amazing thick stem of an honesty on the left, parrot tulips on the right, Professor Rontgen I think

snakeshead fritillary

snakeshead fritilary

I found my ranunuclus corms. It's a bit late I think to start them but hopefully they'll catch up and bloom at some point this summer.

ranunculus corms


another shot of that amazing honesty

I always love having pots of nepeta, as do the cats. Some nepeta left from last year are looking good but there are two fresh ones I just potted up (from Peter Nyssen, a bargain at 3 for £5.40 (I think)). My cat Scarecrow.

Notes on Identification

It's the time of year when things are starting to grow and it may be unclear what's what. Self-seeders green alkanet, comfrey and foxglove are all quite similar at an early stage. Add to that lesser knapweed, centaurea montana and it can get quite confusing. On the right with the longer leaves is comfrey. I know because it was there last year and the leaves are longer than green alkanet. On the left and behind to the right is green alkanet.

comfrey vs green alkanet

On the right green alkanet, especially easy with the blue flowers in bloom, foxglove in the middle at the back and centaurea montana at the front, large clump to the left and small clump to the right.

lesser knapweed in this pot with a few centaurea montana in the front

lesser knapweed centaurea montana

Bluebells and hyacinths can get mixed up but by April 1st all the hyacinths are in bloom or have finished blooming. The hyacinths below are not great plants as they were previously forced and I only just planted them out.  In the foreground below is a bluebell, not in bloom or even bud yet. It's one that got away, I've dug them all up from my garden as they formed huge clumps and got in the way of other things growing.

hyacinths vs bluebells

My neighbour has bluebells and in their garden, amongst the annual mercury and dandelions, they look nice. The leaves are longer and thinner than hyacinths.


Cerinthe and Pots

Cerinthe is one of those plants where you buy 1 packet of seeds and you have plants for life as they are a self-seeder but not invasive. All of these have self-seeded, last autumn and winter so they are ready to bloom early.




some of the plants can get quite large (green alkanet in there as well)


another plant for life from 1 packet of seeds is ox-eye daisy, haven't had flowers yet this year but lots of buds

this trailing bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana) has taken over this pot, I never planted it (in the garden or the pot), it was in the garden when I moved in


This pot started off with a meadow cranesbill I grew from seed but lesser knapweed has taken over and a teasel has decided it made a nice home. Teasel is another thing I grew from seed and I never need another packet of seeds again. They pop up regularly everywhere.

lesser knapweed

bugle (Ajuga reptans) is something I did try to grow from seed without much success initially so when I saw some small plants on sale late last year, I bought a few so I'd have some this spring

ajuga bugle

Seed Sowing

Results from seeds are so variable. I find things are either wildly successful or I can get only 1 plant from an entire packet of seeds. This pot and flowerbed reminded me of that today. The polyanthus are one of my more successful seed sowings, sadly not one of my favourite flowers, the seeds were just on sale. Self-seeded in the pot is a globe thistle. I got many plants from the packet of seeds and regular self-seeded plants ever since. I do love them as do the bees so they are a winner. To the right of the pot is my one greater knapweed (not to be confused with the artichoke with the large leaves). I've sown more than one packet of seeds but I don't think I got any plants. I think this lone one is a "wildflower" small plant from the garden centre. It's taken a few years to feel comfortable and I get a few flowers in a couple of flowerings in the summer now, or I did last year anyway. I love centaureas in general, greater knapweed in particular. Also to the right is a cerinthe which I always have self-seeding now. 1 packet of seeds, plants for life. A few are like that.


I sowed echium vulgare seeds a few years ago and got 1 plant which I planted in the front garden. Then nothing for a few years. Last year I got another plant in the back garden, out of nowhere. I suddenly noticed this today which I think is an echium vulgare, in the front garden.

echium vulgare

The small plants around the edge of the pot are self-heal, a wildflower I love (pansy / viola in the middle, another of my favourite flowers). I planted the seeds end of last summer and got a few plants and the slugs had a few. I seem to have a few left. They're rather small so I don't know if they'll bloom this year or not. I haven't grown them before.


monkeyflower on the canal

I first saw the small monkeyflower plants along a wet area of the Regent's Canal towpath: the gutter at the base of the wall where it's green from the plants self-seeding there. View from St Pancras Way bridge over the canal.

While walking along St Pancras Way and looking over the canal, I noticed a monkeyflower had self-seeded there on the pavement.


a close-up of that seedling


after seeing the monkeyflowers on that section of the canal, I noticed some by one of the locks near me (Hawley Lock)


and another younger one without that distinctive 3rd or subsequent leaf

monkeyflower  near lock

Hedge Mustard and Groundsel

Hedge Mustard

I've been looking at so many rosettes recently, especially hedge mustard and shepherd's purse. The shepherd's purse bloomed first, there are lots in bloom now and no sign of that initial basal rosette. I saw my first hedge mustard in bloom yesterday. It obviously takes a bit longer to develop.

This particular one I saw on St Pancras Way (22-2-2019) which is on my walk to and from the garden centre. It's right on the pavement so obviously pretty tough.

hedge mustard initial rosette

2 weeks later, the central stem has shot up and it has buds

hedge mustard in bud

and a few days later, the buds have opened and it's in flower

hedge mustard in flower

everywhere seems to be being mown but this has survived as it's on the pavement away from overzealous "gardeners"


I saw this in February and wasn't sure what it was. 14-2-2019





looking very groundsel-like now


close-up of the buds


after seeing the buds and how groundsel-like it looks, I decided to look around the area further and found a groundsel in bloom nearby

closer view of those flowers


close-up of the groundsel flowers nearby

groundsel in bloom

close-up of the groundsel buds nearby

groundsel buds

More Rosettes - It's That Time of Year

I've been photographing a lot of rosettes recently. I didn't need to go far yesterday to find more. My garden and the patio next door had some interesting ones.

this one has knautia - a large one at the bottom and a small one growing on top of that, green alkanet in the middle and herb robert just left of centre

a close-up of one of those small knautia rosettes growing from a large knautia rosette

knautia rosette

another large knautia rosette with a smaller growing on top

knautia rosette

that large one below with dandelions either side and a green alkanet to the right

knautia rosette

Identifying Bluebells

In February and March, some plants may be unclear whether they are bluebells or hyacinths, especially if you're not completely mad for hyacinths like me and know them very well. I do find bluebells annoying in my garden as they take up more space than they give in flowers and I'd like to grow something else. I want my Chinese lanterns to spread rather than any bluebells. I have tried to dig up the bluebells but it's difficult as they are very deep and difficult to dig up. Also, digging that flowerbed disturbs the Chinese lanterns which spread via their roots. 

These are hyacinths, in bloom and in bud, in March.


The hyacinth leaves are wide,upright and shaped around the hyacinth buds / flowers.



Below, in front of the vinca are bluebells, thinner leaves than the hyacinths and not upright but sloping over and with a ridge down the back of the leaves.


more bluebells


another bluebell


and another


Daffodils are around at this time as well. They are distinctive with greyish-green leaves. I think any daffodils I have in the ground are old and not blooming. The bluebells are there on the left with brighter green leaves.

more daffodils on the right, bluebells on the left

few of each below

I am going to try to dig up a few more bluebells if I can but if I can't I'll just cut off the leaves and prevent them from blooming. Eventually the bulbs will weaken and die. I'm sure they're all hybrids of native and foreign bluebells (and were in the garden when I moved in), see also  Bluebells. and bluebells in the Weed guide.

muscari, hyacinths and bergenia

I don't have many daffodils but in a pot at this time of year they are so cheerful and shout SPRING and a nice contrast to those fat rich purple hyacinths.

daffodils, hyacinths

there are some borage in bloom there as well

hyacinths and borage

beautiful big hyacinths but why has one of the three bulbs not grown?


The weather has pushed the muscari to bloom early.


I had a few leftover hyacinth bulbs from forcing so planted them in pots outside. They are in bloom and huge, as expected.




The previously forced hyacinths I planted outside last year (and previous years) are also in bloom but quite small and sparse.

previously forced hyacinths

previously forced hyacinth

previously forced hyacinth

previously forced hyacinths

previously forced hyacinths

previously forced hyacinths on the left, bergenia on the right

previously forced hyacinths and bergenia

vinca and bergenia on the shady side of the front garden

bergenia and vinca

In both my front and back gardens I have foxgloves and green alkanet self-seeding everywhere - and now knautia as well. This pot was supposed to have lupins as the slugs are so voracious and I was trying to keep the lupins  away from the slugs but I have lots and lots of foxgloves! Slugs don't eat them.

pot with lupins foxgloves knautia

pot with foxgloves

Observing Weeds

I try to leave things exactly the way they are when I take a plant photo. If there's rubbish, that's the environment in which it is growing. Cigarette butts are also useful for showing scale.

I saw this monkey flower along Regent's Canal near me in northwest London. It was something I didn't recognise but the leaves are quite unique. An exotic garden escapee.

monkey flower

-update- a couple weeks later


and in the wider environment

monkeyflower environment

It obviously grew last year. I never noticed it but imagine any flowers would have been quickly picked as the numbers walking the towpath are quite large. 

monkey flower

-update- couple weeks later

monkeyflower canal


A couple weeks later I saw another monkeyflower.


and its wider environment


it's a tough environment for plants, amazing any survive at all, the monkey flower is at the base of the wall on the right

regent's canal towpath

further along the canal the alexanders are blooming

alexanders flower

alexanders flowers

I've been observing a lot of initial basal rosettes and hope to identify and document all those I see. There have been a lot of hedge mustard and shepherd's purse especially and it's easy to confuse the two. That initial rosette of leaves is not observable on the shepherd's purse by the time it blooms.

shepherd's purse

back in my garden the ivy berries are huge, looking like bunches of grapes

ivy berries

after total failures both attempting to grow monkshood from seed and buying some small plants in the "wildflower" range from the garden centre (which never came back the next year), I bought 2 full-size plants last year as an impulse purchase from a garden centre (I try not to buy full size plants) and they've actually survived the winter and are growing, amazing

monkshood new shoots


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