I decided to limit my selection to plants that I have grown for at least a year, their pros & cons understood yet still recommended. (Now is not the time to indulge my gardenia fantasy.)
|bergenia - definitely not included in my Dozen for Diana|
Continuing to follow Diana's guidelines :
My favourite tree would have to be a choice between apple and cherry blossom as they're the only trees that I've lived with in the garden. The down-side of a home-grown apple tree is clearing the rotten, squelchy, windfall apples and cutting out the maggots from the remaining edible fruit. Generally ornamental cherry trees are either sterile or have inedible fruit. I would be prepared to compromise my fluffy, double blossoms for a variety with simpler flowers optimised for delicious fruit with a hint of tartness, but I have yet to confirm from my own experience if organic cherries are guaranteed maggot-free.
There's no shortage of cherry blossom trees in London, they can be seen while out and about, lining avenues of the suburbs - do I really need one in my garden too? As I gaze up at the pink clouds this week, and look forward to the scattering of the delicate petals over the woodland, I can't imagine my garden without it - cherry blossom tree despite its cracked bark and gummy deposits goes into my dozen. (I reserve the right to change my mind in early autumn when the waft of apple crumble is in the air.)
|cherry blossom - my favourite tree ?|
I originally assumed that pioneer plants must be a South African phenomenon, as I'd never heard the phrase before Diana mentioned it. Little did I know that there was one right under my nose ...
Second succession pioneer plants revitalise land which was previously soiled and planted but suffered a man-made or natural disaster. British heather moorlands are an almost unique man-made habitat for specialised flora and fauna, created by native heather pioneering cleared land. It's not known how much of the moorland today was initiated by nature or by farmers cutting down woods centuries ago.
Moors are exposed to controlled fires which burn patches of older heather (their seeds germinate better if they are exposed briefly to intense heat), without this intervention they would eventually revert back into woods. Managing moorland in this way is made economically viable by using it for sheep grazing and grouse shooting.
Heather flowers for at least six months of the year, calluna during summer and autumn, erica during winter and spring. I collect the dried ericaceous leaves shed from the past year which accumulate under the bush to mulch my azalea pot. The only disadvantage of this disease-free plant is that the inner parts of the bush become woody while it continues to flower at the ends of the branches.
|bluebells are in bloom but I'm focussing on Heather today|
Heather is not the most spectacular plant by itself, but the vision of rolling moors covered in it was impressed in my imagination by reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte :
I've yet to walk across a moor or lie on a bank of heath - my heather plants are reminders that I should do that one day, so they make it into my dozen.
Bleeding heart is in its prime now - it was invisible a month ago. Rising, blooming and dying within a few weeks, it doesn't stay around long enough to attract pests or disease. I'll make sure to secure its marker while it's here to remind myself not to plant anything a handspan radius around it, though sowing annual seeds on top of it didn't seem to do any harm. Will it be my splash of colour ?
|bleeding heart - for a splash of colour ?|
Crimson and black oriental poppy which flowers later is a stronger contender in terms of bold colour, the bees went crazy for it, not so much for bleeding heart. The purposeful restriction in the flower's form forces the bee to rub pollen from a previous flower on the stigma, its own pollen doesn't get a chemical signal to activate. Some bees cheat and pierce the base of the heart-shaped petals to access the nectaries without cross-pollinating the flower - I've yet to witness either approach.
Oriental poppy is striking as a stand-alone plant but it can't support itself and doesn't blend into my garden like the bowed racemes of bleeding heart. I need to think about this one and the remaining eight later in the year so that my Dozen for Diana isn't biased towards spring-flowering plants ...
These photos were taken in my garden this week.