It's always exciting when the first flowers open on favourite plants, especially if they are ones that have taken a year or two to establish themselves before really putting on a display.
I bought 'Festiva Maxima', my favourite peony almost two years ago. Last year it produced one smallish flower, but this year it has two huge blooms open and more to come.
It's not just the pure white petals with their occasional streaks of crimson, but also its intense perfume that makes it so desirable. The only drawback is that these sumptuous blooms have to be staked or they flop. I prefer to stake them individually with thin bamboo canes that aren't very visible, rather than use one of those circular supports that make the plant look as if it is wearing a corset.
Close by is 'Rosa Mundi', an old, old rose that is crimson streaked with lighter pink and white, a reverse colour scheme of the peony.
This is one of the first flowers to open this year. I'm hoping to get a good picture of the whole plant when it is in full bloom. It was a gift from Jan, a dear friend, just before he died so it has a lot of sentimental value for me as well as being such a stunning addition to the garden.
Clematis 'Huldine' has just produced its first flower, too.
Only the very early flowers show these grass-green tips; later ones will be pure white on the surface with three distinct purple stripes on the undersides. It's worth growing in a place where you can look up at it from below to appreciate the contrast from front to back.
An extra thrill this year is that we've had a hummingbird coming to the garden every day for the past week. Although it is visiting various flowers, the two that it is most attracted to are foxgloves and, most of all, this one:
It used to be called Allium siculum. Then the botanists changed it to Nectaroscordum siculum (because they do prefer names that are more difficult to pronounce). In this case, however, they've changed their minds again and it's back to being Allium. Its common name is honey garlic, which explains its appeal to the hummingbird.