Seeing double

Double flowers…  Some I love.  Some are ghastly.  Doubling works wonderfully in roses, for instance, but looks horrible in lilies and irises – why spoil the lovely tripartite symmetry of those?  Some doubles, say buttercups and camellias, have their own gorgeous geometry (all based, no doubt, on the Fibonacci series), and even tousled double pinks and carnations, silenes, paeonies and the like can be lovely.

Here, returning to our own gardening past, we’ve just added some double primulas, more for sentiment’s sake, that a lust for their beauty.  What do you think?

In the seventeenth century, ‘A Book of Botanical Draw ings’ was executed for the first Duchess of Beaufort, a then famous gardener, by Daniel Frankon. In one of its pages, the beginnings of the Gold Laced Polyanthus is clearly to be seen. By the mid-eighteenth century these were fully dev eloped, and became immensely important. Already in this early painting, the stripe down the centre of each petal, which makes the corolla appear as if it is divided into ten portions, and the beginnings of an edging or lacing, can be clearly seen. By 1780, Abercrombie wrote that they were ‘one of the most noted prize flowers among florists’. The height of their popularity was probably reached around 1840. Double polyanthus, which had been in existence since at least 1770, soon enveloped the gold laced sorts, giving rise to the rather odd looking flower below.

flowers like this, oddities, have been around since early Victorian times.

Double cowslips have been admired at least since the late 16th century.


About david stuart

garden writer and journalist, and occasionally a designer, with a garden in the Scottish borders, and his pal's gardens in Edinburgh, London, and Lincolnshire. They keep both of us very, very busy. Books I've written listed on my website, and dozens of articles and garden and plant pictures. Currently working on several new projects. One of these was to return to painting - see the blog - and which is proving exciting! or, more fun, have a look at
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