Managing an Auricula Addiction!

Auricula Bradmore Bluebell
The Auriculas this year have gone all out, dazzling us with their vibrant colours, their fabulous stripes and their delicate farina.  I truly think they are looking the best I have ever seen them.  Varieties we have that only seem to flower once every ten years have burst into bloom, ones I had given up hope of ever flowering, have exploded into show stopping rubies and yellows and silvers.

I wonder at the cause of this magnificent show, was it our cold winter? are they enjoying the warm spring? did they like the fact we kept them outdoors all last summer?  Or was it our tiny wee earthquake last month that scared them all into flowering.
Whatever the cause, I am delighted to see them and have proudly assembled an Auricula theatre of our best looking stock plants at the nursery.  I cant believe that anyone could view them and not desire one of their own.  I can really see why they become so precious and are cherished in many old gardens.

Some of my personal favourites this year:
Janie Hill  - Gold centred, red shading brown. Just show stopping this year.

Auricula Janie Hill
Sirius - Maroon and pale yellow with a gold centre. So unique.  This year there have been some unusual brown colour breaks in the Sirius, so we shall propagate and fingers crossed may have some beautiful new colours to sell next year.

Auricula Sirius
CJ Hayson - Green with a good white edge. Lovely mealed leaves. An old variety, often painted for its classic looks.

Auricula C J Hayson
Blush Baby - Pink and tan stripes
Old Pink Dusty Miller - Lovely, fragrant washed pink blooms
So do grow some and see for yourself, they are very easy to grow just don’t starve them, put plenty grit in their compost and don’t keep them too hot or too wet.
We grow most of them in pots as they are easier to display and admire that way.
Keep them dry in winter and not too hot in summer. But, they are all hardy and some have done well in the open ground here with us in the Highlands for many years.

Apart from the Auriculas, this warm spring has also encouraged the not-so-delightful ground elder and a profusion of dandelions.  I always remember the old adage, "One year seeding, is seven years weeding" and from a glance around the garden, feel that we must have let a patch of dandelions seed their merry way all over woodland.  Early each morning I do my best to whisk them all out, but maybe I should try to promote dandelions as a fashionable border plant and stop fighting.
My walks now include a stick with which to beat the bracket into submission - I stride around thwacking the fresh curled shoots as they spring through the ground.  It may be an impossible mission, but I feel I have to try.

(A full list of all the Auricula we are selling this year - - be quick to get the rarer varieties )
I have also just started up a flickr group for everyone with an interest in Auriculas to add their photographs, would be great to see what everyone has growing
Auricula Addiction. Get yours at

Plants in the post - The art of gardening by mailorder.

Our Abriachan Nurseries 2011 plant catalogue came out in February, and is now in residence in sitting rooms around the UK; nestled under gardening books on the coffee table, shoved into a teetering pile of garden catalogues, hiding under the yellow pages never to be seen again; or more hopefully sitting well thumbed on the writing desk or perched on a stack of pots in the greenhouse with a multitude of grubby thumb prints to testify that it has been well browsed over a cup of tea and a digestive.

As spring is the time of year when you may be thinking about ordering from a garden catalogue (not just ours, but I will personally vouch for the fact that we are fabulous) I thought I would put together a blog on 'How to get the best out of your mail order', a topic that is hopefully not as dry as you might imagine.

So why buy mail order at all?

  •  To find a bargain - yes, this is true, but always think before you buy, a hundred small tender plants early in the season will need careful looking after and therefore cost more in the long term.  Also check the plant you are buying is the same size and variety as the one illustrated ( Fancy pictures may not match the listing) 
  • To save time - You would rather spend your spare time out getting grubby in the garden, than getting to and searching through a garden centre.  Moreover, ordering by catalogue can be done in the evening; with Radio 4 and the cat; when the garden is no longer an occupational option. 
  • To find a specialist plant that you can’t find elsewhere easily  - Most gardens will have a few speciality ranges and will have developed strong stock and hopefully reliable varieties and cultivars.
  • You live in the back of beyond and havn’t much choice, as you even order your underwear by mail order.
  • You like receiving parcels (And there is no shame in that)

 So how to go about ordering
  • Catalogue type - The choice is now between a hardcopy catalogue or an online store, and many nurseries will have both available so it is down to personal preference.
    You may prefer a hard catalogue as you can keep it handy and go through it, ticking as you go while having a dram, then you find you have spent a small fortune, or it needs to be vetted by the significant other. (We often find that many of our orders are written out by a women, but the cheques are from the husband, read into that what you will) You can then re-choose until your final decision is established and then move online if you wish to make the final purchase. (checking online can also be useful to see if a particular plant is still in stock)
    Hardcopy catalogues are usually produced only once or twice a season, so can age quite quickly especially as regarding choice and the more unusual plants – the early bird gets the worm, so sooner you order after receiving the catalogue, the more likely you are to get your choice.
  • Pricing - when choosing your plants, weigh up such considerations as the size of the pot, the rarity of the plant and the ease of growth.  These are all factors that may alter a plants cost.  Watch out for inflated prices due to 'fashions' in the garden.
  • Read the ordering instructions at the front of the catalogue and follow them, if possible using the supplied order form, it may seem obvious, but we do get the most convoluted orders on occasion.
  • Payment - It is very advisable to either list alternative plants that you would be happy to receive if there are parts of your order that are unavailable, or if you would not like to receive alternatives, then to write a limit cheque (ie: Not to exceed the value of Sixty Pounds)  this will make it easy for the nursery to alter your total and fill in the cheque to a lesser amount if necessary.
  • Postage - look at the catalogue to find amount that the postage costs and you will find it is usually set for a certain number of plants, or amount of ordering value. This is because the nursery will have a contract with their delivery service and will be charged the same if it is one plant or five that is being sent.  For this reason it may not be economical to order small numbers of plants and you are best to take advantage of the maximum you can get in the one parcel before you move up to the next postage bracket.
  • Delivery - We always send e-mail or first class letter on the same day when parcel is sent to tell you of the imminent arrival of your plants. It is always a good idea to put a note on your order to inform of dates when you may not be at home to receive the parcel, the last thing you want is your plants dying on your doorstep due to lack of water and light. (We tend not sent out parcels in busy holiday periods as too many people are away from home, we also do not send if the weather is very cold, very hot or very dry as they will suffer in transit)
  • Seasons - Order with a common sense attitude to the seasons, ie: it may not be best to order galanthus in the middle of summer, however, some companies do send bare roots through winter.
  • Handwriting - Okay, so this is more from our perspective, please oh please oh please write your name and address in a readable hand, we spend many a hour squinting at the most beautifully illegible handwriting trying to work out if it says Mr or a Mrs, Claude or Claire, Norfolk or Suffolk, we have even had to call, to confirm an address to prevent it heading off to a non-existent garden, and that is just embarrassing for everyone.
 So you have read the whole catalogue - highlighted your favourites - whittled it down to your final selection - written your limit cheque, allowable alternatives and 'dates not to send' on the order form.

I would recommend making a quick copy of your order for your own records and to prevent yourself double ordering from another catalogue, and congratulations, you are done, now comes that glorious anticipation as you wait for your order and the joy it contains to arrive.

Enjoy yourself, and if you would like to be added to our yearly mail order list please just drop us an email on or give us a call on 01463 861 232
Our catalogue is also online at
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