June goings-on…

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The Mix, caught in early sunlight, Tostat, June 2019

At this time of year, the light becomes so bright that photography is an early morning or late evening activity. The light creeps over the house in the morning like a ranging searchlight, and the other day, it was the right place and the right time.  Standing by the Mix, my now 3 year old perennial planting with the occasional small shrub and grass, the sun spotlit the tops of the clumps of perennials, picking out the Monarda fistulosa and the Lychnis chalcedonica ‘Salmonea’ as the tallest in town just yet.  This area has been a real experiment- made even more experimental this year by the one-armed bandit requirement of ‘no weeding’.  About 6 weeks ago, it looked pretty awful.  But now, with the rain and sun we have had, the perennials are powering upwards, and, unless you have a pair of binoculars, you mostly can’t see any serious weed activity.  There is a lesson here for the future.

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Papaver somniferum, from Biddy Radford, Tostat, June 2019

This has been a good year for self-seeding- another bonus for one-armed gardening.  Opium poppies, Papaver somniferum, have popped themselves all over the gravel paths and into some of the more orthodox places as well. As self-seeders, you can get years when the colours are very washed out- but this year has been loads better with good mauves and soft pinks.  The bees and insects love them- and I do, for their unfurling architecture as much as for the flowers.

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Unfurling Opium poppy and Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’, Tostat, June 2019

Playing with Penstemons has become a bit of an obsession.  I grew some Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ from seed the year before last, and so with the wait, this is the beginning of seeing the plant in action.  Slim, upright growth, dark beetroot colouring on the stems and leaves, and buds which are creamy-yellow.  Not yet a big player, but with potential.  I also bought some Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ a cross between ‘Husker Red’ and ‘Prairie Splendour’.  Now this is a big, beefy plant.  Strong upright, dark crimson, darker than ‘Husker Red’, stems and leaves, altogether bigger and more imposing, and then, on filigreed stems, big pale mauve flowers. So far, so very good.  Not yet tested for drought tolerance, but that will come.

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Trifolium rubens, Tostat, June 2019

Two years ago, visiting the stunning gardens at Kentchurch Court, I was seriously smitten by what seemed like giant clover flowers on speed.  It was a variety of Trifolium, and so I have been growing some from seed since last summer, and it is just about to flower.  This is the species form of Trifolium ochroleucon– more to follow.  But, I have also bought plants of two more Trifoliums, Trifolium rubens and Trifolium pannonicum ‘White Tiara’.  Both are doing well so far in their first year, seeming to cope well with the conditions- the true test will come.

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Trifolium pannonicum ‘White Tiara’, Tostat, June 2019
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Philadelphus ‘Starbright’, Tostat, June 2019

A bargain basement buy this year in the new area, still covered in cardboard, and holding its own, is a newish variety of Philadelphus called ‘Starbright’.  A recent Canadian selection, it has dark-red stems and strong, single white flowers and is very cold and drought tolerant- hence my giving it a go.

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Phlomis longifolia var. bailanica with Allium nigrum behind and a sprinkling of Dianthus cruentus, Tostat, June 2019

This has been the year of the Phlomis- all my plants have adored the weather and conditions.  Phlomis longifolia var.bailanica has doubled in size, and has emptied the custard tin over itself, with incredible Birds Custard coloured flower heads.  I am responsible only for the Phlomis and the Allium nigrum, also enjoying life- the Dianthus cruentus is self-seeded, I think from a few feet away.

Tomorrow, we are off to visit Jardin de la Poterie Hillen– this should be a lovely garden day with great patisserie as well.  Not to be knocked.  And some splendid planting, such as this extraordinary rose, Rosa ‘Pacific Dream’, photographed by my friend Martine in case I missed it….

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Rosa ‘Pacific Dream’ Jardin de la Poterie Hillen, Thermes-Magnoac 65, June 2019.  Photo credit: Martine Garcia

 

 

 

 

 

Aha and…oh no…

Valeriana pyrenaica, Greenbank Garden, Glasgow, May 2019

Sometimes a plant just catches your eye. This plant did. Wandering around Glasgow’s Greenbank Garden, it was growing in massive clumps in the woodland area, as well as being used as a filler plant in the borders. I asked a young gardener if she could identify it, but she couldn’t. But, sometimes, luck plays a part in finally cracking an identity.

Leafing through the plant lists for the RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival gardens, there it was in the ‘Calm amidst chaos’ garden, designed by Joe Francis. Valeriana pyreniaca is actually a native of the French Pyrenees- fancy going all the way to Glasgow to see it! It is a sturdy grower, making a good clump just a metre and a bit tall, with heart-shaped leaves which remind me of Clerodendrum bungei, and like the Clerodendron, it prefers a moistish soil and not totally blazing sun all day. The wide semi-umbel shaped flowers in pale pink actually seem to sparkle in the sun, as fine plant parts reach out to frame the flatter part of the flowerhead. Very pretty and great for insects of all shapes and sizes. I am going to try some from seed.

Rosa ‘Astrid, Grafin von Hardenberg’, Tostat, September 2017

I am coming to the conclusion that my garden is getting too summer-dry for repeat flowering roses. The old varieties that flower once early in the season are doing fine, as by now, the show is well over and they are happily sliding into summer dormancy. But the later and repeat flowering roses are really suffering, and today, I dug up and potted up a third one, Rosa ‘Astrid, Grafin von Hardenberg’, a lovely rose reduced to a couple of twigs and a few leaves needing serious tlc in a pot. She joins Rosa ‘Summer Song’ and Rosa ‘Jacqueline du Pre’ which were both potted up this Spring. Astrid will bounce back, but I do think that this is another sign of the drying and warming that has changed our summers. I am not abandoning my non-watering policy, but if I want to grow these roses, I need to turn to the pot. And resist the temptation to grow any more than those I already have. That discipline could be tricky….

Bits and bobs…

Cynara cardunculus, Tostat, July 2019

The last week has starred all kinds of weather including 20 minutes of typhoon scaled wind and massive stair rods of rain. The weather can be incredibly local, and we were very lucky as a 2km wide band passed within 500m of us and didn’t touch us. Those it touched lost trees, and even more importantly in the season, prized vegetable gardens and crops. This is the first time that the Cynara cardunculus has produced so many flowering branches- and it came through the storm unscathed. A brilliant architectural plant and a good self-seeder- you just need the space.

The rain was very welcome despite the strength and power of it, and clearly refreshed everything growing in the garden, with some roses generating a fresh small flush of flowers. With these weather outbursts, sometimes plants return that you have completely forgotten about.

Digitalis ferruginea, Tostat, July 2019

I adore the colouring of this Digitalis ferruginea. This was a surprise appearance 3 years ago, when a strange rosette of leaves started to grow which I did not associate with seed that I had sown the year before. I potted up the mysterious rosette and then planted it out, having no idea what it was. Since then, the rosette has returned each year with taller and more stately flowerspikes every year. In the bright warm early morning sunlight, the rust colouring almost hits orange- and this year with our cool, wet spring, it measures well over 1.7 metres tall. Wow.

Eryngium eburneum has been truly statuesque this year too. It is an utterly undemanding plant, and in return, you get months of the tall, bobbly, prickly flowerspikes which complement any style of planting in my view, and then, over winter, the flowing foliage forms beautiful clumps, made even more gorgeous when touched with frost. I guess all you need to give it is space- allow 1m all around the plant- and stony, well-drained soil. No pampering required.

Eryngium eburneum backlit, Tostat, July 2019

Another strange plant that I adore, but have only succeeded once with, is Eupatorium capillifolium ‘Elegant Feather’. This can be regarded as an invasive weed in the US, but probably not here in Europe. It is undemanding, but requires very precise conditions, or in my view it does! Sun, but some shade, moist, but not wet and must be well-draining, and it prefers some cover from other plants over winter. The one that didn’t die is grown amongst a Hydrangea paniculata, Bupleurum fruticosum and Phlomis russelliana- and I never know for sure that it’s made it until the first bright-green feathery leaves poke through. It is not a powerful grower, so even after 5 years, I usually only have 2-3 spikes of it- but it is a lovely presence, a stretched bright-green feather duster of a plant which is totally vertical.

Eupatorium capillifolium ‘Elegant Feather’, Tostat, July 2019

I don’t know what I have done to deserve these lovely flowering garlic scapes- but I love them, and do my best to pot them up and save them to weave in amongst other plants, like a strange extra-terrestrial that has been welcomed to the planet. You can eat them like spring onions or chives, but I want them in the garden.

Flowering garlic scapes, Tostat, July 2019

This tiny little Penstemon pinifolius is perhaps the smallest of all. I couldn’t get a plant anywhere and so I grew a small bowl of them from seed about 3 years ago- this is the first flower from that little bowl. It looks like spikes of short hair, the slimmest, stringiest leaves you can imagine which pays witness to the drought tolerance- it is very drought tolerant and needs super-sharp drainage- but it is hardy. So, only water if it looks wan.

Penstemon pinifolius, Tostat, July 2019

This is a really different Rudbeckia- Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Fire’. Tall, slim and multi-flowering, with small bright yellow and orange daisy flowers, it seems to be an easy plant. These are one year old, grown from seed last year- and I am hoping that they will clump more next year- apparently short-lived, so either I buy more seed or if I’m lucky, it will self-seed. I think that it needs more moisture than some sites suggest and not baking sun all day.

Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Fire’, Tostat, July 2019
Salvia confertiflora, Tostat, July 2019

Salvia confertiflora is flowering- more than 2 months earlier than in previous years. I think it has taken it’s cue from the scattered very hot days we have had. This is a tender Salvia, so I bring it in every winter, but the orange-red velvet tall flowerspikes are a real bonus in the garden- even more just now as the garden slows up for the hot period.

And today, I discovered more seasonal bonuses. Two Baptisia australis seedlings that have popped up in pots of Salvia, unbeknownst to me. Baptisia has been a seed disaster for me, really quite tricky, so this must be some stray seed that got recycled into some potting compost by mistake. Good mistake. And some good, tough little Achillea millefoliums that had self-seeded into the parking gravel- brilliant. Bonus tough plants for difficult areas.

Thoughts on planting and weeding…

Verbena bonarienisis with Daucus carota, Tostat, July 2019

Forced inside by the massive heat last week, I took to reading about gardens rather than gardening. Also, I am in a reflective state about the garden at the moment as I am noticing the changes from having less ‘arm’ to do maintenance, and I am curious about how this will shape up over the summer. So, picking up Noel Kingsbury’s article about planting density, which I would ordinarily have saved for a rainy day, set me thinking. I won’t recount all the detail as you can pick this up via the link, but working backwards from his reasons as to why more dense planting makes sense made great sense to me. He posits three main reasons for dense planting:

  1. Denser planting reduces the need for weeding
  2. It increases biodiversity, providing more cover and food opportunities for essential garden wildlife
  3. More plants mean more biological activity which supports an effective ecosystem

So, possibly post-hoc rationalisation, but here is what I think is going on in ‘The Mix’ my perennials/grasses/shrub combination underneath the cherry tree at the back. A spot of analysis follows…

The Mix, Tostat, May 2019

This May photograph is a little late to qualify as Spring, but it will do. You can see the massive importance of the wafty Stipa tenuissima, the tall Allium nigrum coming through, and the pink of the Oenethora all work well together.

Just now, early July, those Alliums are still there as seedheads, but the whole look has gone up a gear in height and variation. Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is sparking red through the planting, and an annual tall daisy, with many small, white flowers, which self-seeded itself last year, and has really romped this year, has taken the eye up further, whilst the Phlomis longifolia var.bailanica is giving stature with seedheads, and the grey-silver of the Helichrysum rosmarinifolius ‘Silver Jubilee’ (now also seen as Ozothamnus) planted 2 years ago is poking through nicely.

The Mix, Tostat, early July 2019

In mid July, the whole scene will change as Monarda fistulosa, which has just begun to open, will ripple through the scene with warm pink long-lasting flowerheads and will compete as the daisy goes over to take over as the main theme. Later, Patrinia scabiosifolia will come in at early August with electric-yellow umbels shooting through leading to Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ in September.

The first flower, Monarda fistulosa, Tostat, early July 2019

All that I have done is chosen some plants and threaded them between one another fairly closely, allowed a little room for self-seeders, and other than removing the odd dandelion or plantain, I have left it to sort itself out. What I have realised is that between me and it, we have built up a flow of plants that move into the foreground and change the dynamic as time passes- giving way to others as they go. Very little has needed to be removed, and the shrubby elements, the Phlomis bailanica, Berberis thunbergii ‘Maria’, Helichrysum rosmarinifolius ‘Silver Jubilee’ and Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’ have created the beginnings of a permanent structure as a backdrop.

The other article that continues to set me thinking was Alys Fowler’s article last week on weeding. I always like her thoughtful articles, and this year weeding has taken a back seat in Tostat. I have been surprised at how little this has bothered me, and I have learnt that I have only to wait for plants to grow up and over, thus hiding the interlopers. Then summer heat will finish most of the rest off. I just need to stay calm for the month or so in the Spring when it looks as if all is lost. I am going to go easy again on weeding next year. I adore the combination of the Verbena bonariensis and the wild carrot, Daucus carota and will welcome that back. (see top)

Where I will not go easy is my eternal battle with bindweed. But, 3 years ago, I grew and planted out Tagetes minuta all over the garden where we were under siege from bindweed. Tagetes minuta seedlings have continued to work away since them, and we have a very different garden thanks to them. I have ordered more seed for next year to bulk up the population.

Tagetes minuta still doing battle for me, Tostat, July 2019

Mists and heat…

This week has been the week of the ‘June canicule’- in other words, serious heat. We have been lucky, half of the hot days have started with misty, damp mornings and we have not gone over 40C. Today, Sunday, it will cool back to the late 20s, which will be perfect. The misty mornings have been a relief and are rather magical, giving the garden a bit of respite from the overpowering sun.

The front garden early in the morning, Tostat, June 2019

I love this dahlia- I only have two, but this is one of them, Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’. The name is amazing, and so is the flower with furled dark blue/grey petals surrounding a brilliant golden centre. The first year, probably the bulbs were too tiny, produced nothing, but this year, the 3rd, the plant is getting into a swing with generous foliage and lots of buds. I didn’t take it in in the winter, I just left it in the pot and took my chances. Lucky me.

Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’, Tostat, June 2019

Mist and dew on bronze fennel, Tostat, June 2019

The dew has been heavy and luxurious, almost like a small shower of rain. The bronze fennel catches the dew beautifully and shines with each droplet.

Cobweb on Echinops sphaerocephalus ‘Arctic Glow’, Tostat, June 2019

The dew and damp has brought out the summer spiders, creating their connections between plants, and draping some, like the Echinops sphaerocephalus ‘Arctic Glow’ above. This is a plant that pleases more by it’s vigour and form than by the often short-lived flowerheads, but the darkly outlined cut leaves are present for a long time and work like fake thistles in the garden.

Romneya coulteri, Tostat, June 2019

Romneya coulteri is a plant with a tremendous capacity for life- as long as you plant it where it wants to be- in full sun, poor soil and don’t even think about watering it. But if you move it, it will turn up it’s toes and die- best to buy a small plant, a baby, and then let it grow in situ. It will take a year or two to flower, but then you will have beautiful glaucous greeny-blue foliage and these colossal chiffon flowers like the best Spanish fried egg, crinkly and delicious. It is a bit of a thug, hence why people do try and move them, me included. What will happen if you are lucky is that a piece will stubbornly refuse to be dug up, and next year you can start again with a new baby plant sitting where it wants to be. Give it space, or pin it back with another tough shrub, and all will be well.

Salvia ‘Ton Ter Linden’, Tostat, June 2019

This is a really fabulous Salvia, ‘Ton Ter Linden’. It is a deep purply-red, not quite captured above, and has a drapey habit, so that it could almost be called a tumbling salvia. I picked it out at our local nursery, the wonderful Bernard Lacrouts, mainly for the habit and the deep, dark colour. It is a newish variety, bred in the Netherlands, and named for the famous artist and gardener, Ton Ter Linden. He led the way, along with Henk Gerritsen and Piet Oudolf, towards a more naturalistic style of perennial planting that is loosely called the Dutch New Wave. Another garden on the list….

Sanguisorba ‘Cangshan Cranberry’, Tostat, June 2019

In the same colour band is my almost favourite Sanguisorba, ‘Cangshan Cranberry’– and the moment when the flowerheads fill up with colour is one of my most anticipated summer moments. I don’t have it in the best place, as the massive banana behind it decks it with water when we have heavy rain, but it is the only place where it will be happy- so there we are. At nearly 1.5m it is a tall plant, but wispy and wavy, and takes a few years to bulk up- but all worth the wait. Dan Hinkley found this plant in Yunnan, China in 1996. I am so glad that he did.

Telekia speciosa, Tostat, June 2019

I love this workhorse plant. Every summer, I feel bound to try and increase the fan club membership for Telekia speciosa, as it is such a good reliable plant, and virtually unknown next to the more famous contender in the big-yellow-daisy stakes, Inula magnifica.

Salvia cacaliifolia, Tostat, June 2019

Another new Salvia! Salvia cacaliifolia has charming, triangular-shaped leaves and the bluest of blue branching flower spikes- curiously, it has no Salvia smell about it either. New to me, so I can’t offer much in the way of experience, but I am really enjoying it. It likes a little shade, but other than that, is not demanding.

Cephalaria gigantea, which has been a lovely surprise this June, has found the last week too hard for it, so it is fading fast. Celebrate it with a last photograph after early morning spider activity.

Cephalaria gigantea in the heat and the mist, Tostat, June 2019

Another reason to be happy is another surprise development. A stunningly successful germination rate 3 years ago of Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizard’ led to rather boastful behaviour on my part- and thence to the punishment of my hubris by the total failure of all the plants to re-appear in the Spring. Aha! Four small plants must have been hanging on in there, as this week up they popped. I am so pleased. My friend EBee will also be delighted. I adore the chocolate flower head and the golden ruff- magnificent, though not necessarily in a floral way.

Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizard’, Tostat, June 2019
2 days later, with golden ruff, ‘Green Wizard’, Tostat, June 2019

Giants and troopers…

Two days of persistent rain last week. At Tostatenfleur, we finished planting up the Tostadium, our local cycle circuit, in the pouring rain, a labour of love. Otherwise, I have been venturing out to find the garden moving into gigantic mode- I have never seen the planting so tall. I love tall, as a short person I am clearly searching for world domination in plant height as I myself can’t do it! We have had hollyhocks that are easily 8 feet tall, and Centaurea gigantea that is hitting that and more. It’s not called ‘gigantea’ for nothing.

Catalpa bignoides flowering at Sombrun, June 2019

Ok, Catalpa bignoides is not a good example of what I am talking about as it will be colossal anyway, but here I am, arms fully extended, trying to ctach the huge blossoms that are so striking. If they were nearer the ground, it could compete with hibicus. Generous cream cups, with dark striations and a few golden spots- really rather gorgeous. Our friends at Sombrun kindly gave me two seedlings all potted up- with the recommendation that, in years to come, I could coppice the catalpa to keep it small and create dinner-plate sized leaves. Sounds great to me. Now I have to keep them alive to get to that point.

Cenolophium denudatum, Tostat, June 2019

In the cow-parsley stakes, but a delicate and refined competitor, is Cenolophium denudatum. I grew it from seed years ago, and I have moved it round the garden rather a lot. I need to let it consolidate growth where it is, and probably need to grow some more from seed, as it is a classy plant. Feathery foliage, green fading to cream umbels, and the insects adore it- it is a polite plant, finding ways to fit in with other plants, and reaching about 1m tall maximum.

Liriope muscari ‘Okina’, Tostat, June 2019

This Liriope muscari ‘Okina’ is new to me this year, and was quite a pricey purchase. In the Stumpery, the shady, dry spot where I grow ferns and whatnot, I have a spectacular rose that I have often talked about, Rosa ‘Marguerite, Reine d’Italie’– a carmine hybrid tea that just flowers ten months of the year in the terrible, stony, soil. Underneath it, I had tried to encourage Acanthus ‘Whitewater’ to grow. Three years showed me that it was not a happy bunny there. So, it has come out, and made way for this Liriope. It produces this pure white foliage through the older green foliage and is very distinctive, I think. No flowers yet, but it has only been in a few months. I hope that it will gradually colonise underneath the rose.

Phlomis purpurea, Tostat, June 2019

This year has been a major year for Phlomis. All adored the weird hot February, and the rain has come at precisely the right moment for Phlomis purpurea and Phlomis Samia. The latter is a slightly tricky customer, apt to die back suddenly and inexplicably, but can usually be persuaded to re-boot from the rest of the plant that stays alive. The rain has really accentuated the colouring to a vibrant, soft mauve- in the dry, it can become almost biscuit-coloured. If you have a hot spot with razor-sharp drainage, the world of Phlomis is open for you to romp in. Such a great group of plants. Phlomis Samia is just opening, so will be appearing in the next post.

Veronica longifolia, Tostat, June 2019

I have been disappointed by this plant, Veronica longifolia, in the past. I grew it from seed maybe four years ago, and I planted it hither and thither where I though it would enjoy conditions, and it has never quite hit it’s stride. But this year it is looking good- it makes a gentle mound of slightly floppy blue flowerspires- and planted close to the much taller Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Lavendelturm’ it suddenly looks sound and in the right place. Maybe it just needed the time to get settled in.

Santolina etrusca, Tostat, June 2019

Never mind the big pot with the vibrant maroon leaves in it, I am talking about the fluffy green stuff beside it. Santolina etrusca has been fantastic in it’s second year. This was a real fiddle to grow. Tiny seeds grew into microscopic seedlings, so many of them that I nearly collapsed from the effort of potting them up. All overwintered outside in the cold and wet winter, but all, remaining tiny, were planted up in various inhospitably dry, hot spots last year. This year, what a delight. Fresh, green foliage, gorgeous hospital smell, and later on, there will be tiny cream dot-flowerheads. No watering, no nothing.

Thinking about laziness and sustainability…

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Verbascum nigrum with white valerian, white lychnis and achillea millefolium in the New Garden, Tostat, June 2019

Quite a bit of the garden has lived through one-arm gardening this year.  Generally, this means that I haven’t done my thorough spring weed clearance, and so the early weeds have regained some territory.  But I should not despair.

Reading Thomas Rainer‘s approach to gardening sustainably,  I have found some solace. He suggests that the garden can be seen as a meeting point between plants that we insert as gardeners and the natural response of the terrain to the conditions of life.  Most terrain is populated by plants already when we garden- and we are removing the plants that are linked to that terrain and eco-system, replacing them with others that may not. 

I am cutting to the chase here as Rainer uses science and botany to develop these themes.  So, in my case, the early spring growing and covering of the ground with annual plants/weeds that I did not plant is part of the ecological balance of the ground I work.  Rainer, I think, would argue that the essence of modern sustainable gardening is the point of equilibrium we can create as we balance the insertion of the plants we want with the plants that already exist there.  He would probably also be able to demonstrate that the plants I remove have an ecological function for the terrain, retaining humidity and microbiological balance.  He is looking for a more fluid and sensitive approach to gardening which works with nature rather than being in battle with it.

Take the New Garden in the photograph above.  A month or so ago, I felt that it had really run away with me irretrievably.  All the usual suspects were back and in action, and my new plantings from last year were overwhelmed.  But, now, the balance has changed.  My plants, the Achillea millefolium in particular, have surged into growth and the annual suspects are dying back.  It would still look a bit messy close-up to the Percy Thrower gardener (British TV gardener of the sixties much loved as a suburban gardening hero)- but I am wondering whether ripping out the usual suspects in Spring may not actually be damaging the resilience of this dry, hot area.

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Achillea millefolium, New Garden, Tostat, June 2019

The puritan work ethic in me wonders whether I am just developing a serious case of post one-armed gardening laziness.  But I am dismissing this thought, and going with Rainer.  I think that the dying suspects will end up mulching the ground around/between the plants, and once the heat is up (soon) nothing new will insert itself in there.  I will let you know.

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Verbascum nigrum close-up, New Garden, Tostat, June 2019

I grew some Verbascum nigrum from seed a couple of years ago, and they are still giving.  I adore the up-close exoticism of the cerise and orange stamens, and the stateliness of the bearing.  The flowerheads last for at least a month, slowly opening bottom to top.  I also have some white ones, which have popped up in another part of the garden.  What a pay-back.

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Verbascum nigrum album, Tostat, June 2019

Another surprise returner this year has been Centaurea, popping up to give little hits of colour as if I had sprinkled them there myself.  I grew Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’ last year which is a gorgeous deep maroon, almost black.  I have quite a few returnees of ‘Black Ball’ and, also some of the regular blue have appeared.  A sort of seed reversion I guess, but I don’t mind.

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Ceantaurea, Tostat, June 2019

Ali, the Mindful Gardener, thank you Ali, recommended this great plant to me last year, and so I bought seed.  Erodium manescavii came through easily, and is just beginning to flower.  At first, it doesn’t over-inspire, but now that the plants have settled in and are filling out the space, I can see that it will be a good choice.  Tufty, divided leaves spread out from a crown, and the flowers shoot up, a little hardy geranium-like, but a good size.  I don’t have it in the driest spot, but it is fairly dry all the same, so I will report back as the summer develops.

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Erodium manescavii, Tostat, June 2019

Early morning sun can be wonderful.  Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’– thank you Karen from Marsac, made a lovely crown for Rosa ‘LD Braithwaite’ the other morning.  The Pennisetum is easy, fuss-free, and does well in a sunny, well-drained spot.  Rosa ‘LD Braithwaite’ is getting better and better by the year, our stony soil takes a while to allow newcomers in- I just need to deadhead more often.

Good that I am almost back to two-armed gardening.

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Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ and Rosa ‘LD Braithwaite’ in tandem, Tostat, June 2019

Creams and colours…

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Cephalaria gigantea, Tostat, June 2019

Two years ago, at this time of year,  we joined in with the ‘Gardens in the Wild’ festival in Herefordshire, and visited about half a dozen gardens over the weekend.  So many good things to see and plants to take in- one of which popped up in various of the gardens, and I adored it.  Cephalaria gigantea won my heart, for slender but tall stature and creamy lemon flowers.   Insects adored it, and so did I.  From seed, it has taken me two years to get flowering plants- they grow so high that I would need a ladder to look down into them, and so you can imagine, two years is what it takes to build up a solid root base.  Unknowingly, I mixed them in with seedlings of Thalictrum flavum glaucum– but I think that the two giants get on rather well.  They are in the most moist part of the garden, so this summer will tell if they can take it.

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Dorycnium hirsutum ‘Frejorgues’, Tostat, June 2019

Dorycnium hirsutum ‘Frejorges’ is a slow-burn plant.  Needing sharp drainage, full sun and poor soil to do best, I was not bowled over it by intially.  But, growing slowly over 2 years, to make a crinkled silvery-green mound, and this year, flowering for the first time (unless I just have forgotten) with creamy pea-type flowers, it has earned it’s place in the garden.

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Jardin de la Poterie Hillen, Thermes-Magnoac, June 2019

The best bit from Jardin de la Poterie Hillen last week was….this view.  It was jammed with people- note to self, don’t bother with Portes Ouvertes days, find another time.  I really liked the shaped shrubs, the bench, the slim cypresses behind, the lilypad bowl and the three weathered uprights that sounded like metal, but felt quite light to the touch.  Material therefore unknown.  I also liked this rather florid clematis- baroque swags of flowers absolutely saved by their cool creamy green colouring, Clematis florida Alba Plena.  A good combination.  On the list.

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Clematis florida Alba Plena, Jardin de la Poterie Hillen, Thermes-Magnoac, June 2019

Back home, the trooper plants are blooming.  Both are Lychnis, the top one, Salmonea, I grew from seed a few years back which I got from the Hardy Plant Society and it is just beginning to self-seed gently in the mixed planting under the cherry tree.  The bottom one is the more common, scarlet chalcedonica– which I also grew from seed, and it gives a real flash of scarlet.  Nothing demure about it at all.  Easy and tough as old boots.

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Lychnis chalcedonica Salmonea, Tostat, June 2019

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Lychnis chalcedonica, Tostat, June 2019

In the Mix, the alliums are over but still making a great vertical against the Stipa tenuissima.  In the morning light, the effect is magical, golden, slender, wafting against the green of the emerging Miscanthus sinensis Strictus– not yet producing the golden zebra stripes that I love.  The Miscanthus has been waiting for heat so far this summer.

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The Mix with Stipa tenuissima and seedhead of Allium nigrum, Tostat, June 2019

In the cool, semi-shady conditions of the Bee garden in Peebles last month, self-sown  and spreading Camassia leichtlinii, don’t know the variety, were taking over beautifully from the Scottish bluebells.  My friend has them planted in and amongst a crimson-leaved acer, and the light filtering through the acer picks out the Camassia beautifully.  Irresistable.  But they must be resisted.  Tostat would bring certain death to moisture-loving Camassia.

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Camassia leichtlinii, Peebles, May 2019

But, close in colour, though again an unknown variety, that I got as a cutting from Jardin d’Antin nearby to us- is the plummy, purply, blue of this statuesque Penstemon- the orange background kindly donated by the spreading branches of the unknown orange Abutilon.

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Unknown Penstemon, from Jardin d’Antin, Tostat, June 2019

A week ago, I was talking about the Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ and Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’.  Here is a photograph of the quieter, less-in-your-face flowers of ‘Husker Red’- not creamy in my case, more of a pale mauve I would say, but pretty all the same, and flowering for the first time after growing from seed 2 years ago.  I am looking forward to seeing how the plants themselves develop.

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Penstemon Huskers Red, Tostat, June 2019

This coral-red Salvia is new to me, Salvia dichlamys.  The colouring has that electric quality that you get in the purple-mauve of Verbena bonariensis- it really speaks to you.  I shall be very happy to take cuttings later in the summer, and see what happens when brought in for winter.

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Salvia dichlamys, Tostat, June 2019