I think I am a colour confused gardener…

Opium poppy self-seeded, Tostat, June 2015
Opium poppy self-seeded, Tostat, June 2015

You see, I look at this flowerhead this morning, scream with delight, fetch witnesses and the camera. and, immediately, I feel refreshed, thankful and overall delighted.  It is partly the sheer exuberance of the royal red colour, and partly the fact that the flowers have such fleeting lives, a few hours or less of wind or rain knocks them out.

It’s a self-seeded opium poppy from seed that my good friend, Jane who lives in Shropshire, gave me, and we did brilliantly with them about 3 years ago, and then hit a duff patch of soaking wet Springs which, I thought, had polished off the possibility of opium poppies in the garden.  More seed, and 2 years later, and this year, maybe the wet February and then hot 2 weeks at the end of May as a combination?, we have really enjoyed them.  Most have been pale mauve or raspberry ripple coloured, but this one is a knockout punch. Fantastic.

And then I look at the minimalist white of the only flower on my baby Gardenia jasminoides ‘Kleim’s Hardy’, which couldn’t be more simple and virginal, and all of a sudden, I love Scandinavian minimalism and dream of Ulf Nordfjell and his garden at Chelsea a few years back. Mind you, I can’t smell anything from it!  I know I don’t have the best nose, but maybe I am the only person with a non-fragrant Gardenia!

Gardenia jasminoides 'Kleim's Hardy', Tostat, June 2015
Gardenia jasminoides ‘Kleim’s Hardy’, Tostat, June 2015
Nordfjell garden, Chelsea 2009
Nordfjell garden, Chelsea 2009

I think that I just have to accept that with plant-aholism comes the split personality requirements of fabulous colour and cooling minimalism, and that my garden has touches of both, and probably all the combinations/variations in between. And in that sense, it is not a design achievement, in the same way as I would like to think of my client work.  It’s a personal garden, with what I love in it, from all parts of the colour spectrum and also suiting various different growing environments, for which experience I am very lucky. And maybe, you know, I would forever be changing, developing, trying new things, in other words, tinkering even if I did think that design was the most important thing.

Enough rumination. On with the practicalities…

Eupatorium capillifolium 'Elegant Feather', Tostat, June 2015
Eupatorium capillifolium ‘Elegant Feather’, Tostat, June 2015

The thing you want to look at in the above photograph is the feathery-leaved plant, which is now in its second year in this spot. The spot is west-facing so gets a lot of heat later in the day, but is also relatively moist, as I suspect there is a spring nearby just keeping the soil on the fresh side.  We have many small springs, as we found when our plumber did some dowsing for us, the garden is peppered with them.  This plant,  which seems to really like it here, is Eupatorium capiliifolium ‘Elegant Feather’ and has a a bit of a chequered history. as often is the case, I fell in love with the ‘idea’ of the plant when I was researching planting possibilities for my design diploma, and so, when I found it at a local nursery last year, I bought first one, then another three a few months later.

The very knowledgable Bernard Lacrouts, a fantastic nursery at Sanous, just outside Vic en Bigorre, said that it wasn’t a surefire plant, often succumbing in the winter to one thing or another.  Well, two did bite the dust, and a third has been removed to a pot for hospital care till it recovers. But the original one, though slow to get going in the late Spring, is doing fine in its west-facing spot. So, a partial loss or success depending on how you look at it. But it is a very unusual and lovable plant- just these columns of vibrant green, feathery foliage, and completely upright, so it makes a good contrast with almost anything else. I daren’t move it, but I will move the planting around it and put in something more becoming next year.

Malvastrum lateritium, Tostat, June 2015
Malvastrum lateritium, Tostat, June 2015

And this was such a lovely surprise. Malvastrum lateritium is an amazingly enthusiastic ground cover plant for semi-shaded areas, I bought three small plants in the Spring, and they are all romping away, covering an area of about 1.5.m x 1.5m.  It looks a bit like a ground-creeper, but then the flowers turn out to be so exotic.  Apricot coloured with a reddish flush at the centre, so pretty and should flower till the first frosts.

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