The weather has been truly Scottish for the past week or so. Blowing a gale, raining heavily and cold enough to be back in a jumper- the garden has stopped in its tracks. So, despite a good round of cursing at the conditions outside, once I had stopped moaning about it, I decided to take a good look at things. And, once I raise my gaze from each individual plant that I am nursing along, I do actually notice that, over time, things do come together.
In the New Garden, above, for example, it has been a long wait for some things. This year, although you can barely see it in the photograph (centre) because of the galeforce wind, Stipa gigantea has at last decided that it likes me. The beautiful slim golden fronds now reach about 2m tall and the whole plant has occupied its space fully. This has been helped by the fact that I have been on the case ripping out intruder plants that would have crowded it too much. I have also embraced the white lychnis and valerian – it is does look light and airy at this time of year, and the best moment for it. Next to the Panicum virgatum ‘Rehbraun’, not yet tall enough to have conquered the brown stems from last year, my tiny Cotinus coggyria ‘Golden Spirit’ is almost 1m high and I think will really take off next year. I really like the massed, tumbled look of the old and new planting coming together. And you would never know that all of it is growing in poor, stony soil. There have been casualties over the years, but what is there is doing a good job, I think.
The back path, by the house, is a tricky space. Bone dry and sunny on the left hand side of the photograph, with more moist conditions on the right. I had never used grasses before coming to France, and I am a grassaholic now. This Miscanthus is a seedling, now fully grown, and put it itself next to the Phormium, where I had earlier planted Hemerocallis. I probably wouldn’t have gone for the tiered effect myself, but having got it, I really like it. Mind you, I pull out armfuls of Miscanthus seedlings all year round- you can have too much of a good thing. I always say to myself that I will get rid of the pink valerian, but instead, I will cut it down to a stump after a couple of weeks as the colour goes muddy and the growth becomes lanky.
This small, shaded, poor, slightly damp soil area is tucked away in the elbow of two walls just opposite the New Garden. It is my ongoing shot at a Stumpery, inspired by Biddulph Grange. The conditions here mean that growth is of the slow and steady variety, and I pretty much leave it to do its thing. But this year, the ferns are bulking up, and I also realised only today that a rather pretty self-seeded thing, a drooping grass under the rose, is actually Carex divulsa, the Berkeley sedge. So, nothing at all to do with my gardening efforts, but one to be kept and treasured. Running around between the ferns is a charming little variegated groundcover, which I am hoping will become more adventurous, Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’, and I am replanting at the front some Molinia ‘Edith Dudszus’ a black flower stemmed grass, which will get just enough sun, I hope, after being fairly boiled last summer in another part of the garden.
The thing is I have learnt is that, when you look, really look, is when you can make new decisions about how a plant is doing, and when to move it. Today, for example, refurbishing the Labyrinth area, I made the discovery about Carex divulsa- just because I was really looking and then I checked what I thought I had seen. So, eight more Carex divulsa are now being trialled in a hot spot to see how they do. I love that. Today, in the belting wind and rain, Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ is a delight. I fell in love with it a few years back at Chelsea for its unusual, warm mahogany red colouring and upright flowering. And when the weather picks up tomorrow, it will look even more glorious.