Finally, it has rained. Sunday night was a wakeful one. Lightning dancing around in the sky, very little thunder, and steady-Eddie rain all night…and all day Monday, with a few breaks. Since then, we have had continuing really heavy downpours. This is the right way round for us. It had got so dry that heavy rain at the front end would have just bounced off the soil and smashed plants up. So, the softly-softly start has meant that the heavier rain has also gone in, without too much destruction at all. The first day looked impressively damp, but on digging lightly with a trowel, bone-dryness was only an inch below the surface. Today, Wednesday, and yesterday inbetween showers, I actually got quite a bit done as this week temperatures are only just at 20º, so things that have been banking up in the hospital area can finally be planted out.
This is a great success! I have been waiting for the lilac flowers of Monarda fistulosa to appear, and they popped out in the middle of all the rain, and remained unbattered. I am so pleased with this. This plant is the biggest one that I have from the collection I planted out in the spring, but it is a very commendable 0.5m wide and about 0.40m high. Which I reckon is pretty good going given the weird and variable spring and summer weather we have had. Best thing is, that it is clearly a tough customer, so I am hoping for better and bigger as the summer progresses.
In the front garden, I have been able to plant our my small plants of Panicum virgatum ‘Emerald Chief’. I lost a few over the winter, and though they have not been deliriously happy in their pots for the past few weeks, I wanted to hang on for more clement conditions, and so now, they have their reward and are in the ground. I am part-lining the front driveway with them, to make a good, interesting, upright edge to the grass and give the driveway some definition. This was the area where I had originally planted lavender when we arrived, but having failed to prune it properly, and old wood-itis having set in, I ripped them out last year and planted Panicum seed. ‘Emerald Chief’ is very green as the name suggests, should reach about 1.2m high when flowering with deep pink flowerheads and good yellow colouring in the autumn.
Just coming out is a plant that is very little bother, and so I tend to forget about it, until suddenly I see a flower. Through the rain this morning, from the kitchen window, I could just see the flash of white. Utterly upright, slender and delicate, yet tough, the Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Fuji White’ or Balloon Flower ( you can see why) is a good doer, and enjoys the more moist moment of the last few days. This year is probably it’s eighth birthday, and it just pushes it ‘s way through the other plants with ease, and then tops out at just over a metre high.
It has been a battle royal with snails and slugs this year, as they have loved the lower temperatures so much that they have not been deterred by the dryness. I have several Dahlia corpses that may not make it this year. But ‘Twynings After Eight’, after a bad start, has come good with 2 out of 3 tubers making good, healthy plants. What an attrition rate, though. And this is despite planting them in pots on gravel, and away from other slug/snail favourites. Clearly, my snail/slug population possesses Olympian qualities. I love the coolness of the single, white flower against the dark foliage, and can even cope with it turning faintly pink as it ages.
Making an appearance for only a couple of days before being demolished by the rain sadly, was a favourite of mine by the stream-side. Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ is usually a lovely thing, which I forgive for bring sherbert-pink. This year, the pink mophead which is so pretty when the many tiny buds are forming, only lasted for a couple of days. But it is a great plant, spreading itself in single-stem formation through other plants, almost like a watchtower, as it is tall, maybe 1.5m high.
A new plant that has gone in this week is Cistus x hybridus ‘Gold Prize’. I love sharp yellow and lime-green colour combinations and so fell for this low, ground-hugging Cistus, which will flower next Spring, but meantime, do a good spreading job where I want it. Right now, it is not looking at it’s most distinguished, but I think it will be tough enough to fill a space where a cotton lavender has mostly pegged it.
And the rain is back on…