This Vernonia is about the last plant standing in the garden after this really difficult summer. Almost everything else has browned and gone over early. This is partly my fault. I have been slowly making the garden over the years on the principle that, once settled in, everything must be tough enough to cope with the prevailing conditions- which this year have been on the monstrous side.
I remember reading Beth Chatto’s dry garden book, ‘The Gravel Garden’ when we first moved in. It introduced me to the completely new world of plants that were so utterly different to my Scottish experiences. She built a new gravel garden over her old car park in the very hot summer of 1976 if I remember correctly, and spent most days and nights worrying over the rainfall, which she measured precisely and the daytime temperatures, also measured and logged. Her plan had been to plant correctly and to water deeply once, and then to reply completely on rainfall after that. She stuck to her plan, despite temperatures in the 90s in old money. But her agonies were plain as she wrote of the strain of trying to hold her nerve.
I have really felt this this year. But to be honest, only in the two newly dug and planted areas that I started this year- actually the rest of the garden, whilst gone over early and on the crispy side, is actually ok- just spent. So, I have decided to water on occasion over the last couple of weeks- reckoning that more than 7 days of 35Cplus, is way over what new plants can handle, and I do want to save my plants. So, principles are shifting slightly to accommodate extreme conditions. However, I am still trying to balance the need for the plant to be tested, so that they develop the root systems they need for next year. So far, this delicate balance is working.
But meantime, back in potted-plant land, it is all looking very lovely, if a real jumble of colours and shapes. This bulb, Acidanthera murielae, does really well, but only as long as it has a dry frost-free winter experience, and then moisture when it needs to flower. I rather like my ragbag collection of plants in pots, that will flower in late summer and are pretty obliging, as long as they are personally assured of their daily half can watering allowance.
So, I water with 2 cans, staggering about the garden with them, filling them up from the ruisseau without falling in, and it’s probably doing wonders for my arms and shoulders. I have counted that to spot water the odd thing, deal with the big pots and then the small ones, and finally the seeds and seedlings, takes about 48 cans- and a full hour. Mind you, when it is this hot, I love that time of the morning just before 0800 when the air is fresh and cool, so although it sounds like a big chore, I actually love doing it.
Maurandya antirhiniflora is a charming slender seed-grown climber which has flowered for the first time. I have four small pots sitting in the big pot of ornamental orange, and they have been on the weedy side till this year, but are now twining delicately around the small orange tree, and looking very sweet indeed. Ranging in colour from dark blue, to this purple, to a soft pink, they are sporadic but worth the wait, and I love the way it dresses the orange, which by now is sometimes a bit on the twiggy side.
And two more trusted plants which come back bigger and better in pot-land. Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ is cheap as chips, and I love it more for its foliage than the delicate pink flowers. Brush against it, pick a leave and roll it in your fingers and you are in the souk in Fez or Aleppo immediately.
Plumbago auriculata needs an easy winter. Not too cold and not too dry, so I take it into the open barn which is usually just fine for it- enough cover to hold back the frost. It is a slow developer each year, looking like a depressed bunch of twigs right up till June and then it just begins to romp. It’s going to need a bigger pot next year. Thank you, Chloris, for your correction on this plant!
See.. .your mind turns so easily to next year….