First day of cold wind, but sun, after the big storm Marcel passed over us at the weekend. The sun has brought the buds out on the Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata‘ just outside the back door, and the strong, deep scent is on the wind. This bush is now about 1.5m x 1.5m, having started out life as a 10cm twiglet about 12 years ago. It is a slow grower and takes all the heat of summer with its waxy, cream-lined leaves in a sharp green. It is in a spot that gets some afternoon shade in the summer and is not utterly bone-dry, but I do think that it is a tougher customer than many UK sites suggest. The flowers keep coming from now until the end of March or even a little longer, and when they are warmed by sun, the scent is gorgeous. I have planted another twiglet of it across the way from the big plant, but it is only 20 or so cms high as yet- best to leave it to grow away and then be surprised when it suddenly seems to appear one spring in the future.
Today I was planting out the plants I bought at Kate Dumbleton and Imogen Checketts nursery, ‘Le Jardin Champêtre’ in Caunes-Minervois, about 3.5 hours drive from us. I hope to do another blog post when I have had a chance to interview them, I am really interested in their approach to gardens and plants, and impressed with their feistiness in setting up here in Occitanie, the new name for our big region of Languedoc-Rousillon-Midi-Pyrenees. So more of their story anon.
I bought Phlomis Chrysophylla, the golden-leaved sage of Jerusalem. I adore Phlomis and have several, including another golden-leaved one, called Phlomis x termessii. The golden-ness comes with the summer growth, and it likes razor-sharp drainage and full sun. Right now, a junior, but it will make a good, rounded shrub of Im all round, maybe by the end of this year.
Another cistus- but they are such good plants and I haven’t got masses of them, so why not? This one is Cistus heterophyllus, which will probably get to 1.5m all round in the end. I find that the growth accelerates as the roots finally make it through the stony soil, and this might take 2 years or more. But, a pretty pink flowerer, and really reliable. Some say that they are short-lived, but I have not found this. Grow them hard and tough, and ignore them seems to work fine for me.
Salvia leucophylla was another purchase. I am becoming a bit of a Salvia nut, and so the chance to buy one that I hadn’t come across anywhere else was too tempting. This one is a Californian native, but from altitude, so it can handle more chill than some others. We will see. I’ve put it into the dry, stony, south-facing border, which has thrown off our month of -5C–7C with reasonable aplomb. It should make a 1.5m round shrub, with light bluey-purple flowers in early to midsummer. The leaves have a felted texture and looked great today in the sun, even in February.
And, lastly, because the smell of the crushed leaves, even in winter, is so evocative of a hot, dry summer, I bought Origanum syriacum. This is the herb that Ottolenghi uses in his za’atar mix, and is the wild oregano, staple of Lebanese and Palestinian cooking. The brilliant Millenium Seed Bank Partnership at Kew, has conserved seed as it is now endangered in the Lebanon. You can see from the link the importance of their work and how to help them to save seeds, and, even species outright. It is still at the back door while I try to choose the best place to plant it, near enough to pick and smell, and dry and stony enough for it to be happy.
So many portents of the summer to come in these four junior plants- I love that.