This May has been a bit of a rollercoaster, and in these moments, it is hard not to become totally obsessed with the weather forecast, and then what actually happens- usually not at all as predicted. In summary, the dry soil sun-lovers have really enjoyed themselves and other things have not, some of which have hung on in there and one or two may have bitten the dust. This is because I don’t water. To be precise, I do spot-water things in extremis in their first year, but after that, I don’t. Stubborn or what, you might well say. But I am trying to finetune the selection and growing of plants that can live here unaided, and now that there is so much variability in the weather at any time of the year, it makes you feel a bit like William Tell trying to skewer that apple with both legs bound, and from a moving platform.
One of the plants that may have crashed and burnt is one of two Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’. Interestingly, the one that is in the ER wagon is the one in the slightly less hot spot. I so wanted to grow this plant, having chosen it years ago as part of a planting design for my diploma course- and it was the devil of a job to find it here in France. So I was mightily pleased when I found not one but two plants last year, and planted them in the early Spring. It is a delicate, airy columnar shrub, which is pretty undemanding and is reputed to cope with almost any conditions, especially frost. So, I will have to see if it will perk up from the bottom or find a way of making a comeback. Meantime, some gentle watering on occasion as it is in the ER wagon.
Some delights have also turned up. That is not to say that Verbascum bombyciferum is entirely a delight as it can plonk itself slapbang where you don’t want it, and then you have to keep beheading it as it is impossible to get out, with a giant root system that practically goes to Australia. But it is a mighty and impressive beast when it lands where you might not know that you want it, but you discover that you always did! With us, the first year is quite a small affair, and then, aged 1-2, the giant seems to leap fully formed out of the ground in front of your eyes. Felted, hairy and covered in custard-yellow small flowers, it is a one-stop insect feeding station. It keeps the form and stature right through winter until, totally dried out, it keels over and you are tempted to shout ‘Timber’.
Curiously, it has also been a great year for foxgloves- all self-sown and obviously selecting the parts of the garden where they stand a chance. That is one of the lovely things about not being too rigid about what goes on where, I love being surprised by what pops up and, also, flip side of the coin, by what doesn’t pop up. Some years, the foxgloves don’t make much of an appearance- but they always return in the end.
Now here is a survivor. Grown from seed and fairly weedy for a couple of years, this is the year where it has broken through youth to become a real plant of substance. I think it’s Euphorbia sikkimensis anyway. It’s at least 5 years ago that I grew it from seed and it wasn’t a happy sowing, as not much came up, and I lost the tag. This plant is the only survivor of three. But it really is worth it. It is going to make a handsome 1m tall and wide plant, with these electric yellow flower bracts that form on the top of each stem. Unlike some, it is not a thug, in fact, I would put it in the ‘shy and retiring’ category. It flowers much later than the rest- sometimes as late as the end of June, and it is willing to cope with the driest, sunniest spot in the garden without any visible complaint.