This year, with so much caramelised garden around me, I am very grateful for the bright and sunny feel that the late unknown Helianthus is offering to the garden. I used to have massive colonies of it, but over the years, I have resisted it’s charms and turned my head away, ripping much of it out for ‘better’ plants. But, eating quantities of humble pie, I realise that this tall, wiry tough plant has much to offer with late flowering, bright, jolly colouring and an absolutely bomb-proof manner. So, though I wouldn’t return to the vast thickets of it that I used to have, I think it is quite fabulous as a spot-planted, intermingled plant, just dotted about and bringing general jollity. I apologise unreservedly.
Meantime, cutting back the burnt bits and allowing for the beginnings of new growth for next year is the priority for the next few cooler days. We have had two days of really heavy rain, which at last has penetrated more than a couple of centimetres beneath the baked crust.
And that early division of some Stachys ‘Hummelo’ that I tried out a couple of weeks back having been a great success, I similarly tackled some discounted Nepeta grandiflora ‘Zinser’s Giant’ and some Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’, and am about to do the same again for some Doronicum orientale ‘Little Leo’ that I also bought cheaply. Cross fingers for all of these. I had one spectacular failure in the seed-growing department, and that was Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’, so when I saw the reduced plants at Promesse de fleurs, I jumped at them and hope that my brutal saw and chop tactics of early division pay off. These are all new varieties to me, so no home-grown photographs yet.
But the rain has enabled me to finally get going with the restoration of my lapsed Labyrinth project. All of 3 years ago, I dug out and created the beginnings of the five-circuit labyrinth in the back garden. It seems like aeons ago. I used to joke that you would have to be ‘Donald Trump’ to buy plants to plant it up. Joke has gone rather sour now. But the essence is that I chose to plant it with Carex buchananii ‘Red Rooster’ which I thought would be way tough enough to cope with full sun and limited water. The first year’s seed planting was great and produced about 75% of the plants that I needed, which was a good start.
But the second year’s seed-planting was a disaster, and in the meantime, hotter, drier summers seemed to be accelerating every year. So, with weed invading and plants struggling, I decided to go for a change of plant, over to the tried and tested Panicum virgatum and keep the Carex that made it, but essentially continue with the Panicum. A more mongrel look, you might say. This year, with 130 healthy and good-looking Panicum virgatum plants at the ready, I am carrying on- after much trial and tribulation.
I am embarrassed to publish a photograph of how it looks right now, but I think I will be strong enough to brave the challenge in a couple of months once the Panicums have had a chance to settle in. I think this could be a story of adversity and and not losing heart after all.