Some of it still looks like this, Tostat, July 2017
Yes. Some of it still looks like this, but an awful lot of it doesn’t- as in ‘toasted’. Of course, I am the one heralding the new dawn of ‘summer-dry’ gardening, whilst at the same time bemoaning the dried out, crisp-like state of what I see in my own garden. It just goes to show that changing the aesthetic, changing the way you see things, ain’t so easy. In my logical, rational head, I know that everything I see roasted in front of me will re-grow next year, and that I get another year of grace to find a better balance between growing plants and weeds, between plants that thrive in hot,dry conditions and those that don’t. But emotionally, it’s a bit on the gutting side- and that’s me indulging in British under-estimation and stiff-upper-lipness. Humbug. So, roll on the day that my book bought at vast expense from the US Ebay arrives, and helps me work this all out. Should be arriving this week.
So, there is only one thing to do. Indulge in the Russian Roulette of growing new things from seed for next year- you can tell that being a glutton for punishment is a personal trait. So, I thought I would cheer myself up by writing about what I am trying out and why, and I might finish with a couple of very cheering photos from my friend, Colin the photographer.
Centaurea cyanara ‘Black Boy’ seeds, Tostat, July 2017
These did make me smile an hour ago. Looking for all the world like a miniature group of upmarket shaving brushes, these tiny seeds have just gone in a tray. A few words about growing from seed might not go amiss. Not that I am in a position to claim expertise here, but I am improving year on year.
First off, I use trays that I buy on Ebay, sometimes they have to be smuggled in in hand luggage if the postage costs are exorbitant. Then I use a purpose-made seed compost. I could make my own, but getting good-sized grit is a problem here, and so I don’t. I haven’t got a bigger tray to soak them in, so once the compost is in, I spray heftily with a mister, leave the tray for 15 minutes or so so that any excess drips out, and then I sow or sprinkle finely depending on the size of the seed. The main thing is to make sure that the seeds have contact with the moist seed compost- so push them lightly or cover with a fine layer of aquarium grit, the only thing (very pricey!) that I have found that is fine enough for this.
Then I mist again, and leave them in a place with a constant temperature of around 20C- which works for most seeds I find. This can be outdoors in the covered barn just now or on a bedroom windowledge if earlier or later in the year. Then you wait, and develop your patience muscle. Annuals might pop in a week, perennials can take much much longer and be erratic. But the first sight of a little green something or other pushing through the grit is such a thrill. You can tell I don’t get out much.
So what am I trying this year? Well, the appearance of a stray Centaurea cynara ‘Black Boy’ in a strange place earlier this summer, so maybe not down to me, reminded of what a pretty thing it is. Chiltern Seeds are one of my favourites.
Also from Chiltern Seeds came Linaria vulgaris. I think that this could really work for me, tough, undemanding sun-lover for poor soil, and I fell for it at the Ludlow Food Centre.
Linaria vulgaris and Stipa tennuissima, Ludlow Food Centre, June 2017
I can’t quite remember why I liked the look of this, but I thought, well, why not? Silene laciniata ‘Jack Flash’ seemed like a good idea to take over when the Dianthus deltoides ‘Flashing Light’ has finished, so for less than the price of a cuppa….from Thompson and Morgan.
Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ comes from Nebraska/Missouri and is supposed to be really up for wet, cold winters and hot, humid summers- now this might mean that we don’t have enough water in the summer, but I am giving it a go. I like it’s style, dark foliage and pale, luminous flowers. The RHS like it for pollinators, tick. Seed from Thompson and Morgan again.
And lastly, Cephalaria gigantea– which I raved about in a recent post about Kiftsgate. I saw it amazingly upright despite fierce wind and rain, and so, although it runs the risk of being decked, I am going to try. Of course, all of this may come to nought, but equally, I could end up with 20 good plants of each. Let’s stay positive.
Cephalaria gigantea, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017
Leaving you with some colour….my friend Colin, the photographer, has been out and about in Gloucestershire at Cotswold Lavender.