Mists and heat…

This week has been the week of the ‘June canicule’- in other words, serious heat. We have been lucky, half of the hot days have started with misty, damp mornings and we have not gone over 40C. Today, Sunday, it will cool back to the late 20s, which will be perfect. The misty mornings have been a relief and are rather magical, giving the garden a bit of respite from the overpowering sun.

The front garden early in the morning, Tostat, June 2019

I love this dahlia- I only have two, but this is one of them, Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’. The name is amazing, and so is the flower with furled dark blue/grey petals surrounding a brilliant golden centre. The first year, probably the bulbs were too tiny, produced nothing, but this year, the 3rd, the plant is getting into a swing with generous foliage and lots of buds. I didn’t take it in in the winter, I just left it in the pot and took my chances. Lucky me.

Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’, Tostat, June 2019

Mist and dew on bronze fennel, Tostat, June 2019

The dew has been heavy and luxurious, almost like a small shower of rain. The bronze fennel catches the dew beautifully and shines with each droplet.

Cobweb on Echinops sphaerocephalus ‘Arctic Glow’, Tostat, June 2019

The dew and damp has brought out the summer spiders, creating their connections between plants, and draping some, like the Echinops sphaerocephalus ‘Arctic Glow’ above. This is a plant that pleases more by it’s vigour and form than by the often short-lived flowerheads, but the darkly outlined cut leaves are present for a long time and work like fake thistles in the garden.

Romneya coulteri, Tostat, June 2019

Romneya coulteri is a plant with a tremendous capacity for life- as long as you plant it where it wants to be- in full sun, poor soil and don’t even think about watering it. But if you move it, it will turn up it’s toes and die- best to buy a small plant, a baby, and then let it grow in situ. It will take a year or two to flower, but then you will have beautiful glaucous greeny-blue foliage and these colossal chiffon flowers like the best Spanish fried egg, crinkly and delicious. It is a bit of a thug, hence why people do try and move them, me included. What will happen if you are lucky is that a piece will stubbornly refuse to be dug up, and next year you can start again with a new baby plant sitting where it wants to be. Give it space, or pin it back with another tough shrub, and all will be well.

Salvia ‘Ton Ter Linden’, Tostat, June 2019

This is a really fabulous Salvia, ‘Ton Ter Linden’. It is a deep purply-red, not quite captured above, and has a drapey habit, so that it could almost be called a tumbling salvia. I picked it out at our local nursery, the wonderful Bernard Lacrouts, mainly for the habit and the deep, dark colour. It is a newish variety, bred in the Netherlands, and named for the famous artist and gardener, Ton Ter Linden. He led the way, along with Henk Gerritsen and Piet Oudolf, towards a more naturalistic style of perennial planting that is loosely called the Dutch New Wave. Another garden on the list….

Sanguisorba ‘Cangshan Cranberry’, Tostat, June 2019

In the same colour band is my almost favourite Sanguisorba, ‘Cangshan Cranberry’– and the moment when the flowerheads fill up with colour is one of my most anticipated summer moments. I don’t have it in the best place, as the massive banana behind it decks it with water when we have heavy rain, but it is the only place where it will be happy- so there we are. At nearly 1.5m it is a tall plant, but wispy and wavy, and takes a few years to bulk up- but all worth the wait. Dan Hinkley found this plant in Yunnan, China in 1996. I am so glad that he did.

Telekia speciosa, Tostat, June 2019

I love this workhorse plant. Every summer, I feel bound to try and increase the fan club membership for Telekia speciosa, as it is such a good reliable plant, and virtually unknown next to the more famous contender in the big-yellow-daisy stakes, Inula magnifica.

Salvia cacaliifolia, Tostat, June 2019

Another new Salvia! Salvia cacaliifolia has charming, triangular-shaped leaves and the bluest of blue branching flower spikes- curiously, it has no Salvia smell about it either. New to me, so I can’t offer much in the way of experience, but I am really enjoying it. It likes a little shade, but other than that, is not demanding.

Cephalaria gigantea, which has been a lovely surprise this June, has found the last week too hard for it, so it is fading fast. Celebrate it with a last photograph after early morning spider activity.

Cephalaria gigantea in the heat and the mist, Tostat, June 2019

Another reason to be happy is another surprise development. A stunningly successful germination rate 3 years ago of Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizard’ led to rather boastful behaviour on my part- and thence to the punishment of my hubris by the total failure of all the plants to re-appear in the Spring. Aha! Four small plants must have been hanging on in there, as this week up they popped. I am so pleased. My friend EBee will also be delighted. I adore the chocolate flower head and the golden ruff- magnificent, though not necessarily in a floral way.

Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizard’, Tostat, June 2019
2 days later, with golden ruff, ‘Green Wizard’, Tostat, June 2019

Giants and troopers…

Two days of persistent rain last week. At Tostatenfleur, we finished planting up the Tostadium, our local cycle circuit, in the pouring rain, a labour of love. Otherwise, I have been venturing out to find the garden moving into gigantic mode- I have never seen the planting so tall. I love tall, as a short person I am clearly searching for world domination in plant height as I myself can’t do it! We have had hollyhocks that are easily 8 feet tall, and Centaurea gigantea that is hitting that and more. It’s not called ‘gigantea’ for nothing.

Catalpa bignoides flowering at Sombrun, June 2019

Ok, Catalpa bignoides is not a good example of what I am talking about as it will be colossal anyway, but here I am, arms fully extended, trying to ctach the huge blossoms that are so striking. If they were nearer the ground, it could compete with hibicus. Generous cream cups, with dark striations and a few golden spots- really rather gorgeous. Our friends at Sombrun kindly gave me two seedlings all potted up- with the recommendation that, in years to come, I could coppice the catalpa to keep it small and create dinner-plate sized leaves. Sounds great to me. Now I have to keep them alive to get to that point.

Cenolophium denudatum, Tostat, June 2019

In the cow-parsley stakes, but a delicate and refined competitor, is Cenolophium denudatum. I grew it from seed years ago, and I have moved it round the garden rather a lot. I need to let it consolidate growth where it is, and probably need to grow some more from seed, as it is a classy plant. Feathery foliage, green fading to cream umbels, and the insects adore it- it is a polite plant, finding ways to fit in with other plants, and reaching about 1m tall maximum.

Liriope muscari ‘Okina’, Tostat, June 2019

This Liriope muscari ‘Okina’ is new to me this year, and was quite a pricey purchase. In the Stumpery, the shady, dry spot where I grow ferns and whatnot, I have a spectacular rose that I have often talked about, Rosa ‘Marguerite, Reine d’Italie’– a carmine hybrid tea that just flowers ten months of the year in the terrible, stony, soil. Underneath it, I had tried to encourage Acanthus ‘Whitewater’ to grow. Three years showed me that it was not a happy bunny there. So, it has come out, and made way for this Liriope. It produces this pure white foliage through the older green foliage and is very distinctive, I think. No flowers yet, but it has only been in a few months. I hope that it will gradually colonise underneath the rose.

Phlomis purpurea, Tostat, June 2019

This year has been a major year for Phlomis. All adored the weird hot February, and the rain has come at precisely the right moment for Phlomis purpurea and Phlomis Samia. The latter is a slightly tricky customer, apt to die back suddenly and inexplicably, but can usually be persuaded to re-boot from the rest of the plant that stays alive. The rain has really accentuated the colouring to a vibrant, soft mauve- in the dry, it can become almost biscuit-coloured. If you have a hot spot with razor-sharp drainage, the world of Phlomis is open for you to romp in. Such a great group of plants. Phlomis Samia is just opening, so will be appearing in the next post.

Veronica longifolia, Tostat, June 2019

I have been disappointed by this plant, Veronica longifolia, in the past. I grew it from seed maybe four years ago, and I planted it hither and thither where I though it would enjoy conditions, and it has never quite hit it’s stride. But this year it is looking good- it makes a gentle mound of slightly floppy blue flowerspires- and planted close to the much taller Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Lavendelturm’ it suddenly looks sound and in the right place. Maybe it just needed the time to get settled in.

Santolina etrusca, Tostat, June 2019

Never mind the big pot with the vibrant maroon leaves in it, I am talking about the fluffy green stuff beside it. Santolina etrusca has been fantastic in it’s second year. This was a real fiddle to grow. Tiny seeds grew into microscopic seedlings, so many of them that I nearly collapsed from the effort of potting them up. All overwintered outside in the cold and wet winter, but all, remaining tiny, were planted up in various inhospitably dry, hot spots last year. This year, what a delight. Fresh, green foliage, gorgeous hospital smell, and later on, there will be tiny cream dot-flowerheads. No watering, no nothing.

Thinking about laziness and sustainability…

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Verbascum nigrum with white valerian, white lychnis and achillea millefolium in the New Garden, Tostat, June 2019

Quite a bit of the garden has lived through one-arm gardening this year.  Generally, this means that I haven’t done my thorough spring weed clearance, and so the early weeds have regained some territory.  But I should not despair.

Reading Thomas Rainer‘s approach to gardening sustainably,  I have found some solace. He suggests that the garden can be seen as a meeting point between plants that we insert as gardeners and the natural response of the terrain to the conditions of life.  Most terrain is populated by plants already when we garden- and we are removing the plants that are linked to that terrain and eco-system, replacing them with others that may not. 

I am cutting to the chase here as Rainer uses science and botany to develop these themes.  So, in my case, the early spring growing and covering of the ground with annual plants/weeds that I did not plant is part of the ecological balance of the ground I work.  Rainer, I think, would argue that the essence of modern sustainable gardening is the point of equilibrium we can create as we balance the insertion of the plants we want with the plants that already exist there.  He would probably also be able to demonstrate that the plants I remove have an ecological function for the terrain, retaining humidity and microbiological balance.  He is looking for a more fluid and sensitive approach to gardening which works with nature rather than being in battle with it.

Take the New Garden in the photograph above.  A month or so ago, I felt that it had really run away with me irretrievably.  All the usual suspects were back and in action, and my new plantings from last year were overwhelmed.  But, now, the balance has changed.  My plants, the Achillea millefolium in particular, have surged into growth and the annual suspects are dying back.  It would still look a bit messy close-up to the Percy Thrower gardener (British TV gardener of the sixties much loved as a suburban gardening hero)- but I am wondering whether ripping out the usual suspects in Spring may not actually be damaging the resilience of this dry, hot area.

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Achillea millefolium, New Garden, Tostat, June 2019

The puritan work ethic in me wonders whether I am just developing a serious case of post one-armed gardening laziness.  But I am dismissing this thought, and going with Rainer.  I think that the dying suspects will end up mulching the ground around/between the plants, and once the heat is up (soon) nothing new will insert itself in there.  I will let you know.

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Verbascum nigrum close-up, New Garden, Tostat, June 2019

I grew some Verbascum nigrum from seed a couple of years ago, and they are still giving.  I adore the up-close exoticism of the cerise and orange stamens, and the stateliness of the bearing.  The flowerheads last for at least a month, slowly opening bottom to top.  I also have some white ones, which have popped up in another part of the garden.  What a pay-back.

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Verbascum nigrum album, Tostat, June 2019

Another surprise returner this year has been Centaurea, popping up to give little hits of colour as if I had sprinkled them there myself.  I grew Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’ last year which is a gorgeous deep maroon, almost black.  I have quite a few returnees of ‘Black Ball’ and, also some of the regular blue have appeared.  A sort of seed reversion I guess, but I don’t mind.

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Ceantaurea, Tostat, June 2019

Ali, the Mindful Gardener, thank you Ali, recommended this great plant to me last year, and so I bought seed.  Erodium manescavii came through easily, and is just beginning to flower.  At first, it doesn’t over-inspire, but now that the plants have settled in and are filling out the space, I can see that it will be a good choice.  Tufty, divided leaves spread out from a crown, and the flowers shoot up, a little hardy geranium-like, but a good size.  I don’t have it in the driest spot, but it is fairly dry all the same, so I will report back as the summer develops.

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Erodium manescavii, Tostat, June 2019

Early morning sun can be wonderful.  Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’– thank you Karen from Marsac, made a lovely crown for Rosa ‘LD Braithwaite’ the other morning.  The Pennisetum is easy, fuss-free, and does well in a sunny, well-drained spot.  Rosa ‘LD Braithwaite’ is getting better and better by the year, our stony soil takes a while to allow newcomers in- I just need to deadhead more often.

Good that I am almost back to two-armed gardening.

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Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ and Rosa ‘LD Braithwaite’ in tandem, Tostat, June 2019

Creams and colours…

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Cephalaria gigantea, Tostat, June 2019

Two years ago, at this time of year,  we joined in with the ‘Gardens in the Wild’ festival in Herefordshire, and visited about half a dozen gardens over the weekend.  So many good things to see and plants to take in- one of which popped up in various of the gardens, and I adored it.  Cephalaria gigantea won my heart, for slender but tall stature and creamy lemon flowers.   Insects adored it, and so did I.  From seed, it has taken me two years to get flowering plants- they grow so high that I would need a ladder to look down into them, and so you can imagine, two years is what it takes to build up a solid root base.  Unknowingly, I mixed them in with seedlings of Thalictrum flavum glaucum– but I think that the two giants get on rather well.  They are in the most moist part of the garden, so this summer will tell if they can take it.

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Dorycnium hirsutum ‘Frejorgues’, Tostat, June 2019

Dorycnium hirsutum ‘Frejorges’ is a slow-burn plant.  Needing sharp drainage, full sun and poor soil to do best, I was not bowled over it by intially.  But, growing slowly over 2 years, to make a crinkled silvery-green mound, and this year, flowering for the first time (unless I just have forgotten) with creamy pea-type flowers, it has earned it’s place in the garden.

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Jardin de la Poterie Hillen, Thermes-Magnoac, June 2019

The best bit from Jardin de la Poterie Hillen last week was….this view.  It was jammed with people- note to self, don’t bother with Portes Ouvertes days, find another time.  I really liked the shaped shrubs, the bench, the slim cypresses behind, the lilypad bowl and the three weathered uprights that sounded like metal, but felt quite light to the touch.  Material therefore unknown.  I also liked this rather florid clematis- baroque swags of flowers absolutely saved by their cool creamy green colouring, Clematis florida Alba Plena.  A good combination.  On the list.

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Clematis florida Alba Plena, Jardin de la Poterie Hillen, Thermes-Magnoac, June 2019

Back home, the trooper plants are blooming.  Both are Lychnis, the top one, Salmonea, I grew from seed a few years back which I got from the Hardy Plant Society and it is just beginning to self-seed gently in the mixed planting under the cherry tree.  The bottom one is the more common, scarlet chalcedonica– which I also grew from seed, and it gives a real flash of scarlet.  Nothing demure about it at all.  Easy and tough as old boots.

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Lychnis chalcedonica Salmonea, Tostat, June 2019

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Lychnis chalcedonica, Tostat, June 2019

In the Mix, the alliums are over but still making a great vertical against the Stipa tenuissima.  In the morning light, the effect is magical, golden, slender, wafting against the green of the emerging Miscanthus sinensis Strictus– not yet producing the golden zebra stripes that I love.  The Miscanthus has been waiting for heat so far this summer.

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The Mix with Stipa tenuissima and seedhead of Allium nigrum, Tostat, June 2019

In the cool, semi-shady conditions of the Bee garden in Peebles last month, self-sown  and spreading Camassia leichtlinii, don’t know the variety, were taking over beautifully from the Scottish bluebells.  My friend has them planted in and amongst a crimson-leaved acer, and the light filtering through the acer picks out the Camassia beautifully.  Irresistable.  But they must be resisted.  Tostat would bring certain death to moisture-loving Camassia.

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Camassia leichtlinii, Peebles, May 2019

But, close in colour, though again an unknown variety, that I got as a cutting from Jardin d’Antin nearby to us- is the plummy, purply, blue of this statuesque Penstemon- the orange background kindly donated by the spreading branches of the unknown orange Abutilon.

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Unknown Penstemon, from Jardin d’Antin, Tostat, June 2019

A week ago, I was talking about the Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ and Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’.  Here is a photograph of the quieter, less-in-your-face flowers of ‘Husker Red’- not creamy in my case, more of a pale mauve I would say, but pretty all the same, and flowering for the first time after growing from seed 2 years ago.  I am looking forward to seeing how the plants themselves develop.

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Penstemon Huskers Red, Tostat, June 2019

This coral-red Salvia is new to me, Salvia dichlamys.  The colouring has that electric quality that you get in the purple-mauve of Verbena bonariensis- it really speaks to you.  I shall be very happy to take cuttings later in the summer, and see what happens when brought in for winter.

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Salvia dichlamys, Tostat, June 2019

Nostalgia at Greenbank Garden, Glasgow…

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Euphorbia griffithii, Greenbank Gardens, Glasgow, May 2019

Last month, whilst in Scotland, I visited Greenbank Garden in Glasgow- well, right on the very edge of Glasgow really, nestled amongst the slivers of farmland that separate Newton Mearns from Clarkston.  This is a National Trust Scotland property, a small but perfectly formed mid 18th century mansion house (not open) and the grounds that surround it, including a walled garden, other garden areas and woodland spaces that beguile you into thinking you are in the countryside.  Intended to offer inspiration to home gardeners, the NTS have retained a relaxed, non-modish style of planting- reminiscent of Scottish country houses in the 1950s almost.

I have very fond memories of this garden.  Nearly 30 years ago, we lived nearby, renting a tiny, damp cottage in Waterfoot Row, and visiting Greenbank became a bit like popping next door.  I remember pushing the pram up the country road with my eldest daughter as a baby- and so it was fun to revisit it with her last month, especially as she is developing a real love of gardening, growing and plants.

So, here are some of the plants, trees and shrubs that caught my eye on a cool but sunny day in Glasgow in May.  I loved the soft red of this Chaenomeles x superba ‘Knapp Hill Scarlet’, and it enjoys the cool, damper conditions of Scotland.  A Victorian introduction, it is perfectly chosen for an historic garden.

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Chaenomeles x superba ‘Knapp Hill Scarlet’, Greenbank Gardens, Glasgow, May 2019

This Cornus mas Variegata was just breaking open the cool, white new foliage, which will deepen in tone a little and develop green and cream tints in the summer.  I didn’t know this small tree, but it sounds like my kind of tough customer, with the added bonus of yellow spring blossom which forms small, hard fruit in the autumn.  It makes great fruit jelly apparently.  Not for full sun, but otherwise tough.  It goes on the list for the future.

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Cornus mas Variegata, Greenbank Gardens, Glasgow, May 2019

This magnificent magnolia is perfect for Scotland.  Flowering as late as mid-summer, Magnolia wilsonii probably avoids any sneaky last minute frosts, and the flowers are spectacular, being the purest white like crumpled linen, with dark red centres.  I have only seen this tree twice, here at Greenbank and also at Dawyck Botanical Gardens- and it is one to stand under and savour.  It was brought back from China in 1904 by the famous plant hunter, Ernest Henry (Chinese) Wilson– hence the name.

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Magnolia wilsonnii, Greenbank Gardens, Glasgow, May 2019

Me and conifers don’t mix well.  I love tall, slim conifers for their Italian look, and Scots Pine for their drama and beauty in the landscape, but otherwise, I am not a great fan.  But, at Greenbank, there were a couple of surprises that made me eat my hat.  I have had to research the beautiful cones and growth below, as I had no idea what this plant was. I am pretty sure that this is Abies balsamea nana from some hard internet trawling.  I was drawn to it for the drama of the dark, upright cones, almost purple in colour, and the pale-green contrasting needles of the new growth.  Perfect for Scotland, it is a a low-growing dwarf of the big version, liking semi-shade and acidic soil.

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Abies balsamea nana, Greenbank Gardens, Glasgow, May 2019

Sir Isaac Newton liked his crabapples.  This tree was propagated from a baby Malus that came from the very Malus that grew in Newton’s garden.  So, whilst it may not be the most unusual plant ever, it carries some real history.

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Malus domestica, propagated from Sir Isaac Newton’s tree, Greenbank Gardens, Glasgow, May 2019

I obviously can’t grow Rodgersia in Tostat.  I did try though.  One tiny sprig hangs on and pops up every year, only to give up a few weeks later.  The sun and shade on the burnished leaves of this Rodgersia podophylla caught my eye- gorgeous.

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Rodgersia podophylla, Greenbank Gardens, Glasgow, May 2019

I am successful with some hardy geraniums.  I haven’t tried Geranium ‘renardii’ or any of its offshoots, but the clean purple striation was lovely, as well as the star-shaped separation of the petals- a pretty stylish customer, I thought.  It needs more moisture, I think, than I can guarantee it with my no-watering policy.

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Geranium renardii, Greenbank Gardens, Glasgow, May 2019

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Salix lanata, Greenbank Gardens, Glasgow, May 2019

This little Salix lanata really charmed me.  The soft, fluffiness of the catkins, with their bold, upright stance, and the felted leaves was a lovely combination.

And the next day we tackled urban gardening using fabric pots, and recycled wood and stones.  It was a lovely thing to be a helper.

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Gardening in Langside, Glasgow, May 2019

June goings-on…

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The Mix, caught in early sunlight, Tostat, June 2019

At this time of year, the light becomes so bright that photography is an early morning or late evening activity. The light creeps over the house in the morning like a ranging searchlight, and the other day, it was the right place and the right time.  Standing by the Mix, my now 3 year old perennial planting with the occasional small shrub and grass, the sun spotlit the tops of the clumps of perennials, picking out the Monarda fistulosa and the Lychnis chalcedonica ‘Salmonea’ as the tallest in town just yet.  This area has been a real experiment- made even more experimental this year by the one-armed bandit requirement of ‘no weeding’.  About 6 weeks ago, it looked pretty awful.  But now, with the rain and sun we have had, the perennials are powering upwards, and, unless you have a pair of binoculars, you mostly can’t see any serious weed activity.  There is a lesson here for the future.

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Papaver somniferum, from Biddy Radford, Tostat, June 2019

This has been a good year for self-seeding- another bonus for one-armed gardening.  Opium poppies, Papaver somniferum, have popped themselves all over the gravel paths and into some of the more orthodox places as well. As self-seeders, you can get years when the colours are very washed out- but this year has been loads better with good mauves and soft pinks.  The bees and insects love them- and I do, for their unfurling architecture as much as for the flowers.

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Unfurling Opium poppy and Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’, Tostat, June 2019

Playing with Penstemons has become a bit of an obsession.  I grew some Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ from seed the year before last, and so with the wait, this is the beginning of seeing the plant in action.  Slim, upright growth, dark beetroot colouring on the stems and leaves, and buds which are creamy-yellow.  Not yet a big player, but with potential.  I also bought some Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ a cross between ‘Husker Red’ and ‘Prairie Splendour’.  Now this is a big, beefy plant.  Strong upright, dark crimson, darker than ‘Husker Red’, stems and leaves, altogether bigger and more imposing, and then, on filigreed stems, big pale mauve flowers. So far, so very good.  Not yet tested for drought tolerance, but that will come.

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Trifolium rubens, Tostat, June 2019

Two years ago, visiting the stunning gardens at Kentchurch Court, I was seriously smitten by what seemed like giant clover flowers on speed.  It was a variety of Trifolium, and so I have been growing some from seed since last summer, and it is just about to flower.  This is the species form of Trifolium ochroleucon– more to follow.  But, I have also bought plants of two more Trifoliums, Trifolium rubens and Trifolium pannonicum ‘White Tiara’.  Both are doing well so far in their first year, seeming to cope well with the conditions- the true test will come.

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Trifolium pannonicum ‘White Tiara’, Tostat, June 2019

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Philadelphus ‘Starbright’, Tostat, June 2019

A bargain basement buy this year in the new area, still covered in cardboard, and holding its own, is a newish variety of Philadelphus called ‘Starbright’.  A recent Canadian selection, it has dark-red stems and strong, single white flowers and is very cold and drought tolerant- hence my giving it a go.

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Phlomis longifolia var. bailanica with Allium nigrum behind and a sprinkling of Dianthus cruentus, Tostat, June 2019

This has been the year of the Phlomis- all my plants have adored the weather and conditions.  Phlomis longifolia var.bailanica has doubled in size, and has emptied the custard tin over itself, with incredible Birds Custard coloured flower heads.  I am responsible only for the Phlomis and the Allium nigrum, also enjoying life- the Dianthus cruentus is self-seeded, I think from a few feet away.

Tomorrow, we are off to visit Jardin de la Poterie Hillen– this should be a lovely garden day with great patisserie as well.  Not to be knocked.  And some splendid planting, such as this extraordinary rose, Rosa ‘Pacific Dream’, photographed by my friend Martine in case I missed it….

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Rosa ‘Pacific Dream’ Jardin de la Poterie Hillen, Thermes-Magnoac 65, June 2019.  Photo credit: Martine Garcia

 

 

 

 

 

All in the blue…

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Native bluebells in the sun and shade of Dawyck Botanical Gardens, Scotland, May 2019

Just back from a lovely 10 days in Scotland, visiting old friends and family.   The weather was, well, Scottish, with one or two exceptions, but visiting old haunts and memories, telling stories with old friends and family is always good for the soul.  For those who have not been to Dawyck Botanical Gardens (pronounced Doik), near Peebles in the Borders- here are some very good reasons for going there.

Firstly, it is a beautiful, unfiddled-with woodland and glen landscape with good gardening going on in it.  Secondly, it has a grand tearoom and outdoor space to enjoy your soup and scone or sticky bun.  You need to know that I enjoyed both!  Blue was the colour that drew me on this visit.  The native bluebells were everywhere, nestling into the shade and the sun alike.  A gorgeous mist of blue was everywhere.  The native bluebell is not a showy thing, the colour is actually quite pale, and so the blue mist is only possible because the plants have colonised and spread massively over the years.

Green was also good.  Sharp, bright green on the emerging foliage everywhere, and Dawyck has a wonderful collection of trees from all over the world as well as native specimens.  Shuttlecock ferns, Matteucia struthiopteris, were powering up in the semi-shade, almost an army of green soldiers ready to set out on campaign.

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The shuttlecock fern, Matteucia struthiopteris, Dawyck Botanical Gardens, Scotland, May 2019

But the king of blue, the Himalayan poppy, Meconopsis ‘Slieve Donard’ was gloriously flowering in large masses, both in the semi-shade and, surprisingly, the bright sun.

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Meconopsis Slieve Donard, Dawyck Botanical Gardens, Scotland, May 2019

Blue poppies are such a haunting colour.  The delicacy of the petals belie the strength of the plants, I think, and the colour, especially if caught by light, is irridescent.  ‘Slieve Donard’ makes for quite a stately plant, flowerstalks reaching at least 90 cms, and whilst infertile, which probably increases the flowerpower, it clumps up well and is easily propogated  by division.  I have never grown it, but wish I had.

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Meconopsis Slieve Donard in the sun, Dawyck Botanical Gardens, Scotland, May 2019

Clean air doth good lichen make.  The trees were covered with what looked like fur.  I loved the contrast between dark stems and trunks, and the pale green froth of the lichen.

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Trees cloaked in pale, mysterious lichen, Dawyck Botanical Gardens, Scotland, May 2019

Close up, it really does look like foam…

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The foaming quality of the lichen close-up, Dawyck Botanical Gardens, Scotland, May 2019

The blue theme was hypnotic to the eye, and I probably missed all sorts of other less showy triumphs being caught by the blue.  But I did manage to catch one or two other lovely things.  This delicate, arching berberis, Berberis lepidifolia, was really beautiful.  The surprise being the small, hanging yellow flowers, like tiny lanterns- a bit like Euonymus or spindlebush flowers- which bobbed gracefully in the breeze.  It was collected by the great plantsman, George Forrest, who travelled from Scotland to Yunan in China in 1904 and made 6 more expeditions before his death in 1932, bringing back many plants that grow in our gardens today.

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Delicate arching Berberis lepidifolia, Dawyck Botanical Gardens, Scotland, May 2019

I love them in other people’s gardens, especially in Scotland, but they are not for me- the rhododendron and the azalea are not my cup of tea.  But the fragrance from Rhododendron luteum was like warm honey on the wind at Dawyck.  It is a slimmer, finer flower than some of the more blowsy rhodos- much more to my liking.

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Rhododendron luteum, Dawyck Botanical Gardens, May 2019

Another plant that I have never grown, is the Trillium.  Dawyck has substantial plantings of the classic crimson, Trillium erectum and Trillium grandiflorum, which has a delicate pink mottle to the white flowers as they age.

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Trillium erectum, Dawyck Botanical Gardens, May 2019

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Trillium grandiflorum, Dawyck Botanical Gardens, Scotland, May 2019

By the way, the Dawyck tearoom has the richest, most gingery parkin I have ever tasted.  The complete garden visit really.