Foggy bottom…

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Foggy Tostat, January 1st 2019

I love a New Year.  All that fresh thinking, new ideas, new plants to try out, new projects simmering is one big energy rush.  But today rather let me down- we have been surrounded by fog for the last 3 days, not unusual in the winter as we are in a river valley- but winter has suddenly turned up and is making a rather glum job of it.  Having decided to risk some more on-the-tender-side things in the garden since we came back from Australia, I rushed out this afternoon with fleece and secateurs, cutting back luxurious growth and fleecing the riskier items.  I have a feeling that they will be just fine, and I was sad to cut back Salvia ‘Anthony Parker’ which has been magnificent since October probably, though we missed a large slice of it.

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Only the merest hint of cold on the leaves, and all these fabulous flowerheads still going strong, Salvia ‘Anthony Parker’, Tostat, 1st January 2019

But he is a Californian, and so it was too much to expect that the show could go on- but I am hoping that staying in the ground might get him off to an earlier start this year.

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Salvia ‘Amistad’, Tostat, January 1st, 2019

I am leaving Salvia ‘Amistad’ a bit longer as it is a good deal more tough than ‘Anthony Parker’.

These are isolated moments of flowering I hasten to add- 90% of the garden is looking brown and winter-worn, but the star of the moment is a real surprise.  I bought a rather spindly, much reduced specimen of Cestrum elegans rubrum last winter, and put it just underneath the great over-hang of the pine tree with a wall behind it for some warmth- figuring that the over-hang will give it some frost protection as it is not that robust.  But right now, it is covered with flowerheads, and looks really good from the foliage point of view.

Of course, this does reflect the warm temperatures we have been having, from 9-19C in the last month during the day, so we will see.  I don’t think it is a great looker from the foliage end of things, but the flowerheads are big, carmine, and long-lasting- very exotic-looking.

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Cestrum elegans rubrum, Tostat, January 1st 2019

I have a bit of a thing about Abutilons.  Some might find them a bit rangy and straggly, I don’t, but I know what the decriers mean.  But I love the way that the flowering stems swag, and this year I mean to do more to give them support that will show them off better.  This unknown orange abutilon is more bushy than most and so gives a solid, but not dull, presence in a sunny, hot spot.  It is still covered with flowerheads.

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Unknown orange abutilon, Tostat, January 1st 2019

There are more isolated flowerheads on Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’ which is much more of a straggler.  But the flowerheads are like threads of party lanterns- and the bright yellow combined with the dark fuchsia pink is very pretty.  I need to get some more rebar to bend into supports for it this year.  And new to me last year was Abutilon ‘Red Trumpet’ which has produced a new flowerhead despite the fog.  It looks to me as if this variety will be more bushy in form.

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Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’, Tostat, January 1st 2019
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Abutilon ‘Red Trumpet’, Tostat, January 1st 2019

So, with cuttings to settle in from ‘Anthony Parker’ and seeds coming in the post, there is plenty to look forward to.  Gardening is such a kind activity, it forgives your mistakes and let’s you start over.  That is a good thought to face the fog with.

All for the price of a coffee…

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Helenium autumnale ‘Helena’, Tostat, July 2018

I adore growing plants from seed.  Well, there can be disastrous times, like this Spring for example, or just ‘nil return’ after peering anxiously at the seedtray for what seems like ages.  But some seeds just seem to germinate generously and readily, popping up with abandon into the world.

So, it is probably best to expect a 50/50 return- but if there are 200 seeds in the packet, you could be swamped.  Two years ago, I grew 80 or so small plants of Echinacea ‘Green Wizard’ from seed, in my hubris I even sent some small plants to a friend.  Hubris it was.  This year, after our soaking and cold Spring, I have only seen one measly specimen come back in the garden.  So, I think the best approach with seeds starts with total humbleness and then thankfulness.

This Spring, I planted out about 30 plants of Helenium autumnale ‘Helena’ which I grew last autumn.  They were teeny tiny plants. but looking sturdy, and now they are bursting into flower, gorgeous yellows, orange flecks and reds, and a metre high- in fact, they are in danger from the next passing storm, so I may get round to staking them in advance.  All for the price of a coffee, and a lot of humble waiting.  Not bad.

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Helenium autumnale ‘Helena’, Tostat, July 2018
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Helenium atumnale ‘Helena’, Tostat, July 2018

The garden is moving out of its mauve phase, with some more yellows and reds starting up.  Last year, in the height of a hot summer, I bought two abutilon babies, barely rooted, from an Ebay seller in Spain, at the price of another coffee.  One bit the dust this Spring, but the other one is doing well, with a lovely soft, dark, matte red which seems to bring out the beautiful veining that Abutilons have.  This un-named plant may be too tender to leave in the ground over the winter, so I am not going to risk it, I will dig and pot it up, along with the more cherry- red Abutilon ‘Red Trumpet’, which is also new to me this year.  These are such good plants, reliable, heat-tolerant, flowering all summer into the autumn, and I adore the bell-shaped flowers.

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Abutilon unknown, Spanish ebay, Tostat, July 2018
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More cherry-red, Abutilon ‘Red Trumpet’, Tostat, July 2018
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Heterotheca campora var glandulissima, Tostat, July 2018

This Heterotheca campora var.glandulissima, bit of a mouthful, has languished in the garden for the past 3 years, planted in the wrong place too near to a buddleia, and so has been a serious damp squib through no fault of its own.  Goodbye buddleia, and hey presto, Heterotheca is back in town.  Big, determined, fat yellow daisies with charmingly slightly reflexed petals, in a sunny yellow that is not sickly- what’s not to like?  Welcome back and apologies for the poor service you have received.

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Patrinia scabiosifolia, Tostat, July 2018

Patrinia scabiosifolia is a plant I always wanted to try.  It was on its last seed trial last year, having been a dud on two previous years.  I managed to make it to half a dozen seedlings, the wet Spring did for two of them, and then I lost the remaining four in the garden.  Lost in the sense that I planted them out as smallish plants and then couldn’t find them.  Two weeks ago, they re-emerged.  Well, they had always been there growing away but slightly obscured.  If you can imagine a yellow Verbena bonariensis, with the same electric colouring though yellow rather than purply-blue, and a less gangly plant, a little shorter, then you have a good idea of what the plant looks like.  As we speak, six seeds have germinated this year, so I may make it to a good group.  I think it prefers a slightly more fertile and moist soil than Verbena so I am not taking any chances with it, now that I have it.  Another coffee.

Actually, I prefer tea in almost all circumstances, but you get the drift.

 

 

The sun will return…

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Rescued wild daffodils, Tostat, February 2018

I had admired these beautiful double daffodils growing wild in the verges of the field behind us for years.  A few years ago, when it was clear that they were about to be exterminated by some overzealous field tidying by the farmer, I frankly admit that Andy and I organised a raiding party to rescue them.  Of course, that scuppered them completely for that year, and they have taken their time to settle in.  They are not the tallest, a bit on the stumpy side, but with big fat buds opening into disorganised, but fulsome, somehow almost homemade, bright yellow frilly doubles.  Some years, they come and go very fast, seeming to bloom and fade in a couple of days, but maybe this year, we might see them for a bit longer as the overall temperatures are on the cold side for the next couple of weeks.  I took this photograph on the Ipad in a rush two years ago.

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Wild Tostat daffoldils, February 2016

Lonicera fragrantissima is a twiggy, scrabbly thing, and it takes quite a few years to look any better.  But, now about nine years old, it happily sits in a hot, dry spot.  It’s main period of interest is winter and early spring, the rest of the time it simply makes a rounded, twiggy bush with soft green leaves, making a gentle accent in our stony soil.  In the winter and spring though, the very small flowers can fill the air with perfume on a sunny day.  Sunny days have not been plentiful this winter, but actually, from the photography point of view, a dull day is the best for pale and white-flowered plants.  So, no perfume, but a better photograph.

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Lonicera fragrantissima, Tostat, February 2018

The dampness has been wonderful for the moss on our old walls in the garden. It is so green it is almost golden.

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The moss is doing well, Tostat, February 2018

But, in the house by the back door, Abutilon ‘Red Trumpet’ has flowered, and oddly, even has a small greenfly family in residence.  I shan’t bother about the greenfly as the plant is in good condition, just waiting for frost-free nights before I put it out.  It will make a graceful, arching shrub to 1.5m all round within this year, but I will keep it in a pot so that I can overwinter easily.  The red is a black, rich, juicy red, absolutely stunning.  It reminds me not to be too demoralised by the weather.  The sun will return.

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Abutilon ‘Red Trumpet’, Tostat, February 2018