Summer hotch-potch…

Alcathaea suffrutescens ‘Parkfrieden’, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

My Aberdeen granny was a true Scottish granny, in the Nina Conti sense- but with a bit more of an ‘ahem’ about her, if you know what I mean and a sizable dose of general disapproval. But she made the best fried haddock, Scottish tablet, Stovies and, of course, what she termed ‘Hotch-Potch’, a soup which would have kept an army marching for days. So, in her memory, this post is a hotch-potch, a mixture of what’s going on in the garden right now.

I don’t know if the off-on, mainly cool with rain, summer that we are having is typical as this is our first one here, but if it is, it’s a second-chance saloon for me as I may be able to grow all the plants that I loved which couldn’t handle the dry and heat of our Tostat garden.

And today, another of my Alcathaea cuttings came into flower, and hallelujah, it was the variety I wanted all along, ‘Parkfrieden’. I love the cool cream of the main colouring, but then you have the sizzle of the raspberry-coloured stamens which really cuts the cream beautifully into something a bit more racey. They took a battering in a couple of super heavy rainbursts that we had this week, so this tells me that next year, I would do better to cut them down a bit more in the spring to make them bush out more rather than try for the Tower of Pisa prize.

Abutilon pictum, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

Abutilon pictum is another plant that is enjoying life much more in the semi-shade of the big banana in the courtyard. Any rain is delivered fast down the banana leaves into the pot, tick, and the whole plant is looking tip top. The simmering orange flowers look mysteriously out from the foliage. I love it.

Eupatorium capillifolium ‘Elegant Feather’, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

I so tried with Eupatorium capillifolium ‘Elegant Feather’ in Tostat, and with one of three plants left, I had it in the most reliably moist and protected part of the garden, but to no avail. But here in the walled shelter of the Barn Garden, it is loving it and has happily produced good looking side shoots. There is a tiny flower but the main show is this shimmering pillar of soft, feathery green which sits in amongst other plants so easily. Hooray.

Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Rosy’, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

Probably about 5 years ago, I bought 3 bulbs of Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Rosy’ and those bulbs have been in this large blue pot ever since. Probably I should have carefully dug them out and separated them, as I suspect that there are now more than 9 bulbs in there, and it is jampacked. So that will need to happen next year, as the flowerspikes are now tumbling over one another for space and took a bashing in the rain that we have had, so are now pretty much horizontal. Never mind, the delicate surgery can be done next Spring, and we can start all over again. To be honest, fabulous though the flowerspikes are, for me the real deal is the gorgeous beetroot coloured foliage which, coupled with the flowerspikes, gives a great 7 months return on the bulbs.

Hibiscus moscheutos, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

‘Put this near a tap’ said Bernard Lacrouts, from whom I bought this plant last month. It will grow big and is thirsty, maybe a couple of metres high and wide, so a bigger pot will be required, but for now it is content with producing these satellite dish flowers every 24 hours. They are huge, easily 6 cms across, and are unforgettable. Now that satellite dishes have come into my mind, I am a little distracted by that thought, but whatever, who wants subtlety all the time?

Pelargonium quercifolium, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

Now this plant has subtlety, though not in the scent department, with a strong, foxy smell from these lovely, crinkled oak-like leaves with a maroon spodge on them. The foliage is upright and strong, and the flowers are really charming, with coral stamens. I was so lucky with this cutting. I had forgotten about this plant until literally the morning we left, when I dashed out and cut a piece, which amazingly took and is a sturdy plant now. I will bring it under cover, though still outside, as it can take a bit of cold but not winter wet.

Salvia chamelaeagnea, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

This Salvia chamelaeagnea is new to me, bought from le Jardin de Champêtre, in Caunes-Minervois. It has tight, bushy leaves in a bright green, and so is quite unSalvia-like to look at. Again, it has a strong woody smell when you crush the leaves, and the bi-coloured flowers in soft blue and yellow are a lovely surprise. It doesn’t look hardy but it is. So here goes.

Salvia coccinea ‘Summer Jewels Pink’, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

And this lovely coral and cream Salvia coccinea ‘Summer Jewels Pink’, which is easy to grow from seed, though I bought these from a lovely lady selling bio produce in the market, has been flowering like a train for the past three weeks. Vast amounts of seed seem to be produced, so I’ll try with my own seed before maybe buying any. And this is a terrific annual plant to grow.

Jazz hands in the garden…

Phygelius aequalis ‘Yellow Trumpet’ with the pink Scabiosa columbaria peeping through, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

Cuttings from one garden to another is such a good and friendly way to build a garden. Here, in Oloron, I have a lovely neighbour with whom I am sharing cuttings and offshoots, and I am really enjoying her choice of plants, quite a few of whom, like Melianthus major, I failed with in Tostat as winters were sometimes both too cold and too damp.

Phygelius aequalis ‘Yellow Trumpet’ was both a seed grown plant and a cutting from me to me. I love the robustness of this plant, glossy bright green foliage whatever the conditions and these elegant cool yellow trumpets that go on for months. It is really pretty and bombproof. As it gets more substantial and clumps, it will make an almost shrub-like presence and it may well spread through running roots if it really likes you. No problem I reckon, just more plant material for friendly sharing and swapping.

Another gift to myself were some small cuttings of Monarda fistulosa. This is the only Monarda I can grow that doesn’t succumb to any mildew at all. With us, even ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ reputed to be mildew-free, is just as riddled with mildew, and this opinion comes from Bernard Lacrouts, the best plant nurseryman for miles around. I love this plant and it seems to be really enjoying the slightly shaded position, out of the hot afternoon sun, here in Oloron. Easy as pie from seed.

Monarda fistulosa, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

Fancy another tall, floriferous and elegant plant that flowers like a train in July and August? I give you Alcathaea x suffrutescens ‘Parkrondell’. I took my cuttings from a village planting last summer, and now my cuttings are taller than me, and bushing out really well, and will next year be a beefy but elegant shrub. This plant is not well known at all, and it should be. Easy, undemanding, hardy and tolerating even dry conditions, it brings a ruffled elegance to the garden. I had hoped I had taken cuttings of the sister, ‘Parkfrieden’, which has cream and very pale pink flowers, but I will have to wait and see what happens with the other two plants to be sure. There is a third sister plant, ‘Parkallee’ which is entirely cream coloured. There is a bit of the hollyhock about them, but they absolutely merit being better known and grown more.

Alcathaea suffrutescens ‘Parkrondell’, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

Rosa ‘Woollerton Old Hall’ was a rose I gave to a good friend, who did the perfect friend-thing and grew a cutting on for me as a present for my birthday last year. I was really touched by that, and so the rose has a good position in the new barn garden, and with a slightly shaky start, has really picked up and got going. This rose has all the full beauty of an old rose, but with a slightly open centre, so that it does work for pollinators even though the flowers qre loosely double. The scent, and ok, I am not the best nose on the planet, has a warm clove type body to it, almost savoury rather than sweet, and very unusual- not ‘rosy’ in tone. The cream and butter colouring is lovely, almost apricot towards the centre. A treat.

Rosa ‘Woollerton Old Hall’, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

And now to some survivors of the winter and being largely abandoned in their pots…Pelargonium sidoides is a fighter of a plant, albeit on the tiny side. It has come back from being reduced to tiny sprigs by the end of winter, and is flowering hard. The flowers are strange. They are definitely pink- no two ways about it. But they should be a very dark maroon, almost black. What’s going on? In every other respect, it is sidoides….not just the fact that the seed came from a reputable source, but the foliage is dead right. Ah well.

Pelargonium sidoides, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021…..and curly foliage below….
Salvia cacaliifolia, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

Salvia cacaliifolia is a stunner. Not only do you get spires and spires of gentian-blue flowers, but the triangular shaped leaves twine and curl, and if you wish, with a few bits of twiggy support, you almost have a climbing salvia on your hands. It does need winter protection, mea culpa there, but this need only be a roofed over area or a cold frame as it doesn’t need warmth as much as dry conditions. Cuttings are easy in the autumn from sideshoots, and I would have lost mine altogether if I hadn’t at least taken a cutting.

And for a strong whiff of a Moroccan desert in full sun, try the tiny but indomitable Pelargonium abrotanifolium, which is a bit of a mouthful and not the easiest name to remember. Again, dry cover in the winter is needed, but brush against these delicate, filigree leaves in the palest green, and the scent is released. It’s like a fix for the holiday you haven’t had. On top, these tiny, but memorable flowers with dark purple throats appear all summer. Could be grown anywhere in a pot as long as it has full sun, as it doesn’t grow big. Doesn’t want to be swamped by big-boy plants I reckon- another good reason for a pot.

Pelargonium abrotanifolium, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

Talk about jazz hands… the Cardinal Vine has both fabulous foliage and glowing red hot flowers which flower non stop for one day only. What a show. Full sun, some moisture and a little bit of feeding to keep it powered up. I bought this in Oloron market and have twined it through a pair of metal Moroccan window shades which the previous owner kindly left us. Just for a bit of drama, you know.

Ipomoea guamoclit or Cardinal Vine, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021