Coming over all mauve…

July best 2 717
Liatris spicata, Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Monarda fistulosa, Tagetes minuta, Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Baron’ and guest wild carrot, Tostat, July 2017

This new border, which I planted up this Spring, has saved my sanity this summer- well, almost.  There must be water under here, which I never noticed before as it used to be a jumble of messy shrubs- but water there is, throughout our burning temperatures, it has looked pretty much like this.  This photo was taken yesterday after rain, so the greens are all refreshed, but the plants are in great shape.  And I adore the self-sown wild carrot, which is frothing up at the back, so I have bought a packet of Daucus carota ‘Dara’ seed to amplify this effect myself next year with any luck. Monarda fistulosa has been torched in other parts of the garden but is still looking good here.  And I will definitely be growing the annual purple millet again, it is fabulous- I may even go for broke and grow the super-tall one, Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’, which can get to 1.5m.  It is super-easy from seed and then blows itself up in purple till the frosts see it off.

July best 4 717
Bupleurum fruticosum, Miscanthus Strictus and Buddleia ‘Nanho Blue’, Tostat, July 2017

Here is another bit that has done really well, although the Miscanthus is about 2/3 of the normal height.  The Bupleurum fruticosum has really hit it’s stride this year and is an insect cafeteria complex all on it’s own.

July best 6 717
Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Fuji White’, Tostat, July 2017

This plant is always a surprise, Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Fuji White’.   It just soars above the rest of the planting undeterred, and is such a cool customer.  Probably at it’s best in green surroundings, I love it.  It is helped by the fact that there is running water nearby no doubt.

July best 7 717
Salvia ‘Didi’, Tostat, July 2017

A slightly breezy-looking Salvia ‘Didi’, only in it’s first year and so still quite small, is nevertheless quite delightful with delicate pink and light apricot colouring.

July best 8 717
Tiny but indomitable, Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Mesa Yellow’, Tostat, 2017

Only about 10 cms high, yet this Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Mesa Yellow’ really does work hard in very dry conditions.  I managed to grow three decent plants from a small packet of seed last year, and I have really come to appreciate this plant, and will be growing more.

July best 717
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Tiny Wine’, Sanguisorbia and a stray Rudbeckia, Tostat, July 2017

I love this combination, and it is brought to life by the stray Rudbeckia.  This is another really good shrub, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Tiny Wine’, which I planted in last year and it has gone on and on, with tawny new growth that then colours up mauve or wine-coloured.  The Sanguisorba menziesii was grown from seed about 4 years ago and is now a great big clump, which I always forget to prop up until it’s too late.

July best 10 717
Another little group that have come together well, I think- Gaura lindheimeri, Lychnis, Phlomis russeliana, orange Abutilon, Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’, Tostat, July 2017

And lastly, not out yet, but cheering me up, which has been the point of taking these photos really, (proving it’s not all burnt out there!), are the architectural buds of Hibiscus palustris….to come.

July best 9 717
Hibiscus palustris in bud, Tostat, July 2017

 

 

Summer-dry or what…

Abutilon pictum 717
Abutilon pictum, Tostat, July 2017

Ok.  This is now the third summer in a row that exceptionally dry conditions have prevailed.  Not continuously, but in killer sections of exceptional heat and dryness rolling through from April until now, and showing no signs of abating.  In between conditions normalise a little, but the accumulating dryness builds over time.  So today, I was really thrilled to find a second hand copy of ‘Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry of the San Francisco Bay Area’ edited by Nora Harlow and published by East Bay Municipal Utility District in 2005.

This book really triggered much of the current landscaping and garden thinking of the Bay Area, and was influential, winning the American Horticultural Society’s Book Award in that year.  So, despite paying more for the postage than the book itself, I am really looking forward to learning more about an area that could be really inspirational for me gardening in Tostat.

Bupleurum fruticosum 717
Bupleurum fruticosum, Tostat, July 2017

Despite all, there are moments of loveliness- once your eye has adjusted to looking past the things that bug you! I grew Bupleurum fruticosum from seed about 7 years ago, and whilst not a looker in the conventional sense, the massed flower heads look fabulous at eye height and attract masses of insects. Now mature plants, they offer real presence in the garden as other plants go over, and I value their strong evergreen presence.

Echinacea purpurea is just coming through.  It is fair to say that this period, though super-dry, is also an inbetween moment in the garden anyway.  There is a pause that naturally happens in the summer, and we are in it.  But, Echinacea and Rudbeckia are arriving soon, thank goodness.

Echinacea purpurea 717
Echinacea purpurea, Tostat, July 2017

This is the first year the Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ has flowered- last year, bulb strength was being built with leaf production- but now we have flower spikes and leaves- a great display, but with us, it’s got to be grown in a pot so you can manage the watering levels required.  They are thirsty when in the middle of flowerspike production and it’s true, you want the spikes to last as they are quite magnificent.

Eucomis Sparkling Burgundy 2 717
Eucomis Sparkling Burgundy, Tostat, July 2017

Abutilon ‘Pictum’ just at the top of the page, is another shrub that does best in a pot, not so much from the water point of view, but more from the over-wintering needed.  ‘Pictum’ like all the Abutilons with the wider-open bell-shaped flowers, needs not to be frost-nipped, so I lug it under cover in the winter, just to give it enough protection to make it.  ‘Mesopotamicum’ and an unknown orange abutilon are just that bit tougher, the toughness give-away being the more shrouded, longer-line flowers as below.  Personally, I am lusting after ‘Ashford Red’, of which more later…

Abutilon under stress 616
Unknown orange abutilon suffering a bit last summer, Tostat, July 2016

And the slightly mad- not-to everyone’s-taste Lilium ‘Flore Pleno’ is carrying on regardless.  And I love it for it’s slightly shambolic Rita-Hayworth quality.  It cheers me up.

Lilium Flore Pleno 4 717
Lilium ‘Flore Pleno’, Tostat, July 2017

Burnout…or not quite

Jardin brule 717
Looking again…Yucca with Bupleurum fruticosum, Miscanthus strictus, looking across to Hydrangea Annabelle, Tostat, July 2017

The last two weeks of June were a flurry of gardens, visiting friends and reprogramming my eyes to a different kind of English luxuriousness and verdant views.  More of all of this in time.  But coming back home on Saturday evening to 11C and pelting rain, we lit the woodburner to warm ourselves and our frozen housesitters.  Venturing out early on Sunday morning, with eyes still working to English levels of greenness,  I was aghast.  The garden looked as if it had had a blowtorch taken to it.  More than a week of temperatures in the high 30Cs and not a drop of rain, not to mention hot winds had really taken its toll, despite the care and attention of the housesitters.

But.  As my eyes adjusted back to my own garden, I actually had a lot of cause for celebration which I came to see as I went round looking in detail.  First of all, not much had actually died.  I may have lost one Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’, but the other one is recovering even now, and so maybe it will too.  Burnt edges could be seen everywhere, but not much actual death.  And, this early July period is a bit of a ‘Potter’s Wheel’.  It’s always the time where the earlier summer flowering has gone over and the mid to late summer plants haven’t yet hit their stride, and really I should know this by now.

So major redesign panic over.   And a few days later, with sight fully restored to normal settings, I was able to appreciate the plants that had persevered and come through.  And there were one or two real surprises in the mix.  For example, new to me this year, was Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’– and it has proved a real stalwart.  In a new area, which I suspect does actually have some spring activity deep down, it is blooming really well, along with clumps of my cheap-as-chips Liatris spicata and a new annual purple millet that I grew from seed, Pennistum glaucum ‘Purple Baron’.  The Kalimeris is a 0.75cms high neat clump of bright green foliage, with mauve flowers fading to white, and is very pretty.  Let’s see what happens with spread and seeding, but it looks like a really good doer to me.

Purple Baron Millet 717
Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Liatris spicata and Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Baron’, Tostat, July 2017
Kalimeris incisa Madiva 717
Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Tostat, July 2017

The next morning, in the dappled sunshine early on in a part of the border by the wall that is a right mess- project for early 2018, even though my teeth were slightly setting at the disarray, a timid Southern White butterfly was enjoying Echinacea ‘White Swan’.  It seemed really good to be home.

Southern White Admiral 717
Southern White Admiral butterfly enjoying Echinacea ‘White Swan’, Tostat, July 2017

In a state of adoration…

After a shower 615
Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream’ after a shower, Tostat, June 2015

I am in a state of adoration about Yellow.  I adore all of it, from Bird’s Custard yellow which hovers on egg yolk orange, right though to the most delicate cream, which hovers on white.  I used to be like this about red, and whilst it remains a favourite, I have succumbed utterly to Yellow.  I dream about it especially at this time of year, when there isn’t much about yet…daffodils and Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’ are yet to open.  Last year was my first with Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’ and I liked it so much that, rather late in the spring season, I bought 3 more very tiny plants.  I had given them up for dead until last week, when first two of them popped through, and then, this week, so did the third one.  They are tougher than I thought.

Ranunculus ficaria Brazen Hussy Mar 15  2
Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’, Tostat, March 2015

There is something about yellow that spells warmth, coothiness, comfort, fun and excitement.  Last year, I brought together some clumps of Anthemis ‘Hollandaise Sauce’ that I had scattered in various locations- and made a big drift of them, paired up with slightly later flowering upright white Liatris scariosa.  They really did look good.  It was fresh, invigorating and really cheered you up.

Anth HS 2 615
Anthemis ‘Hollandaise Sauce’, Tostat, June 2015

At the egg yolk end of yellow, is Coreopsis ‘Grandiflora’, which really is quite big, nearly a metre tall and a spreader, I reckon.  It is a tad floppy, so needs staking to really keep those great big double flowers upright, but it flowers freely all summer whatever the weather, and though the more orangey tint to the yellow maybe makes it a bit of a harder sell with other colours, it’s worth it for it’s energy and flowerpower.

Coreopsis grandiflora 615
Coreopsis ‘Grandiflora’, Tostat, July 2015

A very much more obliging and discreet yellow is another great plant, which I grew from seed but really only appreciated last year in it’s second year.  It is an evergreen, tough as old boots perennial, Bupleurum fruticosum, and it is such a good plant for dry, poor soil spots with sun.  It will take any amount of dryness and any amount of sun.  With it’s slightly reddened stout stems, olive-green waxy leaves and very upright stance, it holds it’s own in the border, and provides really good structure and oomph at about a metre and a bit high. It needs no attention at all, and then, late in the summer, these delicate umbels in a calmer shade of yellow appear, which are a magnet for insects of all kinds.  It isn’t flashy and it only does what it does, but it will take any punishment.  Even wetter spots won’t put it off, as long as there is some dryness in the growing season.  I am really looking forward to it’s obliging progress this year.

Bupleurum fruticosum 715
Bupleurum fruticosum, Tostat, August 2015

At the lemon end of yellow, is a plant that I bought about six years ago as a tiny at which point it was one of the Halimium clan.  Renamed pretty much everywhere now as Cistus atriplicifolius, it is a sun and dry lover, enjoying the largely stoney conditions in the New Garden, and though it doesn’t bloom for long, and may not repeat flower, it is delightful in full throttle.  Trouble-free, perfect for difficult hotspots, it requires nothing and just performs.

Cistus atriplicifolius 615
Cistus atriplicifolius, Tostat, June 2015

And it just goes to show, you can never have too much yellow.  I love the height, well over 1.5m, and the delicate, quilled flowers of Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’.  It is not a spreader, but just beautifully wafts above the reat of the border in summer breezes.  It looks just great with an unknown perennial sunflower that escaped one of my purges earlier in the year.  The warmth of these colours is toasting me, on a grey, cold and wet day in Tostat!

Rudbeckia Henryk Eilers and Helianthus 815
Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ coping with an unknown perennial sunflower, Tostat, August 2015

The King and Queen of dry gardening…

filippi_2985444eOlivier Filippi in his nursery at Sete credit:telegraph.co.uk

The King and Queen of dry gardening, because whilst Olivier is the recognised name, like Piet Oudolf, Clara Filippi is an integral part of their work and enterprise. Together, they have worked, travelled, collected, propagated, grown, photographed and written about what is possible in the wild in the driest places, and what you can  translate into the domestic garden. A couple of years ago, I was able to tag along at the back of a gardening group in the Languedoc who had arranged a visit to the nursery, oh joy!, and, even more enjoyable, a guided visit to the Filippi gardens which are normally private as they wrap around their house.

If you read his book, which is available in English, you will discover that his approach is founded upon rigorous science and plant testing, which means that his plant descriptions are scrupulously accurate and graded according to the degrees of dryness that a plant will accommodate. Even more importantly, his approach sets out to encourage the gardener to abandon expensive, wasteful horticultural practices that no longer sit well with our ecological and climate awareness and to embrace plants and growing conditions that can still make for magnificent gardens. It was music to my ears when I bought his book in 2007.  For an introduction, there was a good article by Tim Richardson not so long ago in the Telegraph.

I am lucky in that, in my garden, I have a range of growing conditions, from wet to dry, from hot to shady, from semi-decent soil to an area I describe as ‘shitty bank’- and so, if I am careful and don’t make too many impetuous decisions, I can grow different plants for different parts of the garden. Filippi has given not only lots of inspiration for the hotter, dryer areas that were new to me coming from Scotland, but also helped me see the beauty in plants that are perhaps not conventionally beautiful.  Here are some views of his private garden:

Flilippi 1

Autumn view across the garden
Autumn view across the garden
Fiery red Zauschneria californica in October
Fiery red Zauschneria californica in October
Bupleurum fruticosum still blooming.
Bupleurum fruticosum still blooming.
Anther view of Zauschneria californica
Anther view of Zauschneria californica

If you are in the Languedoc near Sete, go and visit the nursery- watch out for bank holiday closures as is normal in France. The website is also encyclopedic and brilliant.