Catching the eye…

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Rosa Woollerton Old Hall, Ludlow, June 2017

There is a lot of recovery going on in the garden after our harsh summer- but we also have had Scottish weather the past two weeks, strong winds, heavy rain and fresh temperatures- so everything has slightly stopped in its tracks, not quite knowing what is going on.  Me included.  So, thinking back over the spring and summer, here is a mixture of plants that caught my eye and survivors in the garden.  Rosa ‘Woollerton Old Hall’ is a creamy-yellowy-apricot rose that just seems to keep on giving.  I bought one as a gift for a friend and she has been delighted with it all summer- and apparently, it has an strong and unusual scent, which makes it a good ‘un all round.

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Jane’s pretty white geranium, Ludlow, June 2017

In my friend Jane’s garden, a lovely blue-veined white geranium, not sure which, looked glorious in late June.

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Potentilla ‘Arc en Ciel’, Ludlow, June 2017

I loved the burnished look of this Potentilla ‘Arc en ciel’ which I saw in the Ludlow Food Centre garden section.  Golden tips to the petals and a darker, ruffled centre- very pretty.

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Rosa ‘Wild Eve’, Ludlow, June 2017

Again in Jane’s garden, this sumptuous rose ‘Wild Eve’ is almost Titian-esque in habit, hanging in swags over the foliage.

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Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’, Ludlow, June 2017

Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ is adorable and could be seen all over Shropshire in June. It doesn’t like Tostat- and the only Monarda that does is ‘Monarda fistulosa’ which can take some dryness without mildew.

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Jane’s garden, Ludlow, June 2017

A big investment pays off in Jane’s garden.  A great idea to create a rising range of arches creating a strong diagonal sweep over the garden.

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Rosa ‘Ginger Syllabub’, Ludlow, June 2017

Another ‘Jane’ rose, very pretty and just perfectly balanced on the acidic side of pink and peach.

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Jane’s garden, a longer view, Ludlow, June 2017

A longer view of Jane’s garden- showing the full effect of the well-positioned arches.

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Caryopteris clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’ with the orange Abutilon behind it, Tostat, September 2017

At last, a little colour and life returns to us in Tostat- I love the orange and the blue, the blue gets deeper as the flowers mature, which makes for a great contrast with the lime-green foliage.  Such a good plant.

And, the only flowers on Geranium ‘Havana Blues’ this summer can be counted on the fingers of one hand.  But, I am rethinking some of the planting to give this good geranium a bit more cover, and hopefully, there will be more flowering next summer. Geraniums are forgiving, although you have to wait until next year.

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Geranium ‘Havana Blues’, Tostat, September 2017

 

Coming over all mauve…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hibiscus palustris in bud, Tostat, July 2017

 

 

Service interruption…

I am interrupting my three-part Paris blog to post to you about what is surviving in the garden, and even looking good, despite the fact that we have had no rain for what seems like weeks.  It was a dry Spring once we got past the soaking of February, and that theme has continued.  Fortunately we have only had a few really warm or hot days, but even so, the accumulated effect is of deeply dried-out soil conditions.  Our neighbour, Odette, describes this as ‘a year of nothing’ as her superb vegetable garden buckles under the dryness.

I have, yesterday, resorted to the hosepipe, which I never otherwise use, for two newly planted areas.  Desperate times.

So what is surviving?  This Caryopteris clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’ seems to be supremely tough.  Last year, the first year in the ground, it hung on through thick and thin, and it is powering over the conditions.  However, Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream’, just peeping out bottom right, has mostly been terminated by the massive slug population.

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Caryopteris clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’ with some returning Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream’, Tostat, June 2016
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Geranium himalyense ‘Birch Double’, Tostat, June 2016

This little geranium, Geranium himalyense ‘Birch Double’ was mostly wiped out by the dryness last summer, but look, one small plant is holding on.  Possibly I did over-reach myself with planting it where I did, but well, sometimes it works.

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Lychnis coronaria ‘Gardeners World’, Tostat, June 2016

I love Lychnis, but it is a terrible pest in the self-seeding department.  However, here is Lychnis coronaria ‘Gardeners World’ which is sterile, therefore has no seed and the same gorgeous magenta flowers, but double.  I suspect that the plants are a little less robust than their more normal cousins, for whom the phrase ‘tough as old boots’ doesn’t even come close, but next year will tell.

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Sanguisorba ‘Cangshan Cranberry’, Tostat, June 2016

This lovely Sanguisorba ‘Cangshan Cranberry’ is really worth buying beyond the lovely name.  In it’s third year with me, and now a stately clump, it measures 1.5m across and 1.5m tall, growing in the slightly moister conditions near the banana.  This year, and I suspect that this is a sign of some stress, it has developed the slightly odd-looking albino striping on some of the flowers, but the foliage is doing fine for the moment.

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Monarda fistulosa, Tostat, June 2016

This plant is doing fabulously.  Introducing Monarda fistulosa, which I started off from seed last year.  Monarda has always rotted with me, too much heat and too dry, but this American native came highly recommended for a greater tolerance of drier conditions and resistance to mildew, thanks to Seedaholic. I am expecting those shaggy mophead whorls of flowers in lilac any time soon, but I am already saluting it’s general fitness.  Another survivor, as a very young plant, of our murderous housesitter, it has come back fighting with fresh, green foliage and will be a good-egg plant. I am looking forward to the flowers.

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Flowering spike of Salvia spathacea, Tostat, June 2016

This gorgeous thing has been a complete surprise.  Currently standing at about 1.5m high, this huge flowering spike is the first time my plants have flowered.  I tried this from seed about 3 years ago, tempted as I was by Annie’s Annuals’ account of scarcity in it’s native California.  It’s a very smelly Salvia spathacea, or Hummingbird Salvia.  Huge, felted leaves carry that strong (unmistakeable even to my nose) smell.  And that was all it was doing until last week.  As you can see, the spike is six layers of flowers, and so they come out slowly at different levels.  What a thing.

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Abutilon under stress, Tostat, June 2016

But mostly everything  else is trying to lie low, hoping for rain.   This abutilon has folded its leaves flat against itself in an attempt to reduce transpiration.  So, I am about to get the jungle drums out and am scanning the weather forecast.  No hope yet.

 

Inspiring colour…and form

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Terra Valley, Extremadura, October 2015.  Photo credit: Sandra Child

Sometimes what you see and feel in a landscape can make you jump with joy.  This photograph, taken by a fellow Via de la Plata walker, Sandra Child, captures the moment beautifully.  The reflections are so sharp. the colour so present, that you are immediately there- in the landscape and in the picture.  I love gold and blue in combination.  Such strong and vibrant colours that together are quite brilliant.

Last year, I was experimenting with blue and a more yellow gold than in the photograph.  I wasn’t sure if I had got there, but these two colours suddenly came together in the autumn in one plant.  Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’.

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Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’, Tostat, September 2015

Caught in a breath of wind that gives the photograph a romantic blur, this plant is a joy. Planted out last year when just a tiny, I wasn’t sure at all how it would cope with the extremes of temperature we had.  But it managed fine.  More than that, it bloomed profusely from September onwards until early December, and, before that, starting out as a sharp chartreuse green, the foliage softened to a beautiful gold by the end of the season. It handled dryness and heat like a pro.  Now it measures about 0.75m high and across, and should get a little bigger this year.

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Orange abutilon and Salvia ‘Waverly’, Tostat, November 2016

Just a slither along the colour spectrum is orange and blue.  This salvia, Salvia ‘Waverly’ is a fabulous plant.  They were bought as tiny little plugs in January last year from the very good ebay nursery, Eleplants, which I have bought lots from over the years.  By the end of November, the plants were all well over a metre high and wide, and covered with the striking dark calyx and contrasting pale, pale lilac flowers that you see above.  Next to the marmelade orange of the unknown abutilon, it was a treat in the garden just before winter. I have taken a risk and left the Salvias in over the winter.  They are hardy, apparently down to about -3C according to the books.  But they are well surrounded by other plants and not too far from the house, so I am chancing it.  Could be living dangerously, but they grow so fast that, if I do come a cropper, I’ll buy some more plugs and take cuttings next time.

A very good plant for a hot, dry situation that seems to shrug off winter as well, is Elsholtzia stauntonii.  I grew these from seed a couple of years ago, and last Spring they looked depressingly like dead sticks. But, no!  A couple of months later, in the hottest late Spring ever, they were shooting up and even flowered.  They will finish up this year as a tidy, leafy shrub with mint scented leaves and these charming flowerspikes of lilac pink, maybe they will get to a metre or so high and wide.  More importantly, they flower in August, which is a bonus.

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Bee on Elsholtzia stauntonii, Tostat, September 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And green is the colour…

Now that we are in a surprise period of large dollops of rain, kindly delivered towards the back end of the day, and continuing for the rest of the week, the colour green is returning to the garden. Not to the grass, still crisp and burnt, and also a large purple clematis which has been completely brule-d. Not to mention one or two other things which probably are not mortally wounded. But there are other things…

Here are two plants that I would probably never be able to grow other than in a pot with daily attention. I wouldn’t normally want to be bothered with daily attention, but there are some things that are just so beguiling that I fall for them. I grew both of these from seed from Derry Watkins at Special Plants about 3 years ago. Not one of my more successful plantings as I only got one good seedling from both sowings, but they are both really worth it.

Astilboides tabularis, Tostat,  June 2015
Astilboides tabularis, Tostat, June 2015

The colour of the new leaves on Astilboides tabularis is mouth-wateringly green, but the hairy leaves are outstanding in bright sunlight, and although it is a slow grower, I am devoted to it.  It grows steadfastly, stubbornly carrying on even if the odd slug gets in there, and when fully mature, the leaves should be much bigger, up to 1m apparently. Don’t believe the RHS.. there is nothing common about this plant. But it does need very consistent moisture, good soil and semi-shade, so hence the pot in my case. So I will just keep it, and pot on as they say.

Peltoboykinia watanabei, Tostat, June 2015
Peltoboykinia watanabei, Tostat, June 2015

This is a complete mouthful of a name- with more syllables than you can quite believe- Peltoboykinia watanabei.  The new leaves are an almost luminous green, and, like the Astilboides, it is totally hardy so I leave both plants out in their pots in the winter.  Again, it needs consistent moisture, good soil and semi-shade and will eventually make 0.75m in height and a bit wider probably. I love the palmate shape of the leaves and its doggedness. It just keeps slowly going.

Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Hint of Gold', Tostat, June 2015
Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’, Tostat, June 2015

This is quite the best caryopteris I have seen. I also grow ‘Worcester Gold’ which is anaemic in comparison. I bought these Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’ as small plants in the early Spring, and though they have taken their time to get settled, and it is a bit too early for flowering, they have paid their way already. The foliage is an exhilarating lime-yellow-green, not a bit sickly, and it is a tough little plant, on its way to making a nice rounded boule-shape about 1m x 1m. So, I can’t wait for the flowers.  I am growing it in 2 places, one hotter than the other, and one with a lot less moisture, but actually, the plants are level-pegging, though the one in the sunnier spot has marginally better colour, so I am very hopeful that it will be a Great Success.

Acanthus 'Whitewater', Tostat, June 2015
Acanthus ‘Whitewater’, Tostat, June 2015

Now, ok, this is slightly slipping from the green theme, but it is so extraordinary that I had to put it in. Have you ever seen a plant that so closely fakes being a pool of spilt, creamy milk?  This is Acanthus ‘Whitewater’.  Now, I love Acanthus, but they really do take their time with me, and this small plant is, believe it or not, 3 years old. But it is in a harsh spot, and so I believe that it will get to the point where the rhizome is big enough for it to be out there all year, not just now and then. Eventually, it will also have candy-pink flower spikes, up to 1,5m- but that’s a way off. So I am used to the fact that it comes and goes, depending on the weather and the moisture, but it does always come back. So I hope I won’t be in a bathchair by the time it gets to flowering.

And lastly…

Begonia grandis ssp.evansiana, Tostat, June 2015
Begonia grandis ssp.evansiana, Tostat, June 2015

a begonia! I am not a begonia fan, but I love this one. Sites say that this is a hardy begonia. I think that’s a dodgy recommendation and I always overwinter it dry in its pot, just out of the weather.  Begonia grandis ssp.evansiana is like an opera coquette..all flashy red underskirts and posing, and gorgeous when backlit. Also, once it likes you, it will give you tons of tiny bulbules, which will sprout all over the place, so it has a generous nature. Mine is maybe 4 years old, and when at full height is a stunning metre and a bit.  Lovely.

My magic roundabout in Tostat….part 1

By a curious set of coincidences, I am now designing and working on my first…roundabout!  Our roundabout in Tostat is a strange, haricot bean shape on the main road through the village, close to the school and the boulangerie, and actually if you are standing on it, you meet more people than you do in any other location.  We used to have a very noble pin parasol, which was huge and very stately, but in the July gales last year, it came to the ground, and for a while, was lying there like a wrecked ship.  Once taken away, the pine-less roundabout seemed very sad and abandoned, and so, all sorts of discussions took place about ‘What was to be done?’.

Cutting to the chase, in the end, I was asked if I had any ideas. I was very honoured and delighted to be asked. And I did have some ideas.  I have to confess to a horror of much municipal planting, consisting of a riot of colours and shapes, usually mostly annuals. And so I checked that that wasn’t what was wanted, and then went ahead.  I had in mind turning the haricot shape into a space with trees, grasses offering shape and all year round interest, and shrubs, with some perennials that would evoke a semi-natural landscape. A calming place, with informal elegance and a simple colour palette of green, blue, yellow and white.  And the remaining grass being allowed not to be Wimbledon.   The practical considerations were that there is no money to spend really, and the three part-time gardeners have lots to do, so minutely tending annuals is not on.

The roundabout is north-south facing, with no cover and full sun all the time. So whatever went in had to be chosen for being seriously tough and self-managing.  So, multi-stemmed white birches were my starting point, three of them, Betula verracosa,  straddling the shape to provide interest from any angle of approach.  Trios of Genista ‘Porlock’ which I love for its vibrant green foliage and sharp yellow flowers in spring, followed by Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’ for lime-yellow foliage and blue flowers later in summer, and Ceanothus griseus ‘Yankee Point‘ to ramble in the middle and cover the pin parasol ground-down stump. For all sorts of reasons, we were in a hurry to get the job done, and so ‘Yankee Point’ was subbed by Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var.repens which we could get locally.  The caryopteris is coming from Belgium, as are the grasses, Panicum virgatum ‘Warrior’, which will form semi-circular bracelets around the birches. And for a bit of flambuoyance, there will  be two large Hydrangea paniculata ‘Phantom’ and some groupings of Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Banana Cream’. And maybe some scattered bulb plantings of hyacinths, though the jury is out on that one right now.

And we have started. I say, ‘we’, but all the hard work is being done by Marc, Damien and Sebastien, and today was suddenly warm again, so hacking through the remnants of the old planting and preparing the space for the new, was hot work. I mainly stand around, trying to be encouraging with offers of coffee and bottled water, which seems to slightly mystify but also amuse them. And we are constantly being asked about what’s going on, and it’s turning into a very social space!

Sebastien, Marc and Damien l-r in front of one of the newly planted birches, Tostat May 2015
Sebastien, Marc and Damien l-r in front of one of the newly planted birches, Tostat May 2015

Of course, we are ‘not hiding’ 3 large lamp-posts, 3 road signs and a water hydrant thing for the firemen, so that is partly why there is a lot of ‘weaving’ in the planting, and the area in front of the hydrant can’t be blocked either. Nor, ideally, would we be planting now just as summer approaches, but the hydrant will come in handy and help the team keep the trees especially well-watered for the summer months.

And so many people have helped and encouraged…here are two of them narrowly missing Sebastien rushing to the truck.

Damien with Monique and Andy, Friends of the Tostat Roundabout, May 2105
Damien with Monique and Andy, Friends of the Tostat Roundabout, May 2105

And so it’s hard at it, with the rest of the planting happening tomorrow and next week, and some extra plants are to be weaved in, as we have them at the workshop, and they need to be used.  So, a bit more imaginative wiggling to be done, without losing the simplicity of the colour and plant range.

Digging...Tostat May 2015
Digging…Tostat May 2015

I love it.