Living on the edge…

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Rosa Jacqueline du Pre, Tostat, August 2018

Feeling rather grumpy about my grumpiness about the scorched earth situation- and also chastened by kind comments from Australian and Californian readers basically saying that at least I can count on the fact that it will rain again…sometime.  I think that, even though I completely want to create the watering-free garden that I think we all have to embrace- I am still disturbed by the implications of my self-inflicted policy.  It all goes to show that changing our aesthetic to fully embrace sustainability is really hard and cuts to the core somehow.

Having said all of that, I am also aware that I don’t have (yet) to be an utter purist.  I can and should do what I can to garden as close to the edge of sustainability as possible.  But it’s ok to save myself with some watering as the edge moves away from me.  Watering is not to be despised.  So, I am doing some selective watering over the next few days.  I have allowed myself off the hook.  But, from the above, you can see that it has been a bit of a moral tussle.

So, to invoke cheeriness (and maybe rain!), here is what is still looking good without any help from me- though these are isolated spots in amongst a sea of brown.

I actually dug up Rosa ‘Jacqueline du Pre’ over a month ago and stuck her back into a pot, as she was looking nigh unto death.  So with a pot-watering regime, she has begun flowering again.  She is really ‘worth it’ to ape L’Oreal.

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Bouvardia ternifolia, Tostat, August 2018

Staying with the pots for a moment, Bouvardia ternifolia is looking very very happy- a true pillar-box red, tender, but can be tucked away dry in a protected spot in the winter, watered copiously in the spring, and up she comes.

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Plumbago auriculata, Tostat, August 2018

In a pot, and in semi-shade, Plumbago auriculata has just begun flowering.  On the tender side, I mistakenly left the pot out during the winter, and was pretty sure that I had killed the plant.  But, it’s always worth hanging on- and back she came in June.  Very late to get started, but looking absolutely fine.

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Cestrum elegans rubrum, Tostat, August 2018
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Fully open, Cestrum elegans rubrum, Tostat, August 2018

Cestrum elegans rubrum was a bargain-basement shrub I bought last winter.  A little on the tender side, I was feeling pretty smug about it until we hit the 2 weeks of -10C.  The shrub collapsed.  I thought it was time for an obituary notice, again.  But, two months later, signs of growth could be seen, and though a little shorter with the heat, I think that next year she will be bouncing back at 1m plus all round.  And clearly tougher than I thought.  I love those surprises.

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Rosa moschata, Tostat, August 2018

I bought Rosa moschata from Olivier Filippi‘s nursery in the Languedoc, maybe 5 years ago.  He is a serious dry-gardening expert and all his plants are worth trying especially with his advice.  I over-risked the dryness it would tolerate, and had to do yet another emergency transplant into a pot.  Note to self: This is the edge of sustainability looking at me, again.  Out of the pot, and in a new home 2 years ago against the central pillar of the outdoor barn, Rosa moschata is reaching for the roof, and is on her second flowering.  Only a dozen buds open, but the scent fills the barn- a deep old-rose scent, gorgeous.

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The unknown red Abutilon, Tostat, August 2018

Last year’s baby Abutilon ebay purchase is in the ground, only about 20 cms high, but has already flowered non-stop since late May.  Abutilons fold their leaves down like wings when they are a bit heat-stressed- but they carry on anyway.  Real troopers.

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Vernonia crinita ‘Mammuth’ and Leycesteria formosa formosa, Tostat, August 2018

The Vernonia nearest the canal is the only one still flowering, wrapped in the arms of Leycesteria formosa– the crimson meets the purple.

And for sheer mystery and magic, this new-to-me Pennisetum, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Japonicum’ is hard to beat, close-up.  Note: In France, this plant is known as ‘Japonicum’- whilst in the UK, it is Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Foxtrot’.

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Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Japonicum’, Tostat, August 2018

Maybe I like the danger of the edge….

 

Good fortune and…not so good

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Cestrum elegans, Bourton House Garden, June 2017

This stunning shrub flowerhead was unknown to me when I took the photograph last June, but this morning I met it again.  Cestrum elegans could not be resisted.  Going for 6 euros in the sale at Jardiland (just the name makes me sniff with disdain!), I nearly fell over the trolley grabbing it.  It is just a touch on the picky side, wanting not too much wet in the winter, and semi-shade.  So this means that I will have to fufill my dream of digging out the Kerria japonica that has been a marked plant for the last 2 years, and putting it where the Kerria was, just in the lee of our big pine tree but far enough away to be moist and not wet.  But if it likes me, it should shoot up this year to maybe 2-3m all round and flower nonstop from June till November.  And when the flower is the cerise-pink pineapple that it is- how can you fail to love it?  The old nuisance of a pine tree will also give it a bit of winter protection, which will help.

Now why am I so snotty about Jardiland? I really should grow up and get over it, because there were yet more gems in the Jardiland sale.  I bought two Abelia grandiflora prostrata (in white I think), and two Cistus corbariensis.  What a coup.  I had been mulling over the Abelia, more than 10 euros elsewhere, not to mention the postage.  I am a recent almost-fan of Abelias.  Firstly, they are really tough, secondly, they flower in July-September, and thirdly, they are good-sized shrubs.

Yes, shrubs.  This from the woman who rarely waxes lyrical about shrubs, I know.  But I am undergoing character reformation.  I know I need more of them in the garden.  I need to think of the garden as more of a smogasbord, and sue the shrub element to bring green where there is none, flowers when I need them and above all, structure and shape.  So, the past year I have concentrated on growing perennials myself from seed, well, maybe 80% of the time, and spending my cash on some shrubs that are not entirely pipsqueaks to start with.  So, I am focusing on shrubs with a couple of years behind them, but still small enough to be affordable.

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Abelia grandiflora prostrata photo credit: http://www.rhs.org.uk

I think the Abelia will be lovely- no more than a metre high and maybe 1.5 m wide, so bigger on the spread, and fairly dense, which will help with groundcover.   The Cistus is reputed to be the hardiest one, and I am going to plant it in a couple of hot spots that are currently empty.  Cistus can just suddenly give up on you.  You can’t blame them really, all that frantic blooming for weeks at a time comes at a cost.  So, best to keep an eye on them.  The other, rare, dry day I was doing a bit of an inspection and realised that a good half of a massive Cistus pulverulentus had died away unbeknownst to me.  The other half will probably be fine, and it was probably due to the general exhaustion and the relentless dryness we had right up until the end of November.

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Cistus corbariensis photo credit: http://www.plantesexotiquesrustiques.com

And in the same vein, I am hoping that my Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo-Shibori’, so pretty and which I love, will also make a comeback this Spring.  It is looking pretty done in, all thin, pasty twigs at the moment. And it may be that it has coughed much as the aforementioned Cistus and for the same reasons.

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Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo-Shibori’, Tostat, August 2015

Rosa ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’ is in the last chance saloon.  This is my third attempt to grow this rose, and I have succeeded only in killing it so far.  It has big sentimental pull for me as I bought one for my Mum years ago, from the late and much-missed ‘Plants from the Past’ nursery run by the inspirational David Stuart in Belhaven, outside Dunbar.  I bought loads of lovely plants from there for our garden in Linlithgow.  Actually, I remember now my Mum managed to kill ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’ as well.  Must break the ‘Like Mother, like daughter’ thing here.

So, the last chance plant is now inside the house in a pot in our cold hall, near to the backdoor window, and without tempting fate, it is already budding.  A lovely soft apricot shade, with golden stamens, she dates from about 1921 and was bred by Cant’s of Colchester, the oldest rose hybridiser in the UK dating from 1765, and still in business.  Pray for her now and in her hour of need.  And me.

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Rosa ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’ photo credit: http://www.promessedefleurs.com