Summer with the Bees in Scotland

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Inula magnifica, at the Bees, August 2016

A lightening dash to Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago gave me the chance to swap my burnt-to-a-crisp garden for one that was overflowing with colour, insects and gorgeous things all doing beautifully in fine, Scottish weather.  It is always a delight to visit a friend’s garden as you can really have a good nosey around and also spend a long time chewing over the ins and outs of this or that plant.  Time flies.  So, in the Scottish garden was a full-tilt flowerer, Inula magnifica, and true to name, a bee arrived at the right moment on the Bees’ Inula.  I don’t grow this as I am pretty sure it would want more moisture than I can give it, but it is such a splendid thing reaching 2m in height and standing proud with great, billowing leaves. I do grow Telekia speciosa, which is a first cousin, and I love it, though here right now we are talking plant corpse condition.  Fatter centres and more stumpy petals on the Telekia would seem to be the main difference between the two.

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Telekia speciosa, Tostat, June 2015
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Dahlias on top of their game, the Bees, August 2016

Fabulous and super-sized dahlias were doing magnificently. I am embarassed to show you any of mine other than Dahlia Twynings After Eight, which has been the exception to the rule this year of stunted growth, repeated brutal attacks by slugs and snails and no flowers. Ah well.

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Dahlia Twynings After Eight, Tostat, July 2016
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The Shed, the Bees, August 2016

I adore this shed.  I wish I could steal in during the night and whisk it away to Tostat, where, admittedly, it would look very Scottish next to our pigshed, currently under renovation.  This shed is so solid and serious about what it does.  I love the home made table outside with potting stuff on it, and the sense of considerable work in progress. Yum.

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Persicaria amiplexicaulis Alba, the Bees, August 2016

I love the see-through delicacy of this new-to-me white Persicaria, Persicaria amiplexicaulis ‘Alba’ which has been planted in the midst of an elegant Miscanthus, and the two are a very good match.

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Ligularia dentata ‘Desdemona’, the Bees, August 2016

This is such a good plant.  The dark, wine-red stems, handsome green, tinting towards autumn foliage, and the custard yellow flowers with extravagant centres, studded as if with jewels.  Ligularia dentata ‘Desdemona’ is a trouble-free plant, only wanting enough moisture to fully develop its stately presence, up to about 1.25m high and wide.  With me this year, it has faded fast before even flowering, but I am sure it will return next year to try again.

And there were white lilies on the other side of the Miscanthus, not far from the Persicaria, still blooming and lighting up the gloomy end of the afternoon. They really demonstrate so well the power of white and pale colours to bring luminescence where you need it.

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Lilies snuggling up to Miscanthus, the Bees, August 2016

And, lastly, there was a mountain of tumbling sweetpeas, bringing colour and freedom to a pyramid wire structure- and just a glimpse of the beautiful brick wall which encloses this part of the garden.  Which always reminds me of one of my favourite books as a child, ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

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Lovely, tumbling sweetpeas, the Bees, August 2016

“…And then she took a long breath and looked behind her up the long walk to see if any one was coming. No one was coming. No one ever did come, it seemed, and she took another long breath, because she could not help it, and she held back the swinging curtain of ivy and pushed back the door which opened slowly–slowly.

Then she slipped through it, and shut it behind her, and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight.

She was standing inside the secret garden…”

from Chapter 8, ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett, published in 1909.


Gallery of positives

It’s another of those days, when, despite real excitement at the prospect of a woman US President, the news has been mostly about ghastly events around the world, especially in Syria.  So, to buck up, I decided to go outside and take a photograph of what’s looking good in the garden, despite hot temperatures and no rain.  Enough moaning, I said.

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Unknown crocosmia blooming beautifully in the bucket I stuffed it in and never re-planted, Tostat, July 2016
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Artichoke flower, nearly-O Flower of Scotland, Tostat, July 2016
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It’s the dark chocolate that does it, Dahlia ‘Twynings after Eight’, Tostat, July 2017
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Dianthus amurensis ‘Siberian Blues’ growing where it is hottest and driest, Tostat, July 2016
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It only lasts a day or so, Hedychium gardnerianum, Tostat, July 2016
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New to me this year, and so pretty, the Australian Salvia ‘Ember’s Wish’, Tostat, July 2016
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Abutilon pictum close-up, Tostat, July 2017
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So tiny, and so fabulous, Pelargonium x ardens, Tostat, July 2016



Finally, it has rained.  Sunday night was a wakeful one.  Lightning dancing around in the sky, very little thunder, and steady-Eddie rain all night…and all day Monday, with a few breaks.  Since then, we have had continuing really heavy downpours.  This is the right way round for us.  It had got so dry that heavy rain at the front end would have just bounced off the soil and smashed plants up.  So, the softly-softly start has meant that the heavier rain has also gone in, without too much destruction at all.  The first day looked impressively damp, but on digging lightly with a trowel, bone-dryness was only an inch below the surface.  Today, Wednesday, and yesterday inbetween showers, I actually got quite a bit done as this week temperatures are only just at 20º, so things that have been banking up in the hospital area can finally be planted out.

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Monarda fistulosa, Tostat, July 2016. Last year’s seed done good.

This is a great success!  I have been waiting for the lilac flowers of Monarda fistulosa  to appear, and they popped out in the middle of all the rain, and remained unbattered.  I am so pleased with this.  This plant is the biggest one that I have from the collection I planted out in the spring, but it is a very commendable 0.5m wide and about 0.40m high.  Which I reckon is pretty good going given the weird and variable spring and summer weather we have had.  Best thing is, that it is clearly a tough customer, so I am hoping for better and bigger as the summer progresses.

In the front garden, I have been able to plant our my small plants of Panicum virgatum ‘Emerald Chief’.  I lost a few over the winter, and though they have not been deliriously happy in their pots for the past few weeks, I wanted to hang on for more clement conditions, and so now, they have their reward and are in the ground.  I am part-lining the front driveway with them, to make a good, interesting, upright edge to the grass and give the driveway some definition.  This was the area where I had originally planted lavender when we arrived, but having failed to prune it properly, and old wood-itis having set in, I ripped them out last year and planted Panicum seed.  ‘Emerald Chief’ is very green as the name suggests, should reach about 1.2m high when flowering with deep pink flowerheads and good yellow colouring in the autumn.

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Platycodon grandiflorus’Fuji White’, Tostat, July 2016

Just coming out is a plant that is very little bother, and so I tend to forget about it, until suddenly I see a flower.  Through the rain this morning, from the kitchen window, I could just see the flash of white.  Utterly upright, slender and delicate, yet tough, the Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Fuji White’ or Balloon Flower ( you can see why) is a good doer, and enjoys the more moist moment of the last few days.  This year is probably it’s eighth birthday, and it just pushes it ‘s way through the other plants with ease, and then tops out at just over a metre high.

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Dahlia ‘Twynings After Eight’, Tostat, July 2016

It has been a battle royal with snails and slugs this year, as they have loved the lower temperatures so much that they have not been deterred by the dryness.  I have several Dahlia corpses that may not make it this year.  But ‘Twynings After Eight’, after a bad start, has come good with 2 out of 3 tubers making good, healthy plants.  What an attrition rate, though.  And this is despite planting them in pots on gravel, and away from other slug/snail favourites. Clearly, my snail/slug population possesses Olympian qualities.  I love the coolness of the single, white flower against the dark foliage, and can even cope with it turning faintly pink as it ages.

Making an appearance for only a couple of days before being demolished by the rain sadly, was a favourite of mine by the stream-side.  Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ is usually a lovely thing, which I forgive for bring sherbert-pink.  This year, the pink mophead which is so pretty when the many tiny buds are forming, only lasted for a couple of days.  But it is a great plant, spreading itself in single-stem formation through other plants, almost like a watchtower, as it is tall, maybe 1.5m high.

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Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ just before the rain, Tostat, July 2016

A new plant that has gone in this week is Cistus x hybridus ‘Gold Prize’.  I love sharp yellow and lime-green colour combinations and so fell for this low, ground-hugging Cistus, which will flower next Spring, but meantime, do a good spreading job where I want it.   Right now, it is not looking at it’s most distinguished, but I think it will be tough enough to fill a space where a cotton lavender has mostly pegged it.

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Cistus x hybridus ‘Gold Prize’, Tostat, July 2016

And the rain is back on…