Spring has sprung…

The Spring garden looking over the Mix to the village behind, Tostat, April 2020

As Spring really gets going, photography has to squeeze into the gentle hours of light- but whilst the light is gentle, it still packs a punch and I am often to be found crouching in the shade. Here you can see what I call the magical effect of euphorbias right now- I have way too many and will be culling them in the next month- but they really light up the garden especially in morning and evening low light. Mine are not distinguished in any way, plain old Euphorbia wulfenii, but, though they are rascals, I really value them in March and April.

Deinanthe caerulea ‘Blue Wonder’, Tostat, April 2020

Deinanthe really punches its way out of the soil. Each stem has a beefy little fist that shoves the soil aside in the pot. This is a small shrub that I probably wouldn’t bother with but for the foliage. The scrunched up pale blue flowers are not very exciting, but the foliage pretending to be a dahlia, looks as if it has had a friend with scissors insert a dart, making the leaf look interestingly cut. I really like the foliage, and in a pot in semi-shade, this thirsty little shrub looks very good as long as you turn blind eye to the flowers.

Hedera helix erecta, Tostat, April 2020

Hedera helix ‘Erecta’ suddenly had the right light on it a few days ago, so you can see why I love it. The tightly stacked triangular leaves which aim for the sky, even with a bend in the middle of the stem, are fascinating. It grows in stony, poor soil in full sun. Reminds me of Pringles in a tin.

View past the back door in the evening, Tostat, April 2020

Another ode to Spring euphorbia- most of which have plonked themselves by themselves, waiting to see if I will approve. Sometimes I do.

The indispensible green morning mug, Tostat, April 2020

The lockdown has exacerbated my need for routines in the morning. It goes like this- first set up tea, second, take dog outside for 10 minutes (usually without my documents as we go just outside the gate, but, technically, I am in breach of regulations), back inside make first cup of tea. Yorkshire, of course. Then, with the mug, out to water and check on small plants in and around the barn. Then back inside to make second cup, which is required for the full tour of whatever’s going on in the garden- and sometimes, watering of pots. Two hours can pass like this, especially when full pot watering starts up. It is the best two hours of the day and keeps me from killing anyone!

Libertia procera or grandiflora, Tostat, April 2020

This plant is such a joy. Ten months of the year it does a very good impression of being a Carex type grass, and for 2 months, it goes full-on Japanese elegance with twisting pure white flowers. I grew it ages ago from seed, and have been calling it grandiflora, but I bought the seeds from the wonderful Special Plants, and just today, having a wee look, I notice that Derry Watkins calls it ‘Procera’. I think I stand corrected.

Cotinus coggygria @old Fashioned’, Tostat, April 2020

I am very fond of a smoke bush. But being a sucker for a new variety, I bought Cotinus coggygria ‘Old Fashioned’ about three years ago. I am still waiting to be dazzled…but it is slowly but surely making progress, and I think this year I may at least be pleased if not yet dazzled. And I do love the early growth caught in morning dew.

Physocarpus poulifolius ‘Tiny Wine’, Tostat, April 2020

I think I should start a ‘Tiny Wine’ fan club. This is so gorgeous all year round really. Not so tiny as the name suggests, mine is easily heading for 2m tall and 1.5 wide- but who wouldn’t want this in their garden??? Me, me, me…

Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Golfball’….flowers! Tostat, April 2020

Who would have thought that ‘Golfball’ produces flowers? I had no idea. They are remarkably Daphne-like, and for a moment, I thought that the Daphne next door had hit the hair dye. Only a few flowers, very small, well hidden, and scented. Goodness me.

The very fragile Quince flower, over in a day, Tostat, April 2020

From the fast-vanishing quince flower to the relentless beautiful bully that is Wisteria. It was here when we arrived, so it’s a no-name, and it does its very best to pull down the pergola under which we eat in the summer. The strength of it can be seen in the twisted trunks. But, now, with a million bees in it creating a serious noise, it is forgiven everything.

Comeback kids…

Rosa unknown 417
Unknown rose, Tostat, April 2017

One of the joys of wandering round the garden at this time of year is discovering the ‘comeback kids’- those plants that may already be in the last chance saloon or who may have had a rough year last year.  This unknown climbing rose growing on an arch has always lived dangerously.  It is one of those early flowering roses that, normally, can easily be completely decimated and reduced to sodden rags by a wet Spring.  And it has also fallen victim, I think, to some slightly over the top path weedkilling (yes, we do do this a couple of times a year- sorry.) which must have just nipped it.  So, a couple of years ago, it was back to twig size entirely due to our sloppiness.  But this year, a dry Spring, lots of sunshine and not too much wind, has taken it back to pole position on top of and covering the arch, and it is looking glorious.  It always pays to wait.

Another plant that has pulled through is Deinanthe caerulea ‘Blue Wonder’. I bought it on a whim a couple of years ago and have been seriously underwhelmed- till now.  I loved it for the strange, pointy leaves, and have always found the weird flowers odd, firstly they barely qualify as ‘blue’ and are certainly not wondrous.

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Deinanthe caerulea ‘Blue Wonder’, Tostat, April 2017

Bu this morning, I was really reminded about why I bought it.  The vibrant lime-green leaves are flaunting their point-iness, and it is looking luminous in the morning sunshine. Here is a photograph of the underwhelming flower from last year.  It has a lovely structure, but the wishy washy colouring is not much cop.  But, if you like the foliage, I would recommend it in a pot, as so far growth is very slow, and it measures about 40cms x 40cms, so it would easily get drowned out in a boistrous border situation.  It likes semi-shade and moisture- which is the main reason for it being in a pot with us.

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Deinanthe caerulea ‘Blue Wonder’, Tostat, July 2016

Now for a tiny sensation, Dianthus deltoides ‘Flashing Light’.  I am not one for tiny plants, but I love red, and this one really packs a punch, even though it is even tinier than Dianthus cruentus.  One of the bargain basement purchases at the beginning of winter last year that I can easily fall prey to, this very small dianthus is very pretty and very tiny.   The sparkling red, not shown well in my photograph, makes it like Barbie jewellery in the hot, dry border. Only in it’s first year, I am hoping it will like us and get going next year.

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Dianthus deltoides ‘Flashing Light’, Tostat, April 2017

Choisiya ternata Aztec Pearl 2 417
Choisiya x dewitteana ‘Aztec Pearl’, Tostat, April 2017

Bright like toothpaste, this Choisiya x dewitteana ‘Aztec Pearl’ is blooming fit to bust this Spring-Summer.  This was a refugee from the hotter, drier border about 5 years ago, where it had toiled as a twig for 3 years while I frowned at it.  Not surprisingly, I wasn’t listening to it but since I finally did, and moved it to a more moist position, it has galloped away.  The fragrance is lovely and so are the flowers close-up.  Just shows what you can encourage if you abandon stubbornness and listen to what your plants are saying.  Note to self.

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‘Aztec Pearl’ close-up, Tostat, April 2017

Primula auricula JungFrau 417
Primula auricula ‘Jungfrau’, Tostat, April 2017

I adore this little Auricula.  At Chelsea in 2015, I risked buying a set of five plug Auriculas from sheer sentimentality.  I had some which had travelled with us across Scotland when we lived in Linlithgow, and they loved a rocky wall, with good soil, cool temperatures and moisture.  None of which I have here in Tostat.  So, for a couple of years they have hung on, planted out in a wide bowl in semi-shade and watered regularly.  This year, after almost caving-in in the winter, two of them have flowered for the first time.   I am so thrilled.  And surprised that it is the cool beauty of ‘Jungfrau’ that I prefer to the more bling-y ‘Crimson Glow’.  There you go.

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Primula auricula ‘Crimson Glow’, Tostat, April 2017



Gallery of heat-survivors, almost all pot-dwellers…

Astilboides tabularis 616
Surviving well in a watered pot, though this was last week and it is toiling a bit now, the gracious leaves of Astilboides tabularis, now having its fourth birthday from seed, Tostat, August 2016

Begonia luxurians 816
New to me this year, Begonia luxurians, semi-shaded position and well-watered, and I really love it. What luxury!

Clerodenron bungei 716
Clerodendrum bungei lasted only a week in the heat and is already setting seed

Deinanthe caerulea Blue Wonder 716
Deinanthe caerulea ‘Blue Wonder’ is taking it’s time to settle into a pot. But the strange flowers are quite unique.

Hesperaloe parvifolia 2 716
The lobster-pink flowerspike of Hesperaloe parviflora– very badly treated by me, but it has flowered for the first time! Unfortunately it was decked this week by the dog!

Hedychium gardnerianum 716
Hedychium gardnerianum flowered with great ceremony, but only for a few days!

Lilium Flore Pleno and web 716
The fleeting beauty of Lilium lancifolium Flore Pleno with added spider web…

Pennisetum viridescens 816
Stunning black flowerhead of Pennisetum alopecuroides f. viridescens… first one this year.

Salvia Ember's Wish 816
New to me this year, Salvia x hybrida ‘Embers Wish’ with delectable colouring