A small miracle…

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Aristea ecklonii, Tostat, May 2017

This little spray of irridescent blue flowers only measures about 15cms from the ground and has only these four buds/flowers on it, but it delights me.  I grew from seed about 7 years ago, three varieties of Aristea- Aristea ecklonii, Aristea major and Aristea inaequalis. The first has stumbled on in a pot, coming under cover for the winter and to stay dryish, the second has grown immense with huge straps of leaves like a Phormium (more later about this one) and the last I nearly killed the winter before last and so have only one slightly mournful specimen at the moment.

So ecklonii has come good, as it did last year.  The flowers only appear in the sunlight and shut themselves when the sky clouds over- and the whole scale of it is ‘freesia-size’, and of course, the slightest puff of wind and it bobs about- hence the slight wobble.  But the colour is quite fabulous- a true, sky-blue and it really shines out.

So, the big sister, Aristea major has done exceptionally well in the leaf department- but nothing else, till now.  In fact, it had a hard winter. I had it fleeced up, but some wind shook the fleecing a little free, and our hard frost nights (-10C) ravaged the leaves.  So, last month, I re-potted it into a massive pot, as it is a big plant- cut off all the black, frosted foliage, which gave it a severe haircut, and hoped for the best.  Only a couple of new leaves have begun growing, but wowee, no fewer than five flowerspikes!  I am truly thrilled.  They came well-disguised, wrapped inside emerging leaves with only a small maternity bump that I didn’t notice for a while.  So, I am waiting, like an expectant parent outside the labour ward. So far, they look like grey wheathusks.

Other things romping away and causing great delight…

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Anchusa italica ‘Dropmore’, Tostat, May 2017

I grew this Anchusa italica ‘Dropmore’ from seed 2 years ago, and as ever, with most perennials, you are paying forward for the flowers, but here it is.  Tall, despite the drought, at nearly eye-level with me, and the same sort of irridescent blue that the Aristea offers, but in a big, slightly floppy, way.  I think it will go from strength to strength.

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That little flash of red, the tiny but mighty Dianthus deltoides ‘Flashing Light’, Tostat, May 2017

Good old standards here,  the Stachys byzantina at its best, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ and Centranthus ruber, but that little flash of red that really does sparkle is my new Dianthus deltoides ‘Flashing Light’.  I adore it.

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Rosa ‘Alissar Princess of Phoenicia’, Tostat, May 2017

The very first rose this year on this rose, Rosa ‘Alissar, Princess of Phoenicia’.  It has not had an easy time.  First, I cut it back to smuggle it back in hand luggage from Chelsea 2013, then I planted it for 2 years in a very dry spot which it really couldn’t cope with, then I potted it up in intensive care last summer and lastly, this Spring, it finally got the home it deserves.  A re-developed section with plenty of sun, but also, a little shade and moister soil, and it looks in great shape.  Phew.  It is a gorgeous thing.

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Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ with good backing, Tostat, May 2017

But maybe my favourite rose is this one, Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ for its robustness, and above all, the colour, a mahogany red unlike any other, almost burnished at the tips of the petals.  I planted it without thinking sort of in front of this Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Helmond Pillar’– which I love.  And they love each other, I think.

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Zantedeschia aethiopia, Tostat, May 2017

This Zantedeschia aethiopia pops up naturally in any shady spot with me.  I really love the horn shape of the flowers and the glossy leaves.  The only problem is that the flowers become waste-bins for any garden bits flying around in the air- still, you couldn’t have a nicer bin really.

Comeback kids…

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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
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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
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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