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

 

 

I love my workhorses…

Well, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.  Workhorses are those plants that are utterly failsafe, reliable doers that actually often get overlooked by me because I know them so well. But it’s in early Spring that you are reminded of what good plants they are, and how it’s your own whims that dictate their survival in the garden, not their intrinsic qualities.  So here are three of mine. They suffer because I can get irritated by their self-seeding and I can get snobby about them because they seem so obliging. But they really do work for me, so I am giving them their moment of glory.

Teucrium hyrcanicum ‘Purple Tails’ is my first unsung hero.  I got seed from Derry Watkins. She is the amazing woman who runs Special Plants near Chippenham, and whose seed catalogue would bankrupt me if I weren’t firm with myself.  I had never been very successful with perennials from seed, but a few years ago, I made much more of an effort to get the conditions right, and Teucrium hyrcanicum ‘Purple Tails’ was one of my first successes.

Teucrium hyrcanicum 'Purple Tails' photo credit: www.specialplants.net
Teucrium hyrcanicum ‘Purple Tails’ photo credit: http://www.specialplants.net

And here is one of the reasons why I love it.  I have just been moving some clumps around the garden in a gail force wind, and yet, in early Spring, it is already energetic, bursting with pretty foliage and raring to go.

Right now in the garden, Teucrium hyrcanicum 'Purple Tails' Mar 15
Right now in the garden, Teucrium hyrcanicum ‘Purple Tails’ Mar 15

You can tell that it’s an early summer bloomer because it is already up and running, but it will give you a good month of flower and then you will have seedheads once the flowers are over. It will self-seed, so then you have the choice of pulling out, making more clumps, or just enjoying it. For me, it likes goodish soil, not too dry, but it is perfectly happy with normal rainfall and warm sun. It is quite an insistent clumper, so it doesn’t let other stuff invade it. It grows to 2′ or so, and one year I must have a go at Chelsea-chopping some of it to see if I can prolong the flowering a bit.

Phlomis russeliana is my second choice.  It works all year. Big plate-sized, thick leaves make sure that nothing else creeps in where it is growing, and then, in early summer, tiered candelabra soft creamy yellow flowers shoot up on straight, tough stalks. By late summer, the flowers have gone over, but the seedheads remain statuesque right through till early Spring the following year when they can be cut back. Winter frost looks stunning caught in the phlomis heads, and so it really is a truly four season plant. It will take rubbish soil, heat, very little water, sun and is altogether obliging.  Here it is growing in what I call ‘The New Garden’ made out of a caved-in barn space at the side of the house. This was another of my Beth Chatto type challenges, to grow plants that work in unenriched, poor, very rocky, free-draining soil. Look how happy it is amongst the kniphofia and perovskia.

Yellow Kniphofia, Gaura lindheimeri, Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spire' and the creamy spires of Phlomis russeliana, June 2012
Yellow Kniphofia, Gaura lindheimeri, Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Little Spire’ and the creamy spires of Phlomis russeliana, June 2012

And my last hero is, Bronze fennel or Phoeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’. It is a light, airy wonder of a plant. The bronze foliage is at its most striking in early Spring. Here is a fennel baby coming up right now in the garden alongside a pal, phlomis russeliana.

Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum' coming up in March 2015 alongside Phlomis russeliana.
Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ coming up in March 2015 alongside Phlomis russeliana.

Completely tough, it will self seed everywhere, so you will never be without it, especially in a veiled planting next to roses, the feathery, dark foliage is stunning. The yellow seedheads are really pretty in themselves, and it will be happy in both good and poor soil, but will need sun.

Rosa 'Edith Piaf' and Phoeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum' July 2013
Rosa ‘Edith Piaf’ and Phoeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ July 2013

There’s nothing common or garden about these three heroes.