The truly wonderful Henryk Eilers

Rudbeckia Henryk Eilers 715
Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henryk Eilers’, Tostat, July 2015
Rudbeckia Henryk Eilers 815
Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henryk Eilers’, Tostat, August 2015

Apparently, according to the ‘English Garden’, this very agreeable plant, Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henryk Eilers’ is one of Nigel Dunnett‘s favourite plants of the last two decades- I would agree wholeheartedly.  It is not a ‘blingy’ plant- rather, it is a good, strong grower that has even come through our terrible drought this summer, though, admittedly, the flowers are the size of a fingernail, tiny in comparison with these photographs of 2 years ago.

It grows as well as ‘Goldsturm’, and like ‘Goldsturm’, will take pretty much whatever is thrown at it, in terms of weather and conditions.  But it should become a slender giant, up to 1.5m or taller, with supple, strong stems that bounce back, and these lovely, quilled flowers with the typical dark chocolate Rudbeckia centre.  The yellow is softer than ‘Goldsturm’, and the quilling gives the whole flower a delicate appearance.  But delicate, it ain’t.

It was discovered alongside a stream near railway tracks in open prairie in Illinois by a retired nurseryman, Henry Eilers.  It first appeared on the commercial market in 2003 and has won hearts across the world ever since.  I bought it in, maybe, 2007, when I found a small nursery, Groenstraat 13, in Belgium that specialised in Dan Hinckley introductions, and it arrived safe and sound in the post.  Rik from ‘Groenstraat 13’ called it ‘Henryk Eilers’ and because it reminds me of Sondheim’s ‘A Little Night Music’, I like to keep the Flemish version of the name.  For more about this great plant, see this article by North Creek Nurseries in Pennsylvania.

It has toiled this year, but, I have a mind to dig it up and divide it sooner rather than later.  My experiment, inspired by Monty Don’s visit to Jimi Blake and Hunting Brook Gardens in Ireland, in early division of two clumps of Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ has been a real success- I am now a proud parent of 35 rapidly growing small plants in pots as opposed to two rather exhausted parent plants in a dried out garden.  Not bad, eh?!

Stachys Hummelo 616
Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’, Tostat, June 2016

And, to remind myself about the great Nigel Dunnett, here are a couple of photographs from his RHS Chelsea gardens in 2011 and 2013.  I love his work.

Dunnett 2011
Nigel Dunnett’s Habitat Walls appearing through the planting, The New Wild Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011.
Dunnett 2013
Nigel Dunnett’s Blue Water Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013.

 

 

Parties and droughts…

It’s been a while!  We hosted a mad and wonderful week of nonsense, great fun and friendship for friends from all over the world, culminating in inviting 62 people to a sitdown meal and dancing in the garden. This madness and fun could not have been achieved without the very hard work of many friends who cooked, carted tables and chairs, washed up and all the rest…But oh, the joy when naievity (ours) (Question: how hard can it be to do this? Answer, quite hard!) is matched by great help from good friends.

And, meantime the garden was gently crisping in the heat with temperatures well into the 30s every day (except the party, what a miracle) and no rain to speak of for a month.  Things were only just holding on with some watering for those plants that went in this year. The tougher birds from previous years moreorless pulled through on their own.  So, this gave the chance to try out something I had been meaning to experiment with- using a bottomless pot.  I read about this in an article by Bunny Guinness some while ago. Now, admittedly, she was mainly talking about small spaces and veggies, but I thought that it might really work where I had a bit of a pre-party problem.

We have a cheap, not very attractive, (but it will be when clothed in green) concrete arch that links the swimming pool area to the New Garden. I had grown 2 very happy Clematis flammula there, until something about this Spring, perhaps the very wet month just when they were waking up, killed them off. Left with tons of brown stick, I decided to stick in a honeysuckle baby, Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana‘, and a new Passiflora Caerula. For once, I bought a decent sized one in a 3l pot, and decided to bash the bottom out of a bigger pot, and use that to install the Passiflora, so that it had really good compost going into the poor soil from the bottomless pot, and also room to develop a good, deep root system to deal with the hot situation.  Then I mostly forgot about it, the party and whatnot…and it is actually doing really well. I did remember to give it a couple of really deep waterings with a full can, but other than that, it is already marching over the arch and will do the job by next year. Thank you, Bunny.

The last 2 nights we have had downpours of the monsoon variety so I am pretty confident we will have made it through the worst of the dryness. But, some things have been performing terrifically despite all my neglect and the conditions…This Echinops, Echinops sphaerocephalus ‘Arctic Glow’, has been a real doer as in most summers, I love it for the way in which it fills with colour gradually as if it were starring in a cartoon. It grows and puts it itself into the driest, poorest conditions but won’t cope with competition.

Echinops sphaerocephalus 'Arctic Glow', Tostat, July 2015.  Filling with colour like a cartoon plant...
Echinops sphaerocephalus ‘Arctic Glow’, Tostat, July 2015. Filling with colour like a cartoon plant…

I bought these lily blubs, Lilium Flore Pleno,  for pot planting last year in an absent moment and was a bit shocked when it turned into a very Mills and Boon type flower. But now, I am very taken with the shock of the tiger orange, and love it for its full-blown tackiness. No shrinking violet, this.

Lilium Flore Pleno, Tostat, July 2015...A touch of the Rita Hayworths...
Lilium Flore Pleno, Tostat, July 2015…A touch of the Rita Hayworths…

Vernonia crinita ‘Mammuth’ as the name suggests, is very tall. Maybe 2 and a bit metres for me. It likes some sun, but not too much and reliable moisture, so I grow it by the ruisseau, which accounts for it being in such a pristine state despite the month long drought. It doesn’t need staking and is completely hassle-free, making a good, solid clump.

Vernonia crinita 'Mammuth', Tostat, July 2015
Vernonia crinita ‘Mammuth’, Tostat, July 2015

I bought this sanguisorba from Groenstraat 13, a very good nursery by post in Belgium. Sanguisorba officinalis ‘Cangshan Cranberry’ is a recent Dan Hinckley introduction from Yunnan, and is now in its 2nd summer with me, and really getting into its stride. It grows tall, to about 1.5m, and once old enough, will hold itself very well against weather even though it seems so delicate. The burgundy flowerheads are gorgeous, and do that lovely thing of bobbing in any breeze. The foliage is delicate and attractive too.

Sanguisorba officinalis 'Cangshan Cranberry', Tostat, July 2015
Sanguisorba officinalis ‘Cangshan Cranberry’, Tostat, July 2015