Mirabilis jalapa…

Mirabilis jalapa behind the raised vegetable beds, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2022

It’s so hot. So hot for 5 more days. I am up around 7am watering the pots in the courtyard and the back, and by noon am reduced to jelly in the brain, watching the Tour de France in a dozing state. As for the rest of the garden, emergency watering only is happening, and I am crossing fingers for the rest. Oloron is on the whole, a kinder place to garden than Tostat. There we baked in an open, exposed situation. Here, the barn garden at the back has some tree shade from over the wall, and the courtyard takes the sun first on the house side, with some shade in the afternoon, whilst the other side plays the reverse game. So, the pots do get some time off from full sun.

The gingers are loving it. I had always kept these in very large pots in Tostat, for watering purposes really. But here, we had a massive stone trough in the courtyard which we filled with compost and the gingers went in- their first time altogether in a fairly deep and wide trough. they are blooming right now, not, of course, lasting in the terrific heat, but looking very pleased with themselves I reckon.

Hedychium gardnerianum, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2022
The ginger trough, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2022

Another plant that is also loving it, despite being in only a part sunny situation in the barn garden, is Mirabilis jalapa. I love this plant. Talk about easy- this plant personifies easy. I had this plant in the early days in Tostat, all over the place. In ignorance, I ripped masses of it out. But, later reading about it and realising my ignorance, I let it come back from a butchered state.

This plant is a wonderful thing. From small tubers, the easiest way to get it going and very cheap, planted in the Spring, this will make a 1.25m bush in height and width as soon as the temperatures warm up. Give it room and it may need some staking depending on the amount of heavy rainfall. In summer, when you need a good doer, masses of tubular flowers appear for a day at a time, and they keep on coming all summer long. It needs no additional water, even in a hot, dry spot, and it will also be happy in partial shade.

The flowers are described as perfumed, but, honestly, I can’t smell a thing, however I do have the world’s most hopeless nose. The small, round, shiny seeds drop out in the autumn and you probably won’t ever have to buy tubers again. It is pretty hardy too, contrary to what some sites say. It has always re-appeared for me in Tostat, and here in Oloron, no matter how cold or wet the winter has been. Tostat often had week long or longer periods of -10C and we get plenty of rain in the winter in Oloron. Maybe a heavy soil might trouble it?

The colours are very varied. Mine have always come out yellow, from the palest ceam to bright yellow to freckled yellow. I have one plant that does pink, but sadly not the deep pink or even red that grows up the road. I must get to know that neighbour.

It is considered a weed by some. No worries for me there, bring it on I say. We are revisiting so many of our 19th century ideas about what constitutes a weed, so Mirabilis jalapa deserves rehabilitation along with many others. If cow parsley can make it, why not Mirabilis?

Now for history buffs, this plant has a serious history. It may have been brought to Europe on one of Sir Francis Drake’s voyages in the 16th century, but before he got the idea, the Aztecs were growing it, using it pharmacologically and for eating, and also possibly making early plant selections based on colour. Linnaeus catalogued the plant in the eighteenth century but Mirabilis had been grown in Europe for 200 years before Linnaeus. In addition, Thomas Jefferson, in his garden at Monticello, received seed in 1812 of another Mirabilis, Mirabilis longiflora, and grew it there, and it is still grown there to this day. For more on the history and recognition of this wonderful plant, see Julian Raxworthy‘s interesting article.

Mirabilis longiflora, this cousin of Jalapa, looks rather amazing, and I have found some seed and will give it a go here as I can’t resist it. It is supposed to be heavily perfumed- maybe even I will catch a whiff.

Mirabilis longiflora, credit: Hillview Hardy Plants

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

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.

Crocosmia 716
Unknown crocosmia blooming beautifully in the bucket I stuffed it in and never re-planted, Tostat, July 2016

Artichoke 716
Artichoke flower, nearly-O Flower of Scotland, Tostat, July 2016

Dahlia Twynings After Eight 2 716
It’s the dark chocolate that does it, Dahlia ‘Twynings after Eight’, Tostat, July 2017

Dianthus amurensis Siberian Blues 716
Dianthus amurensis ‘Siberian Blues’ growing where it is hottest and driest, Tostat, July 2016

Hedychium gardnerianum 716
It only lasts a day or so, Hedychium gardnerianum, Tostat, July 2016

Salvia Embers Wish 2 716
New to me this year, and so pretty, the Australian Salvia ‘Ember’s Wish’, Tostat, July 2016

Abutilon pictum 716
Abutilon pictum close-up, Tostat, July 2017

Pelargonium Ardens 716
So tiny, and so fabulous, Pelargonium x ardens, Tostat, July 2016

 

The aristocrat and the pauper…

I love my flowering ginger, Hedychium gardnerianum. They had a rough start in life here. Bought as a few small tubers on ebay, I planted them in what I thought would be a warm and wet enough part of the garden, and for two or three years, they bravely grew leaves and did what they could. I then realised that they took so long to get over winter even in the place I had carefully chosen for them, that they were too exhausted to flower, or if they tried, autumn chills did for them. So, into a pot they went, even though I managed to leave a bit behind, which is now back in the square one position, and yes, I will remember to dig it up this autumn.

Hedychium gardnerianum, Tostat, August 2015
Hedychium gardnerianum, Tostat, August 2015

This variety of Hedychium is reputed to be the hardiest, and so isn’t perhaps as luscious in flowering as some, but I like the Golden Shred colouring, and especially the contrast with the darker orange at the base of each flowerette. But the truth is: each flowerspike, currently one on each plant, lasts only a couple of days and will be utterly blitzed by any heavy rain. So, in plant terms, cost per wear doesn’t look too good.  But I will move it into a more semi-shaded position than now, and try again another year.

But, cost per wear is a given a real ROI when you look at Eucomis autumnalis.  I absolutely adore this plant. It meets all the requirements of a late summer flowering plant, great, lush foliage, flowerspikes that last for weeks and look good before, during, and after flowering, and it is incredibly easy to grow. It is a South African native, grows from bulbs, and is cheap as chips really.  The only thing you have to do, which I didn’t, is really read up on what it likes.  I had it planted in dry, stony ground for several years, which is exactly what it likes in the winter and spring, with very free-draining soil.  My mistake was in not reading about the rest of what it likes. To flower, it wants moisture and quite a bit of it, as well as richer conditions. I promised myself every year I saw the leaves forming that I would dig it up and pot it up and, yes,  each year I forgot.

This year I remembered, and was astonished that 3 bulbs were now nine in number, and went into 2 pots not one. And it has rewarded me, hand over fist, with a lovely display of cool, white flowerheads, for the past month and isn’t finished yet.  I am so pleased that I remembered.

Eucomis atumnalis, Tostat, early July 2015
Eucomis atumnalis, Tostat, early July 2015

I love the faux pineapple shape of the spike, and its cheeky little top, the bit that I thought would make a great earring in an earlier blog.  You get to see the little pineapple shape emerging weeks earlier before it finally flowers, so it is a great reveal when it happens.

Another pot, a bit later in July 2015
Another pot, a bit later in July 2015