A bright, sunny Sunday morning took us to Kentchurch Court gardens when we visited ‘Gardens in the Wild’ in June. Our visit started with a very good-humoured mixup over our tickets, and in a way, that set the tone for what was a very warm, sunny, joyous garden- and that included the totally fabulous cream and raspberry scones that finished off the visit. We met the gardener in charge of it all, who seemed as bright and optimistic as his garden over a discussion about Lychnis chalcedonica, the bright red pompoms of which can be seen in the view above and in detail below.
The Walled Garden, in particular, was a joyous mix of shrubs and trees for structure, with big, bold repeating borders stuffed to the armpits with happy plants, some rare and unusual, others cheap as chips, and with repeating swathes of Lychnis chalcedonica, Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’ and Centaurea phrygia.
So brilliant. 300 seeds of ‘Black Ball’ from Sarah Raven, see above, and you would have an industrial scale planting possibility. I was inspired and have done that, though in lesser numbers, with the Lychnis and ‘Black Ball’. Really, really easy from seed.
I adore Centaurea orientalis too, but it does go to mush quickly as my friend Jane observed. For more about Centaurea as a family, Dan Pearson has a useful article. But there was more to see than a Centaurea tour!
And lastly, a mystery plant, well, to me at any rate, and a possible rose identification. NB. My pal, Jane the Shropshire Gardener, has identified the mystery plant as Salsify– (Tragopogon porrifolius) and it was weaving its way all through the border plantings, with these exquisite flowers and seedheads popping up all over.
What an inspiring garden, full of fun, colour and energy. And great scones, trust me.
A slightly hazy photo of the foxgloves that turned up in abundance this Spring. It was a really good year for them, despite the dryness here they found the moist spots in a couple of places in the garden, and were statuesque for almost a month- a great bang for no bucks. I don’t try to regulate their appearances, they just put themselves where they want to be, and most of them are the regular Digitalis purpurea, with just a dash of the exotic from some apricot foxglove seed-grown plants that I planted out. But, in England in June, I was introduced to some more unusual varieties, which I really loved.
Digitalis lutea is a very elegant thing. About half the size of your average foxglove, so maybe less likely to be toppled in the wind, it has slim, cream-coloured trumpets more like a Penstemon flower, and it worked beautifully in this border planting partnered with the white astrantia and orange hemerocallis. A very classy thing, without being showy.
Taking cream to a clotted and Devonian level, Digitalis lanata was another foxglove new to me in a plantsman’s garden in Herefordshire that we visited as part of the ‘Gardens in the Wild’ festival in June. The RHS link will take you to a foxglove that looks very different- no way to explain this, but the chap at Thruxton Rectory was a very serious plantsman, so perhaps he has found something unusual as a yellow form. This lovely things is again half the size of your average foxglove, but with with more generous flowers than lutea. Very garden-worthy.
A real giant, Digitalis grandiflora had taken a battering at Bryan’s Ground in Shropshire when we visited. Quite a few of them were on the ground but this one was tall enough for me to look up it’s nose as it were. A mellow yellow with red-brown speckling in the trumpets, which were generously sized with more to open up the stem. Also, in Shropshire, I absolutely fell in love with Linaria vulgaris which had merrily self-seeded in the planting outside the Ludlow Food Centre. It sort of counts as it was once included in the Scrophulariaceae family, and there are similarities in the flower shape. Also called Butter and Eggs, good name, this is a great wildflower for bumblebees and many other pollinators, and, frankly, it is quite gorgeous- so I have sent for seed.
Slim, erect at about 0.3m, and completely at home amongst a clump of Stipa tennuisisma, the Linaria had sprinkled itself among the planting delightfully.
I grew Isoplexis canariensis from seed about six years ago, it is a Canary Island foxglove and pretty rare apparently in cultivation. Of course, it was the fiery orange colouring that drew me to it, and the amazing fact that these absolutely minute seedlings would ever turn into anything so big and gorgeous. I have them in a big deep pot as they seem to like quite moist conditions, and I overwinter them in our covered barn. But, this year, they have really not liked our boomerang summer, from 11C to 37C in a matter of days last week for example, and so the flowering has been sporadic and sparse this year. It may be that the plants are becoming too woody, and I have to start again, but for the moment, I will put it all down to this weird summer. The plant grows to about 1.3 metres in height and has normally glossy deep green foliage- this year it looks far less happy. But, as you can see from 2016, when in full throttle, it is a gorgeous thing.