Good fortune and…not so good

Cestrum elegans Bourton 0617
Cestrum elegans, Bourton House Garden, June 2017

This stunning shrub flowerhead was unknown to me when I took the photograph last June, but this morning I met it again.  Cestrum elegans could not be resisted.  Going for 6 euros in the sale at Jardiland (just the name makes me sniff with disdain!), I nearly fell over the trolley grabbing it.  It is just a touch on the picky side, wanting not too much wet in the winter, and semi-shade.  So this means that I will have to fufill my dream of digging out the Kerria japonica that has been a marked plant for the last 2 years, and putting it where the Kerria was, just in the lee of our big pine tree but far enough away to be moist and not wet.  But if it likes me, it should shoot up this year to maybe 2-3m all round and flower nonstop from June till November.  And when the flower is the cerise-pink pineapple that it is- how can you fail to love it?  The old nuisance of a pine tree will also give it a bit of winter protection, which will help.

Now why am I so snotty about Jardiland? I really should grow up and get over it, because there were yet more gems in the Jardiland sale.  I bought two Abelia grandiflora prostrata (in white I think), and two Cistus corbariensis.  What a coup.  I had been mulling over the Abelia, more than 10 euros elsewhere, not to mention the postage.  I am a recent almost-fan of Abelias.  Firstly, they are really tough, secondly, they flower in July-September, and thirdly, they are good-sized shrubs.

Yes, shrubs.  This from the woman who rarely waxes lyrical about shrubs, I know.  But I am undergoing character reformation.  I know I need more of them in the garden.  I need to think of the garden as more of a smogasbord, and sue the shrub element to bring green where there is none, flowers when I need them and above all, structure and shape.  So, the past year I have concentrated on growing perennials myself from seed, well, maybe 80% of the time, and spending my cash on some shrubs that are not entirely pipsqueaks to start with.  So, I am focusing on shrubs with a couple of years behind them, but still small enough to be affordable.

RHS_RHS-0008726_9506
Abelia grandiflora prostrata photo credit: http://www.rhs.org.uk

I think the Abelia will be lovely- no more than a metre high and maybe 1.5 m wide, so bigger on the spread, and fairly dense, which will help with groundcover.   The Cistus is reputed to be the hardiest one, and I am going to plant it in a couple of hot spots that are currently empty.  Cistus can just suddenly give up on you.  You can’t blame them really, all that frantic blooming for weeks at a time comes at a cost.  So, best to keep an eye on them.  The other, rare, dry day I was doing a bit of an inspection and realised that a good half of a massive Cistus pulverulentus had died away unbeknownst to me.  The other half will probably be fine, and it was probably due to the general exhaustion and the relentless dryness we had right up until the end of November.

cistus-corbariensis
Cistus corbariensis photo credit: http://www.plantesexotiquesrustiques.com

And in the same vein, I am hoping that my Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo-Shibori’, so pretty and which I love, will also make a comeback this Spring.  It is looking pretty done in, all thin, pasty twigs at the moment. And it may be that it has coughed much as the aforementioned Cistus and for the same reasons.

Lespedeza thunbergii Edo Shibori 2 815
Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo-Shibori’, Tostat, August 2015

Rosa ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’ is in the last chance saloon.  This is my third attempt to grow this rose, and I have succeeded only in killing it so far.  It has big sentimental pull for me as I bought one for my Mum years ago, from the late and much-missed ‘Plants from the Past’ nursery run by the inspirational David Stuart in Belhaven, outside Dunbar.  I bought loads of lovely plants from there for our garden in Linlithgow.  Actually, I remember now my Mum managed to kill ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’ as well.  Must break the ‘Like Mother, like daughter’ thing here.

So, the last chance plant is now inside the house in a pot in our cold hall, near to the backdoor window, and without tempting fate, it is already budding.  A lovely soft apricot shade, with golden stamens, she dates from about 1921 and was bred by Cant’s of Colchester, the oldest rose hybridiser in the UK dating from 1765, and still in business.  Pray for her now and in her hour of need.  And me.

Rosier-Mrs-Oakley-Fisher-71311-1
Rosa ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’ photo credit: http://www.promessedefleurs.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small things do you good…

tostat-0217
Tostat looking South to the Pyrenees, February 2017

Like coming back across the fields with Molly the dog late this afternoon, and noticing the light on the snow in the distance, and hints of green appearing in the fields if not yet in the trees.  Also, looking down the river Adour this afternoon, which is replenished by the recent rain, and not just a pebble-run as it has been most of the winter, I thought to myself how very lucky I am to live here- I am often prone to thinking this when I contemplate a visit to a city!  Not that I don’t really enjoy the hustle and bustle, but it can be too strong a contrast sometimes.

adour-2-0217
The river Adour this afternoon, February 2017

Back in the woods around Tostat, we have some wonderful swathes of snowdrops, they seem really glorious this year, maybe because they made us wait till about 3 weeks ago to put in an appearance.

tostat-woods-0217
Tostat woods, Februar7 2017

Back in the garden, continuing the big attack on my congested border by the wall, Andy was hacking away at a long-past-best Phlomis fruticosa, more dratted wisteria adopting guerilla tactics behind it, and some Kerria japonica, which is also getting the order of the boot.  I love the yellow pompoms but that is all it does- not enough for me to continue to love it.  It has been a neglected spot, and one of those parts of the garden I have been avoiding- not any more.  The soil is actually quite good as there is some spring activity which keeps it from being bone-dry,  and although technically North-facing and with our boundary wall behind it, it actually gets a lot of sun in the morning catching it coming in from the East and then again in the mid to later afternoon.  So, it will be a good place, I think, for plants that don’t need it to be boiling and bone-dry.

So, I am going to thread some grasses through it, beginning with Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Red Head’ and then moving on to a new-to-me Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’.  In some ways, I need more Miscanthus like a hole in the head, but this variety is so gorgeous, golden and upright and not tall, maybe just over a metre, and so I will man up for the seedlings.  More about this grass when I get a chance to blog more about ‘Le Jardin Champêtre’ in Caunes-Minervois, which was where I saw it for the first time a couple of weeks back.  Yes, I have got it so bad that an order went in pretty much immediately.

Then I have a lovely rose that survived my attempt to over-test its drought tolerance, Rosa ‘Alissar Princess of Phoenicia’, which spent last summer recuperating and is now back on song.  And in amongst that will be a new perennial for me, Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’.  This should have masses of light lilac daisies all summer and should not behave like sprinting Asters, which have almost been eradicated from the garden.  I am also going to try out my Abutilon megapotamicum drifting in arches over the heads of these plants, as I think I will be able to persuade it to do that with a bit of judicious plant support here and there.

rosa-allissar-princess-of-phoenicia
Rosa Allissar, Princess of Phoenicia, Tostat, August 2016
kalimeris-incisa-madiva-80901-1
Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’ photo credit: http://www.promessedefleurs.com
abutilon-megapotanicum-pound-616
Chinese lanterns of Abutilon megapotamicum, Gill Pound’s garden, Caune-Minervois, June 2016

So we will see.  And the last delight?  Seedlings coming up of Colutea x media upstairs.  It was on ‘last strike or out’ stage after I have lost two previous small plants.  But these seedlings look really strong, so maybe they will make it.