Cleve West and that dianthus

There are moments when plants grab your heart.  It might be a colour, a form, foliage but something reaches out and grabs you. And so it was when I saw Dianthus cruentus in Cleve West’s Best in Show garden in 2011. And I wasn’t the only one, within days all plants available in the UK had been snapped up, and it took 2 years for seed stocks to build up enough to satisfy demand.  So I had to wait.  Sometimes, when you have to wait, the urge to have that plant passes or wanes or is replaced by, fickleness of it all, another must-have that presents itself.  But not so with Dianthus cruentus.

Dianthus cruentus May 2015
Dianthus cruentus, Tostat, May 2015..and my hand.

Having waited, in a slightly pig headed way, I bought seed and planted it in late summer 2014.  The tiniest seedlings you will ever see appeared and only seemed to grow by the smallest amount.  But, by March last year, small as they were, I had a hunch that they would be better in the sharply drained, stony, sunny position that they love, than sitting in my semi-shaded open barn.  So I planted them out, with stick markers, feeling as if I was performing some kind of micro-surgery.

From the garden point of view, what are it’s merits?  A tufty, grassy bottom is not much to write home about, and it isn’t big, and though it might spread, nothing yet on that front. No, it truly is the colour- which is an electric red, just as Verbena bonariensis is an electric purple.  It is so electric that only 2 or 3 plants light up a planting, in fact, dotted about, they are like little red neons.

Which is exactly how Cleve West used them, only a handful of plants, but they shot through his already superb planting and electrified it.  Of course, I loved all the rest too, the tumbled pillars and the wild, hot climate planting, as if you had just stumbled upon some Roman ruins abandoned somewhere in North Africa.

West 1
Dianthus cruentus, Cleve West, Chelsea 2011
West 2
Longer view of Dianthus cruentus, Cleve West, Chelsea 2011

Back to the merits of the case.  The plant is tough, only a wet, shady spot would deter it, I think.  Totally hardy, coping with ease with bone-dry conditions, it just really flowers only in late spring/early summer for a few weeks, that is the only serious downside. So, if you want that ruby colour, but without the electricity, throughout the summer, you could mingle it with Knautia macedonica, a bit taller and flowering non-stop, just watch out for the self-seeding Knautia as it does do global.

Knautia macedonica 2 615
Knautia macedonica, Tostat, June 2015

I adore them both.  By the way, I would beg to disagree with Crocus about the soil conditions required.  I would say, stony, poor, dry and impoverished rather than rich. And this year?  The small plants are already the size of one fist or two, and are looking great.  Last year’s seedlings are in the micro-surgery stage but will go in the ground soon.  Can’t wait.

 

 

 

Nipping round the garden with the camera…

The rain we have had this week has brought lots of things back from the  brink and encouraged others to push the boat out a bit, so I am frequently to be seen nipping round the garden with the camera.

Sphaeralcea munroana, Tostat, June 2015
Sphaeralcea munroana, Tostat, June 2015

This Sphaeralcea munroana is a lovely thing, but it isn’t at all what I expected! For a start, it should have been a crimson orange, and secondly, I was expecting it to be less drapey and more upright. But, whatever, I am actually rather fond of it. New to me this year, and picked out for its drought resistance, it is described by American sites as a ‘xeric’ plant, which means it is seriously good at drought tolerance. And, of course, as soon as I planted it, we had a soaking wet February. But it has pulled through, and is very pretty, if a sweeter pretty than I meant.  At the moment, it is trailing along the ground rather than growing upwards. But, maybe next year when it grows up a bit..

Anthemis tinctoria 'Sauce Hollandaise', Tostat, June 2015
Anthemis tinctoria ‘Sauce Hollandaise’, Tostat, June 2015

There is nothing special about this plant, Anthemis tinctoria ‘Sauce Hollandaise’, but, my goodness, it is a beauty. From 3 tiny pots planted 5 years ago, I have swathes of it now, and I adore it. Tough, pretty, fresh, and very happy to go without water for a while, it is a very good friend. Virtually bombproof, as Bob Brown would say, and most years, there is silvery green foliage all year round. Just deadhead to keep it going, and it will work really hard for you. I am becoming a daisy nut.

Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan', Tostat, June 2015
Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’, Tostat, June 2015

Another bombproof plant. You can pick up seed for Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ all over the internet for a pound or so, it germinates easily and gives you a great return. These vigorous plants were teeny weeny seedlings only a year ago, and this year, are quite splendid.  I love Echinacea, I am not so sure about some of the very gaudy doubles that are being bred right now, but you can’t beat the simplicity of ‘White Swan’. And here is a mature flower, the flower reflexes as it matures and exposes the central cone. Wow.

Reflexed Echinacea 'White Swan', Tostat, June 2015
Reflexed Echinacea ‘White Swan’, Tostat, June 2015
Knautia macedonica, Tostat, June 2015
Knautia macedonica, Tostat, June 2015

This is another really good plant. Happy in drought, probably fine in good soil if a little floppy, but wouldn’t want serious wet, it self seeds all over my gravel area and elsewhere too. Knautia macedonica is an unbeatable crimson, and wafts elegantly making a lovely haze of transparent colour. The flowers sit at the top of tall thin stems, so it almost seems to float. It will flower forever once it starts until frost cuts it down, and is totally hardy.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii, Tostat, June 2015
Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii, Tostat, June 2015

Oh oh, another daisy. Rudbeckia fulgida var.deamii is a very yellow daisy, maybe too Birds Custard for some, but I can take the yellow because it is another toughie.  And, though I am fond of ‘Goldsturm’ and have loads of it, I also like this one, which I grew from seed, easy as pie, and this is how they look 2 years on. It muscles it’s way past any weeds, and insists on being seen, so nothing retiring or delicate about it, right down to it’s coarse, hairy legs. But, flowering all summer, who can complain?

Bee coming in, Nepeta tuberosa, Tostat, June 2015
Bee coming in, Nepeta tuberosa, Tostat, June 2015

Warning! This is my 3rd shot at this plant, having grown it from seed twice and lost it. Nepeta tuberosa, so lovely that I will keep at it, needs razor sharp drainage and sun all year round. But if you can give it that, it will reward you with lipstick-shaped upright flower spikes, some more carmine than others, I have had carmine, almost pink, deep blue…It doesn’t last forever, but will self seed if it likes you. It also has the most strokable, velvety leaves and is very striking. Another Derry Watkins, Special Plants plant, and a right good one. Tweezer job on the seedlings so you need a steady hand.