Getting to August…

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Sanguisorba menziesii, Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Tiny Wine’, with the odd touch of Verbena bonariensis, Tostat, July 2018

I have been re-planting this area over the past 2 years.  The Sanguisorba menziesii was a seed-success about 5 or 6 years ago, and likes it much better here where there is some cool in the morning and early afternoon.  The Rudbeckia was another seed-story, funny that, as this year I have drawn a complete blank with some extra Rudbeckia seed.  Common but very bonny nonetheless, the Rudbeckia fulgida var.sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ lights up the dark colouring of the Sanguisorba, and Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Tiny Wine’.

Warning: ‘Tiny Wine’ is not that tiny- heading easily towards 1.5m x 1.5 or maybe 2m in height, but it is a real 3 season-player.  Warm red Spring shoots are followed by soft pink-white flowers, and then the deep colouring starts with the leaves, which, by late autumn, glow crimson-red with colder nights.

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Hydrangea paniculata ‘Phantom’, Tostat, July 2018

Further down this stretch are two Hydrangea paniculatas- ‘Phantom’ and ‘Great Star le Vasterival’.  They have toiled a bit the last two years with dry Springs and hot summers, but have been greatly restored by the wet, cool, even cold Spring we have had this year.  They are both a creamy-white, with ‘Phantom’ having the more typical conical flowers of the Paniculata, whilst ‘Great Star le Vasterival’ has a looser, almost mop-head shape.  The ‘Phantom’ photo was taken very early one morning, hence the almost blue colouring.

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Hydrangea paniculata ‘Great Star le Vasterival’, Tostat, August 2017
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Eryngium planum, Tostat, July 2018

Across the path, albeit fairly flattened by the heavy rain of 10 days or so ago, Eryngium planum is the bluest I have ever seen it.  I used to see this plant in bunches at markets visiting France when we were younger, and I was sure that the flowerheads were somehow dyed!  But no.  It is a fabulous, trouble-free plant given very good drainage, and in the heat, the colour is phenomenal.

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Liatris spicata ‘Alba’, Tostat, July 2018

July is the month for Liatris spicata.  I have the purple-pink one and the white, both superb and great pinpoints in the garden, giving structure and depth.  Liatris is perennial, but variably does or doesn’t make it back the following year. But the very best way to grow them is to sling in new bulbs every Spring, if you hunt for them, you can buy them really cheaply, but they give a lot for a few pence and there is a chance you will double your money the following year.

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Accidental loveliness, Liatris spicata pushing though Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Tostat, July 2018

 

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Mirabilis jalapa, Tostat, July 2018

July and into August brings back Mirabilis jalapa.  This tuberous plant is utterly unaffected by heat and dryness.  It has a lush, jungly look, and yet will grow almost anywhere as long as there is full sun.  Bob Flowerdew talks about lifting the tubers as per dahlias- but if you have free-draining soil, in my experience, try leaving it in as it comes back in the Spring even after periods of -10C with us.  It should be ludicrously easy from seed.  Ah well.

In amongst the gone-over pale blue Agapanthus, popped up this lovely white one this week.  Sometimes, gifts appear from nowhere…

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The lone white Agapanthus, Tostat, July 2018

 

 

In praise of….Mirabilis jalapa

Yellow Mirabilis Jalapa in bud, Tostat, July 2015
Yellow Mirabilis jalapa in bud, Tostat, July 2015
Mirabilis Jalapa, Tostat, July 2015
Mirabilis Jalapa, Tostat, July 2015

Mirabilis jalapa is a plant I have come to love, and I have the Chelsea Physic Garden to thank for it.  When we first came to the garden, this plant appeared all over the place and was pretty rampant.  I had never seen it before, and being a bit overcome with the scale of the gardening job facing me (whilst working, travelling to the UK, three children and all that) I ripped as much of it out as I could, reckoning that I needed to get on top of it. And I continued systematic destruction most years, but it always came back and bit me on the backside.

An embarassing number of years passed with me making no effort to discover what it was, and then, I was horrified to visit the Chelsea Physic Garden and see it growing in splendour there.  Not only that, but I discovered that the cultivation of this plant dates back to certainly 1596, and probably before, as an introduction from Mexico via Spain, when it was considered to be the most desirable plant to have in your garden by the cognoscenti. Dr. Alice le Duc, of Duke University, North Carolina, has studied the plant closely, and recorded that Thomas Jefferson grew it at his garden in Monticello.  Nowadays, it no longer grows in the wild in Mexico.  I was mortified by my thuggery.

Standing aside from my ignorance for a moment, and just considering it as a garden plant, it has a tremendous amount to recommend it. First, it flowers reliably and non-stop for about 6-8 weeks at the back end of summer when it’s easy for the garden to be a little on the bare side. Then, apart from the yellow that I have, it also flowers in a deep cerise pink, which is stunning coupled with the fresh, green foliage. Wise people say that it also flowers in several colours on one plant but I have never seen this. It will grow in full sun and some shade, although if in full sun, it will do better in an area with some moisture. Having said that, in very hot summers, it dies back with me and then re-appears when the rain returns.  Some say it has a scent, but I have to say my nose failed me again here.

It is a tall, slightly rangy plant, loosely growing upwards to about 1.5m with me, easily flattened by heavy rain, so needs positioning between other plants that will help it to stand up, or staking. I go for the former, as it fills in late summer gaps really well. In the UK, you might have to bring it in, like a dahlia and store it somewhere dry and cool, but you could probably pot it up and treat it like an overwintering geranium.  The RHS has it as an annual, but this plant can be much more than that if you take a little care over the winter.

With me, the corms survive where they are in soil, but they do start later for me probably.  It self seeds, so you can let it do that, or take seed, as I have from a neighbour who has the cerise-pink variety, and grow them on, the seeds germinate and roar up into substantial seedlings in late summer or early autumn, which you can just overwinter as above.

N.B. Label the pots, another weakness of mine, as the baby corms do an impressive imitation of being mud clots, and I have thrown plenty away not realising they were there.

It really is a pretty bombproof plant, and once you have got it going, it will stay with you for years.  Think about it, you will be growing something that was an Elizabethan delight, and had been in cultivation for 200 years before Linnaeus catalogued it in 1753. That’s pretty impressive.