Weather is weather…

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Hibiscus palustris, after the rain, Tostat, August 2017

I am really trying.  To accept the weather for what is is, and not rail against it.  For being too hot, for being too dry, too windy, rarely too grey but sometimes, and so on.  Monty Don says that this is the only way to garden.  But it is a hard habit to break.  So, I am trying to get even rather than angry.  Thinking of what I can do to help the garden be more bountiful in the hard, hot days of summer, and planning more tough structure to support those perennials which can make it through.

But these plants give me hope- as does the weather in the last couple of weeks- which has remembered to rain on occasion.  Dahlias have been a bit of a disaster this summer.  New bulbs that I bought have not come up at all, and everything has been on a serious go-slow.  But I am so glad that this appeared.  With a wonderfully exotic name, Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’ (whatever that means) is actually gorgeous.  Sharp, tart carmine red around the golden centre gives way to almost-black twiddled petals.  There is probably a better botanical term than ‘twiddled’ but I am sure you get my drift.

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Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’, Tostat, August 2017

Two small plants survived the beating summer of my self-grown Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Burgundy’, but they make me very happy and I will grow more.

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Gallardia x grandiflora ‘Burgundy’, Tostat, August 2017

And you can’t keep this Rudbeckia down.  It is widely used because it is such a dependable plant. It may be half the size it normally is, but it still comes back fighting. Another trait to battle is snobbery against good and dependable plants.

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Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, Tostat, August 2017

If the wind is in the right direction, the light in the right place and you don’t look too hard at the detail,  some of the garden is still quite presentable despite it all.

August garden 1
Lovely disguising evening light does well if veiled through leaves, Tostat, August 2017
August garden 2
Populus deltoides ‘Purple Tower’‘ is undeterred, Pennisetum alopecuroides and Miscanthus Malepartus, with not-yet-flowering Miscanthus Silberfeder, and a bit of artistic light drifting in, Tostat, August 2017

Back from the Via de la Plata

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November grasses, Tostat 2015

We are back from our wonderful 43 days of walking the 1000k of the Via de la Plata from Seville to Santiago de Compostela. I will write something about this journey in the blog once the impressions have settled in my head, but now is too early.  Rejoining everyday life back in the village has been a strange business- perhaps because walking every day creates such a sharp, clear focus.  Everyday life is less intense.

Meanwhile, back in Tostat, there has been a real Indian summer lasting right up to last weekend when normal end of November temperatures kicked back in.  So, coming back felt a bit like the return of Rip van Winkle- warmth and sunshine just as when we left on 20th September. Meeting the garden again has been a joy.

The clumps of Miscanthus, Silberfeder and Strictus, have become statuesque in our absence. They had just begun to flower in September as we had had such a hot, dry summer.  Note to self: one too many clumps really, in danger of becoming a forest in my opinion.  So one of them will go.

I also missed the peak of the flowering of Chysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’, but one tiny bunch still looked fresh, so here they are.

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Chysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’, Tostat, November 2015

I am not a huge chrysanthemum fan, but this one, with burnished, tawny, orange colouring and gold tips, really appeals to me. I bought a plant about 3 years ago, and immediately split it, took cuttings and pretty much butchered it for propagation’s sake.

Last year, it should have been in really good shape, but I was lucky not to lose them with poor overwintering. I now know that it will take very low temperatures as long as it is pretty much bone-dry and nowadays I keep the plants in the open barn, which means that the only thing that they don’t get is…wet.  They seem to like this.  Cuttings take easily, and so I should be able to fill several pots this coming year.  Flowering is really late, around the end of October, even early November depending on the weather.

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Unknown orange abutilon and ‘Salvia Waverly’, Tostat, November 2015

Sometimes combinations do really work- in the end. I love this. It bowled me over when I got back.  The sharpness of the orange contrasts beautifully with the pale mauve and dark purple of the Salvia. Both these plants have astonished me.  The orange abutilon was an unidentified cutting that I bought from ebay years ago.  It was something I never quite found a home for, and so languished in a pot for years, bunged behind our pergola.

But, last year, I decided to allow it full rein, and dug it in with four tiny plugs of a Salvia new to me, ‘Waverly’.  Both have really won through against the odds.  A soaking wet February after I had planted them in, followed in May and June with baking temperatures, and then prolonged dryness for the rest of the summer meant tough conditions.  There must have been some rain whilst we were away but I know there wasn’t a deluge, though the temperatures abated to the mid20s.   Salvia ‘Waverly’ is now four immense plants, easily 1.3m each both tall and wide, and has flowered like a train.  The abutilon has recovered its aplomb and done the same. What a result.  But two Salvia ‘Waverly’ will be enough, as right now the area resembles a Salvia forest. New homes for two plants next year.

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Sphaeralcea munroana (or maybe not), Tostat, November 2015

Sphaeralcea munroana was a new plant to me this year.  I chose it for the driest and hottest part of the garden, and rather hoped it would become an upright and substantial presence.  Well, it has, but not in an upright way. The dainty pink flowers seem to keep coming no matter what, although they are small, and the serrated pale green leaves are suprisingly decorative.  This plant is definitely a tumbler, not a standing giant. Interestingly, the link above clearly describes some labelling and identification problems with this plant, so maybe I ended up with an imposter after all.  Never mind.  But, something will need to be done in the presence department, even if it has done a good job of filling in between other plants and thereby earned its keep.