June goings-on…

Mix 0619
The Mix, caught in early sunlight, Tostat, June 2019

At this time of year, the light becomes so bright that photography is an early morning or late evening activity. The light creeps over the house in the morning like a ranging searchlight, and the other day, it was the right place and the right time.  Standing by the Mix, my now 3 year old perennial planting with the occasional small shrub and grass, the sun spotlit the tops of the clumps of perennials, picking out the Monarda fistulosa and the Lychnis chalcedonica ‘Salmonea’ as the tallest in town just yet.  This area has been a real experiment- made even more experimental this year by the one-armed bandit requirement of ‘no weeding’.  About 6 weeks ago, it looked pretty awful.  But now, with the rain and sun we have had, the perennials are powering upwards, and, unless you have a pair of binoculars, you mostly can’t see any serious weed activity.  There is a lesson here for the future.

Pap som 0619
Papaver somniferum, from Biddy Radford, Tostat, June 2019

This has been a good year for self-seeding- another bonus for one-armed gardening.  Opium poppies, Papaver somniferum, have popped themselves all over the gravel paths and into some of the more orthodox places as well. As self-seeders, you can get years when the colours are very washed out- but this year has been loads better with good mauves and soft pinks.  The bees and insects love them- and I do, for their unfurling architecture as much as for the flowers.

Penstemon Dark Tower 0619
Unfurling Opium poppy and Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’, Tostat, June 2019

Playing with Penstemons has become a bit of an obsession.  I grew some Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ from seed the year before last, and so with the wait, this is the beginning of seeing the plant in action.  Slim, upright growth, dark beetroot colouring on the stems and leaves, and buds which are creamy-yellow.  Not yet a big player, but with potential.  I also bought some Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ a cross between ‘Husker Red’ and ‘Prairie Splendour’.  Now this is a big, beefy plant.  Strong upright, dark crimson, darker than ‘Husker Red’, stems and leaves, altogether bigger and more imposing, and then, on filigreed stems, big pale mauve flowers. So far, so very good.  Not yet tested for drought tolerance, but that will come.

Trifolium rubens 0519
Trifolium rubens, Tostat, June 2019

Two years ago, visiting the stunning gardens at Kentchurch Court, I was seriously smitten by what seemed like giant clover flowers on speed.  It was a variety of Trifolium, and so I have been growing some from seed since last summer, and it is just about to flower.  This is the species form of Trifolium ochroleucon– more to follow.  But, I have also bought plants of two more Trifoliums, Trifolium rubens and Trifolium pannonicum ‘White Tiara’.  Both are doing well so far in their first year, seeming to cope well with the conditions- the true test will come.

Trifolium White Tiara 0619
Trifolium pannonicum ‘White Tiara’, Tostat, June 2019
Philadelphus Starbright 2 0519
Philadelphus ‘Starbright’, Tostat, June 2019

A bargain basement buy this year in the new area, still covered in cardboard, and holding its own, is a newish variety of Philadelphus called ‘Starbright’.  A recent Canadian selection, it has dark-red stems and strong, single white flowers and is very cold and drought tolerant- hence my giving it a go.

Phlomis var bailanica 0519
Phlomis longifolia var. bailanica with Allium nigrum behind and a sprinkling of Dianthus cruentus, Tostat, June 2019

This has been the year of the Phlomis- all my plants have adored the weather and conditions.  Phlomis longifolia var.bailanica has doubled in size, and has emptied the custard tin over itself, with incredible Birds Custard coloured flower heads.  I am responsible only for the Phlomis and the Allium nigrum, also enjoying life- the Dianthus cruentus is self-seeded, I think from a few feet away.

Tomorrow, we are off to visit Jardin de la Poterie Hillen– this should be a lovely garden day with great patisserie as well.  Not to be knocked.  And some splendid planting, such as this extraordinary rose, Rosa ‘Pacific Dream’, photographed by my friend Martine in case I missed it….

Rosa Pacific Dream Martine 0619
Rosa ‘Pacific Dream’ Jardin de la Poterie Hillen, Thermes-Magnoac 65, June 2019.  Photo credit: Martine Garcia

 

 

 

 

 

Stormy weather…

Back door view 718
Back door view, Tostat, July 2018

Last night was the third night of big storms- a huge electrical show in the sky, and Tostat lit up like Las Vegas.  This morning, a dark and sombre tone to the light, and continuing rumblings.  So much so that Molly the dog literally turned tail and ran back into the garden first thing.  The rain is very welcome, but like the whole weather scene this year, too much, too big, and utterly unpredictable.

In the last post, I was raving about Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’, and here in the foreground pot, you can see ‘Eucomis autumnalis’, which is the baby cousin and my first shot at Eucomis. I think that I need to repot all those bulbs for next year, as whilst the decorative drooping is pretty, it really means it’s a bit crowded in there.  Such a good plant- self-seeds and produces babies, and you can also grow the seed on- though it takes a few years to make a flowering plant.  I keep both Eucomis in pots, they like winter dry and some shelter, and then they handle sun and pot-soaking every 2 days- unless we are in a heatwave when it would be daily.

Kalimeris incisa Madiva 718
Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Tostat, July 2018

Just coming out now, and continuing for 2-3 months, is Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, a plant that is only in its second full year, but is proving to be a real trooper.  Just 1m high, it is really tough and shrugs off wind and rain, as well as hot sun.  It spreads steadily but not greedily, and is a delicate pale mauve colour- it looks fantastic next to the Monarda fistulosa, which has gone nuts this year with the rain and is taller than me.  This plant keeps going right till the late autumn- flowering when rain allows, and remaining upright and impressive.  From seed it is really easy, and these clumps are now 3 years old, so I will be dividing them later on.

Monarda fistulosa 718
Monarda fistulosa, Tostat, July 2018

When the early or late light hits the Monarda, there is almost an electric quality to the mauve flowerheads.

July view 2 718
Monarda fistulosa shimmering, Tostat, July 2018
Rosa Crepuscule 718
Rosa ‘Crepuscule’, Tostat, July 2018

At least, I think that this is ‘Crepuscule’.  Apricot to start with, golden cream and yellow later, and a deep, drinkable scent- I love it.  Not mine, in the sense that I inherited it, and it is a gawky thing, but with all the rain, it is trying for a second show.

In this strange weather, I am taken with seed production.  Clearing out my seed collection, and seeing if there is any life left, but also growing some new plants that I want to try.  I adored this plant last summer in Herefordshire, and bumped into it again in Gloucestershire at Berrys Farm Garden, open for the NGS.  ‘Trifolium ochroleucron’ is stunning.  A big shapely clump of 1m or so, with these super-charged giant cream clover heads.  The good news is that all the seed has germinated in less than 5 days.  Now, I just have to not kill them over the winter.

Berry Trifolium 618
Trifolium ochroleucron, Berrys Place Farm Gloucestershire, June 2018

More riskily, I am trying this- Alogyne hakeifolia.  Tiny pic, thank you Australianseed.com, and also ‘Gardening with Angus’ for more information.  I saw this in Spain, and fell badly.  So, why not?  All gardening is about love and passion really.  I am in a mauve phase.

download (1)
Alogyne hakeifolia Photo credit: http://www.australianseed.com

Inspiration from 2007…

Mix 1 518
The ‘mix’ bit, featuring Libertia grandiflora, self-seeded Eschscholzia, Monarda fistulosa, Gaura lindheimeri ‘Gaudi Red’, Cerinthe major ‘Kiwi Blue’, Berberis thunbergii ‘Maria’, Tostat, May 2018

Three years ago, I tried an experiment.  Could I grow a whole area essentially from seed, or self-seeded perennials, with one or two shrubs added in? The last two years have been a waiting game, but now, I can say that I am on the way.  It was only the other day when reading about the founding of the recently established Königliche Gartenakadamie opposite the stunning Botanical Garden in Dahlem, Berlin that I remembered what had been at the back of my mind as images of how I wanted the ‘mix’ bit to be.  Isabelle van Groeningen works in partnership with Gabrielle Pape, the main force behind the new Königliche Gartenakadamie in Berlin- but it was Chelsea that first introduced them to me.

Isabelle van Groeningen and Gabrielle Pape made a Main Avenue garden at Chelsea 2007- inspired by and strongly evoking the matrix- planting style of the reknowned German plant-breeder and nurseryman, Karl Foerster.  I remember that garden, not in detail, but in terms of the unusual effects it created.  Using plants as singletons or pairings, the garden seemed swarming with plants, but not arranged in clumps, but as a tapestry of individuals who all seemed to get on very well one with another, almost a ‘pointilist’ garden.  Back then, I was only at the beginning of my formal garden design study and it was all completely new to me.  I remember being disappointed that the garden only got a silver medal.

cheltel2007web_2226987i
Isabelle van Groeningen and Gabrielle Pape for ‘The Telegraph’, Chelsea 2007 photo credit: http://www.telegraph.com

This photograph doesn’t quite capture what I remember, the dotted planting of ones and twos of plants in a tapestry effect, but what you can see is the depth of planting and that crammed impression which I loved.  My version is much more clump-formed than matrix planting in the strict sense, but I have encouraged Stipa capillata to self-seed and this has created a wafty movement at about 0.75m high, which I really like.

Dew Stipa capillata 0418
The ‘mix’ in early April, dew on Stipa capillata veiling Cistus ‘Gold Prize’ and Libertia peregrinans in winter orange, Tostat, April 2018
Mix 2 518
The ‘mix’ featuring Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’, spikes up in blue, red spots of luminous Dianthus cruentus, Phlomis longifolia bailanica, Geranium albanum, Tostat, May 2018
Mix 6 518 vs 2
The edges of the ‘mix’, tall flowerheads of Eryngium eburneum, Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’, Monarda fistulosa, Cornus kousa, Tostat, May 2018

A key plant, which has take all of these three years to really get going, is Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’.  It is a much more intense blue than the photographs suggest and sits a good half metre above the other planting- so it really reaches for the sky.

Anchusa azurea Dropmore 518
Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’, Tostat, end April 2018

It is very wafty so I am hoping it isn’t decked by strong winds- always a possibility.  For the past two months, the two self-seeders. Eschscholzia californica and Cerinthe purpurescens have behaved magnificently.  Purple and orange- so good together. Noel Kingsbury has some interesting and de-bunking comments to make about getting holier-than-thou about any one way of gardening,  but whatever else, closer planting helps but will not remove the need to occasionally sort out thugs and reduce competition.  With the ‘mix’ I am stuffing in and also actively managing, not just the plants but also the invaders.  Good news is that a spot of wild carrot is easily removed.

Lastly, I would like to remember Beth Chatto,  who died last week, and a fantastic visit made to her Essex nursery eight years ago on a wet and grey day- she was a one-off.   What a woman.

Gravel Garden 3 vs 2
Beth Chatto’s inspirational Gravel Garden, Essex, 2012

Baby, it’s cold outside…

November 2017
The last of the leaves on the Acer, Tostat, November 2017

The end of November still brought us beautiful, crisp, sunny days and some cold nights with frost when the silver birch looks at it’s most regal.  But it was still warm enough to garden and to keep working on the changes for next year.  It is true that there is a lovely clarity about the slightly-felled winter garden which often really helps when thinking about changes…which I always am.  It’s not about restlessness, more about continually working away as things themselves evolve, and create new possibilities.  There are always too those corners which, for some deep psychological reason, I occasionally torture myself with by leaving them to fall into decrepitude.  I am then forced to the altar of decision by the mess that I have allowed to develop.  Strange business, the mind.

Birch winter 1117
Frost on the silver birch and borrowed trees, Tostat, November 2017

But, after a few days enjoying a wintery London, I came back to a freezing mist and was slightly amazed that the car started first time in the airport carpark.  Back home, dawn the following morning, was a delight.  Light creeping into leaf shapes and cracks, dusting the top of iced plants and so, despite the fact that my usual dressing gown was supplemented by my winter parka, I rushed back into the house to get the camera and do my best with it.  Piet Oudolf is quite right, the best plants die well as well as grow well.

December solidago 17
Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ just touched by the dawn light, Tostat, December 2017
December monarda 17
Seedheads of Monarda fistulosa, Tostat, December 2017
December telekia 17
Telekia speciosa, Tostat, December 2017
December grasses 17
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberfeder’ punctuated by the fantastic winter crowns of Phlomis russeliana, Tostat, December 2017
December rose 17
Rosa ‘LD Braithwaite’, with the hips of Rosa ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ behind, Tostat, December 2017

 

Catching the eye…

Jane Rosa Woollerton Old Hall 617
Rosa Woollerton Old Hall, Ludlow, June 2017

There is a lot of recovery going on in the garden after our harsh summer- but we also have had Scottish weather the past two weeks, strong winds, heavy rain and fresh temperatures- so everything has slightly stopped in its tracks, not quite knowing what is going on.  Me included.  So, thinking back over the spring and summer, here is a mixture of plants that caught my eye and survivors in the garden.  Rosa ‘Woollerton Old Hall’ is a creamy-yellowy-apricot rose that just seems to keep on giving.  I bought one as a gift for a friend and she has been delighted with it all summer- and apparently, it has an strong and unusual scent, which makes it a good ‘un all round.

Jane geranium 617
Jane’s pretty white geranium, Ludlow, June 2017

In my friend Jane’s garden, a lovely blue-veined white geranium, not sure which, looked glorious in late June.

Jane Potentilla Arc en Ciel 617
Potentilla ‘Arc en Ciel’, Ludlow, June 2017

I loved the burnished look of this Potentilla ‘Arc en ciel’ which I saw in the Ludlow Food Centre garden section.  Golden tips to the petals and a darker, ruffled centre- very pretty.

Jane Rose Wild Eve 617
Rosa ‘Wild Eve’, Ludlow, June 2017

Again in Jane’s garden, this sumptuous rose ‘Wild Eve’ is almost Titian-esque in habit, hanging in swags over the foliage.

Jane Monarda Cambridge Scarlet 617
Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’, Ludlow, June 2017

Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ is adorable and could be seen all over Shropshire in June. It doesn’t like Tostat- and the only Monarda that does is ‘Monarda fistulosa’ which can take some dryness without mildew.

Jane view 2 617
Jane’s garden, Ludlow, June 2017

A big investment pays off in Jane’s garden.  A great idea to create a rising range of arches creating a strong diagonal sweep over the garden.

Jane Rose Ginger Syllabub 617
Rosa ‘Ginger Syllabub’, Ludlow, June 2017

Another ‘Jane’ rose, very pretty and just perfectly balanced on the acidic side of pink and peach.

Jane view 617
Jane’s garden, a longer view, Ludlow, June 2017

A longer view of Jane’s garden- showing the full effect of the well-positioned arches.

Caryopteris x clandonensis Hint of Gold 917
Caryopteris clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’ with the orange Abutilon behind it, Tostat, September 2017

At last, a little colour and life returns to us in Tostat- I love the orange and the blue, the blue gets deeper as the flowers mature, which makes for a great contrast with the lime-green foliage.  Such a good plant.

And, the only flowers on Geranium ‘Havana Blues’ this summer can be counted on the fingers of one hand.  But, I am rethinking some of the planting to give this good geranium a bit more cover, and hopefully, there will be more flowering next summer. Geraniums are forgiving, although you have to wait until next year.

Geranium Havana Blues 917
Geranium ‘Havana Blues’, Tostat, September 2017

 

Coming over all mauve…

July best 2 717
Liatris spicata, Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Monarda fistulosa, Tagetes minuta, Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Baron’ and guest wild carrot, Tostat, July 2017

This new border, which I planted up this Spring, has saved my sanity this summer- well, almost.  There must be water under here, which I never noticed before as it used to be a jumble of messy shrubs- but water there is, throughout our burning temperatures, it has looked pretty much like this.  This photo was taken yesterday after rain, so the greens are all refreshed, but the plants are in great shape.  And I adore the self-sown wild carrot, which is frothing up at the back, so I have bought a packet of Daucus carota ‘Dara’ seed to amplify this effect myself next year with any luck. Monarda fistulosa has been torched in other parts of the garden but is still looking good here.  And I will definitely be growing the annual purple millet again, it is fabulous- I may even go for broke and grow the super-tall one, Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’, which can get to 1.5m.  It is super-easy from seed and then blows itself up in purple till the frosts see it off.

July best 4 717
Bupleurum fruticosum, Miscanthus Strictus and Buddleia ‘Nanho Blue’, Tostat, July 2017

Here is another bit that has done really well, although the Miscanthus is about 2/3 of the normal height.  The Bupleurum fruticosum has really hit it’s stride this year and is an insect cafeteria complex all on it’s own.

July best 6 717
Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Fuji White’, Tostat, July 2017

This plant is always a surprise, Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Fuji White’.   It just soars above the rest of the planting undeterred, and is such a cool customer.  Probably at it’s best in green surroundings, I love it.  It is helped by the fact that there is running water nearby no doubt.

July best 7 717
Salvia ‘Didi’, Tostat, July 2017

A slightly breezy-looking Salvia ‘Didi’, only in it’s first year and so still quite small, is nevertheless quite delightful with delicate pink and light apricot colouring.

July best 8 717
Tiny but indomitable, Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Mesa Yellow’, Tostat, 2017

Only about 10 cms high, yet this Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Mesa Yellow’ really does work hard in very dry conditions.  I managed to grow three decent plants from a small packet of seed last year, and I have really come to appreciate this plant, and will be growing more.

July best 717
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Tiny Wine’, Sanguisorbia and a stray Rudbeckia, Tostat, July 2017

I love this combination, and it is brought to life by the stray Rudbeckia.  This is another really good shrub, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Tiny Wine’, which I planted in last year and it has gone on and on, with tawny new growth that then colours up mauve or wine-coloured.  The Sanguisorba menziesii was grown from seed about 4 years ago and is now a great big clump, which I always forget to prop up until it’s too late.

July best 10 717
Another little group that have come together well, I think- Gaura lindheimeri, Lychnis, Phlomis russeliana, orange Abutilon, Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’, Tostat, July 2017

And lastly, not out yet, but cheering me up, which has been the point of taking these photos really, (proving it’s not all burnt out there!), are the architectural buds of Hibiscus palustris….to come.

July best 9 717
Hibiscus palustris in bud, Tostat, July 2017

 

 

Raindancing…

Finally, it has rained.  Sunday night was a wakeful one.  Lightning dancing around in the sky, very little thunder, and steady-Eddie rain all night…and all day Monday, with a few breaks.  Since then, we have had continuing really heavy downpours.  This is the right way round for us.  It had got so dry that heavy rain at the front end would have just bounced off the soil and smashed plants up.  So, the softly-softly start has meant that the heavier rain has also gone in, without too much destruction at all.  The first day looked impressively damp, but on digging lightly with a trowel, bone-dryness was only an inch below the surface.  Today, Wednesday, and yesterday inbetween showers, I actually got quite a bit done as this week temperatures are only just at 20º, so things that have been banking up in the hospital area can finally be planted out.

Monarda fistulosa 716
Monarda fistulosa, Tostat, July 2016. Last year’s seed done good.

This is a great success!  I have been waiting for the lilac flowers of Monarda fistulosa  to appear, and they popped out in the middle of all the rain, and remained unbattered.  I am so pleased with this.  This plant is the biggest one that I have from the collection I planted out in the spring, but it is a very commendable 0.5m wide and about 0.40m high.  Which I reckon is pretty good going given the weird and variable spring and summer weather we have had.  Best thing is, that it is clearly a tough customer, so I am hoping for better and bigger as the summer progresses.

In the front garden, I have been able to plant our my small plants of Panicum virgatum ‘Emerald Chief’.  I lost a few over the winter, and though they have not been deliriously happy in their pots for the past few weeks, I wanted to hang on for more clement conditions, and so now, they have their reward and are in the ground.  I am part-lining the front driveway with them, to make a good, interesting, upright edge to the grass and give the driveway some definition.  This was the area where I had originally planted lavender when we arrived, but having failed to prune it properly, and old wood-itis having set in, I ripped them out last year and planted Panicum seed.  ‘Emerald Chief’ is very green as the name suggests, should reach about 1.2m high when flowering with deep pink flowerheads and good yellow colouring in the autumn.

Platycodon Fuji White 716
Platycodon grandiflorus’Fuji White’, Tostat, July 2016

Just coming out is a plant that is very little bother, and so I tend to forget about it, until suddenly I see a flower.  Through the rain this morning, from the kitchen window, I could just see the flash of white.  Utterly upright, slender and delicate, yet tough, the Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Fuji White’ or Balloon Flower ( you can see why) is a good doer, and enjoys the more moist moment of the last few days.  This year is probably it’s eighth birthday, and it just pushes it ‘s way through the other plants with ease, and then tops out at just over a metre high.

Dahlia Twynings After Eight 716
Dahlia ‘Twynings After Eight’, Tostat, July 2016

It has been a battle royal with snails and slugs this year, as they have loved the lower temperatures so much that they have not been deterred by the dryness.  I have several Dahlia corpses that may not make it this year.  But ‘Twynings After Eight’, after a bad start, has come good with 2 out of 3 tubers making good, healthy plants.  What an attrition rate, though.  And this is despite planting them in pots on gravel, and away from other slug/snail favourites. Clearly, my snail/slug population possesses Olympian qualities.  I love the coolness of the single, white flower against the dark foliage, and can even cope with it turning faintly pink as it ages.

Making an appearance for only a couple of days before being demolished by the rain sadly, was a favourite of mine by the stream-side.  Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ is usually a lovely thing, which I forgive for bring sherbert-pink.  This year, the pink mophead which is so pretty when the many tiny buds are forming, only lasted for a couple of days.  But it is a great plant, spreading itself in single-stem formation through other plants, almost like a watchtower, as it is tall, maybe 1.5m high.

Filipendula rubra Venusta 716
Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ just before the rain, Tostat, July 2016

A new plant that has gone in this week is Cistus x hybridus ‘Gold Prize’.  I love sharp yellow and lime-green colour combinations and so fell for this low, ground-hugging Cistus, which will flower next Spring, but meantime, do a good spreading job where I want it.   Right now, it is not looking at it’s most distinguished, but I think it will be tough enough to fill a space where a cotton lavender has mostly pegged it.

Cistus Gold Prize 716
Cistus x hybridus ‘Gold Prize’, Tostat, July 2016

And the rain is back on…