This year is proving to be very confused. This week, we have gone from 15 degrees to nearly 30 in three days, and the wind has been a bad friend as I moaned about in my last blog. But, some plants in the garden have really enjoyed the oddities of the season, and really did their best.
I planted this Cornus kousa more than eight years ago, when I was a very serious novice in our garden. It is definitely a bit too dry for it where it is, but as it is now more than 2.5 m high, it is probably staying. This May, though, with our cool, wet weather, really pleased it, and I have never seen the flowers so bright and long-lasting. They are bracts rather than flowers, but present themselves in this charming way, like a waiter bringing several plates at once. We never quite get to the fruits as, by then, it really is too hot for it and autumn colouring passes over very swiftly, but, it is a pretty vase-shaped tree, and if our springs are going to be more volatile, it may be that my planting error will not such a miss, more of a hit.
I grew several plants of Cenolophium denudatum from seed about 4 years ago. It is a beautiful umbel, offering up wide, lacey plates of flowers and pretty, dissected foliage in mid-summer. Entirely undemanding, other than moderate levels of moisture, and full sun, it makes a lovely clump about 1.2m high by 1m across in a couple of years.
I grow it over my Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussy’ as it starts to appear just as ‘Brazen Hussy’ fades and so they are good companions. But, my best clump was very pathetic this year, and on closer inspection this week, I think it is one of those plants that needs splitting and refreshing every 3-4 years. It had clearly died out in the centre and was doing its best to splinter off at the sides with new, youthful growth. Of course, I had slightly missed the boat for this year, so I dug it up anyway, split and re-potted it, and have put the new ones in the observation ward for the next few weeks. In fact, I’ll probably wait till next Spring and stick it back then which will give it the best chance to regroup.
The jury is out a bit on my annuals this year. This sounds as if I am an experienced annual grower, the truth would really be the reverse. But, with some new areas opened up in the garden, I decided that I should brave my fear of annuals and give it a go. I loved the seedling look of Nasturtium ‘Milkmaid’. One or two pretty cream flowers appeared, but, on the whole, the plants were not happy with our weather conditions and looked so scrofulous that I ripped them out last week. But so far, Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Xanthos’ is hanging on, maybe not in the best form, but not yet scrofulous, so in it stays. The early flowering colour is a bit more yellow than I had hoped, but goes creamy as the flower matures, which I prefer.
This Eupatorium capillifolium ‘Elegant Feather’ has loved our wet, windy and cool weather. I am amazed. It has always been a bit on the mewly side, not quite doing ok, not quite fizzling, but to look at it now, you would never know. And it has really shot up, and it is easily holding its own with the Phlomis russeliana behind it. The brother plant has not liked his second re-location, and so he is back in a pot in intensive care for a second year, having come very close to fizzling. I think I am just going to plant them together next year and be done with it.
I am so pleased with this! I struggle with pinks sometimes, they can be too Barbie-doll, and so-called salmony shades often look too like, let’s be plain, the after-effects of a bad night out.
But this Lychnis chalcedonica ‘Salmonea’ is really delightful. I grew it from seed last year sent to me by the Hardy Plant Society and it survived murder at the hands of our non-watering housesitter last autumn. This year, it has come back as single 0.30 m high spikes of bright green foliage topped with this unusual combination of pinks in the flowering head. Photographs show the flowering heads shaped as domed balls, but mine are definitely flat!
Not sure about drought tolerance, I am growing it in a dappled shade part of a new area, under a cherry tree, and so far, it is handling everything well. I probably should have nipped off the top growth to make it more bushy, but well, never mind, bushiness will come in the future if it continues to make it. Some people unkindly call this plant ‘Salmonella’! I don’t agree.
And, to close, one of only two Lilium regale out of ten that do not resemble the Hunchback of Notre Dame…so it has been worth it!
This weekend, we are in Paris to catch the ‘Jardins d’Orient’ exhibition at the Institute du Monde Arabe. Andy did some of the translation work for it, but I am keen to see the exhibition which will be a rare opportunity to learn about the history of Islamic gardens, and also to see the contemporary Islamic garden that has been designed specially for the exhibition by Michel Pena. More of this to follow.