On time and sunsets…

From sunset to sunset. Not strictly true,as I took these photographs over three successive days…but, well, who’s quibbling? Week 3 of lockdown and time has taken on a surreal quality. I am never sure what day it is in the week until I take a look at a gadget, tablet or laptop, and, time itself seems to me to have stretched in quality too. With so much time to focus in on friends, family, the garden, the house as well as all the things I enjoy doing, sometimes I can feel the sense of there being no pressure to complete anything- just a sense of achievement if I move things along a little.

Normally, I am a gardener of bursts, bursts of concentration and energy which can lead to charging at things with a lot of sound and fury. This last 3 weeks, I am feeling a different pace, where the wander round the garden first thing with the green mug of tea doesn’t turn into making a list. Rather I notice that something needs doing, and I think, ” Well, that needs doing, ho-hum”. In other words, it’s the difference between noticing things and self-recrimation for not having done it yet. And some things feel as if they may never get done, shock horror, till next year even.

Cornus sericea ‘Kelsey’s Gold’, Tostat, March 2020

Now here is a plant that I have been ignoring. Cornus sericea ‘Kelsey’s Gold’ was bought in a bargain basement fervour last Spring, and, until, a week or so was a bunch of very dead looking twigs. Hooray for Spring regeneration. This is a small shrub, which will do no romping unlike most other Cornus relatives. Eventually, it should make a 0.80m clump all round, with golden foliage and fiery stems in the winter. It will get there, I have faith.

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’, fresh ruby stems, Tostat, March 2020

This plant, Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’ was bought as seed from the truly wonderful Liberto Dario, who sells his amazing collection of seed through his Facebook page. I am totally in love with this plant. A biennial, so the first year is the appearance of the gorgeous purple splodged foliage, which stayed true all winter for us, and then, in the second year, you get the ruby red stems and the deep pink flowerheads on an upright and sturdy plant. The purple splodged foliage is to be seen to be believed- in low light, it almost looks like a Star Wars plant from a distant planet. I love it so much there are three photographs- possibly a first in itself.

If you don’t know Liberto, his seed collection is phenomenal. Much of his seed material is pretty unusual, and he has a great range of seed for hot, dry situations, being based in Greece. I can’t recommend him highly enough. If you are interested, follow the link above to his Facebook page and PM him. He will then send you plant lists and you can while away hours trying to choose.

Emerging flowerhead, Tostat, March 2020
And the flowerhead opens to a dark pink, Tostat, March 2020

Meanwhile, the Epimediums have been clumping. I am not a great tidier of the old foliage, I don’t mind spotting the sprays of pretty little yellow flowers in amongst the leaves. They are so fragile-looking, but can take a fair bit of Spring weather without collapsing. I have now forgotten which Epimedium this is- but I am taking a chance at ‘Fröhnleiten’ on account of the yellow flowers.

Epimedium x perralchium ‘Fröhnleiten’, Tostat, March 2020

And here is my favourite Anemone, just demonstrating the importance of happenstance in the garden. When I first planted the three small bulbs here about six years ago, the bluebells hadn’t turned up and I hadn’t planted the Physocarpus, one of my favourite shrubs- what a great mix they make.

Anemone x fulgens Multipetala in amongst Spanish bluebells and Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Tiny Wine’, Tostat, March 2020

On warmer afternoons in the past week, this pretty butterfly has been very active- I am not a great butterfly buff, so my identification may be off- I stand corrected if needed.

Maybe Pararge aegeria, the Speckled Wood butterfly, enjoying Euphorbia, Tostat, March 2020

I have identified this Muscari, down below, as probably ‘Mount Hood’ but I am not sure as it is a paler blue than Mount Hood in most of the descriptions. But I promised Tony Tomeo that I would take a photograph of this sweet little white-capped Muscari- so promise delivered! By the way, it is a darker blue today, 2 days later, but I am not sure…

Muscari, possibly ‘Mount Hood’, Tostat, March 2020

And hello, here comes Osmunda regalis. This poor fern is in a place it likes, but it gets lost in the wash later in the year, so I only ever notice it when the first new leaves are powering up. Sorry!

Osmunda regalis, Tostat, March 2020

These are the first leaves on Carpinus betulus Franz Fontaine- a beautiful fastigiate beech, which I bought really tiny about 9 years ago. It had a serious accident with an animal, which reduced it by half, and I was in despair. So, even though it is only a metre and a bit high now, I am very very fond of it, and can’t wait for it to become a real tree….

Carpinus betulus ‘Franz Fontaine’, Tostat, March 2020

And here is an attempt to show you Hedera helix erecta– which, as you can see, is more of a Hedera right angle- erecta in real life. I love the tightly packed leaves on the stem, but have no idea why it has decided (both plants) to do a 90 degree turn rather than grow straight up. I think I am stuck with right-angle-itis. Mind you, it in a hot, dry spot, and seems to be perfectly happy.

Hedera helix ‘Erecta’, Tostat, March 2020

I am a newbie with vegetables but am making a nervous start this Spring. I sowed seed, under fleece, of the Pea ‘Douce Provence’ and am thrilled with my first flower…

Pea ‘Douce Provence’, Tostat, March 2020

And to demonstrate that Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane Grey’ is even more lovely before she opens, here she is.

Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane Grey’, Tostat, March 2020

And I think that’s been quite enough from me….

Tostat sunset, March 2020

In praise of green….

I have a very tricky patch in the New Garden, so called because we dug it out about seven years ago from what had been the tumble-down site of a barn. There were no remnants of the barn there, but there were snakes, other living things and a lot of river rocks as well as some generally ghastly thin soil. One diagonal half sits in the shade of the open barn all year round, the sun can only make it past the walls for a very short time in high summer, and the other half roasts as it looks both South and West with no cover at all.  So, sticking with my theme of working with what I’ve got and not fighting it, it has taken a good while to make an impression on the shady half. For a very long time, the only show in town was my Rosa ‘Reine Marguerite d’Italie’ which I have discussed at length in my post on tough roses.  She does deserve a photo though.

Rosa 'Reine Marguerite d'Italie', Tostat, May 2014
Rosa ‘Reine Marguerite d’Italie’, Tostat, May 2014

But last year, I decided to try and see if I could establish some ferns, as well as a cruelly transplanted, but now doing fine, Mahonia which was already quite big.  So, last year, they all made it, through a very wet spring, a very hot and dry summer and a middling cold winter.  I bought them small, on the grounds that this always gives them a better fighting chance, especially in a pretty rubbish spot.  And I tried to select varieties that can cope with wet and dry. This spring I also added some low-lying groundcover planting, which so far is doing ok. I am aiming for a green-ness that is both resting and as lush as such a tricky corner can be. Here are the ferns coming back to life in the last couple of weeks- admittedly, it’s not so great in the winter, but as they mature, I live in hope.

Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata the King', Tostat, May 2015
Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata the King’, Tostat, May 2015

‘The King’ is a magical fern. This year, I think it might get close to a metre high and wide, and the splayed fronds have extra finger shapes on them, which make them look like something out of Tolkein. You can see this in the tallest frond in the photograph above.

Dryopteris atrata, Tostat, May 2015
Dryopteris atrata, Tostat, May 2015

Dryopteris atrata is a busy bee of a fern. Not so tall, about 0.5m high and wide, it nevertheless has an energetic presence with its upright posture, and slender but strong fronds. It wants to be noticed, and the darkness of the new growth is lovely as a contrast with the yellow-green of the foliage. I really like it.

Polystichum polyblepharum, Tostat, April 2015
Polystichum polyblepharum, Tostat, April 2015

This Polystichum is almost cuddly with its soft, fluffy new foliage. This now looks more like a normal fern, but two weeks ago, I would have almost called it ‘adorable’. It drapes beautifully from the centre and almost poses for the camera. It will make about 0.75m high and wide this year, I think.

Euonymus fortunei 'Wolong Ghost', Tostat, May 2015
Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’, Tostat, May 2015

Now, ok, this isn’t a fern, but this is one of my new groundhuggers, the strangely named Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’. Right now, it is a bit junior, but it’s looking good as you can see, threads of sliver veined slender leaves and it will weave its way around. I am sure I will be impressed.

Osmunda regalis, Tostat, May 2015
Osmunda regalis, Tostat, May 2015

And here is Osmunda regalis, which I wanted to include as it is a splendid fern, stately and refined. However, it is a bit of a cheat as it is actually growing in the shady ground by our canal or ruisseau.  It would certainly struggle round in the New Garden as it likes more lush conditions, but I love it anyway.