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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….