And now it’s early June…

Gertrud’s Penstemon, such a good plant, Tostat, June 2020

Where has this year gone? I cannot believe the evidence of my own eyes as I look round the garden and see that early summer arrived about 2 weeks ago. Most of the once-blooming roses are over and done with, and spring flowerers of all kinds were beaten by the last 2 weeks of 30C and no rain. But a plant that has just adored it, is my unknown Penstemon, bought 2 years ago at the lovely Jardin d’Antin, where Gertrud has a very good eye for a plant.

Isoplexis canariensis, the Lazarus of the garden, Tostat, June 2020

Years ago, I grew Isoplexis canariensis from seed and had two big pots blooming magnificently. I left them out over the winter once, bad mistake. But incredibly, last year, three small plants re-emerged from death and this year, with a guarantee of good behaviour from me, they are back. I had them kept dry but with protection in the open barn last winter, and they really liked that. Masses of water and some feed to kickstart them and they have flowered 2 months earlier than they used to. I adore the colour, and the glossy evergreen leaves are a great foil to the orange-rusty flowers.

Libertia ixioides ‘Goldfinger’, Tostat, June 2020

This is a really lovely Libertia. These plants have had a slightly chequered history with me, as I grew them successfully from seed and then planted them out in an area that was a bit too tough for them. So, out they came and went into the Mix, the massed perennial planting under the cherry tree. This slim Libertia is not a fastgrower, but it is especially good in the winter, when the orange stripes on the leaves really glow. But this is the first time they flowered, with a sprinkling of these charming white flowers- which, when woven in amongst the other perennials, charmingly catch the eye.

Nigella papilosa ‘African Bride’, Tostat, June 2020

I am a grumpy annuals grower- they aren’t really my thing, but I grew some of this Nigella that we were going to give away as ‘freebie pollinator’ plants at our Tostatenfleur event in April- but it didn’t happen because of covid-19. However, I have loved this slightly different Nigella for the drama of the petals and stamens combo. And in early morning sunshine, the stamens have a ruby glow to them. I am saving the seed for sure…

Oenethora speciosa, Tostat, June 2020

Some people hate this evening primrose, Oenethora speciosa, but the trick is to plant it in rubbish soil and full sun. Any conditions more luxurious will ensure you have a massive growth and it will run and run. And even with rubbish soil, be prepared to yank masses out. Having said that, in low light, the gorgeous shell-pink flowers, of which there hundreds every day, glow. I have been known to be snobby about it, but actually, it is a good doer in controlled conditions.

Pelargonium ‘Ardens’, Tostat, June 2020

This species Pelargonium is a delight- deep red flowers with an enticing darker splash, and needs no special treatment other than a dry winter, protected from the cold, and then watering to wake it up in the spring once frost has finished.

Punica granatum ‘Mme Legrelliae’, Tostat, June 2020

This is a great flowering shrub, which deserves to be better known really. There is nothing quite like the frilly-hankerchief look of the coral and cream flowers. It’s a non-fruiting pomegranate, but is hardy down to -15C and is very happy in not particularly great soil that is free-draining. It won’t like water round the roots in winter. I wrote a post a couple of years ago about the naming and history of the plant, a fascinating story of important, but unknown horticultural women.

Rosa ‘Alissar, Princess of Phoenicia’, Tostat, June 2020

This rose, Rosa ‘Alissar, Princess of Phoenicia’, which I bought with my pal Jane at Chelsea from Harkness several years ago, is a Persian descendant, and is bred for heat tolerance. It grows pretty well in a slightly damper bit of the garden. I love the early apricot-pink colouring, just a bit disappointing that it fades to what I would call a dull brick colour- but never mind. The open, single structure makes it more useful for pollinators than many roses.

Rosa ‘Cuisse de Nymphe’, Tostat, June 2020

Here is a ready-made bouquet of Rosa ‘Great Maiden’s Blush’ or ‘Cuisse de Nymphe’ here in France. It smells lovely and blooms off and on in waves all summer.

Rosa ‘New Dawn’, Tostat, June 2020

I am very fond of Rosa ‘New Dawn’– it has that perfect shell-pink, with a lot of cream in it, a bit of an ice-queen really. But the slightly angular petals appeal to me and it lasts well, flowering for about a month in a lazy droop over the garden wall.

Rosa ‘Tuscany Superb’, Tostat, June 2020

Rosa ‘Tuscany Superb’ struggles a bit with me, a bit too dry and hot for it I think, but the colour is fabulous. This photograph does not do it justice- think the deepest, richest crimson velvet, and you are almost there.

Salvia cacaliifolia, Tostat, June 2020

And now for the Battle of the Blues- won only just by Salvia cacaliifolia. This is a tender salvia, with bright light green ivy-shaped leaves, which will just about twine upwards with a little support. I have it supported by a bit of redundant barbecue grill, not yet wind-tested as a support, but it is working for the moment. The blue is deep, and electric.

Salvia patens, Tostat, June 2020

Salvia patens is just a tad lighter in tone, but scores for really big flowers. Oddly it has the same ivy-shaped leaves as cacaliifolia, but has more of a darcyii look about it.

Rosa ‘Woollerton Old Hall’, Ludlow, June 2017

I saw this rose in Ludlow a couple of years ago, and just the year before, I bought it for a rose-loving friend in Tostat, who has just returned the favour beautifully by growing on and giving me a very good looking cutting. I missed the flowers of my new rose in the rain, so luckily had a photo from 2017. I am so looking forward to it. Thank you, H and M, very much.

New to me…..

Horrible UK election result disrupted normal service today, but the best thing to do is to talk about what’s new in the garden for this year and share what I am trying to do with these new plant friends.

Geum 'Totally Tangerine', Tostat, May 2015
Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’, Tostat, May 2015

I had a go with Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ back in the early days in Tostat, but lost it as I miscalculated summer dryness, coming from Linlithgow. So, it has taken me a long while to re-consider Geums. But, this spring, in a slightly shaded part of the garden, and therefore a little more damp, I decided to try Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’. Back in 2010, I had read the great plantsman, Graham Rice, on this new Geum, and many of the American sites were talking about its enhanced ability to cope with dryness, and then I saw it in profusion at Chelsea almost every year since, so that decided me to give it a try.  I got 3 good sized plants late last summer, and so they bulked up quite a bit over the autumn, and this spring, they did literally spring into life in early April, flowering by the end of April. They waft beautifully over the box hedge, standing about 1m high to the tips of the flowers and so I really hope that they will keep coming as promised.

'Totally Tangerine' wafting over the box, end April, Tostat 2015
‘Totally Tangerine’ wafting over the box, end April, Tostat 2015

So, on the tangerine theme, I have done something never before done by me, I have planted Geum ‘Alabama Slammer’ near to ‘Totally Tangerine’. Now this might be a Geum too far, but actually, as ‘Alabama Slammer’ is half the height and, whilst in the same colour zone, has some pretty marking differences, I actually rather like the combination.  So as not to overdo it, I have also interplanted Molinia caerulea ssp. caerulea ‘Edith Dudszus’, which will provide a good contrast. I say, ‘will’ as it is only now making a re-appearance so no photo of mine to show, so I have borrowed a photo from a great nursery in the Lakes that I have bought plants from in the past, Cath’s Garden Plants near Heaves. Its dark flowers and upright green stems should make a nice frame for the Geums.

Geum 'Alabama Slammer' Tostat, May 2015
Geum ‘Alabama Slammer’ Tostat, May 2015

Molinia caerulea ssp.caerulea 'Edith Dudszus' credit: www.cathsgardenplants.co.uk
Molinia caerulea ssp.caerulea ‘Edith Dudszus’
credit: http://www.cathsgardenplants.co.uk

And, over on the other side of the path, I am trying out a new Geranium. I used to have a passion for geraniums in Linlithgow, especially the shade-loving Geranium phaeum, but moving here 11 years ago, I found it hard to find much other than the standard pink one. Now, there are many on-line nurseries that deliver great plants in great condition, such as Le Chatel des Vivaces, where I found and bought Geranium ‘Catherine Deneuve’. Like her namesake, she is a class act with elegant magenta star-shaped flowers with stamens that project like little jewels, and an upright form.  These have proved tough and sturdy so far, and I have high hopes. It’s been windy here and has blown the first flower off (!) so here is the photo from Coblands in the UK. Check her out on their site via the link- they give her a full name of Geranium psilostemon ‘Catherine Deneuve’.

Geranium 'Catherine Deneuve' credit: www.coblands.co.uk
Geranium ‘Catherine Deneuve’
credit: http://www.coblands.co.uk

And lastly, a plant that I haven’t dared to put outside yet, but I will soon, is new-to-me Pelargonium ‘Ardens’. It is an electric red, dark centres to the petals and the most intense colour with groups of tiny, delicate flowers. It really is this colour! Quite loose and floppy as a plant, but that may be youth, so I shall try and toughen it up with some outdoors experience if the wind stops blowing!

Pelargonium 'Ardens' Tostat May 2015
Pelargonium ‘Ardens’ Tostat May 2015