Creams and colours…

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Cephalaria gigantea, Tostat, June 2019

Two years ago, at this time of year,  we joined in with the ‘Gardens in the Wild’ festival in Herefordshire, and visited about half a dozen gardens over the weekend.  So many good things to see and plants to take in- one of which popped up in various of the gardens, and I adored it.  Cephalaria gigantea won my heart, for slender but tall stature and creamy lemon flowers.   Insects adored it, and so did I.  From seed, it has taken me two years to get flowering plants- they grow so high that I would need a ladder to look down into them, and so you can imagine, two years is what it takes to build up a solid root base.  Unknowingly, I mixed them in with seedlings of Thalictrum flavum glaucum– but I think that the two giants get on rather well.  They are in the most moist part of the garden, so this summer will tell if they can take it.

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Dorycnium hirsutum ‘Frejorgues’, Tostat, June 2019

Dorycnium hirsutum ‘Frejorges’ is a slow-burn plant.  Needing sharp drainage, full sun and poor soil to do best, I was not bowled over it by intially.  But, growing slowly over 2 years, to make a crinkled silvery-green mound, and this year, flowering for the first time (unless I just have forgotten) with creamy pea-type flowers, it has earned it’s place in the garden.

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Jardin de la Poterie Hillen, Thermes-Magnoac, June 2019

The best bit from Jardin de la Poterie Hillen last week was….this view.  It was jammed with people- note to self, don’t bother with Portes Ouvertes days, find another time.  I really liked the shaped shrubs, the bench, the slim cypresses behind, the lilypad bowl and the three weathered uprights that sounded like metal, but felt quite light to the touch.  Material therefore unknown.  I also liked this rather florid clematis- baroque swags of flowers absolutely saved by their cool creamy green colouring, Clematis florida Alba Plena.  A good combination.  On the list.

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Clematis florida Alba Plena, Jardin de la Poterie Hillen, Thermes-Magnoac, June 2019

Back home, the trooper plants are blooming.  Both are Lychnis, the top one, Salmonea, I grew from seed a few years back which I got from the Hardy Plant Society and it is just beginning to self-seed gently in the mixed planting under the cherry tree.  The bottom one is the more common, scarlet chalcedonica– which I also grew from seed, and it gives a real flash of scarlet.  Nothing demure about it at all.  Easy and tough as old boots.

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Lychnis chalcedonica Salmonea, Tostat, June 2019
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Lychnis chalcedonica, Tostat, June 2019

In the Mix, the alliums are over but still making a great vertical against the Stipa tenuissima.  In the morning light, the effect is magical, golden, slender, wafting against the green of the emerging Miscanthus sinensis Strictus– not yet producing the golden zebra stripes that I love.  The Miscanthus has been waiting for heat so far this summer.

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The Mix with Stipa tenuissima and seedhead of Allium nigrum, Tostat, June 2019

In the cool, semi-shady conditions of the Bee garden in Peebles last month, self-sown  and spreading Camassia leichtlinii, don’t know the variety, were taking over beautifully from the Scottish bluebells.  My friend has them planted in and amongst a crimson-leaved acer, and the light filtering through the acer picks out the Camassia beautifully.  Irresistable.  But they must be resisted.  Tostat would bring certain death to moisture-loving Camassia.

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Camassia leichtlinii, Peebles, May 2019

But, close in colour, though again an unknown variety, that I got as a cutting from Jardin d’Antin nearby to us- is the plummy, purply, blue of this statuesque Penstemon- the orange background kindly donated by the spreading branches of the unknown orange Abutilon.

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Unknown Penstemon, from Jardin d’Antin, Tostat, June 2019

A week ago, I was talking about the Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ and Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’.  Here is a photograph of the quieter, less-in-your-face flowers of ‘Husker Red’- not creamy in my case, more of a pale mauve I would say, but pretty all the same, and flowering for the first time after growing from seed 2 years ago.  I am looking forward to seeing how the plants themselves develop.

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Penstemon Huskers Red, Tostat, June 2019

This coral-red Salvia is new to me, Salvia dichlamys.  The colouring has that electric quality that you get in the purple-mauve of Verbena bonariensis- it really speaks to you.  I shall be very happy to take cuttings later in the summer, and see what happens when brought in for winter.

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Salvia dichlamys, Tostat, June 2019

June goings-on…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Trifolium pannonicum ‘White Tiara’, Tostat, June 2019
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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.

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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….

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