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

 

 

 

 

 

Living with Phlomis all year round

I have come to really love the whole world of Phlomis.  So many great plants, especially for those of us who are drought-challenged on occasion, and, in my garden, there is a phlomis doing something all year round.  I never set out to have so many, but I adore the shapes, the foliage, the flowers and the strong scent (which even I can smell) that the summer-flowering phlomis give off when the temperatures mount.

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Frosted Phlomis russeliana leaves, Tostat, December 2015

I have often blogged about Phlomis russeliana, so I won’t repeat myself.  Suffice to say that the foliage can be a bit dog-eared in the winter if it is a wet one, but, if not, it holds up really well and the hairy leaves attract the frost quite beautifully.

Phlomis purpurea started blooming for me in February, carrying on in full flush until the end of April, and still flowering off and on even now.  It may have regretted this, as February was a very wet month, and one of the plants is having a bit of a dieback right now.  But my experience of this plant is that it does periodically take the hump, but, usually, there are newer shoots that remain alive and kicking, and so some judicious pruning will allow those to carry on.  With me, growing in a hot and sunny position in poor soil, it reaches 1.25m high and wide.  It is a very sculptural shape, making a big bowl of standing stems with the delicate colouring of the flowers as a bonus.

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Phlomis purpurea, Tostat, March 2016

The plant that started it all off for me was given to me by Professor Katherine Worth, of Royal Holloway College in London way back in the mid80s when Andy taught there.  She gave me the Phlomis variety that is probably the most commonly grown in the UK,  Phlomis fruticosa.  Against our garden fence in Surrey, it soon reached a massive 1.75m or so height and width, and made a very queenly statement in our first proper garden.  It remains evergreen all through winter, and is a truly great shrub in my view, but does need space.  I was forced to take action against ours last year, but really what I need to do is make that area a priority for next year, so that it gets the space it needs.  Hence, it looks a bit straggly in the photograph.

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Phlomis fruticosa, Tostat, May 2016

I know I did have a Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’, but I can’t talk about that as it has disappeared from the scene.  This has happened once before, so it may be telling me something.  But a tall, slender Phlomis cousin is doing very well and producing lots of little ones that I am busily potting up.  Phlomis ‘Samia’ is spectacular.  Upright, statuesque spikes with paired heart-shaped leaves are then joined by pale lilac, almost dusty brown flowers in the classic Phlomis whorled shape.  It takes a while to get going in my view, and absolutely prefers hot, sunny spots with poor soil, and no additional water than whatever turns up as rain.  It really doesn’t need good soil and would risk getting too wet in the winter which would kill it.  So I would recommend ignoring good soil requirements on many sites and in many books.

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Phlomis ‘Samia’, on the left, Tostat, early June 2016
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Phlomis ‘Samia’ close-up, Tostat, June 2015

Olivier Filippi, the topclass nurseryman and author on dry gardening, produced a hybrid bred from longifolia and fruticosa stock, and it is a superb plant.  Phlomis ‘Le Sud’ has a warmer yellow flower than fruticosa and more vivid green leaves with a hint of longifolia about them, and makes a mound just a bit more than a metre high and wide.  It is as tough as old boots but much prettier. Very drought resistant, evergreen, undemanding.

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Phlomis ‘Le Sud’, Tostat, May 2016

And another phlomis that I fell over, and am also fond of, which is, I think, going to be a little smaller in habit than ‘Le Sud’ is Phlomis longifolia var. bailanica.   It is often described as being only marginally hardy, but I would agree with Beth Smith of the Plant Heritage Devon Group.  She describes it as being hardy to -15C.  You can see her own photograph on the link which shows the longer, slimmer leaves better than mine.

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Phlomis longifolia var. bailanica, Tostat, May 2016

If you would like a more exotic tint to your foliage, you could try this.

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Phlomis x termesii, Tostat, June 2016

This tall phlomis, Phlomis x termesii, with a very upright habit, has wonderful golden-kissed felting on the young foliage, and longer, slimmer longifolia type leaves.  I bought this from Olivier Filippi’s nursery three years ago and it gets better every year.  Recently, from the new owners of La Petite Pepiniere, I bought my smallest Phlomis.  Phlomis cretica is a tot by comparison with the others, and doesn’t look much right now, but I know it will come good to make a small shrublet of about 0.5m high and wide.  It is a tiny star in the making.

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Look hard, it’s Phlomis cretica, Tostat, June 2016