Living on the edge…

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Rosa Jacqueline du Pre, Tostat, August 2018

Feeling rather grumpy about my grumpiness about the scorched earth situation- and also chastened by kind comments from Australian and Californian readers basically saying that at least I can count on the fact that it will rain again…sometime.  I think that, even though I completely want to create the watering-free garden that I think we all have to embrace- I am still disturbed by the implications of my self-inflicted policy.  It all goes to show that changing our aesthetic to fully embrace sustainability is really hard and cuts to the core somehow.

Having said all of that, I am also aware that I don’t have (yet) to be an utter purist.  I can and should do what I can to garden as close to the edge of sustainability as possible.  But it’s ok to save myself with some watering as the edge moves away from me.  Watering is not to be despised.  So, I am doing some selective watering over the next few days.  I have allowed myself off the hook.  But, from the above, you can see that it has been a bit of a moral tussle.

So, to invoke cheeriness (and maybe rain!), here is what is still looking good without any help from me- though these are isolated spots in amongst a sea of brown.

I actually dug up Rosa ‘Jacqueline du Pre’ over a month ago and stuck her back into a pot, as she was looking nigh unto death.  So with a pot-watering regime, she has begun flowering again.  She is really ‘worth it’ to ape L’Oreal.

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Bouvardia ternifolia, Tostat, August 2018

Staying with the pots for a moment, Bouvardia ternifolia is looking very very happy- a true pillar-box red, tender, but can be tucked away dry in a protected spot in the winter, watered copiously in the spring, and up she comes.

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Plumbago auriculata, Tostat, August 2018

In a pot, and in semi-shade, Plumbago auriculata has just begun flowering.  On the tender side, I mistakenly left the pot out during the winter, and was pretty sure that I had killed the plant.  But, it’s always worth hanging on- and back she came in June.  Very late to get started, but looking absolutely fine.

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Cestrum elegans rubrum, Tostat, August 2018
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Fully open, Cestrum elegans rubrum, Tostat, August 2018

Cestrum elegans rubrum was a bargain-basement shrub I bought last winter.  A little on the tender side, I was feeling pretty smug about it until we hit the 2 weeks of -10C.  The shrub collapsed.  I thought it was time for an obituary notice, again.  But, two months later, signs of growth could be seen, and though a little shorter with the heat, I think that next year she will be bouncing back at 1m plus all round.  And clearly tougher than I thought.  I love those surprises.

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Rosa moschata, Tostat, August 2018

I bought Rosa moschata from Olivier Filippi‘s nursery in the Languedoc, maybe 5 years ago.  He is a serious dry-gardening expert and all his plants are worth trying especially with his advice.  I over-risked the dryness it would tolerate, and had to do yet another emergency transplant into a pot.  Note to self: This is the edge of sustainability looking at me, again.  Out of the pot, and in a new home 2 years ago against the central pillar of the outdoor barn, Rosa moschata is reaching for the roof, and is on her second flowering.  Only a dozen buds open, but the scent fills the barn- a deep old-rose scent, gorgeous.

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The unknown red Abutilon, Tostat, August 2018

Last year’s baby Abutilon ebay purchase is in the ground, only about 20 cms high, but has already flowered non-stop since late May.  Abutilons fold their leaves down like wings when they are a bit heat-stressed- but they carry on anyway.  Real troopers.

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Vernonia crinita ‘Mammuth’ and Leycesteria formosa formosa, Tostat, August 2018

The Vernonia nearest the canal is the only one still flowering, wrapped in the arms of Leycesteria formosa– the crimson meets the purple.

And for sheer mystery and magic, this new-to-me Pennisetum, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Japonicum’ is hard to beat, close-up.  Note: In France, this plant is known as ‘Japonicum’- whilst in the UK, it is Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Foxtrot’.

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Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Japonicum’, Tostat, August 2018

Maybe I like the danger of the edge….

 

Holding the line….

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Vernonia crinita Mammuth, Tostat, August 2016

This Vernonia is about the last plant standing in the garden after this really difficult summer.  Almost everything else has browned and gone over early.  This is partly my fault.  I have been slowly making the garden over the years on the principle that, once settled in, everything must be tough enough to cope with the prevailing conditions- which this year have been on the monstrous side.

I remember reading Beth Chatto’s dry garden book, ‘The Gravel Garden’ when we first moved in.  It introduced me to the completely new world of plants that were so utterly different to my Scottish experiences.  She built a new gravel garden over her old car park in the very hot summer of 1976 if I remember correctly, and spent most days and nights worrying over the rainfall, which she measured precisely and the daytime temperatures, also measured and logged.  Her plan had been to plant correctly and to water deeply once, and then to reply completely on rainfall after that.   She stuck to her plan, despite temperatures in the 90s in old money.  But her agonies were plain as she wrote of the strain of trying to hold her nerve.

I have really felt this this year.  But to be honest, only in the two newly dug and planted areas that I started this year- actually the rest of the garden, whilst gone over early and on the crispy side, is actually ok- just spent.  So, I have decided to water on occasion over the last couple of weeks- reckoning that more than 7 days of 35Cplus, is way over what new plants can handle, and I do want to save my plants.  So, principles are shifting slightly to accommodate extreme conditions.  However, I am still trying to balance the need for the plant to be tested, so that they develop the root systems they need for next year.  So far, this delicate balance is working.

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Acidanthera murielae, Tostat, September 2016

But meantime, back in potted-plant land, it is all looking very lovely, if a real jumble of colours and shapes.  This bulb, Acidanthera murielae, does really well, but only as long as it has a dry frost-free winter experience, and then moisture when it needs to flower.  I rather like my ragbag collection of plants in pots, that will flower in late summer and are pretty obliging, as long as they are personally assured of their daily half can watering allowance.

So, I water with 2 cans, staggering about the garden with them, filling them up from the ruisseau without falling in, and it’s probably doing wonders for my arms and shoulders.  I have counted that to spot water the odd thing, deal with the big pots and then the small ones, and finally the seeds and seedlings, takes about 48 cans- and a full hour.  Mind you, when it is this hot, I love that time of the morning just before 0800 when the air is fresh and cool, so although it sounds like a big chore, I actually love doing it.

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Maurandya antirhiniflora, Tostat, September 2016

Maurandya antirhiniflora is a charming slender seed-grown climber which has flowered for the first time.  I have four small pots sitting in the big pot of ornamental orange, and they have been on the weedy side till this year, but are now twining delicately around the small orange tree, and looking very sweet indeed.  Ranging in colour from dark blue, to this purple, to a soft pink, they are sporadic but worth the wait, and I love the way it dresses the orange, which by now is sometimes a bit on the twiggy side.

And two more trusted plants which come back bigger and better in pot-land.  Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ is cheap as chips, and I love it more for its foliage than the delicate pink flowers.  Brush against it, pick a leave and roll it in your fingers and you are in the souk in Fez or Aleppo immediately.

Plumbago auriculata needs an easy winter.  Not too cold and not too dry, so I take it into the open barn which is usually just fine for it- enough cover to hold back the frost.  It is a slow developer each year, looking like a depressed bunch of twigs right up till June and then it just begins to romp.  It’s going to need a bigger pot next year.  Thank you, Chloris, for your correction on this plant!

See.. .your mind turns so easily to next year….

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Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ caught in the early morning sun, Tostat, September 2016
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Plumbago auriculata, Tostat, September 2016