A long way home…

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Salvia africana-lutea, Tostat, November 2018

We are back, nearly 8 weeks after we left a hot, dry, dusty Tostat in September.  Coming back is such a strange experience.  Not just the usual hoo-haa of unpacking, washing clothes and re-discovering everything that has been inadverdently moved as our lovely housesitters made the place theirs- but re-connecting with the growing garden.  It feels as if the garden’s mind of its own has taken over- my brain struggled to remember names of plants, and some had radically changed in size and power with the late October rain.  The garden has become an alien, though still vaguely familiar place.  I have walked around it almost as if I am visiting it in the past few days.  So much change, so much growth- the small gradations of change have been obliterated by not being here, and the impact of it all was somehow viscerally unexpected.

The Salvia africana-lutea was a wonderful shock.  Firstly, I had expected the flowering bracts to be more of a dusty orange, but they really are as tropical an orange as the photo above shows.  Secondly, when I left, the plant was a one-year old baby, and had toiled a bit in the dry and the heat. Now, it’s the plant equivalent of a bonny, bouncing toddler and it is looking very strong.  I just managed to grow the one seedling to adult- I never find Salvias easy from seed, but I had to try as this one is hard to find.

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Salvia involucrata ‘Bethellii’, Tostat, November 2018

And here was another wonderful shock.  Salvia involucrata ‘Bethellii’ was a new one for me this year- and I bought it mainly for its very bright green leaves with a powerful aroma, so these marvellous fat rounded bracts and buds are really an extra surprise.  It does flower late in the autumn, but this year has worked really well for it.

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Abelia grandiflora, Tostat, November 2018

I am a bit ashamed of my behaviour with this plant.  I picked it up as a bargain plant two years ago,  but it has merely existed so far in the garden and I have rather ignored it.  But, I should know that many shrubby plants take a good 2 years to get their feet down in our garden- and so it has proved with this Abelia.  But, it was very refreshing this hot, dry summer to have the Abelia grandiflora cultivar hit its stride in September with fresh, light pink blossoms and pinky-tinged leaves.

This autumn has, so far, been very calm and so the golden foliage on ‘Purple Tower’ has lasted and lasted.  This tree has also found its mojo this year and has put on really good growth no doubt with the assistance of roots having found the canal.

So the next week is about re-connecting, finding and remembering what I was doing 2 months ago, and beginning to make some plans for next year.  It’s a good time to be home.

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Populus deltoides ‘Purple Tower’, Tostat, November 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Going, going, gone…

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Salvia confertiflora and ‘Anthony Parker’ mingling in the hall, Tostat, November 2017

That’s it.  First big cold spell of this autumn/winter last night with a frost of -2C but the recompense is beautiful sunshine this morning. And to be honest, given all the topsy-turviness of this year weather-wise, it feels better to be having the weather we should be having at this time of the year.

So, on Sunday, much lugging of pots, pruning of things, and then fleecing of the odd pot too big to bring in took place.  Yesterday I ran round and dug up the 3 plants that had been planted in- and managed to remember to bring only two of them into the house.  Result: one very brown and unhappy Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ outside this morning.

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Salvia Mexicana ‘Limelight’, Tostat, November 2017

It had only just flowered, and possibly the flowering had saved it’s bacon.  I am so disappointed with this plant!  I should have paid attention to Louis the Plant Geek.  he says, ‘Want the excitement? Accept the dullness. No pain, no gain.’  Louis is a brilliant blogger.  In my view, he has everything.  Good pictures, great, tested in his own garden information, a witty and astringent turn of phrase- and really detailed advice.  I bow down.

The thing is with ‘Limelight’, the dullness goes on for ever- well, given that it has been outside since April, precisely 7 months.  I am not yet sure that the gain outweighs the pain. Not to mention, that ‘Limelight’ is a thirsty so-and-so, bending leaves down every day in a sort-of-Mum-wait-for-me way.  And growth was stingy to say the least.  From the opposite, more rational point of view, these 2 plants were grown from seed last winter and it thrilled me that they germinated on a sunny windowsill.  And, in the first year, perhaps I am being unduly testy about the lack of performance till now.  So, Louis’ advice is:  sink it in a 3 litre pot into the ground, as opposed to planting it which I did, then at the first frost, cut it back and overwinter in a cool place.  The last part is easy: the big hall, codename IceStationZebra, in our house.

So, I have half-frozen one plant and saved the other plant.  I shall cut both down as Louis describes and hope that over-wintering will give them more of a headstart than they had last year- and meantime, allocate 2 x 3 litre pots for them for next year.  I shan’t be mean and ditch them.

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ had made it just in time to flower.  In fact, the cooler nights have brought out the golden tints at the ends of the petals, which really brings the flowerheads alive, I think.  They can stay outside for now, and I will move them to the outside barn so they don’t get drowned in too much winter wet.

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Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’, Tostat, November 2017

This little Aussie plant, Westringia fruticosa ‘Wynyabbie Gem’, was planted, new to me, about this time last year, and it turned out to be pretty robust in our sunny, dry border, happily shrugging off a spell of -10C last winter.  These are the first flowers on this little plant, and I am hoping that it will slowly bulk up to make a jolly 1m wide and high mound of light green foliage, pretty in itself and then these sweet spotted-throat white flowers in little groups.

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Westringia ‘Wynyabbie Gem’, Tostat, November 2017

And this shot of the back of the garden, looking West, in the last sunshine of yesterday afternoon, is a kind of  over-and-out shot, as the leaves on Populus deltoides ‘Purple Tower’ which are so golden in this photograph, have almost all fallen off this morning.  Another season begins.

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November 2017, Tostat.

Weather is weather…

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Hibiscus palustris, after the rain, Tostat, August 2017

I am really trying.  To accept the weather for what is is, and not rail against it.  For being too hot, for being too dry, too windy, rarely too grey but sometimes, and so on.  Monty Don says that this is the only way to garden.  But it is a hard habit to break.  So, I am trying to get even rather than angry.  Thinking of what I can do to help the garden be more bountiful in the hard, hot days of summer, and planning more tough structure to support those perennials which can make it through.

But these plants give me hope- as does the weather in the last couple of weeks- which has remembered to rain on occasion.  Dahlias have been a bit of a disaster this summer.  New bulbs that I bought have not come up at all, and everything has been on a serious go-slow.  But I am so glad that this appeared.  With a wonderfully exotic name, Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’ (whatever that means) is actually gorgeous.  Sharp, tart carmine red around the golden centre gives way to almost-black twiddled petals.  There is probably a better botanical term than ‘twiddled’ but I am sure you get my drift.

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Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’, Tostat, August 2017

Two small plants survived the beating summer of my self-grown Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Burgundy’, but they make me very happy and I will grow more.

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Gallardia x grandiflora ‘Burgundy’, Tostat, August 2017

And you can’t keep this Rudbeckia down.  It is widely used because it is such a dependable plant. It may be half the size it normally is, but it still comes back fighting. Another trait to battle is snobbery against good and dependable plants.

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Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, Tostat, August 2017

If the wind is in the right direction, the light in the right place and you don’t look too hard at the detail,  some of the garden is still quite presentable despite it all.

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Lovely disguising evening light does well if veiled through leaves, Tostat, August 2017
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Populus deltoides ‘Purple Tower’‘ is undeterred, Pennisetum alopecuroides and Miscanthus Malepartus, with not-yet-flowering Miscanthus Silberfeder, and a bit of artistic light drifting in, Tostat, August 2017

All change. The blog, the climate and me…

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End of the afternoon sunlight, Tostat, November 2016

It’s been almost two months since the last post. And, it is almost the end of the second year of this blog, which started out as an experiment in not boring myself, and trying out what has become a real conversation with not just me, but with readers whose responses I really enjoy and look forward to.

So, a month travelling in Ethiopia, a couple of weeks working on and running a weekend retreat here in English and French, preparing for and having our interviews for French citizenship, and having young people, ill and well, for a week or so- all that filled time and took time.  And allowed me to think about what I am doing here in this blog.

So, I have moved to my own domain platform for the blog.  You can now get to it by just typing

http://www.jardinecofriendly.com

and there will be no more irritating adverts slowing things up.  And I have tidied up the main page a wee bit, with some new photographs.

And, more importantly, I am reminding myself that what I do in my garden matters for the ecosystem as a whole, and so, my principle of using no additional water (with the possible exception of some hand-watering in hot months of the first year of growth in the case of perennials and shrubs) is uppermost in my mind as I think about climate change.  Which is really on my mind, and what is coming out of Trump Tower is very bad news indeed.  But, at almost the same time as the US elections, I watched an incredible documentary film (thank you Erica), which has both hardened my resolve and strengthened my spirit.

The film is ‘Demain’ made by the actress Melanie Laurent and colleagues- watch it, it is hard, scary and utterly fabulous.   The first time I have got beyond being simply scared about climate change- and begun to move towards really identifying what I can do myself- and with others.  Google it and you will find ways to see it.

So, what this means in terms of the garden is this:  I am even more concerned to source plants as locally as I can, to grow from seed what I can’t easily get, and to focus down on recognising that hot, dry summers and wet winters/spring are probably the pattern for the next few years.  So this means looking to research plants that thrive in areas with these conditions- notably the Mid-Western and Northern Californian areas in particular.  I recognise that I will also need to find forgiving plants that will tolerate something less drastic as well for those many inbetween days.

But meantime, there is lots to talk about from autumn trips and plans for next year, so I will step down off my plinth and simply share some photographs of what is still looking lovely in the garden, even now.

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The acer colouring is simply the best it has ever been…Tostat, November 2016
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Even the apple tree has joined in…Tostat, November 2016
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Miscanthus on the left, Berberis ‘Helmond Pillar’ looking red in the face, and Populus deltoides ‘Purple Tower’ going buttery against the banana, Tostat, November 2016
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It won’t be the last rose, Rosa chinensis ‘Mutabilis’, Tostat, November 2016