Burnout…or not quite

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Looking again…Yucca with Bupleurum fruticosum, Miscanthus strictus, looking across to Hydrangea Annabelle, Tostat, July 2017

The last two weeks of June were a flurry of gardens, visiting friends and reprogramming my eyes to a different kind of English luxuriousness and verdant views.  More of all of this in time.  But coming back home on Saturday evening to 11C and pelting rain, we lit the woodburner to warm ourselves and our frozen housesitters.  Venturing out early on Sunday morning, with eyes still working to English levels of greenness,  I was aghast.  The garden looked as if it had had a blowtorch taken to it.  More than a week of temperatures in the high 30Cs and not a drop of rain, not to mention hot winds had really taken its toll, despite the care and attention of the housesitters.

But.  As my eyes adjusted back to my own garden, I actually had a lot of cause for celebration which I came to see as I went round looking in detail.  First of all, not much had actually died.  I may have lost one Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’, but the other one is recovering even now, and so maybe it will too.  Burnt edges could be seen everywhere, but not much actual death.  And, this early July period is a bit of a ‘Potter’s Wheel’.  It’s always the time where the earlier summer flowering has gone over and the mid to late summer plants haven’t yet hit their stride, and really I should know this by now.

So major redesign panic over.   And a few days later, with sight fully restored to normal settings, I was able to appreciate the plants that had persevered and come through.  And there were one or two real surprises in the mix.  For example, new to me this year, was Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’– and it has proved a real stalwart.  In a new area, which I suspect does actually have some spring activity deep down, it is blooming really well, along with clumps of my cheap-as-chips Liatris spicata and a new annual purple millet that I grew from seed, Pennistum glaucum ‘Purple Baron’.  The Kalimeris is a 0.75cms high neat clump of bright green foliage, with mauve flowers fading to white, and is very pretty.  Let’s see what happens with spread and seeding, but it looks like a really good doer to me.

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Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Liatris spicata and Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Baron’, Tostat, July 2017

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Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Tostat, July 2017

The next morning, in the dappled sunshine early on in a part of the border by the wall that is a right mess- project for early 2018, even though my teeth were slightly setting at the disarray, a timid Southern White butterfly was enjoying Echinacea ‘White Swan’.  It seemed really good to be home.

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Southern White Admiral butterfly enjoying Echinacea ‘White Swan’, Tostat, July 2017

Come rain, come shine…

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End of the evening with Stipa tenuissima, Oenethora speciosa shutting up shop, and the last of Cerinthe major ‘Kiwi Blue’ in the distance, Tostat, May 2017

This May has been a bit of a rollercoaster, and in these moments, it is hard not to become totally obsessed with the weather forecast, and then what actually happens- usually not at all as predicted.  In summary, the dry soil sun-lovers have really enjoyed themselves and other things have not, some of which have hung on in there and one or two may have bitten the dust.  This is because I don’t water.  To be precise, I do spot-water things in extremis in their first year, but after that, I don’t.  Stubborn or what, you might well say.  But I am trying to finetune the selection and growing of plants that can live here unaided, and now that there is so much variability in the weather at any time of the year, it makes you feel a bit like William Tell trying to skewer that apple with both legs bound, and from a moving platform.

One of the plants that may have crashed and burnt is one of two Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’.  Interestingly, the one that is in the ER wagon is the one in the slightly less hot spot. I so wanted to grow this plant, having chosen it years ago as part of a planting design for my diploma course- and it was the devil of a job to find it here in France.  So I was mightily pleased when I found not one but two plants last year, and planted them in the early Spring.  It is a delicate, airy columnar shrub, which is pretty undemanding and is reputed to cope with almost any conditions, especially frost.  So, I will have to see if it will perk up from the bottom or find a way of making a comeback.   Meantime, some gentle watering on occasion as it is in the ER wagon.

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Verbascum bombyciferum, where it put itself, Tostat May 2017

Some delights have also turned up. That is not to say that Verbascum bombyciferum is entirely a delight as it can plonk itself slapbang where you don’t want it, and then you have to keep beheading it as it is impossible to get out, with a giant root system that practically goes to Australia.  But it is a mighty and impressive beast when it lands where you might not know that you want it, but you discover that you always did!  With us, the first year is quite a small affair, and then, aged 1-2, the giant seems to leap fully formed out of the ground in front of your eyes.  Felted, hairy and covered in custard-yellow small flowers, it is a one-stop insect feeding station.  It keeps the form and stature right through winter until, totally dried out, it keels over and you are tempted to shout ‘Timber’.

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Assorted foxgloves in dampish soil and sun, Tostat, May 2017

Curiously, it has also been a great year for foxgloves- all self-sown and obviously selecting the parts of the garden where they stand a chance.  That is one of the lovely things about not being too rigid about what goes on where, I love being surprised by what pops up and, also, flip side of the coin, by what doesn’t pop up.  Some years, the foxgloves don’t make much of an appearance- but they always return in the end.

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Euphorbia sikkimensis, Tostat, May 2017

Now here is a survivor.  Grown from seed and fairly weedy for a couple of years, this is the year where it has broken through youth to become a real plant of substance.  I think it’s Euphorbia sikkimensis anyway.  It’s at least 5 years ago that I grew it from seed and it wasn’t a happy sowing, as not much came up, and I lost the tag.  This plant is the only survivor of three.  But it really is worth it.  It is going to make a handsome 1m tall and wide plant, with these electric yellow flower bracts that form on the top of each stem.  Unlike some, it is not a thug, in fact, I would put it in the ‘shy and retiring’ category.  It flowers much later than the rest- sometimes as late as the end of June, and it is willing to cope with the driest, sunniest spot in the garden without any visible complaint.

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Evening sun and handling no rain pretty well, Tostat, May 2017

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Clematis viticella, Aruncus dioicus and the foliage of Paeonia lutea var.ludlowii, Tostat, May 2017