Summer vengeance, rain, and surprises…

lilium Flore Pleno 718
Lilium Flore Pleno, Tostat, July 2018

Whilst we were away in England for a family wedding, summer arrived with no notice and a sense of vengeance- it was out to get us for our wet, cold spring and early summer (which wasn’t).  At least the vengeance could be felt when we got back- toasted and burnt roses, in fact, toasted and burnt was about the top and bottom of it.  We arrived back in a spectacular storm, with heavy hail hammering on the roof of our plane as it came into land.  So we were met by a garden that was toasted and burnt, also utterly decked by the rain, hail and wind.   Oh joy.

But recovery set in.  Some plants have really suffered, so this may mean that they don’t get a second life if they can’t handle the increasingly temperamental weather we seem to experience.  Roses have been a total dud this year, and one new planting has had to be rescued and potted up in the recovery ward.  The earlier lilies, Lilium regale, really hated what was on offer and turned to a mushy brown fairly swiftly.

These extravagantly coloured and shaped Lilium Flore Pleno, have arrived later than usual this year and seem to be coping just fine.  The leopard-spottiness of them is quite adorable to me, though I can see why they might not appeal across the board.  The small seeds, sitting like brown buttons, in the leaf nodes are a real bonus.  Many will germinate in the pots alongside the parent plants, and I just leave them there for a couple of years to bulk up and then plant them on.

Romneya coulteri 618
Romneya coulteri, Tostat, end of June 2018
Romneya coulteri 2 718
Romneya coulteri, sky-ward, Tostat, July 2018

In June, it was possible to take a photograph of Romneya coulteri straight in the eye- that astonishing fried-egg look of pure white and sunny yellow looking almost blue in the early morning light.  But three weeks later, and the whole plant has galloped away, far away from me even on a ladder.  This plant is, of course, a thug, but such a lovely one.  I am hoping that a big bush of Lonicera fragrantissima will manage it on my behalf.

Salvia buchananii 718
Salvia buchananii, Tostat, July 2018

This small Salvia buchananii is a delight.  Planted in the wrong place by me, and stupendously ignored for a year or two as well, it hung on.  I now realise that it is not a Salvia as per our normal understanding of Salvias.  It likes damp shade really, though it might cope in a Scottish summer just fine.  I now have it in a medium pot, and so it gets lots of water and attention- but it is really worth it, velvety sharp pink flowers, with delicate hairs making the plant look very lustrous.  Lustrous is a good word too for the deep green, shiny leaves.  A really good plant.

Phlomis Samia 718
Phlomis Samia and Lychnis coronaria ‘Gardener’s World’, Tostat, July 2018

Here is a very happy situation.  I love ‘Phlomis Samia’ with its big, heart-shaped leaves and tall, dusky pink flowerspikes- and there, something brilliant has happened, probably thanks to the rain.  I bought 3 small plants of Lychnis coronaria ‘Gardener’s World’ about 4 years ago.  They didn’t make it through our summer, and I really regretted that as I liked the idea of the double carmine flowers, without the species’ painfully massive self-seeding that gets out of control with me.  But here it is.  Maybe it was growing slowly all the time, hidden by the Phlomis and the rain has brought it out this year.  What a miracle.

Eucomis Sparkling Burgundy 618
Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’, Tostat, June 2018
Eucomis Sparkling Burgundy 718
Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’, Tostat, July 2018

What a difference a month makes.  This expensive, but really worth it, bulb, ‘Eucomis Sparkling Burgundy’ is one of my favourite summer events.  First, from about mid April, the big purple-red leaves make a dramatic appearance, getting larger and taller, finally reaching at least 60-75 cms long.  Deep down in the bulb, the pineapple-shaped flowers start to form in June, and by July, the flowers are towering over the leaves, nearly, and the leaves have turned a gorgeous olive-green, leaving the stage to the purple-red flowerspikes.   These then take several weeks to slowly open, small flower by small flower, so all in all you are looking at 4 months at least of great pleasure watching this terrific performance.  They are easily over-wintered in a sheltered place, and kept fairly dry, to be brought out in the Spring with a good shower of water, and possibly, re-potting.  So easy, so fabulous.

Rain almost stops play…

Ladybird poppy 618
Papaver commutatum, ‘Ladybird’ poppy giving Romneya coulteri a shove-over, Tostat, June 2018

It really has.  I was away for 2 weeks in Southern Spain, enjoying cool, but perfect temperatures for travelling and walking a lot, and have come back to discover a garden that is the closest to a bog you can imagine.  Squelching across the grass, the dry plants in the South-facing border are looking a bit sick, and everything else looks as if it has been on drugs- and not necessarily in a good way.  What had been normal sized Ladybird poppies are now 2 metres tall and out-running the well-known thug, Romneya coulteri.  Weeds have appeared as if in a sci-fi movie, and I can’t quite believe it.  Another 3 ins of rain fell last night, so everything is leaning at 45 degrees, as if being sick in a boat in a storm.  People in the village, never mind plants, are looking very depressed.  Non-stop rain, massive electrical storms which almost shook the earth, and cool temperatures do not suit us here in June.

Roses have been beaten into submission, but not Rosa ‘Kiftsgate’, a thug at the best of times but likeable all the same.  The perfume from the massed swags of roses can be smelt, even by me, from 50m away from the house- and I have never noticed that before.  This rose poses a danger to traffic passing unless we don protection and give it a good hacking every year, but it does hide a horrible bit of wall so I am always pleased about that.

Kiftsgate 618
Rosa ‘Kiftsgate’ battered but unbowed, Tostat, June 2018
Kiftsgate 2 618
Close up, ‘Kiftsgate’ is almost a sweetie, Tostat, June 2018

Going back briefly to the Ladybird poppies- they are a tribute to the power of the seed.  The only explanation for their appearance is that Andy sowed seed which did not germinate about 4 years ago or maybe more.  In early spring, I cleared and disturbed that ground- and astonishingly, up they popped.  Nature waits sometimes.

Ladybird poppy 2 618
Dripping ‘Ladybird’ poppy, Tostat, June 2018

New to me, and soaked but holding on, are Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ and Ceanothus x pallidus ‘Marie Simon’.  I had a go at growing the Penstemon from seed and drew a blank, so I bought a couple of good sized plants last autumn and divided them- thus making 6 smaller plants.  I had chosen them for their drought tolerance, so I think the wet is not their thing, and consequently, they look a bit weedy- but the sun has got to come out soon, hasn’t it?  Ceanothus x pallidus ‘Marie Simon’ appealed to me because it isn’t blue, but a lovely pale pink with very good green foliage and reddish stems- a feature it shares with the Penstemon.

Penstemon Husker Red and Ceanothus 618
Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ and Ceanothus x pallidus ‘Marie Simon’, Tostat, June 2018

In both Granada and here, Iris foetidissima is flowering.  Just the concurrence of that is a testament to the weirdness of the weather here in Southern Europe.  Of course, it is more sinister and this is about the growing effects of climate change.  Am I alone in worrying what we are leaving, it would appear, to our children to resolve when it is too late? Or can the human being generate world support for science and technology that can change things?  It worries me a lot.  Back in Southern Spain, I spent a week off-grid on an eco-farm that is single-handedly saving a small piece of the Alpujarras landscape.  It was both a very inspiring and sobering experience. Next post….

Granada Carmen 5
Iris foetidissima, Carmen de los Martires, Granada, June 2018

 

Gardens in the Wild 2017

Rectory 1 617
Cotton grass blowing in the breeze, Euriophorum angustifolium, The Old Rectory, Thruxton, Gardens in the Wild, June 2017

A garden festival that has great intentions- bringing unusual individual gardens together in a loose network for visitors to combine over a weekend, coupled with a base that offered some stalls with garden plants and items, as well as a programme of speakers.  I really enjoyed listening to the soft, grande-dame tones of Mary Keen for an hour, a great plantswoman and garden-maker, musing and reminiscing with invited interjections from Anna Pavord who was in the audience.

But the central base creates it’s own problem- it’s a long way from any of the network of gardens back to the base, so probably many people only go there once.  Charging a fiver each time you  parked the car seemed a bit steep to me.  End result, seeing the visibly-less-than-gruntled faces of the stallholders for whom there were only slim pickings in terms of business.

And maybe some of the gardens need to showcase the smaller, more domestic gardens that surely do exist in Shropshire and Herefordshire, rather than just the gardens of those with obvious means?  A garden doesn’t have to be stately to be beautiful and interesting to the visitor.  So, I wonder if a bit more rigour in the selection of the network gardens in finding those that are not yet on the NGS radar, or doing some community endeavour and finding 2-3 in a village that could be viewed together, might not broaden the appeal of the festival, which did have a very high panama hat count. Not knocking, honest.

Meantime, at the Old Rectory, Thruxton, there was a garden made and being made over the last 7-8 years with great passion and dedication by the owners, both charming and very helpful people.  The garden around the house had some lovely planting, and a stupendous veg garden with a wall of mellowing fruit, with apricots already looking luscious in the hot June weather.  At the end of the garden, an accidental pond made when earth was removed, was a real highlight.  Big, shaped as if by nature, and planted with beautiful reeds and marginals, it was a delight to wander around and sit by. Amongst the planting there was a billowing cotton grass, Euriophorum angustifolium, and a pretty little marginal, Pontederia cordata, was just coming into flower, with fat spear-shaped bright green leaves.

Rectory 2 617
Pontederia cordata, The Old Rectory, Thruxton, June 2017

Two other lovely things that made me smile for different reasons were Morina longifolia and Romneya coulteri.  The former as I have grown it from seed in the garden here, and whilst short-lived with me, I adore the bizarre ice-cream coloured flower spikes and the thistle-like bright green leaves.  The Romneya has been dug out from our garden.  I love the fried-egg flowers but the thug price to pay is too high here where it revels in heat and sharp drainage- mine would have reached the moon shortly and was busy exterminating everything around it.  Maybe it would work in a cage?

Rectory 3 617
Morina longifolia, The Old Rectory, Thruxton, June 2017
Rectory Romneya 617
Romneya coulteri, The Old Rectory, Thruxton, June 2017

In the shadier part of the garden, my heart was won by a lovely small foxglove, Digitalis lanata, with strong lemon flowers in the usual spike, much yellower than the link shows, but there you go.

Rectory Digitalis lanata 617
Digitalis lanata, The Old Rectory, Thruxton, June 2017