One-armed gardening

Auricula Jungfrau 0519
Auricula Jungfrau, Tostat, May 2019

So, the tendons are mending- but largely one-armed gardening continues as I am keen not to mess it all up again, which is probably what I did in the early Spring.  So, some parts of the garden are engaged in slugging it out with annual weeds and that nightmare called ‘Sticky Willy’ in Scotland…whilst other parts have benefitted from my rather feeble attempts with the left hand.  I have to just accept it.  Most things are in their 2nd/3rd years or older and so will eventually tower over the rubbish, which will start to wilt once the warm weather arrives.  Be stoical, I say to myself.

I bought some tiny auriculas on my last but one visit to Chelsea, which puts it at at least six years ago.  I loved them dearly outside in a little raised, stony bed in Linlithgow and they loved the coolness of it all.  Needless to say, they have toiled here- but they hang on in there and I keep them in the shade, but sometimes with less moisture than they would like.  This year,  Auricula Jungfrau has been the best- it is a pale pinky-peach colour, normally a little inside the beige range for me- but up close, they have a miniature baroque quality to them, and they look as if cherubim with nothing on should be holding them in swags.  I am rather glad that they are not cream-coloured as Barnhaven suggest in the link.

Cerinthe yellow 0519
Cerinthe yellow, Tostat, May 2019

This year, following a link on Noel Kingsbury’s new blog from Portugal, I bought seed from a lovely man called Liberto Dario.  He has a Facebook page and if you would like seed from him, message him on Facebook and he will send you the lists.  I have been really enjoying trying the seed out.  This gorgeous yellow Cerinthe was something I tried early this Spring.  It is about the same height as the blue Cerinthe, but a bit bushier in inclination and the flowers are a lot shyer.  You have to look for them under the mottled leaves, but they are so fresh and pretty with the red splodge at the top and the vibrant yellow.  They seem to be as tough as the blue, so let’s see if I can get seed from them later in the year.

Geum TT 0519
Geum Totally Tangerine, Tostat, May 2019

Poor old Totally Tangerine, I think, found last summer altogether too much, too much heat and too little rain.  By last year, my clumps of this great Geum were really big- this year they have been on a diet, but are still there.  I may consider moving them back into the shade of the Daphne in the autumn and see if that perks them up.

Cotinus coggrygria Royal Purple 0519
Cotinus coggygria Royal Purple, Tostat, May 2019

This is the time of the year when, if it’s sunny, you need to be up either really early or getting into the evening-  the light is already almost too strong for good photographs.  But I just made it with the new foliage on Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’- vibrant ruby coloured and just flushed with dew.

Rosa Mrs Oakley Fisher 0519
Rosa Mrs Oakley Fisher, Tostat, May 2019

There is a story to Rosa Mrs Oakley Fisher.  I bought one 30 years ago for my Mum, who was a green-fingered garden lover. I thought she would love it for the apricot flowers and the slightly 1920s form of it.  Embarassingly for her, it died on her, but she didn’t tell me till ages later. So, when I saw it again last year for sale here in France, I wanted one to remember my Mum by.  Last year, it was very unhappy and I thought it might have gone the way of the original.  But no, this year, it looks as if it has cracked it, and the slim, elegant buds are just about to burst on the next sunny day.

Convolvulus cneorum 0519
Convolvulus Cneorum, Tostat, May 2019

Frost is still around. This isn’t unusual but a bit annoying.  It is one reason, as well as the one-armed situation, why my tender pots are still all clustered, albeit outdoors, near to the house at the back where they get a bit of warmth from the walls.  Just a touch of frost though gives some plants a diamond-necklace look. It certainly doesn’t bother Convolvulus cneorum at all- one of life’s tougher troopers.

Geranium maculatum Espresso 0519
Geranium maculatum ‘Espresso’, Tostat, May 2019

Here is a real surprise.  A comeback kid, that didn’t ought to have.  A too-late-in-the-season purchase last Spring, which I knew was a risk,  didn’t make it and I kicked myself-again.  But, only one small sprig, but alive neverthless, popped up, coming through the foxglove leaves to flower.  The other thing to remember about geraniums is that they really are tough- don’t give up on them.

Rosa Alissar Princess of Phoenicia 0419
Rosa Alissar Princess of Phoenicia, Tostat, May 2019

Being of part-Persian stock, I bought this lovely little rose, Alissar Princess of Phoenicia, expecting it to be tough and able to cope with heat.  It has struggled a bit, but this year, in its 3rd year, may have got itself on an even keel.  The only slight disappointment is that I don’t get the rather charming colour change in the flowers from cream to pink.  This may be because it is in a sunny spot from the off, but all the same, it is pretty.

A small miracle…

Aristea ecklonii 517
Aristea ecklonii, Tostat, May 2017

This little spray of irridescent blue flowers only measures about 15cms from the ground and has only these four buds/flowers on it, but it delights me.  I grew from seed about 7 years ago, three varieties of Aristea- Aristea ecklonii, Aristea major and Aristea inaequalis. The first has stumbled on in a pot, coming under cover for the winter and to stay dryish, the second has grown immense with huge straps of leaves like a Phormium (more later about this one) and the last I nearly killed the winter before last and so have only one slightly mournful specimen at the moment.

So ecklonii has come good, as it did last year.  The flowers only appear in the sunlight and shut themselves when the sky clouds over- and the whole scale of it is ‘freesia-size’, and of course, the slightest puff of wind and it bobs about- hence the slight wobble.  But the colour is quite fabulous- a true, sky-blue and it really shines out.

So, the big sister, Aristea major has done exceptionally well in the leaf department- but nothing else, till now.  In fact, it had a hard winter. I had it fleeced up, but some wind shook the fleecing a little free, and our hard frost nights (-10C) ravaged the leaves.  So, last month, I re-potted it into a massive pot, as it is a big plant- cut off all the black, frosted foliage, which gave it a severe haircut, and hoped for the best.  Only a couple of new leaves have begun growing, but wowee, no fewer than five flowerspikes!  I am truly thrilled.  They came well-disguised, wrapped inside emerging leaves with only a small maternity bump that I didn’t notice for a while.  So, I am waiting, like an expectant parent outside the labour ward. So far, they look like grey wheathusks.

Other things romping away and causing great delight…

Anchusa azurea 517
Anchusa italica ‘Dropmore’, Tostat, May 2017

I grew this Anchusa italica ‘Dropmore’ from seed 2 years ago, and as ever, with most perennials, you are paying forward for the flowers, but here it is.  Tall, despite the drought, at nearly eye-level with me, and the same sort of irridescent blue that the Aristea offers, but in a big, slightly floppy, way.  I think it will go from strength to strength.

Border favourites 2 517
That little flash of red, the tiny but mighty Dianthus deltoides ‘Flashing Light’, Tostat, May 2017

Good old standards here,  the Stachys byzantina at its best, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ and Centranthus ruber, but that little flash of red that really does sparkle is my new Dianthus deltoides ‘Flashing Light’.  I adore it.

Rosa Alissar Princess of Phoenicia 517
Rosa ‘Alissar Princess of Phoenicia’, Tostat, May 2017

The very first rose this year on this rose, Rosa ‘Alissar, Princess of Phoenicia’.  It has not had an easy time.  First, I cut it back to smuggle it back in hand luggage from Chelsea 2013, then I planted it for 2 years in a very dry spot which it really couldn’t cope with, then I potted it up in intensive care last summer and lastly, this Spring, it finally got the home it deserves.  A re-developed section with plenty of sun, but also, a little shade and moister soil, and it looks in great shape.  Phew.  It is a gorgeous thing.

Rosa Hot Choc in the border 517
Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ with good backing, Tostat, May 2017

But maybe my favourite rose is this one, Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ for its robustness, and above all, the colour, a mahogany red unlike any other, almost burnished at the tips of the petals.  I planted it without thinking sort of in front of this Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Helmond Pillar’– which I love.  And they love each other, I think.

Zantedeschia aethiopica 517
Zantedeschia aethiopia, Tostat, May 2017

This Zantedeschia aethiopia pops up naturally in any shady spot with me.  I really love the horn shape of the flowers and the glossy leaves.  The only problem is that the flowers become waste-bins for any garden bits flying around in the air- still, you couldn’t have a nicer bin really.

Small things do you good…

tostat-0217
Tostat looking South to the Pyrenees, February 2017

Like coming back across the fields with Molly the dog late this afternoon, and noticing the light on the snow in the distance, and hints of green appearing in the fields if not yet in the trees.  Also, looking down the river Adour this afternoon, which is replenished by the recent rain, and not just a pebble-run as it has been most of the winter, I thought to myself how very lucky I am to live here- I am often prone to thinking this when I contemplate a visit to a city!  Not that I don’t really enjoy the hustle and bustle, but it can be too strong a contrast sometimes.

adour-2-0217
The river Adour this afternoon, February 2017

Back in the woods around Tostat, we have some wonderful swathes of snowdrops, they seem really glorious this year, maybe because they made us wait till about 3 weeks ago to put in an appearance.

tostat-woods-0217
Tostat woods, Februar7 2017

Back in the garden, continuing the big attack on my congested border by the wall, Andy was hacking away at a long-past-best Phlomis fruticosa, more dratted wisteria adopting guerilla tactics behind it, and some Kerria japonica, which is also getting the order of the boot.  I love the yellow pompoms but that is all it does- not enough for me to continue to love it.  It has been a neglected spot, and one of those parts of the garden I have been avoiding- not any more.  The soil is actually quite good as there is some spring activity which keeps it from being bone-dry,  and although technically North-facing and with our boundary wall behind it, it actually gets a lot of sun in the morning catching it coming in from the East and then again in the mid to later afternoon.  So, it will be a good place, I think, for plants that don’t need it to be boiling and bone-dry.

So, I am going to thread some grasses through it, beginning with Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Red Head’ and then moving on to a new-to-me Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’.  In some ways, I need more Miscanthus like a hole in the head, but this variety is so gorgeous, golden and upright and not tall, maybe just over a metre, and so I will man up for the seedlings.  More about this grass when I get a chance to blog more about ‘Le Jardin Champêtre’ in Caunes-Minervois, which was where I saw it for the first time a couple of weeks back.  Yes, I have got it so bad that an order went in pretty much immediately.

Then I have a lovely rose that survived my attempt to over-test its drought tolerance, Rosa ‘Alissar Princess of Phoenicia’, which spent last summer recuperating and is now back on song.  And in amongst that will be a new perennial for me, Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’.  This should have masses of light lilac daisies all summer and should not behave like sprinting Asters, which have almost been eradicated from the garden.  I am also going to try out my Abutilon megapotamicum drifting in arches over the heads of these plants, as I think I will be able to persuade it to do that with a bit of judicious plant support here and there.

rosa-allissar-princess-of-phoenicia
Rosa Allissar, Princess of Phoenicia, Tostat, August 2016
kalimeris-incisa-madiva-80901-1
Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’ photo credit: http://www.promessedefleurs.com
abutilon-megapotanicum-pound-616
Chinese lanterns of Abutilon megapotamicum, Gill Pound’s garden, Caune-Minervois, June 2016

So we will see.  And the last delight?  Seedlings coming up of Colutea x media upstairs.  It was on ‘last strike or out’ stage after I have lost two previous small plants.  But these seedlings look really strong, so maybe they will make it.