Giants and troopers…

Two days of persistent rain last week. At Tostatenfleur, we finished planting up the Tostadium, our local cycle circuit, in the pouring rain, a labour of love. Otherwise, I have been venturing out to find the garden moving into gigantic mode- I have never seen the planting so tall. I love tall, as a short person I am clearly searching for world domination in plant height as I myself can’t do it! We have had hollyhocks that are easily 8 feet tall, and Centaurea gigantea that is hitting that and more. It’s not called ‘gigantea’ for nothing.

Catalpa bignoides flowering at Sombrun, June 2019

Ok, Catalpa bignoides is not a good example of what I am talking about as it will be colossal anyway, but here I am, arms fully extended, trying to ctach the huge blossoms that are so striking. If they were nearer the ground, it could compete with hibicus. Generous cream cups, with dark striations and a few golden spots- really rather gorgeous. Our friends at Sombrun kindly gave me two seedlings all potted up- with the recommendation that, in years to come, I could coppice the catalpa to keep it small and create dinner-plate sized leaves. Sounds great to me. Now I have to keep them alive to get to that point.

Cenolophium denudatum, Tostat, June 2019

In the cow-parsley stakes, but a delicate and refined competitor, is Cenolophium denudatum. I grew it from seed years ago, and I have moved it round the garden rather a lot. I need to let it consolidate growth where it is, and probably need to grow some more from seed, as it is a classy plant. Feathery foliage, green fading to cream umbels, and the insects adore it- it is a polite plant, finding ways to fit in with other plants, and reaching about 1m tall maximum.

Liriope muscari ‘Okina’, Tostat, June 2019

This Liriope muscari ‘Okina’ is new to me this year, and was quite a pricey purchase. In the Stumpery, the shady, dry spot where I grow ferns and whatnot, I have a spectacular rose that I have often talked about, Rosa ‘Marguerite, Reine d’Italie’– a carmine hybrid tea that just flowers ten months of the year in the terrible, stony, soil. Underneath it, I had tried to encourage Acanthus ‘Whitewater’ to grow. Three years showed me that it was not a happy bunny there. So, it has come out, and made way for this Liriope. It produces this pure white foliage through the older green foliage and is very distinctive, I think. No flowers yet, but it has only been in a few months. I hope that it will gradually colonise underneath the rose.

Phlomis purpurea, Tostat, June 2019

This year has been a major year for Phlomis. All adored the weird hot February, and the rain has come at precisely the right moment for Phlomis purpurea and Phlomis Samia. The latter is a slightly tricky customer, apt to die back suddenly and inexplicably, but can usually be persuaded to re-boot from the rest of the plant that stays alive. The rain has really accentuated the colouring to a vibrant, soft mauve- in the dry, it can become almost biscuit-coloured. If you have a hot spot with razor-sharp drainage, the world of Phlomis is open for you to romp in. Such a great group of plants. Phlomis Samia is just opening, so will be appearing in the next post.

Veronica longifolia, Tostat, June 2019

I have been disappointed by this plant, Veronica longifolia, in the past. I grew it from seed maybe four years ago, and I planted it hither and thither where I though it would enjoy conditions, and it has never quite hit it’s stride. But this year it is looking good- it makes a gentle mound of slightly floppy blue flowerspires- and planted close to the much taller Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Lavendelturm’ it suddenly looks sound and in the right place. Maybe it just needed the time to get settled in.

Santolina etrusca, Tostat, June 2019

Never mind the big pot with the vibrant maroon leaves in it, I am talking about the fluffy green stuff beside it. Santolina etrusca has been fantastic in it’s second year. This was a real fiddle to grow. Tiny seeds grew into microscopic seedlings, so many of them that I nearly collapsed from the effort of potting them up. All overwintered outside in the cold and wet winter, but all, remaining tiny, were planted up in various inhospitably dry, hot spots last year. This year, what a delight. Fresh, green foliage, gorgeous hospital smell, and later on, there will be tiny cream dot-flowerheads. No watering, no nothing.

La Roseraie du Désert

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View of la Roseraie du Desert, Bouzon Gellenave, France, May 2017

Yesterday, on a supremely sunny, warm day, we visited Becky and John Hook at la Roseraie du Désert, about 50 minutes drive from Tostat.  I inherited quite a few roses when we moved in, and along the way have probably trebled the roses in the garden originally.  My best ever purchase was ‘Marguerite Reine d’Italie’ which flowers continuously and gamely all summer long in hot, semi-shady, stony position without complaint- and she was recommended by Becky Hook when I described the fairly ghastly position I wanted the rose for.  A tough call.  So, I have a very soft spot for their nursery, and was sorry to hear that they would like to sell up- but, for the moment, they are continuing the business.

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Rosa ‘Marguerite Reine d’Italie’, Tostat, July 2015

They have fabulous roses, all grown directly on their own roots rather than grafted, so no unwelcome suckering guests ever.  And the collection contains some very historic, and unusual varieties, mostly Teas, Chinas and Noisettes- so the perfume is often delicious.  We were there pretty much at the end of the rose season this year, which seems really early, but April warmth really brought them all out, almost all together. Nevertheless, there were some lovely roses that caught my eye. So here is my selection from yesterday.  Incidentally, many of them are remontant, but some are so gorgeous that you would willingly have them in your garden for just a day.

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Rosa ‘Irene Bonnet’, 1920 Nabonnand Clément, La Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Ducher’, Ducher 1869, La Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Andre Schwartz’, 1882 Schwartz, la Roseraie de Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Fritz Nobis’, Kordes 1940, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Homere’, Robert et Moreau 1858, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Souvenir de Pierre Notting’, 1902 Soupert et Notting, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Marie van Houtte’, 1871 Ducher, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Ornement des Bosquets’, 1860 Jamain, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘l’Abondance’, 1887 Moreau-Robert, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

Please contact Becky Hook if you are interested in taking over their magnificent collection of roses, their business and their house and land, they are looking for a buyer.