In praise of green….

I have a very tricky patch in the New Garden, so called because we dug it out about seven years ago from what had been the tumble-down site of a barn. There were no remnants of the barn there, but there were snakes, other living things and a lot of river rocks as well as some generally ghastly thin soil. One diagonal half sits in the shade of the open barn all year round, the sun can only make it past the walls for a very short time in high summer, and the other half roasts as it looks both South and West with no cover at all.  So, sticking with my theme of working with what I’ve got and not fighting it, it has taken a good while to make an impression on the shady half. For a very long time, the only show in town was my Rosa ‘Reine Marguerite d’Italie’ which I have discussed at length in my post on tough roses.  She does deserve a photo though.

Rosa 'Reine Marguerite d'Italie', Tostat, May 2014
Rosa ‘Reine Marguerite d’Italie’, Tostat, May 2014

But last year, I decided to try and see if I could establish some ferns, as well as a cruelly transplanted, but now doing fine, Mahonia which was already quite big.  So, last year, they all made it, through a very wet spring, a very hot and dry summer and a middling cold winter.  I bought them small, on the grounds that this always gives them a better fighting chance, especially in a pretty rubbish spot.  And I tried to select varieties that can cope with wet and dry. This spring I also added some low-lying groundcover planting, which so far is doing ok. I am aiming for a green-ness that is both resting and as lush as such a tricky corner can be. Here are the ferns coming back to life in the last couple of weeks- admittedly, it’s not so great in the winter, but as they mature, I live in hope.

Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata the King', Tostat, May 2015
Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata the King’, Tostat, May 2015

‘The King’ is a magical fern. This year, I think it might get close to a metre high and wide, and the splayed fronds have extra finger shapes on them, which make them look like something out of Tolkein. You can see this in the tallest frond in the photograph above.

Dryopteris atrata, Tostat, May 2015
Dryopteris atrata, Tostat, May 2015

Dryopteris atrata is a busy bee of a fern. Not so tall, about 0.5m high and wide, it nevertheless has an energetic presence with its upright posture, and slender but strong fronds. It wants to be noticed, and the darkness of the new growth is lovely as a contrast with the yellow-green of the foliage. I really like it.

Polystichum polyblepharum, Tostat, April 2015
Polystichum polyblepharum, Tostat, April 2015

This Polystichum is almost cuddly with its soft, fluffy new foliage. This now looks more like a normal fern, but two weeks ago, I would have almost called it ‘adorable’. It drapes beautifully from the centre and almost poses for the camera. It will make about 0.75m high and wide this year, I think.

Euonymus fortunei 'Wolong Ghost', Tostat, May 2015
Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’, Tostat, May 2015

Now, ok, this isn’t a fern, but this is one of my new groundhuggers, the strangely named Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’. Right now, it is a bit junior, but it’s looking good as you can see, threads of sliver veined slender leaves and it will weave its way around. I am sure I will be impressed.

Osmunda regalis, Tostat, May 2015
Osmunda regalis, Tostat, May 2015

And here is Osmunda regalis, which I wanted to include as it is a splendid fern, stately and refined. However, it is a bit of a cheat as it is actually growing in the shady ground by our canal or ruisseau.  It would certainly struggle round in the New Garden as it likes more lush conditions, but I love it anyway.

Seriously tough roses….

It’s pouring with rain outside. Which is good, as we need it. But, these are the moments when you long for some of the summer stalwarts to shake a leg. They are, of course, under the ground. Impatience. The gardener’s curse.

I thought I would share with you some of the roses that I grow and which have survived beautifully on my regime of neglect and forgetfulness. Neglect, in that I rarely remember to give them a Spring feed, and forgetfulness in that I am always behind myself with Spring pruning. In fact, this year is the first year when I have done both, moreorless on time. I do have a resistance to time-specific garden jobs, it’s something to do with the notion that ‘Someone Else’ has deemed it so, and I resist. Like the few moments on ‘Gardener’s World’ when Monty Don says cheerily, ‘…and here are some jobs you can be getting on with in the garden this weekend’. I immediately think, ‘No…doing something else, you watch me’.

Rosa Reine Marguerite d'Italie July 2014
Rosa Reine Marguerite d’Italie July 2014

So here is my first’ tough rose’. Rosa Reine Marguerite d’Italie is my out-and-out winner. I was at the lovely rose nursery, La Roseraie du Desert, run by Becky Hook in the Gers about five years ago, just after we had manhandled tons of river rocks and rubbish out of the site of a collapsed barn which we were turning into the ‘New Garden’. A very euphemistic term at the time! So I was looking for a rose that would flower all summer, be scented, cope with quite a lot of shade and exist in slightly souped up not-very-good-soil with rocks.  A pretty tall order. Becky Hook sold me this rose, and here it is. A good metre plus all round, and it does exactly what I asked with no complaint. Gorgeous old fashioned big roses that don’t flop or go flabby in a beautiful dark magenta, which actually never looks as good in a photograph. Brilliant.

Cuisse de Nymphe, July 2014
Cuisse de Nymphe, July 2014

And my next contender is…Rosa alba Cuisse de Nymphe or in English, ‘Great Maiden’s Blush’, is another stalwart. When we arrived 11 years ago, a small one had already been planted. Now, it can reach 2m x 2m and it blooms on and off in flushes over the summer, great clusters of delicate pink roses in swags, and is a delight. I don’t have the best nose, and I am not sure that it has a particularly good scent, although Peter Beales, the great roseman who sadly died in 2013, calls it highly scented! How embarassing! But for performance and no botheration, it is a really good rose.

Rosa 'Kiftsgate' June 2014
Rosa ‘Kiftsgate’ June 2014

Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ is a stunner, but what a thug. Give yourself armourplated cover to deal with it, and a massive space where it can do what it wants, and even then, you will be lopping it. But, for 2-3 weeks in June, it is a magnificent sight. It is currently strangling the unknown red rose, and so we do attempt rescue every now and then. I regard it as a lovable giant.

Unknown old rose May 2014
Unknown old rose May 2014

A rainy day job sometime for me is to identify this lovely old rose which blooms just beyond the back door next to the kitchen windows. It is no oil painting, long, lanky and very thorny, but the flowers are just gorgeous, shades of pink, cream and yellow and the scent even reaches my nose, rich and heady as it is.

The rain has stopped. Perfect timing.