August surprises…

Rudbeckia Henrik Eilers, Tostat, August 2019

August can be a cruel month. It can be the bald spot in the summer when the garden flags under the impact of heat and little rain- and if you are gardening summer-dry, as I do, with no watering except for the plants in pots, it can feel relentless. But, it is also the point in the year when midway though the month, some of the nights and early mornings begin to smell and feel different, fresher, cooler and morning dew is heavier. This can act as a real tonic to the garden, encouraging fresh growth and hot-weather plants to flower, and I love it too. Going out first thing with the all-important cup of tea becomes a pleasure again, as plants revive and try some more.

This year, Rudbeckia ‘Henrik Eilers’ has moved itself back into the border almost half a metre. Maybe it too is avoiding the sun and seeking some cover from other plants. I love the quilled petals and the straight bolt-upright growth, but deeper into the border, I am standing on a chair to capture the special shape of it, as, standing at nearly 2 metres, I am a shortarse by comparison. By contrast, Buphthalmum salicifolium has been toppled to the ground almost by the very occasional heavy rain we have had in the last 6 weeks- but it flowers away regardless on the deck.

Buphthalmum salicifolium, Tostat, August 2019

A few yards away, my recovering Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ has won it’s battle with the adorable thug that is Clerondendrum bungei, and is well clear of it in the height stakes. I love the darkness of the purple against the best feature of the Clerodendrum, in my view, which is the jewel-like remnants of the spent flowerheads. Spectacular.

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and Clerodendrum bungei, Tostat, August 2019

Smaller plants are also carrying on despite the heat, though looking a little jaded maybe. My absolute favourite Crocosmia is Crocosmia x crocosmiifolia ‘Emily McKenzie’, not as tall as ‘Lucifer’, and a lot more inclined to flop, at least for me, but the striking orange and carmine flowers bring a touch of Rita Hayworth to the garden, even if they are mostly horizontal to the ground.

Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie’, Tostat, August 2019

I have two Leycesteria in the garden, great shrubs in my opinion, especially because the form and the flowers keep going all summer long, looking fabulous right through to the end of autumn. The species plant, Leycesteria formosa, has strong, arching branches that make a great domed-shape in the border and has the classic dropping swags of flowers, fading to dark-red berries in the autumn. The variety, ‘Golden Lanterns’, is even better, with greeny-golden foliage contrasting well with the glossy, dark purple/red flowers which fade to bright jewel-like berries.

Leycesteria formosa, Tostat, August 2019
Leycesteria formosa ‘Golden Lanterns’, Tostat, August 2019

Now here is a puzzle. In this odd picture, you can see the smaller pot on the chair, with a narrow-leaved plant and an orange inflorescence. Next to it, is a tall, diamond-shaped leaved plant with a bud on the top. The taller plant is, or at least I thought it was Leonotis leonorus– actually I am still pretty that it is leonorus. In the pot, is a plant that I stuck in there having no idea of what it was until yesterday when the flowerspike opened up. It seems to be a smaller, more shrub-like Leonitis, maybe nepetifolia, but it has quite different leaves, slim and lanceolate, and is woody as opposed to being a green stem. Am definitely confused…anyone out there have another idea???

The two Leonitus’ side by side, Tostat, August 2019
Leonitis nepetifolia perhaps, Tostat, August 2019

Salvia ‘Ton Ter Linden’ has been a grand plant, although new to me this year. Deep blackberry-purple narrow flowers have kept coming…and the tendency to gracefully drape around the pot has been followed by upright, strong growth, so the plant has two ways of behaving- how clever of it.

Salvia Ton Ter Linden, Tostat, August 2019
Scrophularia macrantha, Tostat, August 2019

I have grown Scrophularia macrantha from seed this year. Small, but beautifully formed and I was so thrilled that I could be heard shrieking in the garden when I found the flowers on my tiny plants. I hope they make it through the winter.

Gossypium hirsutum flower bud, Tostat, August 2019

And my cotton has flowered! Unlikely that I will be harvesting cotton balls, but the Gossypium hirsutum flowers are a beautiful, if short-lived, surprise. Actually, the whole plant is a rather fine, if temporary addition to the garden, wine-red leaves and upright growth, pretty buds as if cut from paper. It won’t survive the winter and I probably won’t try to overwinter it, but just grow it again from seed next spring perhaps.

Cytoglossum hirsutum bud formation, Tostat, August 2019

In the heat…

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The very first flower on home-grown Clematis tangutica ‘Helios’, with the new camera, Tostat, August 2018

A few weeks ago, The Mindful Gardener posted about buying a macro lens- with some fantastic photographs to go with it.  Not quite got the budget for that, and was also limping on with my much-loved Panasonic Lumix FX70, managing to dodge the dustspots that had started to gather at the back of the lens inside the camera.  Overnight, one night, the dustspots got serious- and there wasn’t a bit of an image that you could fudge past them with.  An attempt at microsurgery was made by Andy, but he retreated as the camera innards looked in peril, so I decided to bite the bullet and find a new-to-me camera that would shift me very slightly into a more sophisticated camera field.

I have been playing with my Nikon Coolpix P510 all week and enjoying it- whilst gradually trying to work my way through the extensive manual to the things that I want to be able to do, rather than everything that it can do- except cook my supper, apparently.  It is a much bigger and more serious looking item than my old camera, and I do feel slightly fraudulent at slinging it round my neck as if I knew what I was doing.  But it is fun.

As the heat is now in the late 30s for the next few days, I am retreating indoors and remaining there pretty much all day- I am not of a stern constitution when it comes to heat, too much sweating and pale skin- not an attractive combination!

Back in the garden, when the heat is hanging, a colour co-ordinated yellow spider has turned up on my adored Patrinia scabiosifolia.  Talk about blending in.  He should be working for MI5 or 6.

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Patrinia predator, Tostat, August 2018

And then…

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Prey arrives and is despatched swiftly

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Followed by friend …or foe…or afters…

That spider is still there, 4 days later, simply getting fatter.

Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie’is not enjoying the heat.  She always flowers a good month after the rest of the Crocosmia tribe, but is smaller in every way, except for the flowers which are a gorgeous jaffa orange, scarlet and yellow combination.  I think she is probably at the limit of her endurance with us, especially this summer when the heat has suddenly really cranked up, but crocosmia are incredibly tough, and will battle on almost regardless of the circumstances.

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Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora Emily McKenzie, Tostat, August 2018

Rudbeckias are part of the turning from mauve and blue to yellow and orange in the garden about this time of year.  ‘Goldsturm’ is a really good plant, especially if their golden colour can be discovered accidentally mingled amongst other plants, and if the light is just right, there really is a flash of gold.

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Rudbeckia fulgida var.sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, early morning sun, Tostat, August 2018

Another Rudbeckia that I love is Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’.  A taller (up to 2m this year), more graceful, refined fellow with multiple small, reflexed petals like quills.  I have worried in the past that I have lost this plant, as it is slowish to get going in the spring, and can easily be mistaken for a regular, annoying old Helianthus- of which I have way too many.  But, whatever is going on, except for monsoon conditions, he appears and gently spreads, drifting about through and amongst other plants.

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Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’, Tostat, August 2018

And new to me this year, but I am already smitten, is Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’ which I bought from the excellent Bernard Lacrouts at Sanous.  Multiple flowering goes on, up and down the branching upright stems, small flowers which dot about very gracefully.  The jury is out, as yet, but the signs are good for a reliable, take what weather comes, kind of plant.  The colour mutes a little in the heat, it was a bit brighter last week before the craziness started.

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Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’, Tostat, August 2018

Time to hide away indoors now.  Thank you so much to all who have commented in the last few weeks, I am sorry I haven’t replied to each one as per usual, just too much going on!  The comments are wonderful and are very much appreciated.

 

The truly wonderful Henryk Eilers

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Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henryk Eilers’, Tostat, July 2015

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Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henryk Eilers’, Tostat, August 2015

Apparently, according to the ‘English Garden’, this very agreeable plant, Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henryk Eilers’ is one of Nigel Dunnett‘s favourite plants of the last two decades- I would agree wholeheartedly.  It is not a ‘blingy’ plant- rather, it is a good, strong grower that has even come through our terrible drought this summer, though, admittedly, the flowers are the size of a fingernail, tiny in comparison with these photographs of 2 years ago.

It grows as well as ‘Goldsturm’, and like ‘Goldsturm’, will take pretty much whatever is thrown at it, in terms of weather and conditions.  But it should become a slender giant, up to 1.5m or taller, with supple, strong stems that bounce back, and these lovely, quilled flowers with the typical dark chocolate Rudbeckia centre.  The yellow is softer than ‘Goldsturm’, and the quilling gives the whole flower a delicate appearance.  But delicate, it ain’t.

It was discovered alongside a stream near railway tracks in open prairie in Illinois by a retired nurseryman, Henry Eilers.  It first appeared on the commercial market in 2003 and has won hearts across the world ever since.  I bought it in, maybe, 2007, when I found a small nursery, Groenstraat 13, in Belgium that specialised in Dan Hinckley introductions, and it arrived safe and sound in the post.  Rik from ‘Groenstraat 13’ called it ‘Henryk Eilers’ and because it reminds me of Sondheim’s ‘A Little Night Music’, I like to keep the Flemish version of the name.  For more about this great plant, see this article by North Creek Nurseries in Pennsylvania.

It has toiled this year, but, I have a mind to dig it up and divide it sooner rather than later.  My experiment, inspired by Monty Don’s visit to Jimi Blake and Hunting Brook Gardens in Ireland, in early division of two clumps of Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ has been a real success- I am now a proud parent of 35 rapidly growing small plants in pots as opposed to two rather exhausted parent plants in a dried out garden.  Not bad, eh?!

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Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’, Tostat, June 2016

And, to remind myself about the great Nigel Dunnett, here are a couple of photographs from his RHS Chelsea gardens in 2011 and 2013.  I love his work.

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Nigel Dunnett’s Habitat Walls appearing through the planting, The New Wild Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011.

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Nigel Dunnett’s Blue Water Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013.

 

 

In a state of adoration…

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Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream’ after a shower, Tostat, June 2015

I am in a state of adoration about Yellow.  I adore all of it, from Bird’s Custard yellow which hovers on egg yolk orange, right though to the most delicate cream, which hovers on white.  I used to be like this about red, and whilst it remains a favourite, I have succumbed utterly to Yellow.  I dream about it especially at this time of year, when there isn’t much about yet…daffodils and Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’ are yet to open.  Last year was my first with Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’ and I liked it so much that, rather late in the spring season, I bought 3 more very tiny plants.  I had given them up for dead until last week, when first two of them popped through, and then, this week, so did the third one.  They are tougher than I thought.

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Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’, Tostat, March 2015

There is something about yellow that spells warmth, coothiness, comfort, fun and excitement.  Last year, I brought together some clumps of Anthemis ‘Hollandaise Sauce’ that I had scattered in various locations- and made a big drift of them, paired up with slightly later flowering upright white Liatris scariosa.  They really did look good.  It was fresh, invigorating and really cheered you up.

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Anthemis ‘Hollandaise Sauce’, Tostat, June 2015

At the egg yolk end of yellow, is Coreopsis ‘Grandiflora’, which really is quite big, nearly a metre tall and a spreader, I reckon.  It is a tad floppy, so needs staking to really keep those great big double flowers upright, but it flowers freely all summer whatever the weather, and though the more orangey tint to the yellow maybe makes it a bit of a harder sell with other colours, it’s worth it for it’s energy and flowerpower.

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Coreopsis ‘Grandiflora’, Tostat, July 2015

A very much more obliging and discreet yellow is another great plant, which I grew from seed but really only appreciated last year in it’s second year.  It is an evergreen, tough as old boots perennial, Bupleurum fruticosum, and it is such a good plant for dry, poor soil spots with sun.  It will take any amount of dryness and any amount of sun.  With it’s slightly reddened stout stems, olive-green waxy leaves and very upright stance, it holds it’s own in the border, and provides really good structure and oomph at about a metre and a bit high. It needs no attention at all, and then, late in the summer, these delicate umbels in a calmer shade of yellow appear, which are a magnet for insects of all kinds.  It isn’t flashy and it only does what it does, but it will take any punishment.  Even wetter spots won’t put it off, as long as there is some dryness in the growing season.  I am really looking forward to it’s obliging progress this year.

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Bupleurum fruticosum, Tostat, August 2015

At the lemon end of yellow, is a plant that I bought about six years ago as a tiny at which point it was one of the Halimium clan.  Renamed pretty much everywhere now as Cistus atriplicifolius, it is a sun and dry lover, enjoying the largely stoney conditions in the New Garden, and though it doesn’t bloom for long, and may not repeat flower, it is delightful in full throttle.  Trouble-free, perfect for difficult hotspots, it requires nothing and just performs.

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Cistus atriplicifolius, Tostat, June 2015

And it just goes to show, you can never have too much yellow.  I love the height, well over 1.5m, and the delicate, quilled flowers of Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’.  It is not a spreader, but just beautifully wafts above the reat of the border in summer breezes.  It looks just great with an unknown perennial sunflower that escaped one of my purges earlier in the year.  The warmth of these colours is toasting me, on a grey, cold and wet day in Tostat!

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Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ coping with an unknown perennial sunflower, Tostat, August 2015