Bits and bobs…

Cynara cardunculus, Tostat, July 2019

The last week has starred all kinds of weather including 20 minutes of typhoon scaled wind and massive stair rods of rain. The weather can be incredibly local, and we were very lucky as a 2km wide band passed within 500m of us and didn’t touch us. Those it touched lost trees, and even more importantly in the season, prized vegetable gardens and crops. This is the first time that the Cynara cardunculus has produced so many flowering branches- and it came through the storm unscathed. A brilliant architectural plant and a good self-seeder- you just need the space.

The rain was very welcome despite the strength and power of it, and clearly refreshed everything growing in the garden, with some roses generating a fresh small flush of flowers. With these weather outbursts, sometimes plants return that you have completely forgotten about.

Digitalis ferruginea, Tostat, July 2019

I adore the colouring of this Digitalis ferruginea. This was a surprise appearance 3 years ago, when a strange rosette of leaves started to grow which I did not associate with seed that I had sown the year before. I potted up the mysterious rosette and then planted it out, having no idea what it was. Since then, the rosette has returned each year with taller and more stately flowerspikes every year. In the bright warm early morning sunlight, the rust colouring almost hits orange- and this year with our cool, wet spring, it measures well over 1.7 metres tall. Wow.

Eryngium eburneum has been truly statuesque this year too. It is an utterly undemanding plant, and in return, you get months of the tall, bobbly, prickly flowerspikes which complement any style of planting in my view, and then, over winter, the flowing foliage forms beautiful clumps, made even more gorgeous when touched with frost. I guess all you need to give it is space- allow 1m all around the plant- and stony, well-drained soil. No pampering required.

Eryngium eburneum backlit, Tostat, July 2019

Another strange plant that I adore, but have only succeeded once with, is Eupatorium capillifolium ‘Elegant Feather’. This can be regarded as an invasive weed in the US, but probably not here in Europe. It is undemanding, but requires very precise conditions, or in my view it does! Sun, but some shade, moist, but not wet and must be well-draining, and it prefers some cover from other plants over winter. The one that didn’t die is grown amongst a Hydrangea paniculata, Bupleurum fruticosum and Phlomis russelliana- and I never know for sure that it’s made it until the first bright-green feathery leaves poke through. It is not a powerful grower, so even after 5 years, I usually only have 2-3 spikes of it- but it is a lovely presence, a stretched bright-green feather duster of a plant which is totally vertical.

Eupatorium capillifolium ‘Elegant Feather’, Tostat, July 2019

I don’t know what I have done to deserve these lovely flowering garlic scapes- but I love them, and do my best to pot them up and save them to weave in amongst other plants, like a strange extra-terrestrial that has been welcomed to the planet. You can eat them like spring onions or chives, but I want them in the garden.

Flowering garlic scapes, Tostat, July 2019

This tiny little Penstemon pinifolius is perhaps the smallest of all. I couldn’t get a plant anywhere and so I grew a small bowl of them from seed about 3 years ago- this is the first flower from that little bowl. It looks like spikes of short hair, the slimmest, stringiest leaves you can imagine which pays witness to the drought tolerance- it is very drought tolerant and needs super-sharp drainage- but it is hardy. So, only water if it looks wan.

Penstemon pinifolius, Tostat, July 2019

This is a really different Rudbeckia- Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Fire’. Tall, slim and multi-flowering, with small bright yellow and orange daisy flowers, it seems to be an easy plant. These are one year old, grown from seed last year- and I am hoping that they will clump more next year- apparently short-lived, so either I buy more seed or if I’m lucky, it will self-seed. I think that it needs more moisture than some sites suggest and not baking sun all day.

Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Fire’, Tostat, July 2019
Salvia confertiflora, Tostat, July 2019

Salvia confertiflora is flowering- more than 2 months earlier than in previous years. I think it has taken it’s cue from the scattered very hot days we have had. This is a tender Salvia, so I bring it in every winter, but the orange-red velvet tall flowerspikes are a real bonus in the garden- even more just now as the garden slows up for the hot period.

And today, I discovered more seasonal bonuses. Two Baptisia australis seedlings that have popped up in pots of Salvia, unbeknownst to me. Baptisia has been a seed disaster for me, really quite tricky, so this must be some stray seed that got recycled into some potting compost by mistake. Good mistake. And some good, tough little Achillea millefoliums that had self-seeded into the parking gravel- brilliant. Bonus tough plants for difficult areas.

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.