And now it’s early June…

Gertrud’s Penstemon, such a good plant, Tostat, June 2020

Where has this year gone? I cannot believe the evidence of my own eyes as I look round the garden and see that early summer arrived about 2 weeks ago. Most of the once-blooming roses are over and done with, and spring flowerers of all kinds were beaten by the last 2 weeks of 30C and no rain. But a plant that has just adored it, is my unknown Penstemon, bought 2 years ago at the lovely Jardin d’Antin, where Gertrud has a very good eye for a plant.

Isoplexis canariensis, the Lazarus of the garden, Tostat, June 2020

Years ago, I grew Isoplexis canariensis from seed and had two big pots blooming magnificently. I left them out over the winter once, bad mistake. But incredibly, last year, three small plants re-emerged from death and this year, with a guarantee of good behaviour from me, they are back. I had them kept dry but with protection in the open barn last winter, and they really liked that. Masses of water and some feed to kickstart them and they have flowered 2 months earlier than they used to. I adore the colour, and the glossy evergreen leaves are a great foil to the orange-rusty flowers.

Libertia ixioides ‘Goldfinger’, Tostat, June 2020

This is a really lovely Libertia. These plants have had a slightly chequered history with me, as I grew them successfully from seed and then planted them out in an area that was a bit too tough for them. So, out they came and went into the Mix, the massed perennial planting under the cherry tree. This slim Libertia is not a fastgrower, but it is especially good in the winter, when the orange stripes on the leaves really glow. But this is the first time they flowered, with a sprinkling of these charming white flowers- which, when woven in amongst the other perennials, charmingly catch the eye.

Nigella papilosa ‘African Bride’, Tostat, June 2020

I am a grumpy annuals grower- they aren’t really my thing, but I grew some of this Nigella that we were going to give away as ‘freebie pollinator’ plants at our Tostatenfleur event in April- but it didn’t happen because of covid-19. However, I have loved this slightly different Nigella for the drama of the petals and stamens combo. And in early morning sunshine, the stamens have a ruby glow to them. I am saving the seed for sure…

Oenethora speciosa, Tostat, June 2020

Some people hate this evening primrose, Oenethora speciosa, but the trick is to plant it in rubbish soil and full sun. Any conditions more luxurious will ensure you have a massive growth and it will run and run. And even with rubbish soil, be prepared to yank masses out. Having said that, in low light, the gorgeous shell-pink flowers, of which there hundreds every day, glow. I have been known to be snobby about it, but actually, it is a good doer in controlled conditions.

Pelargonium ‘Ardens’, Tostat, June 2020

This species Pelargonium is a delight- deep red flowers with an enticing darker splash, and needs no special treatment other than a dry winter, protected from the cold, and then watering to wake it up in the spring once frost has finished.

Punica granatum ‘Mme Legrelliae’, Tostat, June 2020

This is a great flowering shrub, which deserves to be better known really. There is nothing quite like the frilly-hankerchief look of the coral and cream flowers. It’s a non-fruiting pomegranate, but is hardy down to -15C and is very happy in not particularly great soil that is free-draining. It won’t like water round the roots in winter. I wrote a post a couple of years ago about the naming and history of the plant, a fascinating story of important, but unknown horticultural women.

Rosa ‘Alissar, Princess of Phoenicia’, Tostat, June 2020

This rose, Rosa ‘Alissar, Princess of Phoenicia’, which I bought with my pal Jane at Chelsea from Harkness several years ago, is a Persian descendant, and is bred for heat tolerance. It grows pretty well in a slightly damper bit of the garden. I love the early apricot-pink colouring, just a bit disappointing that it fades to what I would call a dull brick colour- but never mind. The open, single structure makes it more useful for pollinators than many roses.

Rosa ‘Cuisse de Nymphe’, Tostat, June 2020

Here is a ready-made bouquet of Rosa ‘Great Maiden’s Blush’ or ‘Cuisse de Nymphe’ here in France. It smells lovely and blooms off and on in waves all summer.

Rosa ‘New Dawn’, Tostat, June 2020

I am very fond of Rosa ‘New Dawn’– it has that perfect shell-pink, with a lot of cream in it, a bit of an ice-queen really. But the slightly angular petals appeal to me and it lasts well, flowering for about a month in a lazy droop over the garden wall.

Rosa ‘Tuscany Superb’, Tostat, June 2020

Rosa ‘Tuscany Superb’ struggles a bit with me, a bit too dry and hot for it I think, but the colour is fabulous. This photograph does not do it justice- think the deepest, richest crimson velvet, and you are almost there.

Salvia cacaliifolia, Tostat, June 2020

And now for the Battle of the Blues- won only just by Salvia cacaliifolia. This is a tender salvia, with bright light green ivy-shaped leaves, which will just about twine upwards with a little support. I have it supported by a bit of redundant barbecue grill, not yet wind-tested as a support, but it is working for the moment. The blue is deep, and electric.

Salvia patens, Tostat, June 2020

Salvia patens is just a tad lighter in tone, but scores for really big flowers. Oddly it has the same ivy-shaped leaves as cacaliifolia, but has more of a darcyii look about it.

Rosa ‘Woollerton Old Hall’, Ludlow, June 2017

I saw this rose in Ludlow a couple of years ago, and just the year before, I bought it for a rose-loving friend in Tostat, who has just returned the favour beautifully by growing on and giving me a very good looking cutting. I missed the flowers of my new rose in the rain, so luckily had a photo from 2017. I am so looking forward to it. Thank you, H and M, very much.

Mists and heat…

This week has been the week of the ‘June canicule’- in other words, serious heat. We have been lucky, half of the hot days have started with misty, damp mornings and we have not gone over 40C. Today, Sunday, it will cool back to the late 20s, which will be perfect. The misty mornings have been a relief and are rather magical, giving the garden a bit of respite from the overpowering sun.

The front garden early in the morning, Tostat, June 2019

I love this dahlia- I only have two, but this is one of them, Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’. The name is amazing, and so is the flower with furled dark blue/grey petals surrounding a brilliant golden centre. The first year, probably the bulbs were too tiny, produced nothing, but this year, the 3rd, the plant is getting into a swing with generous foliage and lots of buds. I didn’t take it in in the winter, I just left it in the pot and took my chances. Lucky me.

Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’, Tostat, June 2019

Mist and dew on bronze fennel, Tostat, June 2019

The dew has been heavy and luxurious, almost like a small shower of rain. The bronze fennel catches the dew beautifully and shines with each droplet.

Cobweb on Echinops sphaerocephalus ‘Arctic Glow’, Tostat, June 2019

The dew and damp has brought out the summer spiders, creating their connections between plants, and draping some, like the Echinops sphaerocephalus ‘Arctic Glow’ above. This is a plant that pleases more by it’s vigour and form than by the often short-lived flowerheads, but the darkly outlined cut leaves are present for a long time and work like fake thistles in the garden.

Romneya coulteri, Tostat, June 2019

Romneya coulteri is a plant with a tremendous capacity for life- as long as you plant it where it wants to be- in full sun, poor soil and don’t even think about watering it. But if you move it, it will turn up it’s toes and die- best to buy a small plant, a baby, and then let it grow in situ. It will take a year or two to flower, but then you will have beautiful glaucous greeny-blue foliage and these colossal chiffon flowers like the best Spanish fried egg, crinkly and delicious. It is a bit of a thug, hence why people do try and move them, me included. What will happen if you are lucky is that a piece will stubbornly refuse to be dug up, and next year you can start again with a new baby plant sitting where it wants to be. Give it space, or pin it back with another tough shrub, and all will be well.

Salvia ‘Ton Ter Linden’, Tostat, June 2019

This is a really fabulous Salvia, ‘Ton Ter Linden’. It is a deep purply-red, not quite captured above, and has a drapey habit, so that it could almost be called a tumbling salvia. I picked it out at our local nursery, the wonderful Bernard Lacrouts, mainly for the habit and the deep, dark colour. It is a newish variety, bred in the Netherlands, and named for the famous artist and gardener, Ton Ter Linden. He led the way, along with Henk Gerritsen and Piet Oudolf, towards a more naturalistic style of perennial planting that is loosely called the Dutch New Wave. Another garden on the list….

Sanguisorba ‘Cangshan Cranberry’, Tostat, June 2019

In the same colour band is my almost favourite Sanguisorba, ‘Cangshan Cranberry’– and the moment when the flowerheads fill up with colour is one of my most anticipated summer moments. I don’t have it in the best place, as the massive banana behind it decks it with water when we have heavy rain, but it is the only place where it will be happy- so there we are. At nearly 1.5m it is a tall plant, but wispy and wavy, and takes a few years to bulk up- but all worth the wait. Dan Hinkley found this plant in Yunnan, China in 1996. I am so glad that he did.

Telekia speciosa, Tostat, June 2019

I love this workhorse plant. Every summer, I feel bound to try and increase the fan club membership for Telekia speciosa, as it is such a good reliable plant, and virtually unknown next to the more famous contender in the big-yellow-daisy stakes, Inula magnifica.

Salvia cacaliifolia, Tostat, June 2019

Another new Salvia! Salvia cacaliifolia has charming, triangular-shaped leaves and the bluest of blue branching flower spikes- curiously, it has no Salvia smell about it either. New to me, so I can’t offer much in the way of experience, but I am really enjoying it. It likes a little shade, but other than that, is not demanding.

Cephalaria gigantea, which has been a lovely surprise this June, has found the last week too hard for it, so it is fading fast. Celebrate it with a last photograph after early morning spider activity.

Cephalaria gigantea in the heat and the mist, Tostat, June 2019

Another reason to be happy is another surprise development. A stunningly successful germination rate 3 years ago of Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizard’ led to rather boastful behaviour on my part- and thence to the punishment of my hubris by the total failure of all the plants to re-appear in the Spring. Aha! Four small plants must have been hanging on in there, as this week up they popped. I am so pleased. My friend EBee will also be delighted. I adore the chocolate flower head and the golden ruff- magnificent, though not necessarily in a floral way.

Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizard’, Tostat, June 2019
2 days later, with golden ruff, ‘Green Wizard’, Tostat, June 2019