Going, going, gone…

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Salvia confertiflora and ‘Anthony Parker’ mingling in the hall, Tostat, November 2017

That’s it.  First big cold spell of this autumn/winter last night with a frost of -2C but the recompense is beautiful sunshine this morning. And to be honest, given all the topsy-turviness of this year weather-wise, it feels better to be having the weather we should be having at this time of the year.

So, on Sunday, much lugging of pots, pruning of things, and then fleecing of the odd pot too big to bring in took place.  Yesterday I ran round and dug up the 3 plants that had been planted in- and managed to remember to bring only two of them into the house.  Result: one very brown and unhappy Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ outside this morning.

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Salvia Mexicana ‘Limelight’, Tostat, November 2017

It had only just flowered, and possibly the flowering had saved it’s bacon.  I am so disappointed with this plant!  I should have paid attention to Louis the Plant Geek.  he says, ‘Want the excitement? Accept the dullness. No pain, no gain.’  Louis is a brilliant blogger.  In my view, he has everything.  Good pictures, great, tested in his own garden information, a witty and astringent turn of phrase- and really detailed advice.  I bow down.

The thing is with ‘Limelight’, the dullness goes on for ever- well, given that it has been outside since April, precisely 7 months.  I am not yet sure that the gain outweighs the pain. Not to mention, that ‘Limelight’ is a thirsty so-and-so, bending leaves down every day in a sort-of-Mum-wait-for-me way.  And growth was stingy to say the least.  From the opposite, more rational point of view, these 2 plants were grown from seed last winter and it thrilled me that they germinated on a sunny windowsill.  And, in the first year, perhaps I am being unduly testy about the lack of performance till now.  So, Louis’ advice is:  sink it in a 3 litre pot into the ground, as opposed to planting it which I did, then at the first frost, cut it back and overwinter in a cool place.  The last part is easy: the big hall, codename IceStationZebra, in our house.

So, I have half-frozen one plant and saved the other plant.  I shall cut both down as Louis describes and hope that over-wintering will give them more of a headstart than they had last year- and meantime, allocate 2 x 3 litre pots for them for next year.  I shan’t be mean and ditch them.

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ had made it just in time to flower.  In fact, the cooler nights have brought out the golden tints at the ends of the petals, which really brings the flowerheads alive, I think.  They can stay outside for now, and I will move them to the outside barn so they don’t get drowned in too much winter wet.

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Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’, Tostat, November 2017

This little Aussie plant, Westringia fruticosa ‘Wynyabbie Gem’, was planted, new to me, about this time last year, and it turned out to be pretty robust in our sunny, dry border, happily shrugging off a spell of -10C last winter.  These are the first flowers on this little plant, and I am hoping that it will slowly bulk up to make a jolly 1m wide and high mound of light green foliage, pretty in itself and then these sweet spotted-throat white flowers in little groups.

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Westringia ‘Wynyabbie Gem’, Tostat, November 2017

And this shot of the back of the garden, looking West, in the last sunshine of yesterday afternoon, is a kind of  over-and-out shot, as the leaves on Populus deltoides ‘Purple Tower’ which are so golden in this photograph, have almost all fallen off this morning.  Another season begins.

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November 2017, Tostat.

Big things and tiny things…

Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ seedlings, January 2017

This unprepossessing pot of three tiny seedlings has given me ridiculous amounts of joy the past weeks.  This was probably one of my madder, doomed to failure, experiments this early winter- attempting to germinate and grow seeds on sunny windowsills in the house in the winter.  And it has not been a resounding success- for obvious reasons really, light is needed and usually some warmth to persuade seeds to get going- and they have been up against it in both departments.  Some more than others- the ‘Limelight’ seedlings are in a sunnier South-facing window, whereas other trays have had warmth, but are in an East-facing window.  But I will keep the trays and see what happens as the days lengthen, keeping them just moist with misting to try and ensure that the seeds don’t rot.

On the other hand, there have been small successes, Salvia nutans got going with 4 tiny seedlings, I have since lost two but may end up with one strong one if I am lucky.  I have five decent Clematis tangutica ‘Helios’ seedlings looking pretty perky, and a handful of Penstemon barbatus var. coccineus seedlings.

These are not big returns on the numbers of seeds sown, but they have given me more pleasure, especially the ‘Limelight’ than mere maths and ROI would suggest.  This morning, Robbie Blackhall-Miles‘ article in ‘The Guardian’ really spoke to me of the joy of these very tiny messages of promise that seeds are. I would never have believed how much I adore this work with seeds- I would have thought I was too impatient to become skilled at it.  I am much better than I was, in terms of return, and I think, if anything, I am learning real patience and appreciation of the natural world from these little things.

Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ is going to be a joy, I know it.  A tender, big growing Salvia, up to 1.5m high and wide, it has chartreuse green leaves and dark, luscious purple flowers- which is one of my favourite colour combinations.  I have lusted after it for ages, but it is not available in France, and I am trying to wean myself off buying plants that come by post from other countries.  So when I saw seed advertised, I could not resist. Ebay done good, all the way from the USA.  Here is how it looks at one of my all-time favourite nurseries, Annie’s Annuals, in Richmond, California.

Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ photo credit: http://www.anniesannuals.com

Meantime, outside, big stuff is happening.  Noticing this morning that brambles are now as prolific at hurling themselves over our wall as the roses we grow, was a turning point.  The wall bordering the garden had really become a no-go area for me, I was very adept at looking the other way.  But the bramble count was too high this morning.

And so, in moments, the decision that has been dormant was made- to remove everything in that area, get rid of all the self sown wisteria and other rubbish, and terminate a Rosa ‘Mermaid’ that was not helping the situation by harbouring all the villains in its roots.  To be fair, ‘Mermaid’ though lovely, is a terrible and dangerous thug, and was a poor choice of mine ten years ago. So phase One of site clearance took place this morning as Andy, armed with his ‘Barbie’ Stihl saw,  set about it.  The saw is good, if domestic in scale and size, but it is the ‘Barbie’ saw to us as Mr Brun, our very lumberjack-style village woodsman, disparagingly refers to it in these terms!

The ‘Barbie’ saw in action with Andy, Tostat, January 2017
Phase one success, ‘Barbie’ saw reclining, and Andy, Tostat, January 2017

Phase Two is planned for after the freeze- we are expecting -8C this week coming.  One or two dahlias have certainly copped it.