Inspiring colour…and form

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Terra Valley, Extremadura, October 2015.  Photo credit: Sandra Child

Sometimes what you see and feel in a landscape can make you jump with joy.  This photograph, taken by a fellow Via de la Plata walker, Sandra Child, captures the moment beautifully.  The reflections are so sharp. the colour so present, that you are immediately there- in the landscape and in the picture.  I love gold and blue in combination.  Such strong and vibrant colours that together are quite brilliant.

Last year, I was experimenting with blue and a more yellow gold than in the photograph.  I wasn’t sure if I had got there, but these two colours suddenly came together in the autumn in one plant.  Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’.

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Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’, Tostat, September 2015

Caught in a breath of wind that gives the photograph a romantic blur, this plant is a joy. Planted out last year when just a tiny, I wasn’t sure at all how it would cope with the extremes of temperature we had.  But it managed fine.  More than that, it bloomed profusely from September onwards until early December, and, before that, starting out as a sharp chartreuse green, the foliage softened to a beautiful gold by the end of the season. It handled dryness and heat like a pro.  Now it measures about 0.75m high and across, and should get a little bigger this year.

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Orange abutilon and Salvia ‘Waverly’, Tostat, November 2016

Just a slither along the colour spectrum is orange and blue.  This salvia, Salvia ‘Waverly’ is a fabulous plant.  They were bought as tiny little plugs in January last year from the very good ebay nursery, Eleplants, which I have bought lots from over the years.  By the end of November, the plants were all well over a metre high and wide, and covered with the striking dark calyx and contrasting pale, pale lilac flowers that you see above.  Next to the marmelade orange of the unknown abutilon, it was a treat in the garden just before winter. I have taken a risk and left the Salvias in over the winter.  They are hardy, apparently down to about -3C according to the books.  But they are well surrounded by other plants and not too far from the house, so I am chancing it.  Could be living dangerously, but they grow so fast that, if I do come a cropper, I’ll buy some more plugs and take cuttings next time.

A very good plant for a hot, dry situation that seems to shrug off winter as well, is Elsholtzia stauntonii.  I grew these from seed a couple of years ago, and last Spring they looked depressingly like dead sticks. But, no!  A couple of months later, in the hottest late Spring ever, they were shooting up and even flowered.  They will finish up this year as a tidy, leafy shrub with mint scented leaves and these charming flowerspikes of lilac pink, maybe they will get to a metre or so high and wide.  More importantly, they flower in August, which is a bonus.

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Bee on Elsholtzia stauntonii, Tostat, September 2015








Back from the Via de la Plata

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November grasses, Tostat 2015

We are back from our wonderful 43 days of walking the 1000k of the Via de la Plata from Seville to Santiago de Compostela. I will write something about this journey in the blog once the impressions have settled in my head, but now is too early.  Rejoining everyday life back in the village has been a strange business- perhaps because walking every day creates such a sharp, clear focus.  Everyday life is less intense.

Meanwhile, back in Tostat, there has been a real Indian summer lasting right up to last weekend when normal end of November temperatures kicked back in.  So, coming back felt a bit like the return of Rip van Winkle- warmth and sunshine just as when we left on 20th September. Meeting the garden again has been a joy.

The clumps of Miscanthus, Silberfeder and Strictus, have become statuesque in our absence. They had just begun to flower in September as we had had such a hot, dry summer.  Note to self: one too many clumps really, in danger of becoming a forest in my opinion.  So one of them will go.

I also missed the peak of the flowering of Chysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’, but one tiny bunch still looked fresh, so here they are.

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Chysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’, Tostat, November 2015

I am not a huge chrysanthemum fan, but this one, with burnished, tawny, orange colouring and gold tips, really appeals to me. I bought a plant about 3 years ago, and immediately split it, took cuttings and pretty much butchered it for propagation’s sake.

Last year, it should have been in really good shape, but I was lucky not to lose them with poor overwintering. I now know that it will take very low temperatures as long as it is pretty much bone-dry and nowadays I keep the plants in the open barn, which means that the only thing that they don’t get is…wet.  They seem to like this.  Cuttings take easily, and so I should be able to fill several pots this coming year.  Flowering is really late, around the end of October, even early November depending on the weather.

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Unknown orange abutilon and ‘Salvia Waverly’, Tostat, November 2015

Sometimes combinations do really work- in the end. I love this. It bowled me over when I got back.  The sharpness of the orange contrasts beautifully with the pale mauve and dark purple of the Salvia. Both these plants have astonished me.  The orange abutilon was an unidentified cutting that I bought from ebay years ago.  It was something I never quite found a home for, and so languished in a pot for years, bunged behind our pergola.

But, last year, I decided to allow it full rein, and dug it in with four tiny plugs of a Salvia new to me, ‘Waverly’.  Both have really won through against the odds.  A soaking wet February after I had planted them in, followed in May and June with baking temperatures, and then prolonged dryness for the rest of the summer meant tough conditions.  There must have been some rain whilst we were away but I know there wasn’t a deluge, though the temperatures abated to the mid20s.   Salvia ‘Waverly’ is now four immense plants, easily 1.3m each both tall and wide, and has flowered like a train.  The abutilon has recovered its aplomb and done the same. What a result.  But two Salvia ‘Waverly’ will be enough, as right now the area resembles a Salvia forest. New homes for two plants next year.

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Sphaeralcea munroana (or maybe not), Tostat, November 2015

Sphaeralcea munroana was a new plant to me this year.  I chose it for the driest and hottest part of the garden, and rather hoped it would become an upright and substantial presence.  Well, it has, but not in an upright way. The dainty pink flowers seem to keep coming no matter what, although they are small, and the serrated pale green leaves are suprisingly decorative.  This plant is definitely a tumbler, not a standing giant. Interestingly, the link above clearly describes some labelling and identification problems with this plant, so maybe I ended up with an imposter after all.  Never mind.  But, something will need to be done in the presence department, even if it has done a good job of filling in between other plants and thereby earned its keep.