Creams and colours…

Cephalaria gigantea 0619
Cephalaria gigantea, Tostat, June 2019

Two years ago, at this time of year,  we joined in with the ‘Gardens in the Wild’ festival in Herefordshire, and visited about half a dozen gardens over the weekend.  So many good things to see and plants to take in- one of which popped up in various of the gardens, and I adored it.  Cephalaria gigantea won my heart, for slender but tall stature and creamy lemon flowers.   Insects adored it, and so did I.  From seed, it has taken me two years to get flowering plants- they grow so high that I would need a ladder to look down into them, and so you can imagine, two years is what it takes to build up a solid root base.  Unknowingly, I mixed them in with seedlings of Thalictrum flavum glaucum– but I think that the two giants get on rather well.  They are in the most moist part of the garden, so this summer will tell if they can take it.

Dorynicum Frejorges 0619
Dorycnium hirsutum ‘Frejorgues’, Tostat, June 2019

Dorycnium hirsutum ‘Frejorges’ is a slow-burn plant.  Needing sharp drainage, full sun and poor soil to do best, I was not bowled over it by intially.  But, growing slowly over 2 years, to make a crinkled silvery-green mound, and this year, flowering for the first time (unless I just have forgotten) with creamy pea-type flowers, it has earned it’s place in the garden.

Hillen 0619
Jardin de la Poterie Hillen, Thermes-Magnoac, June 2019

The best bit from Jardin de la Poterie Hillen last week was….this view.  It was jammed with people- note to self, don’t bother with Portes Ouvertes days, find another time.  I really liked the shaped shrubs, the bench, the slim cypresses behind, the lilypad bowl and the three weathered uprights that sounded like metal, but felt quite light to the touch.  Material therefore unknown.  I also liked this rather florid clematis- baroque swags of flowers absolutely saved by their cool creamy green colouring, Clematis florida Alba Plena.  A good combination.  On the list.

Hillen Clematis florida Alba Plena 0619
Clematis florida Alba Plena, Jardin de la Poterie Hillen, Thermes-Magnoac, June 2019

Back home, the trooper plants are blooming.  Both are Lychnis, the top one, Salmonea, I grew from seed a few years back which I got from the Hardy Plant Society and it is just beginning to self-seed gently in the mixed planting under the cherry tree.  The bottom one is the more common, scarlet chalcedonica– which I also grew from seed, and it gives a real flash of scarlet.  Nothing demure about it at all.  Easy and tough as old boots.

Lychnis Salmonea 0619
Lychnis chalcedonica Salmonea, Tostat, June 2019
Lychnis chalcedonica 0619
Lychnis chalcedonica, Tostat, June 2019

In the Mix, the alliums are over but still making a great vertical against the Stipa tenuissima.  In the morning light, the effect is magical, golden, slender, wafting against the green of the emerging Miscanthus sinensis Strictus– not yet producing the golden zebra stripes that I love.  The Miscanthus has been waiting for heat so far this summer.

Mix with Allium 0619
The Mix with Stipa tenuissima and seedhead of Allium nigrum, Tostat, June 2019

In the cool, semi-shady conditions of the Bee garden in Peebles last month, self-sown  and spreading Camassia leichtlinii, don’t know the variety, were taking over beautifully from the Scottish bluebells.  My friend has them planted in and amongst a crimson-leaved acer, and the light filtering through the acer picks out the Camassia beautifully.  Irresistable.  But they must be resisted.  Tostat would bring certain death to moisture-loving Camassia.

Peebles Camassia 2 0519
Camassia leichtlinii, Peebles, May 2019

But, close in colour, though again an unknown variety, that I got as a cutting from Jardin d’Antin nearby to us- is the plummy, purply, blue of this statuesque Penstemon- the orange background kindly donated by the spreading branches of the unknown orange Abutilon.

Penstemon Gertrud 0619
Unknown Penstemon, from Jardin d’Antin, Tostat, June 2019

A week ago, I was talking about the Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ and Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’.  Here is a photograph of the quieter, less-in-your-face flowers of ‘Husker Red’- not creamy in my case, more of a pale mauve I would say, but pretty all the same, and flowering for the first time after growing from seed 2 years ago.  I am looking forward to seeing how the plants themselves develop.

Penstemon Huskers Red 0619
Penstemon Huskers Red, Tostat, June 2019

This coral-red Salvia is new to me, Salvia dichlamys.  The colouring has that electric quality that you get in the purple-mauve of Verbena bonariensis- it really speaks to you.  I shall be very happy to take cuttings later in the summer, and see what happens when brought in for winter.

Salvia dichlamys 0619
Salvia dichlamys, Tostat, June 2019

Tostat and Winchcombe…

Rain Eucomis 717
Rain sparkling on Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ this morning, Tostat, July 2017

The mega-lightening and thunder show last night over Tostat finally brought to an end our 4th or 5th mini-canicule or heatwave that we have had since early May- and at long last, a decent downpour has revived the garden which has been hanging on by it’s fingernails.  The ground is well soaked, though, honestly, it will not have penetrated that far considering the general overall super-dryness, but I am not complaining at all.  The green levels in the garden have been refreshed, and everything looks as if it has been through a carwash.

I am waiting for my book delivery before I review the summer-dryness situation properly.  I need some inspiration to break the thinking habits I reckon.

But today is grey and overcast, which actually means that the garden gets a chance to absorb the rain and use it, as opposed to sticking it’s tin hat on again against the beating sun.  And we had a quite a few days like this in England in June, after we had survived the two blisteringly hot days.  Wandering around Gloucestershire and Winchcombe with our friends, some lovely little moments were to be had.

Winchcombe Paeonia Bowl of Beauty 617
Winchcombe, Paeonia ‘Bowl of Beauty’, June 2017

Helping Jill to water a friend’s garden, was a delight rather than a chore.  A real plantsperson, the garden-maker had a stack of treats to see, for example, this stunning Paeonia ‘Bowl of Beauty’ that I have read about but never actually seen before.

Winchcombe 9 617
Beautiful ‘borrowed landscape’ enlarges this small, but lovely, garden, Winchcombe, June 2017

An enchantingly delicate, double white Geranium pratense, which I think is ‘Double Jewel’, also grew there, not a shouty plant at all, but very pretty.  Unlikely to do well with me, but I can admire it all the same.

Winchcombe Ger Double Jewel 617
Geranium ‘Double Jewel’, Winchcombe, June 2017

And it wasn’t all about rarity.  This lovely combination below is achievable easily with very ordinary plants which work beautifully together- a spot of rigorous pulling out now and then needed for the lychnis probably, but that’s all.

Winchcombe 6 617
Opium poppies, an abundant white dahlia and good old Lychnis coronaria- simple but very effective, Winchcombe, June 2017

I had forgotten how good hollyhocks are.  Gloucestershire seemed to be full to bursting with them in all colours, but I really loved this vibrant red just outside the church in Winchcombe, which is really worth a visit by the way if you are passing.

Winchcombe hollyhocks 617
Knockout hollyhocks just growing in a pavement crack, Winchcombe, June 2017

This black Centaurea montana ‘Black Sprite’ was to be seen in various gardens, including Kiftsgate Court.  It is a newish variety, but is absolutely gorgeous, with healthy and vigorous foliage and these stunning spidery flowers- and looks as if it should be easy as anything.  I am searching for seed as we speak, there is more available in the US, so it may have to be bought there.  Just discovered that our local perennials nursery has it- good for Bernard Lacrouts!

Kiftsgate black centaurea 617
Fabulous Centaurea montana ‘Black Sprite’, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017

Also gorgeous was the statuesque Cephalaria gigantea, which was a frequent player in Gloucestershire gardens.  It’s height, nearly 2m, and go-with-anything cream pincushion flowers, also the airy structure which on the whole seemed to take wind and rain in it’s stride, all these factors make it a lovely plant to try.  I have already bought seed from Chiltern Seeds.

Kiftsgate Cephalaria gigantea 617
Cephalaria gigantea, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017
Rosa GT CM Bourton
Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’, Bourton House Garden, June 2017 photo credit: Colin Massey

Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ seemed to be the go-to yellow rose for many gardeners.  Who can blame them?  It is a cheerful, buoyant rose that seems to be pretty trouble-free, and, according to David Austin, it has been voted the world’s favourite rose.

A complex Dahlia this one, which I think is ‘Night Butterfly’, so it isn’t usually what I would go for, but mixing in with the Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ and offset by the creamy-yellow Thalictrum flavum ssp. glaucum ( I think!) I thought the combination was lovely, bringing vividness to a shadier spot.

Winchcombe Dahlia Night Butterfly 617
Dahlia ‘Night Butterfly’, Winchcombe, June 2017

I was so thrilled last week when I found, goodness knows how I hadn’t noticed it before, a surprise gladiolus growing in the very newest bit of border that I started this year.  I am not a huge gladdie fan, but the colour of this one looked very promising and I couldn’t have chosen it better, if I had chosen it!  But this morning, decapitated by the rain ( so you see, the obvious staking had not happened), it is reclining in a jug in the kitchen- ah well.

Tostat rain 717
My surprise gladiolus, beheaded by the rain, Tostat, July 2017

 

 

Home and away….Thalictrum meets the pyramidal orchid

Anacamptis pyramidalis, Pouylebon 65, May 2015
Anacamptis pyramidalis, Pouylebon 65, May 2015

I have to confess to not being the best wildflower spotter there is. After red campion, I wasn’t paying attention in primary school when we did flowers. My friend, Shelagh, is a proper wildflower spotter and puts me to shame. So, in an attempt to live up to Shelagh’s standards, I took a photograph of these orchids yesterday early in the morning. We weren’t flower spotting, we were actually ‘training’ for walking the Via de la Plata from Seville to Santiago in September, and so this was Week 2 of early start walking to mimic the conditions and up the kms-fitness. Near to Pouylebon, it was a lovely 15k walk and there these orchids were. Of course, having taken the photo, I then left the doglead on the ground, which meant Andy gamely offered to go back for it- we hadn’t gone that far, or serious recriminations would have been on the cards.

Back to the flowers. These are pyramidal orchids or Anacamptis pyramidalis, so prevalent on the Isle of Wight that it is the island’s official flower, but they are not omni-present here in the Pyrenees. We saw very few on the walk. Apparently, it likes chalky grassland and needs a specific fungus to be present in the soil for flowering to take place.  Just at the end of the walk, coming back towards Pouylebon, we saw a wonderful collection flowering on a chalky bank near to a ‘Fromage de Gers’ bio-farm. Sadly, we hadn’t brought cash with us or we would have dashed in and bought some cheese to celebrate seeing an abundance of the orchids. Darn.

An abundance of pyramidal orchids, Pouylebon 65, May 2015
An abundance of pyramidal orchids, Pouylebon 65, May 2015

And back home, a plant had bloomed that I love for its bluey-green clumps of aquilegia-like leaves, and then its daring, soaring, almost transparent yellow flowers that the bees absolutely go demented for. Thalictrum flavum ssp. glaucum is a bit of a mouthful, but is really worth all the time and trouble there was with tiny seeds and tweezer-transplanting three years ago, Now it has made soft clumps throughout the border, and is a delight. It has something of the Stipa gigantea about it, easy to see through, big (up to easily 2m), but airy and charming, and the insect population trebles at a stroke. Plant Delights, one of my favourite American sites, has a variety called ‘True Blue’ which I would love to see, so I will seek it out. The wonderful Beth Chatto has plants available.

It doesn’t seem to mind our dryish conditions, though it isn’t in the driest spot we have, and is utterly undemanding. It even handles galeforce wind and rain with aplomb. It would take a charging animal to bring it down. I do nothing and it does it all. Here is a full length photo of it, slightly tricky to take as it is so transparent but you can see the flowers silhouetted against the sky, I think.

Full length Thalictrum, Tostat, June 2015
Full length Thalictrum, Tostat, June 2015

And it is June already. What a shocker, How did that happen?