Spring awakening…

Salvia regla, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2023

Yes, I think it is almost safe to say that Spring is just stretching it’s toes. The photo above tells me this. This is a survivor plant, which I risk being too optimistic about every winter. But so far, I am ahead. With eagle vision, you may be able to make out 2 or 3 very small leaves at the top of the tallest twigs. Salvia regla is a fabulous sage. One year, I just left it and it has done it’s own thing ever since, but although it’s twiggy, it is a great backdrop for shorter plants and looks exotic against the pink of the barn wall. Here it is in high summer in 2021 before we painted the barn wall pink. It is a beautiful coral-red flower with paler calyxes, and almost geranium-like leaves, which seem jolly to me.

Salvia regla, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2021

Meanwhile, back in 2023, the Aristea ecklonii are gearing up to flower. Short of a Gentian, there is nothing more sparkling blue than an Aristea flower in my book. These plants sulked for me in Tostat, but have adored the move to Oloron, so much so that I am in danger of being overrun with Aristea babies, but they are such good plants I carry on keeping them. The foliage swoops gracefully all year, and the flowers clearly want to be Japanese, they are so elegant. All will be revealed in the next few weeks and you will see that I am not talking this one up. I have them in tall zinc containers so that the swooping is accentuated, one of my better pot choices! I grew these from seed, and they are so worth it. Burncoose says half-hardy. That’s probably about right, the barn wall does a great job of keeping them going through the winter.

Aristea ecklonii, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2023

The bananas are at the embarassing stage, see below. It is so hard to imagine that in 2 months time, there will be wafting banana trees under which I can shelter the less heat- friendly pots. The blue pot in the photo contains a big risk which will be entirely dependent on the bananas playing ball. I am trying a largish hydrangea in a pot so that it will be watered regularly and be in semi-shade, courtesy of the bananas. Hydrangea villosa ‘Velvet and Lace’ has just joined us in the courtyard. Fingers crossed. Most sites have it as reaching 2m high and wide, which would be great.

March bananas, Oloron Sainte Marie

Two years ago, we took out a massive, very dull, conifer at the front of the house and I bought a columnar form of Liquidamber called ‘Slender Silhouette’. Liquidamber being generally an immense tree, this selection is narrow and grows quite tall but fits in beautifully at the front. I don’t remember seeing these complex flower structures last year, but we have them all over the tree this year. The leaves are a cheering fresh green, and the flower spike looks as though it will produce several small football shaped flowers. Good, isn’t it. The tree is very happy at the front, as I discovered that the roof downpipes drop straight into the ground a few feet away, so giving it an automatic watering system.

Liquidamber Slender Silhouette, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2023

I bought this hornbeam as a teeny plant about 10 years ago. It was doing well until our dog, the much loved Peggy, cannoned into it and broke most of it off. So, patiently, it started off again. Now, having made the move, it is happily installed in the Barn Garden, and is maybe 7 feet tall, or 2 metres. I love it for the fan-shaped leaf buds that open up, the fresh green colour and for it’s determination. ‘Frans Fontaene’ is a columnar form, so I am not growing a giant, but it will grow tall eventually.

Carpinus betulus Frans Fontaene, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2023

And another Spring miracle. Having lifted out all x Alcatheas last Autumn as even they were struggling in the Barn Garden with the drought, I had pretty much stuffed them into pots and forgotten about them. The cream one is my absolute favourite. It has a complex flower, with tones of pink and apricot cutting through the cream, and is, normally, a totally reliable doer. But what this shows me is that the drought was bad last year, and will probably be the same again this year. So let’s see if they mind being in a pot.

x Alcathea suffrutescens ‘Parkallee’, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2023

Here is a reminder of how lovely it is. Can’t wait.

x Alcathea suffrutescens ‘Parkallee’, Oloron Sainte Marie, July 2022