Plant of the Moment: Digitalis ferruginea

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The plant of the moment is definitely the Digitalis ferruginea also known as the Rusty Foxglove.  I grew these from seed probably two years ago and this is their first year of flowering and the wait has certainly been worth it.

Why Rusty Foxglove? Well I think the colours give  that away and the stem of the species name ferrum means iron so you can see how the common name came about.

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Digitalis ferruginea is from the northern mediterranean and is doing very well in a shady border in my garden which gets somewhat dry at this time of year although it is quite damp in the winter which I suppose replicates the climate in the northern med.  As you can see the bees like it too and just before I took these photographs there were at least five bees on most of the flower spikes. My son and I had an interesting conversation about the plant’s origin and whether it was native which would explain its attraction to bees.  However as my research has shown they aren’t natives of this country and as I have found time and again with other non-natives they are still very popular with the bees so it makes me question the argument that you need native plants to attract and support pollinators.

The leaves are  long and thin rather than the more rounded felty leaves of Digitalis  purpurea.  Being thinner they aren’t so dominant in the border and provide a nice contrast to Geraniums and Hostas.  The Digitalis ferruginea is also good to grow with ferns and I think I need to add more ferns around mine – I have some Autumn Ferns which would work really well with the colouring.

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But what I especially love aside from the fabulous peachy colour is the intricate reddish brown veining on the petals and the wonderful hairs.  For me this Digitalis is by far more elegant and beautiful than the standard Digitalis purpurea which is, I think you will agree a gorgeous plant itself, so you can see how gorgeous I think the Rusty Foxglove is.

Apparently although many treat it as a biennial it is actually a short-lived perennial which will self-seed.  Therefore I am definitely going to be collecting seed so that I have some more in a couple of years and hopefully the current plants will last for a year more.

Plant of the moment: Molopospernum peloponnesiaam

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How can you not be tempted by a plant with a name like Molopospermum peloponnesiacum?  I am becoming increasingly fond of this plant.  It was bought in May 2012 from Crug Plants and so right from the start it has fond memories associated with it of time spent with gardening friends.  I feel for the ferny foliage and although it was a little pricey for my budget I succumbed.

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The plant is part of the Apiaceae family, comes from central Europe and likes part shade.  I decided it would be perfect for the edge of the woodland border and it was planted with care.  Then before last summer was out the fronds all withered and there was a small wispy sad brownish shoot in their place.  This did not bode well.  I went for the ignore it and it will be fine approach, which is my general approach to gardening.

I was thrilled to spot new leaves this spring which have grown quickly into a substantial plant and are, as I hoped, providing  a wonderful contrast to the other woodland plants in this area.

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I knew from reading the Crug web-site that there should be flowers “large compound umbels of yellow green flowers”.  In my head this equated to yellowish cow parsley but as you can see the flowers, although made up of lots of tiny florets are quite different to cow parsley although the flower head has only just appeared so maybe it needs more time to develop.  I am also surprised at how pink the flower is when the description and other photographs I have found on the web are quite yellow in appearance.  I think it is gorgeous and I am thrilled with it.

I might keep an eye on it and try to harvest some seed to future propagation.

My Garden This Weekend – 16th June

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Instead of showing you views of the garden this weekend I am going to show you some of my star plants this week.  I was feeling a little sorry for myself on Friday and Saturday due to a sore back and my grumpiness meant that I forgot about Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and my monthly photo – ho hum! So I am showcasing the stars this week in this post.

I have a real fondness for Tragopodon crocifolius (top photo).  One of its common names is Lavender Jack-Go-To-Bed-At-Noon but it is more commonly known to vegetable growers as Salsify.  I don’t know if the plant I grow is the same as the one grown for eating but I grew it from seed in 2009 and I haven’t been without it since.  It is slowly self-seeding around the front garden.  The flowers open in sunshine and are followed by some wonderful fluffy seed-heads.

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Also looking wonderful in the front garden is Echium vulgare, which is our native Vipers bugloss.  I think  these have grown from seeds from some plants I planted in 2010.  I have a terribly short-term memory and often sow annuals then forget they are annuals and don’t rush to prick them out and pot them up thinking as they are perennials I have more time.  The Echium in 2010 suffered from this and were held back in seed trays and when they flowered only produced little flowers not the spikes you can see above.  So I am really pleased that nature has taken charge and sorted it out for me.  They are certainly very popular with the bees and other pollinators. To give you an idea of their height, they are taller than the Allium Purple Sensation although nowhere near as tall as the Echiums we saw in Cornwall last week.

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The irises are doing amazingly well this year which surprises me given the cool temperatures and rain we had last summer.  I thought they needed their rhizomes to bake in the summer sun in order for them to flower well but this year they are better than ever.  I am a particularly pleased with the top one, Iris Bumblebee Deelite – it was unceremoniously moved back in March/April due to the workshop project.  We are told to move bearded irises after flowering in June/July but this plant has thrived in its new location and has more flowers than ever.  I think the dark one is Langport Wren and I have masses of it.  As for the pale one I don’t even remember buying it but it is very elegant.

I haven’t really done that much in the garden this weekend.  A bit of tidying, cutting the aquilegia seedheads down of the ones I don’t want spreading, a bit of weeding, a bit of potting up, some feeding but that is it.  Saying that I have also held a lot of wood while my eldest saws it.  He is busy putting the final touches to the retaining wall which is holding the garden back from the workshop site.  The workshop, or shed to you and me, arrives on Friday!

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Whilst I haven’t done much work in the garden I have done a lot of looking, or procrastination, and I was thrilled to find two  Arisaema speciosum in flower.  I have five which I grew from seed some years back.  I have never managed to get any to germinate since which is beginning to irritate me.  However, I am really pleased that the five I have are back again this year.  They are so strange and sinister looking and also a pain to photograph especially as the flowers are looking in a direction where it is hard for me to photograph from.

Who knows my next weekend the Papaver Patty’s  Plum may have decided to flower – it has been in bud for at least three weeks now.

Plant of the Moment: Mahonia x Media ‘Charity’

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I know it isn’t considered very fashionable but I rather like Mahonias particularly at this time of year when they come into their own.

Mahonias come from north and central America and East Asia, particularly the rocky and woodland areas.  They were named after Bernard M’Mahon, an Irish political refugee, who opened a seed shop in Philidelphia and published the American Gardeners Calendar in 1806.

Mahonia xMedia ‘Charity’ was bought from Ashwood Nurseries probably five years ago.  It is planted in part shade under the branches of my neighbours trees so it has taken a while to really establish and get its roots down through the tree roots.  I like the dark green leathery foliage which I hope will provide a good back drop to the spring and summer plants in front of it.

However, now is its real season of interest with beautiful fragrant acid yellow flowers. The flowers are frost-resistant and an excellent food provider for pollinators which might  still be roaming around in the winter.  It is also nice to have something in flower at this time of year.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ is a large variety and can grow up to 400cm(13ft) tall.  I have been hoping that mine would produce branches and therefore a wider plant but so far there is only one tall stem.  I wouldn’t call it leggy yet but I am wondering whether I should prune it after flowering but I don’t know if I have the courage just to cut the top off! The RHS website says that whilst Mahonia can be stooled to about 45cm (18in) it is best to prune them over three years, removing a third each year.  It also appears as though I should have pinched out the dead flowers when the plant was little as this would have encourage more shoots  and a better shaped plant – well you live and learn.

Another interesting thing about Mahonias is that in the roots of species plants is a substance called berberin  which has antibacterial  effects and is used as a bitter tonic.  Apparently there is also evidence that Mahonia may have anti-tumour properties.  The flowers are followed by blue/black fruits which have the common name of Oregon grape.  My research tells me that they are very nice to eat raw or cooked so I might try one this year.

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I love the shape of the flower head it is like some sort of mad octopus – how can you not like it.

Plant of the Moment: Aster Umbellatus

I find myself being drawn more and more to species plants rather than hybrids.  A case in point is the Aster umbellatus which resides on in the Daisy Border on the slope.  It flowers before the other Asters and daisy type flowers in my garden and is very popular with pollinators.

Aster umbellatus is a North American species.  It is also  known as Flat Topped Aster.  Some US sites say  it should  grow in moist conditions or on the side of a swamp!  Mine grows on a slope albeit it on clay soil, and it is thriving.   I planted it two years ago and this year it is easily topping 4ft if not 5ft.

Aster umbellatus  is also mildew free definitely a good thing considering the amount of rain we have had this year.  I wonder if the species are more resistent and whether all the inter-breeding leads to more suspectability to diseases and pests.

But what I particularly like about this plant is the tiny flowers which on their long stems waft in the wind and have a similar quality to Verbena bonariensis, albeit it a little shorter.  I would really recommend this plant, so would the insects.

Primula sikkimensis – fasciation

My growing addiction to Primulas has resulted in me starting to buy some more unusual varieties.  One of this year’s purchases was Primula sikkimensis from Kevock Gardens in Scotland.  When I opened the parcel back early in the year I have to admit that the plant didn’t look that inspiring but I potted it up and put it to one side in the holding bay along with all the other plants waiting for a new home.

Now if I am brutally honest I have to admit to forgetting about it.  What with limited gardening time due to work and rain and a large project on the go it was forgotten until yesterday when I noticed some wane looking plants.  There tucked in the back was a soft glimmer of buttery yellow – nope still no memory of the plant, hopeless I know.  Anyway, I negotiated my way to the back of the holding bay and plucked the small pot out.  To say I was thrilled at the beautiful flower I found would be an understatement.  I love the colour it is much like our native primrose but just a little stronger without being brassy.  I am also quite taken with the arrangement of the whorl  of flowers.  However, there was something very strange about this particular plant – it is suffering from fasciation.

You can just see from the photo above the strangely thick stem which looks like more than one stem fused together but is also fairly flat.  Apparently primulas are prone to fasciation and the mutation doesn’t usually occur from one year to another.  There are a number of possible reasons for it: a virus, the bacterium Rhodococcus fascians, a genetic mutation or an incident such as frost or animal damage.  I wonder if this plant has mutated due to the strange and extreme shifts in weather we have had this spring.  Anyway, I find it quite fascinating and it will be interesting to see if it reappears next year.

Plant of the Moment – Star-of-Bethlehem

Now I am a very patient person as many of you know, particularly when it comes to plant propagation.  However, I am also quite realistic and admit that sometimes there must be an easier way to acquire something.  Case in point is the Star-of-Bethlehem.  I tried probably three years on the trot to grow this from seed; the seed having been obtained from various seed distribution schemes but to no avail.  As my RHS A-Z indicates the seed are best sown in Autumn they obviously need a cold period which isn’t always achievable with the timing of the seed distribution and in my limited experience I often find those plants that need cold for germination tend to do better if sown fresh – though that may be a coincidence.

I was therefore delighted to spot a pot of this plant when I went to the Crug Plant Fair and promptly snapped it up.  The plant was destined for my newish woodland border and duly planted and as is often the case in my garden forgotten.  I was having one of those days on Sunday when you feel a need to go back to bed and hide under the duvet until all the annoying things went away when lo and behold a glimmer of white was spotted from the upstairs window.  I thought at first it was my Galtonia which have reappeared after their first winter and which I have high hopes for but no it was the Star-of Bethlehem.

Now I really shouldn’t keep calling this plant Star-of-Bethlehem as I will get complaints about using common names which can cause confusion and very true too.  So to be clear I am referring to Ornithogalum umbellatum, you can see why  Star-of-Bethlehem is easier to remember.  The plant is a bulbous perennial and members of the Ornithogalum family can be found in a variety of habitats across Europe, Asia and Africa.  Ornithogalum umbellatum is hardy in the UK liking full sun to partial shade;  it prefers a moist to mesic (well-balanced) soil.

My faithful A-Z saysOrnithogalum umbellatumcan become invasive, well I would be thrilled if it spread into a reasonable size colony as the glimmering white racemes of star like flowers are delightful and really brighten the woodland border which is shaded by neighbouring trees.  As you can see the flowers are quite well spread out along the stem which can grow to 10-30cm hence the awkward photograph.  The leaves are similar to many bulbous plants being long linear and mid-green.  One website I have read says that the flowers close at noon each day but it is currently 8:30 at night and the flowers are still wide open.  It positively glows as the sun sets like most white flowers do  in dark locations.

I will try to spot when the seed heads form and collect seed though no doubt due to the hours I am working at the moment I will miss the magic point.  However,  at the moment I shall be pleased that the plant reappears next year and then we shall see about increasing it.

If you like Camassia and Allium and want something similar for a more shady location I would recommend the Star-of-Bethlehem