Plant of the Moment: Salvia Phyllis Fancy

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There are some plants which worm their way into my heart quite unexpectedly and I become completely obsessed with them.  Melianthus major is one but it is getting tough competition this year from Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’.

Salvias are a family I have toyed with over recent years but they haven’t really grabbed my attention.  I have a couple of hardy shrubby ones, the dark blue Salvia ‘Amistad’ and Salvia involucrata ‘Boutin’. I really like the latter although its hugh Barbie pink flowers on gangly rangy stems can be hard to accommodate in the border.  However, Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy is a far more elegant affair, a real lady of the border.

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Her elegant stems tower above the foliage with the flower stems gracefully bending downwards.  In the photograph above they are towering over the favoured Melianthus so you can see how much height they can bring to the border.  This plant is a two year old cutting and has really put on substantial growth this year. It is a taller form of Salvia ‘Waverly’, which is a leucantha hybrid.


The glaucous blue foliage adds a nice contrast to other plants in the border and the leaves are sufficiently large enough to have their own presence.

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In my opinion the flowers of Salvia Phyllis Fancy outstrip Salvia Armistad by a long way and I really can’t understand why it is not more popular. The combination of the lilac white flowers with deep lilac calyxes remains me of an elegant piece of 1920s costume jewellery.  The pale flowers show up in the border, twinkling in the sunshine unlike Armistad whose dark blue flowers in my garden create a dull dark spot in the border.

As with the other more exotic looking salvias, Salvia Phyllis Fancy is frost hardy so  here in the UK I will be taking measures to protect it over winter.  I think I will heavily mulch the larger of my two plants and lift the smaller one.  I have also taken cuttings which I hope are rooting well in the greenhouse.

I was lucky enough to acquire my original plant from my local HPS group where it had been introduced by Olive Mason, a real plants woman, but I know it is available from a number of nurseries including Ashwood Nursery near Birmingham.

My Garden This Weekend – 4th October 2015

IMG_2970What a lovely autumn weekend.  Misty cool mornings followed by warm sunny afternoons. I do love Autumn; its my second favourite season after Spring.

Turning leaves on witch hazel

Turning leaves on witch hazel

We were busy with some family gatherings and a need to buy a new wheelbarrow – yes my lovely purple wheelbarrow is no more. But I did find time to start the mammoth bulb planting project I have on my hands.  I would like to say that this was planned but whilst it may have started like that the reality is that whims and too many opportunities to buy from wonderful bulb merchants have led to a glut of bulbs.  I did make some notes and plans when I place my annual bulb order with Avon Bulbs but then there was last weekends purchases at the AGS Bulb Day and a lack of self-control at the local garden centre when we were buying the wheelbarrow.

Rosa 'Lady Emma Hamilton'

Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’

Continuing with my learning to love my front garden project I have planted some Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ and also Sternbergia lutea near the front door.  Also more Colchicums were added to what is sort of becoming a collection.  Both Colchicum agrippinum and Colchicum speciosum album were purchased at the Bulb Day and have been planted out in the back garden with a dash of slug pellets to keep the molluscs at bay.  For the last two years I have grown lots of small bulbs in terracotta pots but this year I have decided to plant the hardy ones out in the ground, mainly to free up space in the greenhouse but I believe a lot of them will do better in the soil.  So I have been tipping out the pots and planting out ,or for those that need some protection repotting.  I was thrilled to discover that my two bulbs of Galanthus peshmenii have bulked up and there were 5 or 6 chips/bulbs.  Hopefully they will flower before Christmas.

Nerine bowdenii

Nerine bowdenii

I wanted to get on today as I am conscious of how much I want to get done before the winter hits but as is often the case with my gardening my plans went astray.  I have been conscious that the nights are getting colder and so I wanted to get my succulents in and under cover.  However, having tried sand in the deep staging this past year I have decided that it isn’t working well for me.  It retains too much moisture despite the drainage holes and moss has been growing.  So today I spent the morning digging out the sand and lugging it up the garden to go on the very top path.  We then filled the staging with horticultural grit.  The staging is the type you use for plunge beds so the drainage is very good and it won’t hold the water as much as the sand did.  This should reduce the moisture levels in the greenhouse and keep it warmer over the winter.

Sellinum wallichianum

Sellinum wallichianum

Having played mud pies with the soggy sand for the morning and spent a delightful afternoon with my niece I quickly stored away the succulents in their new refreshed home.  Needless to say the list of jobs I wanted to do this weekend hasn’t really been reduced at all but the greenhouse was a job that I had been dithering about for ages so I am really pleased I got it done – one less worry.


The Future


So it’s the last day of Writing 101 – such a pity. Our final task is to write about the future.  As usual I drafted my post in my head on my drive home; my best writing often happens somewhere between Worcester and Malvern.  But it all became quite melancholy so I threw that virtual draft away and rebooted my inner Pollyanna and started again.

Starting in the near future I think the Writing101 course will help my blogging going forward.  I had got into a real rut and the past month with the prompts has made me think outside the box and explore different styles and approaches.  Interestingly Susan has commented that she thinks my writing style has changed; we shall see.

Beyond the immediate future I don’t have any real plans but I do have some aspirations.  I want to travel more and I am sure that my travels will somehow fit around my plant passions not just visiting gardens but also looking at plants in the wild.  I would also love to do some trips that involve seeing wildlife.  Next year I am hoping to go somewhere really special – maybe Japan and I have already made plans to go to the east of the UK to finally see Beth Chatto’s garden.  Maybe I will dabble in a little more horticulture learning by attending a course at Great Dixter or at Arne Maynard’s garden.

I will be turning 50 next March a big deal maybe but I don’t think so.  I have enjoyed my 40s much better than my 30s and definitely better than my 20s which weren’t good, so I am hoping that my 50s will continue the upward trajectory.  Over the last few years my life has entered a new phase.  My sons are adults with their own lives and I have few demands on my time outside of my work commitments, and work  is becoming more flexible, so I have the opportunity to please myself more which is really liberating and exciting.

Long term I suspect I may move house in the next 10 years.  I have toyed with placing the house on the market a few times this year but I am quite happy at the moment and I think it will depend on who buys the house next door.  There is though a bit of me that craves more space in which to indulge my hankering to plant trees and shrubs and to have a larger greenhouse but I don’t want to move too far from the Malvern hills which I have grown to love since we moved here.  Oh yes in the next I need to finish my challenge of climbing each of them.

So who knows where I will be in 5, 10, 20 years but that is what makes life interesting, anything can happen. I believe that if you plan too much you miss out on unexpected opportunities and those are the things that are often the ones that really transform your life.


Meet the Blogger: Brian of OurGarden@19

2015_05300018Today’s Writing 101 assignment requires me to do a collaborative post with a fellow blogger such as an interview or guest post.  I’m not a fan of guest posts as I think its unfair to ask someone else to write content for your blog but then you could argue that it’s a chance for a blogger to access new readers.


Anyway, rising to the challenge I decided to interview Brian of OurGarden@19.  I have known Brian and Irene for years, they live only 10 minutes from me and when I first moved to this area they ran the local Cottage Garden Society which I joined.  I was involved with the group for a few years attending many a garden talk, visit and ‘do’ with Brian and Irene.  Having left the group I lost touch with Brian and Irene and was pleased to bump into them again when Brian came to give a talk at my local horticultural society – a good talk it was too.  Brian and Irene now run a local garden group,Black Pear Garden Club, which I understand is very successful.


Having helped a number of friends with their National Garden Scheme openings this year Brian and Irene decided to open their own garden for the scheme and to accompany this Brian started to blog. The photos on this post are from my visit to Brian and Irene on the second day of their opening.


So here are my questions to Brian and his answers.

Me:.How long have you and Irene been creating your existing garden?
Brian: 10 years

Me: Given that you work as a gardener, isn’t it a bus man’s holiday creating your own garden?
Brian: It can be but it is the garden I most enjoy working in.

Me: What do you hate/dislike about gardening?
Brian: Having a bad back – (me – I can sympathise with that)


Me: Obvious question but do you have a favourite garden to visit?
Brian: Great Dixter (me – totally agree)

Me: This year you and Irene decided to open your garden for the NGS. This is quite an undertaking given the high standards visitors expect and the logistics needed. Why did you decide to open it for the NGS?
Brian: We have opened in the past for the village church. We have always supported the NGS by helping friends who open, visiting NGS open gardens and because of the charities they donate to.

Me: Did you enjoy the experience of opening for the NGS?
Brian: Yes. We both enjoyed talking to the visitors.

Me: .Would you do it again?
Brian: Yes


Me:  If yes – what would you do differently or is there anything new you plan to add to the garden for next year?
Brian: We opened as a village group of three gardens we have recruited two new gardens for next year. We are opening two weeks later to offer visitors a slightly different viewing period. In our own garden I am growing more biennials such as Sweet Williams, Foxgloves and Sweet Rocket to hopefully be flowering then.

Me:.Do you have any horticultural ambitions? Places you would love to visit or plants you aspire to be able to grow?
Brian: Giardina di Ninfa in Italy – Irene:  Japan. (me – Hello Irene and I agree with both those)

Thank you Brian for taking the time to answer my questions.  I shall look forward to visiting next year and seeing how you have change the planting though I suspect your amazing white wisteria will be over which will be sad.

You can follow Brian and Irene’s garden here

End of Month View September 2015

September 2015

September 2015

Whilst the garden might not be as floriferous (there’s that word again) as some at the end of September I am pleased with the range of texture and colour from foliage at the start of Autumn.  The borders along the grass path are looking fuller and more established than a year ago

September 2014

September 2014

I have finally cracked the left hand corner at the beginning of the path which because of its sunny location is home to lots of different bulbs but which needed some form of substance to it.  Adding the Anemanthele lessoniana on either side of the path and again further down has pulled the planting together and I hope will allow me to indulge my planting whimsies whilst maintaining a sort of cohesive look.


The workshop seems to really sit in the garden now as if it has always been there.  I can’t believe it took me nearly 3 years to work out what wood treatment to use and I am really pleased I didn’t rush in and follow my first instinct of black and orange.

September 2015

September 2015

September 2014

September 2014

The older woodland border is filling out and is looking much lusher than the same time last year.  I think the cooler summer has helped a lot. I’m not 100% happy with how this border looks, it needs some tweaking to bring it together better but it is definitely progressing.


The newer end of the border has filled out really quickly since the additions earlier this year and I think this is due to the serious reduction of the willow canopy overhead.  It is surprising how much moisture as well as light the willow blocked out.  I was worried that the increase of light would affect the plants which had been chosen for their preference of shady conditions but they have thrived and done better than ever.  I suppose it makes sense as most ‘woodland’ or ‘shade loving’ plants tend to live on the edges of woodlands rather than completely under the tree canopy.


I am pleased I moved the Paulownia to the former bog garden.  Its height has lifted this area which was looking a bit flat.  I have a lot of ferns here and I just needed some contrast of leaf shape and as I say some height.  I don’t think I am going to pollard the Paulownia as some do.  I know this would give me huge leaves which I do love but I fancy a more tree like shape.  I do think I will cut the branches back each year to see if I can increase the size of the leaves a bit.


Finally the gravel steps up the garden – one of the favourite views of my garden and place to sit.  The border to the left of the steps is the continuation of the area I plant lots of bulbs in because it is sunny and fairly well drained.  This is where lots of my treasures live and it is nice to sit on the step with a cuppa and look at the garden through the plants.

The End of Month View meme has been running for a few years now and any one is welcome to join in and use it as they wish.  There are no real rules but all I ask is that you link back to this post in yours and leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can find your post.

So I like plants…


It seems that all indications are that I am a plant addict.  There are worse addictions you could have but I do find myself wondering where this obsession with plants comes from.  There isn’t any one else in my family that I know of who is a keen gardener let alone a plant addict.  I suspect some of my interest goes back to childhood visits to my aunt and her mother’s small suburban garden.  I remember being fascinated by her tiny greenhouse which was always bursting with plants.  I can’t tell you any more than that  as the memories are more of a feeling and an image rather than anything specific.

When I was slightly older I remember rescuing iris rhizomes from a building site when my parents were extending a house.  I planted them carefully and for some reason added ashes from our fire; presumably I had overheard something on the television but I remember one of the builders congratulating me at the time on it. I also had giant sunflowers and strawberry plants all growing in a small cleared area of the derelict garden.

Through my early adult life, bringing up my children single-handed, my small gardens were always an escape but it wasn’t until I moved to this house with its blank canvas of a garden that, with fewer parenting duties, my passion for the garden was unleashed. Online encounters showed me that the wealth of plants out there was huge, and this was reinforced when I joined my local HPS group coming home from my first meeting concluding that I knew nothing.  But I need a challenge in life, and have a thirst for knowledge and one thing leads to another and slowly by surely my passion has grown.

Not only has my passion grown but it has started to be refined.  Instead of being like a kid in a sweet shop wanting everything and anything I am finding that I have particular obsessions and passions.  Bulbs, ferns, epimediums, irises all make my heart quicken and then there is interesting foliage and plants with an exotic feel.  And we mustn’t forget the thrill you get from growing something unusual or growing something difficult from seed. I could go on.

So yes I am a plant addict.  My facebook wall is covered in plant pictures, I follow many nurserymen on twitter and my shelves groan with specialist books and seed catalogues but it makes me happy.

This post was written in response to today’s Writing 101 assignment entitled Mine your Mind.  You had to look at your online interactions for inspiration.  My facebook is full of plants, my twitter likes are generally plant pictures, the most popular searches to my blog are about specific plants, my top posts are about plants.  There really is no getting away from it.

My Garden This Weekend – 27/9/15

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What a glorious autumnal weekend it has been.  I do love this time of year and I always find myself feeling like it’s the start of the year not winding down to the end.  This is the time of year when gardeners are planning for spring; planting bulbs, thinking about seeds to show so we are already planning for next year – it’s all rather positive in my opinion.

Anemone hupehensis 'Lady Emily'

Anemone hupehensis ‘Lady Emily’

Talking of planting bulbs in my bid to learn to love my front garden I decided to buy one of those large bags of big daffodil bulbs you can buy from DIY stores and plant them out in the front border.  Whilst I prefer the smaller narcissus I generally see the front garden from the house and so I think that the large daffodils will make more of an impression.  Half way through planting out the bag my trowel snapped in half!  I don’t know how long I have had it, probably at least 8 years and it has worked very hard but it is no more.  The only alternative I would find was one of those thick plastic trowels that was given away with a magazine.  It did the job eventually but it was hard work, a bit like trying to cut paper with the child safe scissors.  Anyway, a new trowel has been ordered.

Nerine bowdenii about to open

Nerine bowdenii about to open

The rest of yesterday was spent pottering around the garden.  Planting things out for next year such as some Sweet Rocket, potting up bulbs, moving succulents under cover and weeding.  It was nice to be so leisurely especially as I was home alone so no one was expecting meals at certain times.


Today I spent a happy day at the Alpine Garden Society Bulb Day.  I hope this becomes an annual event as it was so nice to hear experts talk about specific species such as crocus, colchicums and nerines and also to get the chance to buy bulbs from suppliers including Pottertons and Jacques Armand.  I came home with a lot of brown bags full of treasures from a huge Hippeastrum bulb to tiny allium bulbs – talk about David and Goliath.


Oh and I also bought Christine Skelmersdale book on Bulbs which will be interesting reading over the winter.