Salvia sclarea var. turkestaniana


I had a few comments on my last post about the Salvia and how big it was etc. So I have done some research. The plant is also known as a European Sage or Clary. Its a biennial and grows to about 3ft.

It certainly grows very quickly and I was surprised how big it grew. Back in March I did a post which included the Salvia. JAS pointed out at the time (see comments) that the Salvia would dwarf my Lobelia Cardianalis and it turns out he was right but then he has far more idea about these things that me.

Anyway, I have also found out that the oil from the plant is made into Clary Oil and is used in perfume making. It can be used to make wine but I dont think I will give that a go. The leaves can be used to make an infusion to help with stomach and kidney disorders and my personal favourite, the leaves can be crushed in coconut oil to cure scorpion stings – not something I have a great need for here in the West Midlands.

Taking all this into account I am become more favourably inclined towards this plant.  I dont think the flowers have quite reached their ultimate goal.  What you can see at the moment are really a sort of bract and there are tiny flowers nestling in between them. 

I think I will have a go at collecting some seed this year and then deciding if I want to see if I can keep the current plants over winter.  They definately need to be towards the back of the border or near the middle.




The dreamy spires of Malvern


Waundering round the garden this evening I noticed how many of the plants had spire like flowers. This is my solitary lupin plant , the only one I have managed to keep alive of more than one year.  I have been told that they only last a few years so I’m going to attempt to grow some from its seeds this year.

This is selection of my taller spires – from the left: A floxglove, I think it is Alba which is just over 5ft tall. Then a traditional foxglove which is a little more subtle and smaller in stature.  I am trying to keep them apart as I am hoping the Alba will self sow.  Finally in this line up is a Delphineum – its around 7ft tall.  I dont know what type it is my son bought it for a £1 about 3 years ago at a plant sale and it had no label but it comes back year after year and the slugs seem to leave it alone which is a bonus.

On a completely different scale as the spires of this Veronica.  This is the best it has been in the 4 years I have had it.  The ants seem to like building a nest under it and I really dont know how to get rid of them.  This year though it’s looking lovely.


Finally my favourite flower in the garden at the moment.  This is a form of Evening Primrose.  I acquired the seeds through the CGS a couple of years ago and as ever with these types of seed distribution schemes the labelling was a little vague.  The first part of the name is normally right but the second word often seems to lose something in translation, so when I look them up on the RHS plant finder there is a big fat ‘No’. I thought this was going to be the typical evening primrose but it is only 3-4ft tall and each plant has lots of stems.  I love the contrast between the creamy flower and the burgandy stems.  I had planned to pull them out after this year as I was using them as fillers but I think they will definately be staying, though they may have to move nearer to the front of the border as they arent as tall as I had anticipated.

So those are my dreamy spires – why not do  post about yours?!

Me 1 – Shrub 0

This afternoon I decided that as I had planted out most of my seedlings, planted up my hanging baskets, more or less got on top of the weeding that it was time for me to tackle the bank at the back of the garden and in particular this shrub which I have hated since I moved here 5 years ago.  I cut it back hard early in the year to prevent the birds nesting in it and discovered that it had layered itself and wasnt just one root – at which point I found other things to do!

The shrub in question is the small leaved one by the fork.  I think it might be a Lonicera but I’m not really sure.  Its one of those shrubs that landscape contractors love to plant around car parks or in retail parks.  Tough and will look after itself.  Well enough was enough it was not contributing anything and taking up alot of room.  I set too with my fork and managed to quickly up root lots of the satellite plants – then I got to the mother plant and there was not way my fork would be good enough.  Time to call in the A team – my parents.  They arrived 20 mins later (they live in the same town) armed with mattock and axe and Dad and my youngest set to.  Now the area looks like this…..

I still have some small roots to remove and I need to weed the whole area and give it a good fork through but this has given me a lovely new area to plant up with partial shade loving plants.  Such joy!


Sedum Hair-cut

I took this photo as I was so relieved I hadnt killed my Sedum.  About 3 weeks ago I decided to give Tracy DiSabato-Aust advice in The Well-Tenderd Perennial Garden to give your perennials a haircut so that they dont become leggy and flop eveywhere.  “Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ for example, cut be cut in half  when 8 inchs tall or it can be pinched.” “Pruning also helps prevent flopping on plants growing in partial shade or very rich soils”.  This particular sedum is growing in partial shade and on very rich soil and flops everywhere.  So in a moment of madness while tidying up I chopped it down by half – well most of it.  I used some secateurs and as I chopped away I started to panic that I was being too drastic so I bailed out at the last moment and left a few stems.  I wished now that I had taken a photo when I had finished but it looked so awful that I couldnt look at it.  Anyway, I am pleased to say that it was the right thing to do after all.  As you can see from the photo above the plant is looking very lush with lots of growth.  The leaves in the lower right hand corner are originals and escaped the chop, whilst the rest are new growth.  This has given me the courage to re-read Tracy’s book and to see what other plants might benefit from this treatment.

A month of Irises

May is a month of Irises in my garden.  The show starts with this gorgeous blue bearded iris.  I’m not sure where I acquired it from or what it is.  I think it might be one I rescued from work when they were clearing the borders by my office.

This is then followed by Langport Wren – which is a gorgeous sumptious burgandy.  Its just so rich. It has done amazingly well in the garden considering how damp the soil can be in the winter, due to the clay.

This lovely peachy coloured bearded iris follows Langport Wren – again I dont know what type it is but I  love the subtlty of it.  This has now got to the stage where it needs dividing so when it has finished flowering, I plant to divide it up and put some in the front garden.  The soil is similar in the front garden but not so wet and is more sun baked so I hope the Irises will do well.  Their leaves should provide some much needed structure during the winter.

As well as bearded Irises I have a  yellow flag iris in the pond.  It hasnt flowered before and I have had it probably 3 years. So I was really pleased to see this in flower today.

I also have some Siberian Irises which I really like.  There is a pale blue and yellow one but I can get a photo of it at the moment unless I get into the pond to reach it!  I have have a dark blue one that I acquired some years ago and which has been split a number of times.  It seems very happy by the pond and its leaves add a nice contrast to the broader leaves of the Ligularia, Hostas and Anemones.

Whilst I love the decandence of the bearded irises with their blousey flowers I think I prefer the Siberian Irises understated elegance.  They are so much easier.  They dont need their rizomes bakes in the sun so can muddle along with other plants crowding them and they dont dominate the planting scheme.  I liken the bearded irises to one of those awful overdressed women who you dread coming to a party as they will expect to be treated like a queen and will demand alot of attention,  whilst the Siberians are more like those women who seem to have to make no effort to look amazing and are so easy to get on with.  Oh dear I think I have been abit harsh on the old bearded irises – never mind, I love them really



The varied world of Aquilegas

I used to be a bit sniffy about Aquilegas but I am beginning to realise what a diverse group they are and how useful they are at this time of the year between the spring flowers and the summer show.

I started out like many gardeners with some inherited Aquilegas in my garden which were Ok but abit bland – you know the smudgy pinky white ones.  The ones above are quite a decent pink, although the flower is somewhat squat – I think it is called Strawberries and Cream (though I could be wrong)

I then grew some from some seeds I got from a magazine and realised just how easy they were to grow from seed – probably the reason there are seedlings everywhere!  The first ones I grew are in the photo below and I think this one is called Magpie


Then last year I acquired some more seeds again free with a magazine, I’m such a cheap skate! These were different some sort of hybrid and I just love them.

You cant see it in the photos above but the flowers really go into a point behind (I’m sure there is some horticultural term for this).  I love the contrast between the centre of the flowers and the outside petals.  There has also been extra excitement as these havent flowered before so I didnt know what colours they would be.  I have acquired another packet of these seeds and there are some strong colours on the picture so I will grow these and then I will select the ones I really like and give away the rest.


Vegies in pots

So far my experiment of growing Broad Beans and Sweet Peas in a pot seems to have been working.  When I first planted it up I also had Pak Choi in the pot but I have harvested these now.  Having been successful so far with this, I have decided to try planting Sweet Corns in a pot.  My son wanted to grow them and as with all kids having sowed them and pricked them out – he lost interest.  So I now have 12 Sweet Corn plants to find homes for.  Some are in the flower border but I still had some left over.  As the books say you should plant them in blocks as opposed to lines to aid pollination I thought putting some in a big pot would be good.

I have also added Calendulas, Bidens and Alfonsa hopefully to disguise the bottom of the plants.  I have no idea if this will work but its worth a try and you never know it might be quite attractive.  The pot looks abit bedraggled as it has been raining for 4 days now apart from a couple of hours this afternoon when I rushed around potting up things.

My tomatoes in the greenhouse are doing well.  I planted them about a week and half ago using these grow-pots . I havent watered them since I planted them as per the instructions which said not to water for 2 weeks and they are positively thriving.  The reason you dont water them for 2 weeks is to allow the roots to seek out the water you have already added to the grow-bag.  So far I am quite impressed.


Finally here are my strawberries which I grow in a hanging basket.  I did this for the first time last year and had quite a good crop.  You can just see the baby strawberries appearing.

My garden on a wet and windy May bank holiday

Surprise surprise it is raining on an English bank holiday!  Before the rain really set in I took some pics of my back garden so here is a tour.

This is the patio as you come out of the kitchen.  As you can see there are lots of seedlings waiting to be planted out but its just too wet! My garden slopes up from the house, you can just see a brick wall in the top right hand corner and this runs the length of the patio and is holding the garden up.  So the view from the patio of my garden is like this at the moment….

The purple and pink spikes are, I think, Verbascums.  I acquired some seeds through my gardening club but they were labelled a mixture so I wasnt sure what was going to come up. At first I was disappointed at their height but the colours are lovely.  I’m not sure if they are Bi-annual or not so I will try and remember to collect some seed just in case.  From the patio you go up some steps and this gives you a different view of the same area

I have a central lawn area – well grass, daises, clover etc – lawn is rather a grand term for it.  The ‘lawn’ is in a sort of 8 shape – I was attempting to get some interest but I’m not sure if I like it now.  I put the borders in 2 years ago so this is still all very early days. 

This is what I call my pond border – the pond is behind it.  I love the Ligularia though it seems to be getting very large.  I’m not sure if you can divide them and when I should do this.  The large leaves plants to the right of the picture are Inula hookeri.  Again these were grown from seeds from the club.  I knew they grew tall but I hadnt realised the leaves were so big – they are over a foot long and are swamping my new scared bamboo so at least one of them will have to move.  You can just see the Grecian Urn that I put in the border as a focal point.  Not too much of a focal point at the moment but it does improve the border in the winter.

This is the view from the other end of the border across the pond.  It is a wildlife pond, so no fish but we have frogs.  Recently, if you sit by the pond quietly you can hear them ribbiting (not sure how you spell the noise they make!).  The plant in the pot is another Ligularia which I have yet to find room for and it was looking sad as it wasnt wet enough so I have put it on the slope into the pond.

From the end of the pond you go round into the ‘woodland area’.  I have posted about this before so I wont repear myself.  I have struggled with the area in front of the fence since the ground is full of tree roots from my neighbours trees.  There are a number of small shrubs in there which seem to be doing OK now so we will have to wait and see.  I do wonder though if I will have to winded the border at some time.  I dont like thin borders and this is thin!!

You then look back across the garden towards the area that appeared in the secnd photo.  The slope in the picture isnt me holding the camera funny this is the slope of my garden!!  I am particularly pleased with the border at the top of the picture it is really lush and pretty at the moment, lots of purples.  Soon these will be replaced with yellows and blues.  I am still working on the area in the foreground.  The soil is particularly heavy here – lots of clay but I’m working on it.  The theme for this area is white, pink and a bit of red to liven it up.

So thats my back garden.  I have to say that the photos arent too bad considering the weather conditions and looking at them I am a little happier with the overall effect in the garden although there is still masses to do – isnt there always.  This is our 5th summer here.  The garden was empty except for a huge conifer when we moved in and a few shrubs so I more or less had a blank canvas.  I didnt really get going on it until 3 years ago as I was finishing my degree, working full time and raising two kids on my own.  Now I have completed the degree I have more time and the kids being older and more independent helps as well.

Still raining – I might go in my titchy greenhouse and pot up some more seedlings.




Gro-pots – is this the answer?

I wasnt going to bother with Tomatoes this year after a complete failure last year, but what would summer be without nurturing tomato plants and some free seeds appeared with AG magazine so what the heck lets have another go.  For the last couple of years I have grown my toms in pots so this year I thought I would revert back to a grow-bag to see if that worked better.  But I spotted these wizzee things called Gro-Pots which are meant to ensure that your tomatoes (or cucumbers etc) receive sufficient water.  I duly ordered 3 and these strange round plastics things arrived. 

Today was the day when I decided to make some room in my titchy greenhouse and to set up the gro-bag. Due to my weakness for growing things from seed this was not as simple as it seems and involved moving racking and trays of seedings out and finding space for them on the ever vanishing patio. 

Space found the grow-bag was put in place, surprisingly it looked quite small when in situ which made me feel as though the greenhouse was quite big.  I suppose its that age old thing of fill a room with furniture and stuff and when you empty it out the room seems much bigger than you remember.  Anyway, having put the bag in place you line up your 3 rings and then taking each on in turn, you twist them backwards and forwards so they cut a hole in the plastic.  This was not as simple as it was made out to be and I ended up resorting to ripping the plastic.  You then push each ring into place, top up the central section of each one with more compost, plant your tomato – not forgetting to anchor the string under the plant – very clever, not thought of that before.  You soak the central section and then fill up the outside ring (which takes about 4 pints). 

The instructions then say you dont water for two weeks to allow the roots to seek out the water – this seems abit harsh so I will keep an eye on my babies and if they start looking about droopy I will intervene.  The once they start growing you fill up both the outside ring and the inner ring each day.  The idea is that the water in the outer ring soaks into the growbag as it drys out.

Well we will have to wait and see.  I can see the logic behind it and also by putting the ring on top of the grow bag you give the plant extra compost and stability, but I suspect that the weather will also have something to do with the end result!

Weird and wonderful update

Several days ago I posted about some Weird and Wonderful plants in my garden.  I can provide an update.  First of all the Arum might be weird but it isnt that wonderful as you can see

As you can see the flower hasnt opened properly and it is very dry.  I suspect that due to the heat the last week of so the flower hasnt developed properly.  As you can see it is right next to my greenhouse so maybe it has also suffered from some reflected heat.  The soil is quite moist and home to at least one frog but I think I will move the plant to a damper and shadier part of the garden to give it another chance next year.

I was also wondering about the name of this plant which has the most wonderful scent

I spotted one of these at the Malvern Spring show on Sunday and now know it is a Maianthemum racemosum – fantastic.  Must try to learn how to pronounce it now!