Who would have thought that a November Garden Bloggers Bloom Day from the UK Midlands would feature a rose in full glory. I keep posting ‘last roses’ this year and still they continue.
At the same time you have the usual seasonal flowers starting to bloom such as this Fatsia ‘Spidersweb’ which is flowering for the first time and I really like the combination of the white flowers with the variegated leaves. The plant, along with my other two Fatsias are already starting to hum with late pollinators.
Also popular with the pollinators is the Mahonia. I am really pleased to discover the flowers on this plant as I ruthlessly chopped it down to the ground probably three years ago to try to encourage more than one stem. It just sat there for months on end before this time last year there were signs of growth, and now we have the first flowers.
Like the roses the Salvias are revelling in the mild Autumn temperatures. The Salvia involucrata ‘Boutin’ is like a beacon at the top of the garden with its large bright pink flowers. I love the exuberance of this plant, it is like a Salvia on steroids and have cuttings growing in the greenhouse just in case I lose the one above if we have a cold winter.
Another half-hardy resident is this Chinese Foxglove which I acquired back in the early summer and it has been flowering non-stop ever since. It has lived in the border but as is slightly tender I have decided to pot it up for the winter and it will probably be stored in the greenhouse or cold frame. I am just trying to work out how I would propagate it apart from seed.
Also waving at me from the top of the garden are the Gladiolus murielae (formerly Acidanthera). These flowers are particularly satisfying as they are from pots of bulbs that I had discarded on the very top border as there were no signs of growth and then lo and behold in the summer shoots appeared and they have been flowering merrily away. I am going to leave them in situ, maybe with a protective mulch, to see how they come through the winter.
Finally I leave you with a more diminutive treat, Saxifraga fortunei ‘Conway Snow’, one of my alpines saxifragas. I have a bit of a weakness for these but I am keeping it firmly in check as I really don’t need any more plant obsessions!
To see what is flowering in garden bloggers gardens all around the world pop over to Carol’s at May Dream Gardens and check out the links.
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.
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.
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 vase this week contains some late summer perennials which are looking good in the garden at the moment. I have to admit to being a little mean when I cut flowers in the garden. I really hate diminishing the display and many of my plants are to young to produce lots of blooms.
This week’s bunch contains some perennial Rudbeckia which arrived in the garden, possibly via bird seed. One of the pale pinky red echinacea, a larger flowered Aster whose name is long-lost (I much ask Helen Picton which it is), two types of Crocosmia – one of which could well be ‘Sunglow’, an unknown Persicaria, Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ and some Thalictrum – probably delavayi. It seems the lesson to learn here is I need to keep better notes of what is what!
There is nothing to tell you about the vase as I am sure I have used it before for this post. It is one I bought in my early teens when on holiday in Venice and I have used it ever since. It is the perfect vase with a narrow neck which flares at the top thus keeping the stems together but allowing the flowers to spread out.
So this are the colours of my garden at the beginning of September. For more vases pop over the Cathy’s at Rambling in the Garden
This week’s vase is a simple one of Agapanthus ardernei hybrids.
I have two wonderful clumps of agapanthus, this one and a very dark blue one and they are situated in ideal conditions soil-wise. However, it seems the sunlight that reaches them, although appearing full on to me, isn’t to the agapanthus’ liking so they have been growing horizontally presumably looking for better light. I have given up trying to straighten them and made plans to reduce the neighbouring tree instead. As they are growing so horizontally it has been difficult to admire the flower-heads and with the torrential rain we have had over the last two days I decided to cut them all and bring them inside so I could enjoy them as they go over.
I rather like these white flowers, they make a nice change to the blues that seem to be more popular. I am also wondering if having the blue and white clumps together isn’t a little passée so I might think about moving one of the clumps a little further away.
As for the vase I seem to remember buying it for my mother from Woolworths for a small sum of money many many years ago when I was probably around 8 or 9. I must have reacquired it from her at some point possibly when I got my first home and was in need of a vase. The vase works well with the glass dish from my viewpoint on the sofa but in the photograph it does seem to clash a little – oh well I think it looks good.
For more weekly vases pop over to Cathy’s and have a ramble around while you are there.
I have been very remiss in participating in recent months in Cathy’s Monday meme – In a Vase on Monday. Life has been so busy at work and at home that it was one thing too many. Anyway, the various things that have been challenging seem to be moving in a positive direction towards a resolution and I have felt the weights that have weighed me down lifting. Today, I start two weeks annual leave so I thought I would celebrate by joining in again with the meme.
As I have said before when posting on this meme I have no preconceptions that I have any flower arranging abilities beyond the picking and plonking in a vase. I wanted to showcase the echinaceas and rudbeckias growing in the garden. Sadly on going to cut the rudbeckias I realised that my lack of time in the garden recently meant that all the annual rudbeckias were growing horizontally and then curving upwards which makes flower arranging, even of the plonking kind, a but of a challenge. Anyway, I have done my best and I have also included a couple of zinnias although I think they are a little lost and would probably have been better in a zinnia only combo.
So that’s my vase this week and I am going to try very hard to keep up with the meme now.
For other vases on this sunny Monday pop over to Cathy’s
It seems as though summer has finally arrived, the temperatures have definitely lifted into the 20Cs and the borders are very dry; not great given the plants I have planted out in the last few weeks such as the Echinacea above.
I was lucky to receive a gift of a number of Echinacea from Rob Cole at Meadow Farm last weekend. Rob is known for his breeding of Echinacea and he is working towards breeding some strong varieties which will do well year on year in British gardens. I have planted them out in the top of the Big Border and they have added a real bling along the grass path.
The border isn’t as floriferous as it was a few days ago due to me cutting flowers for the local horticultural show. I hadn’t planned to enter as I have been so busy at work and as Treasurer of the society I had a lot to do making up prize money etc. However, time was on my side for a change and I had time on Friday evening to put 7 entries together. I’m glad I did as I came away with two second places, three thirds, and one highly commended. Not bad for a last minute effort.
In another week this Agapanthus ‘Alan Street’ might have done well despite, like many plants in my garden, leaning distinctly to one side. I thought it would be better this year with the removal of the majority of the willow but now I wonder if it is just an effect of the slope. I think if I want to show plants next year I will have to identify them early and stake them.
Given the dryness of the borders my gardening time had to be focussed on the greenhouse which as you can see from state of the tomato plants was a good thing. I had no intention of growing tomatoes this year but my youngest had a green moment back in the Spring sowing various seeds including tomatoes, peppers, chilli and herbs for his new house. Sadly with one thing and another the move had to be cancelled and I ended up with all the plants. Now he and his girlfriend are about to rent a house I am hoping that some of the chillies and peppers might find a way to their new home but I will definitely be left with the tomatoes. I spent today rearranging everything in the greenhouse so that I can also get in, just about, and water the plants. A few nice surprises were lying in wait for me beneath the tomatoes – the first fern plantlets had appeared and the Euphorbia cuttings had taken. These are both firsts for me so I was really thrilled.
Finally I leave you with a photo of my herb window box which like the greenhouse has taken advantage of my lack of attention and is completely out of control. There are herbs in here, more of my son’s purchases for his original house, but I added a few nasturtium seeds I happened to have and they seem to have gone mad. I think they look wonderful and am considering trying the same over the prostrate rosemary next year.
And now I have to go and water the garden again… I would so like it to rain.
I haven’t posted about my garden for a few weeks due to my travels but despite the rain over the last few days I have managed to spend a few hours outside, weeding and tidying. It is always amazing how much the weeds grow when you turn your back for a week. In my absence the Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ has flowered; flowers which are welcome in the shady woodland area. This plant is especially popular with my cat as I have discovered that she likes to sleep under its leaves on a sunny day.
Another surprise was the discovering that the Cautleya spicata robusta is flowering as is the Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’ behind it. I did plan this combination so I am pleased that it is working well. The Melianthus major does seem to be swamping the Cautleya and I would have previously thought about moving one of them. However having seen Hester Forde and Carmel Duigan’s gardens in Ireland last week I have realised that I can plant more densely, although of course it will mean more management.
I decided last week that I need to add more grasses to my garden, particularly after visiting The Bay Garden. I have used grasses before but I think now I understand better how they can lift a planting, adding movement, and light. I have started with adding a Stipa tenuissima to the edge of the Big Border so it softens the edge of the border alongside the steps. Here it catches the late afternoon light and yesterday looked magical, although today it looks rather sodden. Also in this border I have added a Chocolate Cosmos whose flowers I am hoping will bob around amongst the Stipa, and a Campanula lactiflora. The Campanula is only a couple of feet tall as the nursery woman I bought it from had been experimenting with doing the Chelsea Chop on Campanulas to see how they responded. It seems a good idea as the plant is flowering well and isn’t flopping everywhere or in need of staking. I will have to remember to do the same thing next year. I have pulled up most of the spent opium poppies and Ammi majus but I have left one ammi as I would like to collect the seed – hence the messy plant draped across the plants.
I have also added a Anemabthele lessoniana to the corner of the Rowan Border. I think the bronze tones pick up on the Digitalis ferruginea, and there is a bronzey flowered day lily here which has just finished flowering. Yesterday I planted out some Oenothera ‘Sunset Boulevard’. The only problem is linking this combination with the purple phlox which I am loath to move as it does well in this position and is the start of a group of phloxes which have taken a while to establish. However, I would also like to add a Rose ‘Hot Chocolate’ to this space and this may bridge the gap between the two groups. It is a sumptuous red rose with a touch of bronze in it; I discovered it on the last day of my trip and it is definitely on the ‘get’ list – ‘get’ you note, not ‘want’!!
Aside from rushing around planting plants ahead of the rain I have finally sorted out the path behind the former Bog Garden. This path is a real problem in the winter and during wet periods at other times of the year. There seems to be a spring which runs down the slope just by the bench causing the start of the path to be sodden. The other problem is that this path is important during the winter as I try to avoid the grass path as it is very slippery. The solution has been to buy some paving slabs which almost look like cut off logs and then I surrounded them with wood chip. It looks so much neater and is far more practical now.
I leave you with a new acquisition – Gladiolus flanaganii. I couldn’t resist the flowers and it is meant to be hardy so we shall see; with my grass head on, I think it might look good with some Anemanthele lessoniana.
Oh and this is my 1500th blog post!!!!
I have just returned from a week visiting gardens around Dublin and Cork with a group of 22 led by Noel Kingsbury. I was apprehensive at first as I went not knowing anyone but our small multinational group was incredibly friendly and fun and I would love to do another trip. The main driver for booking the trip was to visit the gardens of June and her brother Jimi Blake and also Helen Dillon. June’s garden was the first garden of the tour and with the sun shining we were off to a good start. The beauty of this trip is that each owner/gardener introduced us to their garden and was available to answer questions or indeed take us on a tour.
In June’s case she was very particular that she showed us around before we were allowed to wander at leisure. The garden is carved out of sloping field by the house and June is very keen on the relationship between the garden and the house with the lines of the raised borders relating to the lines of the house, its brickwork and its associated out buildings. The main garden area is made up of 9 raised beds each with its own loose theme. I rather liked the bed nearest the house, I think due to the vibrant colours, something which appears to be lacking in my own garden at the moment. I liked the contrast of the achillea with, I think, the purple salvia or it may be veronicastrum. Not only do the colours contrast but also the spires contrast with the flat heads of the achillea. Through the border are actea simplex whose foliage adds some depth to the planting.
However, I really didn’t like this border at all. The poppies had come up unexpectedly and June had decided to leave them but I found them too dense in their planting, giving something of a stationary feel to the border which for me jarred with other planting in the garden especially the stipas. I also find the bare stems distracting.
From the central path you are led up to the slope above. As you can see the border nearest the wilder slope has a significant amount of grasses planted in it, stipa tenuissima featured heavily, and this provided a blurred move from the formal garden to the wilder area. You can also see a few of my fellow travellers who will no doubt appear on a regular basis in this and future posts. On the slope is Thekla, who gardens in Germany and Italy. Then we have Noel and Vasily and his wife, Nadezhda, from Russia, and in the hat Ines from Argentina. Both Ines and Nadezhda are garden designers.
June leads you up to this point at the perimeter of the garden so you can see how the formal planting fits into the whole scheme. The trees in the borders are Aralia echinocaulis, collected by June’s plant hunting brother Jimi Blake. The Aralia reminded me of data palms which added to the feeling that the formal area of the garden was an oasis of colour nestling at the foot of the slope.
The sleepers added structure and a sense of purpose to the wide path and I particularly liked the way they curved at the ends. June had acquired the sleepers with the curve and had used them in this way to discourage visitors from walking in the long grass.
You descend down the slope to see the far end of the borders and also a formal pool (just in the lower left corner). It was clear that the pool is meant to be a surprise to the visitor and it was interesting that June had given a lot of thought to have the garden was viewed by the visitor particularly from outside of the formal area. This was an approach we encountered a couple of times during our trip.
The border you can see to the left of the photo above was my favourite. There was more substance to the planting with interesting contrasting foliage. We also liked the way the lower foliage had been stripped from the bamboo stems allowing a view through the plant to planting beyond.
Here is the pool I mentioned above and I can now introduce you to Ginette, a garden designer from Montreal in Canada – adding French to the many languages being spoken. Personally I struggled to engage with the pool; for me it doesn’t sit well in the space but I have felt the same with other similar pools in gardens so maybe its just a landscape style that doesn’t appeal to me at all. I suspect the idea is to provide an area of calm in contrast to the floriferous borders. The ‘tree’ on the slope at the end of the pool is a dead elm which has been planted upside down to create a sculpture accent.
You can see from the photographs above how densely planted the borders are and this was a common theme throughout the gardens we visited. Of course these are gardens of real enthusiasts who put in significant time in their gardens often with little help. In June’s case there were a couple of helpers who attend maybe one day a week with June doing the majority of the work.
From June’s garden I started to think about the denseness of planting – good and bad, and how grasses can add a sense of movement and softness to the border. I also liked the vibrancy of the colour palette and I want to look at improving this in my garden.
With the arrival of the next group of visitors we bordered our coach and headed off to Jimi Blakes’ up the garden for lunch and a tour of his garden – a post will follow soon.