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.

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.

Book Review: The Crafted Garden

The Crafted Garden

I often have whimsical thoughts that I will make some ornamental delight from autumn leaves or festoon the house with winter foliage and berries for Christmas.   But do I ever create these crafty masterpieces? Well No! Of course not!  There is never enough time and even if I was to collect  winter berries and leaves I am then left wondering how to turn them into the image of a Christmas arrangement that might grace a Victorian masterpiece (seen through a frosted window!) which is in my head.

But Louise Curley has come to my rescue with her new book The Crafted Garden.  The book works through the seasons demonstrating a range of crafts that you can do with items from your garden or foraged from hedgerows and there are even items that I think I could do which might give me some encouragement to try something more ambitious.

But before we get carried away Louise starts off with tips about equipment and techniques, the sort of information you really need but don’t realise until you have got in a muddle.  There is also advice on foraging and after-care, always useful even if you think you know about these things – I don’t!

We then start with Spring crafts but it is not all about the crafts throughout the book. There are also one page articles on growing various plants; in Spring its primrose and forget-me-nots.  The crafts are quite simple and in our season of choice they range from delicate egg shells used as vases, using teacups as planting containers for small spring delights (I saw something similar at Helen Dillon’s garden with lobelia in a cup and saucer and it was really effective), to making pots out of bark.  My favourite in this section were the terrariums and I will definitely be having a go at those.  Just as there are articles on associated plants to grow throughout the book there are self-contained articles teaching you new techniques such as pressing flowers and also features on key plants/flowers for each season.

The remaining three seasons follow the same format all beautifully illustrated with Jason Ingram’s photographs.  The photographs not only show the end product, or close-ups of the plant material used but also some close-ups of  items being produced to help you understand what is required.  The instructions are written in a simple straightforward format but what makes the book more engaging than a collection of craft instructions is the introductions to each item by Louise written in a chatty and friendly way giving extra tips and advice on alternative material you can use.

The book ends with a comprehensive directory of suppliers of everything from the plants through to the haberdashery and where to find vintage items.

I particularly liked this book because the projects all seemed to be achievable; even with a limited amount of time I think you could achieve the majority of them.  I also liked that whilst some of the items had a rustic charm to them there were other items such as the driftwood planter for succulents which would look good in the most modern of homes.  Many of the items could also be made with your children if you wanted to but  whilst Louise recognises this she hasn’t compromised the book by trying to write for both age ranges.

I would recommend The Crafted Garden to anyone who has aspirations to be more crafty and to use their garden produce in more decorative ways than plonking flowers in a vase – of which I am guilty