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.

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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.

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.

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.

Plant of the moment: Saxifraga fortunei

My plant of the moment is the Saxifraga fortunei ‘Wada’s Form’.  I bought this plant two years ago at the Malvern Autumn Show and it has really taken off over the past year, culminating in a fantastic display of pretty little flowers.

I was surprised to discover that there are quite a wide range Saxifragas but the one I am loving at the moment is a Saxifraga fortunei.   The plant is a herbaceous perennial which doesn’t grow to more than 40cm in height.  My plant is slowly bulking up and I think it has doubled in size since last summer.  The reason I like Saxifragas so much is their lovely shiny leaves which for me puts them above Heucheras which has similar size leaves.

The real bonus at the moment are the flowers as you can see in the photo above.  My plant is covered in countless long stems each of which has around five flower stems coming off them.  The end of each stem is comprised of numerous tiny star like white flowers with yellow stigma and long white anthers. Frothy is the only way to describe it.

These Saxifragas prefer woodland  conditions  although will  be happy with partial shade so they don’t get frazzled in the sun.  They like moist well drained soil in other words they don’t like having their roots sitting in water but at the same time they don’t like to be in dry soil which has no moisture at all.

I am thinking that I might divide the plant in the Spring so I can spread it around the garden more