I’m Back!

I was just wandering around my garden at 9.30pm with a glass of wine thinking “I wonder if I should post something on my blog? Has it been too long? Will the world forgive me for finding golf and fly fishing again? Does my garden still merit a mention or two? And then this Turkish sage, Phlomis russeliana, grown from seed three years ago and only just performing well and glowing in the twilight reminded me why I love my garden so much and why I like sharing it with others. So, here I am again! Old camera, new laptop, significant changes to show and tell, ready for a season of goodies.

Night Scented Flocks

 Zaluzianskya capensis ‘Midnight Candy’ (Zal-oo-zee-AN-skee-uh) Night Phlox


I read about this remarkable little annual from South Africa earlier this year and bought some seeds to try. It was said to be one of the most intensely fragrant flowers which could fill a room or patio with its strong scent in the evening. During the day it sits quietly with its flower buds tightly closed in little purple capsules waiting for nightfall. When the sun goes down the flowers begin to open and the scent begins. The fragrance intensifies as the evening wears on and when it is totally dark the pure white flowers fully open to reveal their true purpose, to attract moths and other night flying insects to pollinate it in the course of drinking its rich nectar.014

The scent is rather sickly sweet, it reminds me of pink bubble gum. I read another description which was ‘candied talcum powder’ so you get the idea! For a small plant it packs a powerful punch and just a small pot is enough. If you like sweet scent give it a try next year. It’s easy to grow and maintain, likes lots of water and a sunny spot. Like many flowers that open and close with the sun, it seems to last for weeks and doesn’t need constant dead-heading. Eventually it produces lots of seed to keep for the following year.


Leopards spotted in Cheltenham!


Belamcanda chinensis, the Leopard Lily or Blackberry Lily.

This is my plant of the day, easily grown from seed and flowering in it’s first year. A short, clump-forming rhizomatous hardy perennial with blue-green sword-shaped leaves and tall erect stems bearing yellow-orange flowers with orange-red to burgundy speckles in summer followed by clusters of large, black seeds.007

As the flowers begin to open they seem to be twisted. I have yet to see one unfurl itself from this position but I imagine it must hurt! Appearing to be dainty and delicate, this plant is reputed to be invasive in the southern states of north America where it apparently colonises wetland areas. That must be quite a sight but, fortunately, highly unlikely in the clay soil of Cheltenham!


Inula in your face

031Anyone who has read this blog in the last week or so will know how pleased I am with the Inula helenium that is in full flower right now. It must be the little boy in me that wonders how a seed, no bigger than a grain of sand, could become such a large, sturdy and colourful plant.035

A plant adored by bumble bees032

And now at nearly 1.8m tall, and 1.2m wide, the most outstanding plant in the garden by a mile!

First Sweet Peas!

003I don’t know why, but the first Sweet Peas of the year just make me smile!007

The stems are always longest and strongest on the early ones and these are no exception. Sown on 31 October last year, overwintered in a cold frame and planted out at the end of April, these will be followed by a further 20 plants sown on New Years Day which are now only 2 weeks behind! The March sown seeds were given away and swapped. I hope they get the same pleasure from them that we do.

Plant of the Day

I went into the greenhouse this morning and was mesmerised by the sun catching the last few flowers of the beautiful and elegant Salvia patens ‘Cambridge Blue’. Easy to grow from seed but only half hardy, I am going to try to keep this one going through the winter. Apparently it forms a tuber which must be kept frost free and on the dry side.  I thought it was worth sharing.


The Dangers of ‘Help Yourself’

In my recent post on Lily Landini I mentioned the imminent white and pink trumpet flowers of Lily ‘Triumphator’. Well………..here they are!

Not ‘Triumphator’!

Not quite what I expected! Another bulb is still to flower so let’s hope the mistake was not repeated twice!

It is very irritating when something like this goes wrong but I only have myself to blame. In typical trusting fashion, I relied on the supplier to have the right bulbs in the right boxes when I helped myself from the enticing selection on display at the Hampton Court show. Someone probably hesitated, changed their mind and put a bulb back in the wrong box which I then picked up. I would not have purchased a lily this colour but, despite not knowing it’s name, I will find it a place in the garden.


The second bulb opened today and to my relief…it was ‘Triumphator’!

Lily ‘Triumphator’

It is amazing to see the huge green bud one day and this huge trumpet flower the next, one of the wonders of nature.

How could any pollinating insect resist!

Loaded with pollen, this giant flower sits patiently waiting for some lucky insects to pass by.


Lofty Lofos

A friend kindly gave me a tiny self-sown plant in August and told me to ‘have a go’ with it, which usually means it is going to be difficult. Not this one! Lofos, or more accurately Lophospermum erubescens (meaning reddening or blushing), was formerly called Asarina and, confusingly, is sometimes  also called Maurandia erubescens.

Creeping Gloxina #2

Creeping Gloxina

It has the common names of either Climbing Foxglove, Creeping Gloxinia or Twining Snapdragon depending on which part of the world you come from. Originating from Mexico, but now also common across the Mediterranean, it is a beautiful climber with felty heart shaped leaves and mid-pink flowers like foxgloves, which appear from July to October. I believe this is the species form but there are creamy white and dark red cultivars too which may be hybrids. I have read that they work well in hanging baskets as they fall as well as climb.       I have been amazed at it’s rate of growth. From a nondescript 9cm pot plant it has shot up to the top of a 5′ cane in just a few weeks and two flowers opened today! I can’t believe it will keep up this phenomenal growth much longer and with the nights drawing in and getting colder it will surely stop soon.

Species: Asarina erubenscens Family: Scrophula...

Species: Asarina erubenscens Family: Scrophulariaceae Image No. 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In summer, this vine will climb to about 10′ using its leaf stems to attach, and does well in full sun or part shade. It needs a moist soil though, so it mustn’t dry out.  It is a half hardy perennial and apparently forms a tuber, which can be dried off and stored over winter, but judging from the number of self-sown seedlings in my friend’s greenhouse, it is also very easy from seed!  It should be happy to grow as a houseplant over the winter if you have the room, or in a heated conservatory. I haven’t got either so it will have to take it’s chances in the greenhouse cuddled up to the cannas and dahlias!

‘Allo ‘Allo! Allouise

Just in case you were wondering, the new header picture for my blog is Chrysanthemum ‘Orange Allouise’ bought as a plug plant from Sarah Raven in April 2011 and propagated into 5 further new plants this March from basal cuttings. It is utterly gorgeous, like dripping creamy butter, and I hope to keep it going for many years to come. The header picture has been cropped a little so here is the full shot with water droplets after a shower of rain.

Big, Beautiful Boy!

This beautiful China Aster, Callistephus chinensis, deserved a posting of it’s own just because of it’s glorious deep purple colour. Definitely worth remembering and sharing. It was grown from a packet of seeds called ‘Big Boy Mix’ and certainly lives up to it’s name with strong, 90cm straight stems which make wonderful cut flowers. Oh, that colour!!