Six on Saturday

So excited! My immature Fox Grape, Vitis labrusca ‘Isabella’ has produced one bunch of beautiful sweet fruits which will be picked and eaten in a few days. Now I have to find somewhere in the garden to put it. It has survived in a large pot for three years, but now it is bearing fruit I will have to find it a permanent place against a sunny wall to train it as the growth next year will be substantial and it will be starved of water and nutrient in a pot.

Grasses are difficult to photograph! This beautiful Panicum virgatum ‘Purple Tears’ is a case in point. Chest high and wide, it is at its peak now with wonderful photogenic seed heads that sway in the slightest breeze but on which the camera struggles to focus! Still, you get the point!

I have stopped growing Symphyotrichum as I found them weedy and needing support, often attracting mildew and generally unattractive. This one, however, is dainty and low growing Aster ageratoides ‘Stardust’ which is a healthy, well behaved, self supporting species aster which slowly spreads to form an attractive colony of pretty white daisies in September and October. It is loved by pollinators and provides plentiful nectar just at a time when most summer flowers are going over. Very easy to propagate by division or semi-rooted cuttings, totally hardy and as one knowledgeable nurserywoman pointed out to me, hides its dead flowers with new ones!

Still going strong and showing no signs of slowing down, Diascia personata continues to provide colour in various spots in the garden. This was a leftover cutting from last year and has been in flower since May in a pot. In the ground they can get quite tall and need supporting to stop them flopping and swamping adjacent plants, but they do less damage in a pot!

Another difficult subject to photograph is this Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ which, as the name implies, shoots off its flowers in all directions in a wonderful display which goes on for weeks and weeks. Another easy late summer/early autumn border filler which goes particularly well with purple Symphyotrichum at this time of year.

Still a few cornflowers about. Was there ever a more true blue flower?

My first time growing some ginger lilies, this one is Hedychium flavescens with its spidery, heavily sweet scented blooms and spear-like dark green leaves which bring a tropical look to the late summer border. Surprisingly easy to grow from their fleshy rhizomes and undemanding in pots, they would do well in a conservatory but are hardy enough to be grown outdoors with a little winter protection.

The last few flowers on my Tradescantias before they are cut back this weekend. It has been a great first year for my new hobby which received National Collection status from Plant Heritage earlier this month. I have currently amassed over 40 species and cultivars of T. virginiana and T. Andersoniana Group which is roughly three quarters of those available in the UK but I am keen to find a way of bringing others in from the USA if and when phytosanitary rules allow.

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

One of the beautiful Tradescantias from my ever increasing collection which, fingers crossed, will become accredited as a National Plant Collection by the Plant Heritage Conservation Committee on Monday 6th September. Currently 39 hybrids and cultivars, two species and 7 identified and awaiting collection from Nurseries around the country.

This Bishop’s Children dahlia, grown from seed this year, has been getting quite a lot of attention on social media, due mainly to the colour combination I think. The peachy apricot flowers go really well against the dark foliage. Unfortunately, the blackfly have been a real problem this year and even if squished or washed off, they seem to keep coming back for more! I don’t spray with chemicals in case I also kill off natural predators like Ladybirds, lacewing larvae and blue tits.

So, here we are at the end of August and still no flowers on the Cannas! They are trying really hard but they need warmth and sunshine. Hopefully they will get both this coming week as the weather forecast is for a return of summer for a few weeks.

It’s not glamourous or even particularly attractive, but the spikey leaved Echinops ritro is a real survivor and is one of the best bee plants you can have in any garden. It thrives in poor thin alkaline soils in full sun which is why it loves my dry stony border. It is almost impossible to eradicate and spreads by underground runners which is why it is so easy to propagate from root cuttings.

Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’, the most common form of perennial rudbeckia showing why she is so popular in gardens at the moment. Bone hardy, totally reliable and yellow with a black eye, hence the common name Black Eyed Susan. Mixed with purple monarda and orange heleniums, it revels in a sunny border unfussed by soil type and moisture. Almost the perfect border plant..

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Scabious because it is beautiful and a useful bee plant but is becoming invasive due to it’s annoying habit of self seeding everywhere. This Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Derry’s Black’ is now officially a weed in my garden and needs a firm hand otherwise it swamps it’s neighbours. It gradually finds its way into all parts of the garden and must be removed swiftly and without compassion, something I am not good at.

Well there we are, six things on a rainy Saturday in August!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

A bit late again this week, too busy enjoying myself! This Dahlia, a ‘Bishop’s Children’ variety grown from seed this year, is an absolute stunner and is the texture of rich red velvet. Needless to say, the bees adore it.

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is struggling again and has barely reached three feet tall this year. I think she needs moving to moister and shadier climes in another part of the garden so I think a bit of division and rejuvenation is required come October. She is also a bit crowded out by the Verbena which I thought would be a good companion but may be robbing the water supply!

This is my latest Tradescantia acquisition, ‘Erudice’, part of the Andersoniana Group of hybrids and destined to become a favourite I think. I love the frilled white edged petals and the different blues of the petals and stamen hairs. Or am I just a geek?! Erudice was the wife of Orpheus and the flower is just as beautiful.

.This Verbena hastata f. rosea is a very persistent perennial which is easy from seed or just pot up the self seeded ones of which there are hundreds! Adored by bees and the occasional butterfly, it is self supporting, has a long flowering period and goes with almost everything except orange! I strongly recommend it as a ‘perfect for pollinators’ plant in any sunny garden and well drained soil.

Rose ‘Amber Queen’, simply gorgeous and richly scented, this is her second flush and lots more to come.

Something a little bit unusual but, in reality, just another north American daisy, Silphium perfoliatum is an extremely tall hardy perennial which towers over everything except trees! It has very odd thick, square stems and cup shaped leaves which trap water and dribble it down the stem to the roots. Completely disappears in winter and comes back bigger and better every year, A good addition to the back of an herbaceous border, provided you like yellow daisies, which I do!

And finally, my little Myrtle which was badly frosted in May has rewarded my judicious pruning with a show of late summer flowers which are much appreciated by the bees and me!

Sorry I was late. Will do better next week!

David

Six on Saturday

It’s been raining here in Cheltenham for the last two days so my photos had to be taken between showers. However, the Echinacea pallida enjoyed the welcome rain and perked up a treat. Their downward facing petals look odd but are the defining feature of this species of Echinacea. My ‘White Swan’ have all disappeared and my purpurea drastically reduced, but pallida goes from strength to strength. Looks good with the Monarda too.

I am trialling Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’ for Which? Gardening magazine to see how they perform in containers and to see which colours attract the most pollinators. Unfortunately, they seem to be attracting more blackfly than pollinators at the moment! Time to squish!

I have to confess, I was stupidly excited at seeing the first grapes forming on my little Fox Grape, Vitis labrusca ‘Isabella’, and wonder if they will actually become tasty, sweet pink grapes. Watch this space!

The Merton Thornless blackberries are turning colour a little later than usual this year, presumably due to the unseasonal weather in May, but are very welcome, particularly to the hungry blackbirds! It’s a bit of a race each morning to see who gets there first! Mind you, there’s enough to go round and you can only eat, freeze and cook so many blackberries!

Japanese Wineberries are coming thick and fast too. The bright red shiny, sticky sweet little jewels are not so prolific as raspberries or blackberries but they are delicious on our morning granola.

‘Moneymaker’ tomatoes are very late ripening, probably due to the rubbish weather, but we should have been picking for a few weeks now. Not that we have been having too many salads this year! Disappointing, but things might have been different if they had been in a greenhouse. I like to grow mine outdoors for good pollination, and in the ground rather than pots or growbags despite the risk of blight. At least a month behind though!

Well, that’s my six for today

Have a great weekend and I hope it stays dry for you.

David

Six on Saturday

Crocosmia are in full bloom now and bring a real zing to the garden. Here backed up by the dark Physocarpus ‘Diablo’ and behind a clump of Iris sibirica for support.

I love garden Phlox and have quite a few now, but they do shout ‘old fashioned’ and ‘out of date’ for the modern garden. Mine don’t last very long in flower either so it is a brief joy but I won’t be getting any more!

The Rudbeckia laciniata are huge this year, well over 2 metres, and the flowerheads themselves also appear to be larger. They seem to respond to weather conditions and vary from year to year in height and cone size.

Cheap and cheerful Liatris spicata love the rich soil in the rose garden and bring in the bees and other pollinators. One of the most underrated summer flowering bulbs in my opinion. Always ramrod straight, open from the top downwards so always look good and will grow almost anywhere in sun.

This is my ‘prairie’ border where I grow tall Leucanthemums, Helianthus and Verbena bonariensis as well as Silphium perfoliatum and a few others to create a focal point and vista from the kitchen window. It takes the border through August and most of September before I need to do anything with it.

Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’ is an odd plant. the yellow flowers don’t seem to belong to the dark foliage. It is rather persistent and can be invasive if not constrained but I like it all the same. It pops up here and there and if I don’t like where it has wandered to, I just pull it up. It doesn’t sell well at plant sales!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

‘A day late and a dollar short’ as the saying goes. I spent Saturday driving back from Sheffield and unexpectedly hit a massive diversion at Chesterfield which was only flagged up at the actual junction which was closed. Two hours and 44 miles later, I was on my way back on the M1. Not the way I hoped my weekend would start! However, Rosa ‘Jude the Obscure’ lifted my mood when I returned home. Impossibly gorgeous.

Rosa ‘Camille Pissarro’ jostling for position with Geranium ‘Rozanne’ and showing why she was named after an 19th Century French painter. I bet his apron was messy!

Talking of Geranium ‘Rozanne’, here she is in all her glory, creeping, crawling and shoving her way into every nook and cranny. One plant can easily travel 2m in all directions and neatly carpets the ground beneath roses and shrubs. However, she climbs too and often pops up amongst even the tallest flowers.

Clematis ‘Yukikomachi’ with her delicate lavender blue tints on pure white flowers is one of my favourite viticellas and is neat and tidy on a short, north facing trellis. Growing in a big pot in a shady position by the side gate which makes sure she gets admired several times a day.

This summer flowering Allium angulosum, or Mouse Garlic, is one of the best bee plants in the garden and flowers for weeks on end. It sits beside an ever-growing clump of Sapponaria (Soapwort) which is now untidy and spreading relentlessly towards the daylillies. Note to self: remove 75% of Sapponaria before it takes over! The towering white spikes of Lysimachia ephemerum mingle with the tall Veronica and Veronicastrums to add height and drama to the summer border.

Rose ‘The Pilgrim’ at her very best, like a flaky pastry tart with vanilla custard.

Have a great rest of your weekend

David

Six on Saturday

Absolutely delighted with this self sown hybrid Dahlia which has just come into flower. A seedling picked at random from one of last year’s pots of overwintered tubers. It looks good enough to be a named variety so I have called it ‘Radiant Heat’ !

I have been very impressed with these Calibrachoa this year. I have given up on the big blousy trailing petunias in favour of these mini ones and they have proved to be a great success in the baskets.

There is no blue quite like this chicory, it is unique and very easy to place. It combines well with most other colours and is tall and statuesque, a good 2m and still growing. The flowers close at night so I assume it is pollinated by bees and other day flying pollinators. It is certainly a popular pit stop in our garden!

The heat on the patio was intense this morning, reflected off the stone walls and paving, but the roses, nepeta and veronicas are revelling in it. I will be on a 2 hour watering session this evening though. Good opportunity to combine with a cold glass of Sauvignon blanc I find!

There has been some recent debate on forums about the virtues, or otherwise, of Agastache. This ‘Liquorice Blue’ has been with me for years and is a valuable addition to the early summer border but some people say it looks like a weed, having nettle-like leaves and relatively insignificant flowers, For me, its value lies in its attractiveness to pollinators, particularly bees, which find it irresistible.

Just one of many roses gracing my garden at the moment. The air is filled with scent and the sound of buzzing busy bees. This one is ‘The Generous Gardener’ which has the most wonderful pink buds opening to creamy white flowers and a delicious citrus scent.

Finally, (and I know it is the seventh image!) is the evergreen Agapanthus africanus which has only just come into flower, 6 weeks later than usual. Summer has finally arrived!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

My ‘Lockdown One’ project of creating a new cottage garden during April and May 2020 has certainly paid dividends this year. Everything has established and, with some slight alterations, is now how I want it.

This pretty pink Linaria ‘Canon Went’ was planted many years ago in a different part of the garden but is now obviously at home with its darker brother and the Verbena. It is a prolific self-seeder and ‘perfect for pollinators’.

I managed to rid the garden of the horrendous magenta Lychnis coronaria and now just have the white version which is easier to place and coordinates with almost everything. It has colonised an area of dry clay in the hottest part of the garden and its offspring are already preparing themselves for next year’s show.

My favourite shrubby Salvia ‘Trelissick’, named after the National Trust garden in Cornwall. I just love the dark calyx with emerging pink bud and creamy white flowers, a stunning combination.

Lychnis chalcedonica, more commonly called Maltese Cross, is another ‘in your face’ sort of plant for a hot border or scheme. Here backed up by the dark Pittosporum tenuifolium. Needs some support otherwise it will flop in the slightest breeze. Dramatic and much admired by quizzical passers-by.

Yet another Thompson & Morgan disaster! These begonia tubers were supposed to be ‘Apricot Shades Improved’ but have turned out to be plain red! So annoying when you nurture something into life in the cold days of February, carefully bring it on in the greenhouse in April, plant it up in the basket in May only to find it wasn’t what you had bought and expected.

Hey ho!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

Today, I thought I would introduce my collection of Tradescantia virginiana species and Tradescantia Andersoniana Group hybrids. This is something I have been working on for twelve months or so with Plant Heritage, the national plant conservation charity.

Tradescantias, or Spiderworts as they are commonly known in their native United States, were named by Carl Linnaeus to honour the English explorer and plant collector John Tradescant the Elder and his son, John Tradescant the Younger who discovered the species and many hybrids in the late 16th and early 17th century.

They are members of the family Commelinaceae, after Commelina meaning dayflower, and have clusters of several flower buds which open progressively each day over several weeks in June and early July. The flowers come in a variety of colours from white through various shades of blue, purple and pink to almost dark red.

They are very promiscuous and have spawned dozens of natural hybrids which were collected, named and brought together into a group by the American botanist Edgar Anderson in the 1920’s and 30’s and now referred to as the Andersoniana Group.

I currently have 37 different hybrids and species growing in 20 litre pots sunk up to their rim in my old raised fruit and vegetable beds. This contains root spread, makes spot watering and feeding easier and less wasteful, enables me to move them around to change the display and to lift and divide each plant when the time comes.

The beds and pots are mulched with 50mm of Strulch mineralised chopped straw to reduce germination of weed seeds and to deter slugs and snails who see Tradescantias as gourmet food. So far, it is working well and there is no damage and no weeds and I am pleased that it stays put and doesn’t blow around.

I have added a couple of Alstroemerias and Agapanthus in the corners to add some complementary colours and texture.

I hope to bring more news and pictures of the project as it progresses, the problems I am having sourcing plants from Europe after Brexit, and the virtually impossible task of importing from the USA where they apparently grow like weeds!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

I definitely didn’t buy it so this beautiful Iris sibirica must have found its way here in a pot of something else as often happens. Delightful happy accident!

Neillia affinis, or Chinese ninebark, is a tough deciduous shrub for the mixed border, often overlooked, but it does well for me.. By no means a stunner like Abelia but I enjoy the late spring pink flowers and it’s relaxed habit.

This little rock garden plant sits in this pot year after year and does this in May and June when the sun shines. As soon as the sun goes in, the flowers close up tight. I have no idea what it is called but the ‘leaves’ look like a succulent. Lives outside all year round and seems to able to take everything life throws at it.

The Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber, is in full swing and I am pleased to have the various shades of pink as well as white growing wild in the garden. It seeds prolifically in the gravel paths and margins but pulls up easily so I don’t mind. It is one of those miracle plants that doesn’t seem to need any soil or nutrient to grow. You see it billowing out of limestone walls all over the Cotswolds at this time of year and, on closer inspection, it is thriving on absolutely nothing at all!

The Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist’ continues to astonish me with it’s flower power and persistence. Possibly the hardest working plant in the garden, it literally never stops flowering!

There is a danger in writing a gardening blog, that people believe all areas of your garden must be perfectly maintained at all times which, of course, is never true! There is always a neglected corner where nature runs riot. Out of view, away from prying eyes, this is mine! I call it my comfrey patch but in truth it is my compost corner, a jungle which I hack my way through every few days. I’m sure we all have one, don’t we?!

Have a great weekend

David