Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian) in all three common colours
Now that I have got back in the stirrups again (also see later racing metaphors) I thought I would do a quick tour of new stuff which I like and you may find of interest.
Centranthus ruber has the confusingly common name of Red Valerian and although in the same family, Caprifoliaceae, has nothing whatsoever to do with real Valeriana officinalis from which the root extract has been made into a sleeping potion for centuries. It literally grows like a weed here in the limestone walls of the Cotswolds and most gardens ‘suffer’ it. I have managed to collect the three main colours of dark pink, lilac pink and white which are all reliably perennial and do not hybridise so I guess they must be specific varieties.
Sweet Pea ‘Sir Henry Cecil’
Picking up the reins with Sweet Peas again this year, I was pleased to acquire ‘Sir Henry Cecil’ which I have trained up my trellis (okay, that’s the end of the racing jokes) and I think it is destined for greatness just like the man himself. In Sweet Pea circles this frilly Spencer variety is known as a ‘flake’ due to its splashed colour veining and it has outstanding scent. Definitely one to go for in my opinion.
Thalictrum flavum subsp. glaucum (Meadow Rue)
The Thalictrums are looking wonderful this year and none more so than the frothy flowers of the glaucous leaved flavum. They are 2m tall and kept upright at the back of the border by their more sturdy companions in front and below and the white Rose Bay Willowherb, Epilobium angustifloium ‘Album’ alongside. The other Thalictrums in my little collection are also performing particularly well interplanted with Hostas. Incidentally, I can strongly recommend the tip of putting slug pellets out on Valentines Day to kill off our overwintered slimey friends which then halts the second wave later on. My hostas are virtually untouched.
Salvia ‘Hot Lips’
It’s going to be a good year for Salvias. Already the small leaved microphylla reds are out with ‘Hot Lips’ and ‘Royal Bumble’ covered in flowers and bees.
My favourite pale creamy yellow ‘Trelissick’ loves the position I have found for it in my rich but well drained south facing border.
Salvia patens ‘Blue Angel’
My favourite patens variety grows to 30″ and extends its spikes of beautiful gentian blue flowers all summer and into early autumn. I also have Cambridge Blue, Pink Ice and Chilcombe but I prefer the strong colour of Blue Angel. This one stays in the ground over winter and comes back better every year, so not as tender as the books would have you believe. It sits next to a Canna indica which also overwinters here.
Another first for me this year is Briza maxima or Greater Quaking Grass which is a hardy annual grown for its attractive seed heads which apparently look like rain drops in the sun and are used in flower arrangements. Early days for mine but watch this space!
In the fruit garden the little Japanese Wineberry bought at Barnsley House last year is covered in tight clusters of flowers which I am hoping will all turn into fruit. The bees are certainly all over it so that is a good sign. By nature it seems to prefer to scramble about like a bramble with long arching stems which root as soon as they touch the ground, good for making new plants but not for picking fruit.
So I popped it inside an obelisk and made it grow vertically which seems to have had the desired effect. All the fruit should be visible and pickable and it is contained in a manageable space. In the winter I will haul the obelisk off over the top, cut out the fruited canes and reposition the obelisk over the new canes. Definitely a job requiring leather gauntlets!
I have moved my autumn raspberries to make room for more veg and this year it is peas, climbing French beans, celeriac and one courgette. The peas are ‘Twinkle’ and ‘Hurst Green Shaft’ and we picked our first pods this weekend.
The beans are ‘Monte Cristo’, ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ and ‘Ryder’s Coco’ which are favourites along with Cobra and Blue Lake. I have followed a tip from an allotment holder and planted some nasturtiums with the beans. The nasturtiums attract the blackfly and the beans are untouched. It works!
The celeriac is another vegetable we discovered last winter for the first time. It always reminded me of turnip or swede to look at, both of which I hate, but actually it is delicious. It makes great mash, on its own or mixed with potato and roasted celeriac chips are just wonderful. It tastes mildly of celery and is an ugly swollen root but is easily peeled and sliced. I am growing the variety ‘Brilliant’ which has pure white flesh. It needs a long growing season, at least eight months, so the tiny seed was sown in early February in heat, transplanted into modules in early April and planted out in mid May. The seed is really small, like dust, and I had a damping off problem and lost 8 plants in March. However, 16 plants are growing away well now in the old raised bed where the raspberries were.
Just one courgette plant this year. We always have too many! And this year it is a yellow one so we can see them!
That’s all for now. More updates and news coming soon. I am enjoying my blog again!