My Garden This Week

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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.

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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)

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'

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.

Salvia 'Trelissick'

Salvia ‘Trelissick’

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'

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.

Briza maxima

Briza maxima

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!DSC_0044

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.

Japanese Wineberry

Japanese Wineberry

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!DSC_0053

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.DSC_0059

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!DSC_0054

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.DSC_0058

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!

My Garden This Week

011The pots of tender Agapanthus which languish at 10°C in my friend Paddy’s heated greenhouse all winter came out a few weeks ago in bud and are now gracing the south facing front of the bungalow. They attract admiring glances and some longer lingering looks from those who either don’t know what they are or who do know and just want to savour them. We split them two years ago from 2 pots to 4 which has done them good. The biggest one has 8 flower spikes this year.078

We have been picking Sweet Peas for two weeks and now get armfuls every day. This is ‘Painted Lady, one of the oldest and most fragrant of all. 075                                                  But my favourite at the moment is the one I bought on a whim because it’s name is also my wife’s, ‘Cathy’. She is stunning (and the Sweet Pea!) in a shade of creamy white with a wonderful scent and is a strong grower, the tallest of the 20 varieties so far and very floriferous.

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The raised bed behind the sweet peas is full of Sweet Williams grown from a packet of seeds last year. Like a lot of biennials they looked half dead from October to March but perked up when the sun finally came out and the weather warmed up. Now they are in full flower and getting picked every day for the house. They have a light sweet scent and last well in the vase. Behind them, the blackberry Rubus fruticosus ‘Bedford Giant’  planted last year is in full flower and covered with bees all day so pollination is assured. 058                                        The flowers themselves are huge, almost like white dog roses, so I am expecting equally huge fruits. The ‘Black Satin’ and ‘Ruben’ are weak by comparison and a big disappointment. The ‘Bedford Giant’ takes some managing due to it’s vigour but looking at the sheer size of the stems and side branches and the number of flowers, it should be worth the effort…and the scratches!042

The little north american woodlander, Gillenia trifoliata bought at Gardeners World Live last year and planted in my shady area has delighted me with strong growth and the dainty pure white flowers again after a shaky start. I hadn’t appreciated this was an herbaceous perennial and when it disappeared in the winter I thought it had died. It looks like a sub-shrub with woody stems but is not. Everything dies back to the ground.

Hemerocallis fulva

Hemerocallis fulva

The inherited orange day lily, Hemerocallis fulva, is exceptionally tall this year, a good 150cm and covered in masses of buds. It must have enjoyed the division from a huge clump into several smaller ones two years ago.

Osteospermum jacundum

Osteospermum jacundum

On the edge of the drive in full sun and dry poor soil, the Osteospermum jacundum is pushing it’s many heads to the sky and looking glorious. The pinky white flowers shine and can be seen for a hundred metres down the road!

Front border with Salvia greggii 'Royal Bumble'

Front border with Salvia greggii ‘Royal Bumble’

This is my first year with shrubby salvias and so far they haven’t disappointed. The current red ones will soon be joined by purple Salvia ‘Christine Yeo’ and even darker purple Salvia greggii x serpyllilifolia.

Sysirinchum with Lysimachia and Geranium

Sysirinchum with Lysimachia and Geranium

I love it when combinations work well and these three seem to be in perfect harmony. The pale creamy yellow of Sysirinchum striatum with that well known spreader Lysimachia cilliata ‘Firecracker’ and supported by tall pale blue Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’.

Thalictrum rochebrunianum

Thalictrum rochebrunianum

And finally, my current favourite plant in the garden, for the second year running, the gorgeous Thalictrum rochebrunianum. Five feet tall with strong glaucous foliage and the most exquisite flowers of lilac petals and bright yellow stamens.

Plenty more to come next week!