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

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