Thursday, July 18, 2013

New and novel or tried and tested.

Each year I struggle with knowing whether to fill my tiny garden with old favourites that I know will perform or whether to try something new. There is of course no easy answer and I inevitably find myself not being able to resist some new plants whilst still trying to cram in just a few much loved favourites that I've grown maybe many times. This particularly applies to annuals and exotics that need replanting each year. Anyway - with a mixture of successes and failures, new and old,  it still doesn't look bad, considering what it looked like when I returned home in February.  And the new greenhouse has slotted in well - you can hardly see it.

View from my patio doors - small but packed with interest and colour
Similar view just five months ago when I returned from the USA

There's a few favourites I just must have! Firstly,  castor oil plants, the various different types of Ricinus that are so easily grown from seed. I particularly like New Zealand Purple which has wonderfully rich ruby leaves overlaid with a steely metallic sheen. In a good season, they will sometimes make 6ft. Then there's the purple banana Ensete ventricosa 'Maurellii', which I also love for its lush ruby red foliage. I just wish I was able to overwinter and get a giant specimen! Canna musifolia 'Grande' is one of the fastest growing cannas and may well make a huge 3m plant by the end of the summer. I just love its lush exuberance but don't expect it to flower - in the UK its usually just a foliage plant. I also love white flowers and so grew some white cosmos again this year, the cultivar 'Purity'. I wanted them last year but couldn't bring myself to spend £3 per plant! Seed was cheaper - much! I also have a big pot of pansies bought as three small plants from the local greengrocers, on a very bleak day in February. Since then they have flowered tirelessly and are still full of bloom, although I admit I have dead-headed them. (Now that a sign of a man with too little to do - dead-heading pansies!) I was also given a seedling of Cyperus papyrus which I have grown before but I love its delicate green umbrella fronds.

Ricinus 'New Zealand Purple' - young as yet but already the lovely metallic sheen
Purple banana - it will hide the fence by autumn!

Canna musifolia 'Grande' - watch the wind doesn't catch it!
Simple but lovely - Cosmos 'Purity'

Cyperus papyrus - what made the ancient Egyptians think paper?
No idea of the cultivar but flowering bravely in the summer heat

Amongst all this are the newcomers. I have been very pleased with my Fatsia 'Spiders Web' which has nicely filled a hole in my white, black and red border. Acanthus 'Hollard's Gold has done well but is far too close to my Fatsia 'Annelise'. Less effective is Acanthus 'Tasmanian Angel' which seem to be struggling but poor thing has virtually no chlorophyll. I do hope it survives long enough to produce it's pretty pink flower spikes. A couple of years back I was attracted to some simple tall French marigolds called 'Striped Marvel' which produced a tight pot of growth smothered in small bi-colour flowers. Sadly mine are straggly and flowers are at the moment sparse. My Digitalis 'Illumination' (or is it an Isoplexis?) has made a strong green plant but as yet no sign of flowering. Impatiens omeiana overwintered well and grew vigorously in the spring but is now struggling in the heat. Shoots are also wilting and I do wonder if its susceptible to downy mildew which has been in other gardens along the street in the past.

Fatsia 'Spider's Web' - it took a while to like this plant
Acanthus 'Hollard's Gold' - looking OK but certainly not 14carot - maybe too shady?

Acanthus 'Tasmanian  Angel'

Impatiens omeiana - struggling

Marigold 'Striped Marvel' - disappointing

Digitalis 'Illumination Raspberry' - will it flower this year?

One very common but welcome addition this year has been some Calendulas that have flowered heroically, again with dead-heading. I don't think I have grown these since my childhood but I wanted to try some of the newer strains. Finally on my patio table I have a single red begonia. I think its the cultivar 'Flambouyant' which  has been in bloom since mid May and is still full of flowers.  And in case you hadn't noticed I just love bright colours!

Calendulas with Erysimum 'Apricot Twist' - this is how I like bedding - all integrated with permanent planting

Begonia 'Flambouyant'  - can red be any brighter?


  1. Funny, but from my perspective, I see nothing that's disappointing..foliage or bloom. The sheer variety you have there (like what I see from the Pacific NW in the US and Canada) is off the chart!

  2. Loving all the colour in your garden Ian! Trying new things keeps the interest going in the garden, combined with the staples and stalwarts then you're on to a winning combo. Impatiens omeiana is so prone to wilt with the heat and sun so that could be the case rather than mildew?