Monday, September 16, 2013

Some summer successes

Well in just a couple of weeks I shall have to clear my summer garden in readiness for my annual trip across the great pond to my winter home in California with my partner Philip. Yesterday I took a few final pictures - only just in time, as a blustery afternoon followed and several things blew over. I gave up standing up the pots and have left them on their sides till the wind drops.

Back garden from patio doors

Front garden - could I have got more in?

Inevitably there have been successes and failures and some surprises over this year! Most plants have their season and then take a rest but a few have contributed to the garden for weeks. One of the best has been Thalictrum ichagense with pretty bronze foliage and pink flowers almost the entire summer. Erysimum 'Apricot Twist was in flower when purchased in April and is still blooming. My three pansies bought to cheer me up in coldest February have stoically flowered until I finally reluctantly threw the straggly remains away yesterday. By contrast my 'Violetta' opium poppies flowered so briefly that they really were a disappointment.

Thalictrum ichagense
Erysimum 'Apricot Twist' and calendulas

Papaver 'Violetta' - won't repeat!

Unknown pansy but what performance!

Ricinus have done well this year and my 'New Zealand Purple' have topped 2m (7ft). I guess it's been a good year for butterflies but it has also meant that there have been more caterpillars than I have ever seen, munching through everything including the Ricinus - how do they digest it and stay alive? Calendulas planted in the front garden performed amazingly well for many weeks but finally expired in August and I replaced them with a few brilliant pink New Guinea Impatiens which changed the colour dynamics but worked perfectly. See the raspberry colour in the Hebe and Heuchera? Dahlia 'Mrs Eileen' has provided some startling orange blooms but grew far taller than I expected, so has rather dominated the garden. Maybe I fed too generously? Brugmansia 'Sunset' took its time but finally rewarded me with a huge flush of sweetly scented creamy yellow trumpets.

Ricinus 'New Zealand Purple'
New Guinea impatiens - from a few late plugs

Dahlia 'Mrs Eileen'
Brugmansia 'Sunset'

A single plant of Rhodochiton has performed far better than expected and sitting in the top of a terracotta strawberry pot has helped soften the side of my tiny greenhouse. In order to clear space for the greenhouse, I had to say farewell to my Paulownia but it's come back to haunt me with a sucker which has reached 1.5m (5ft) in a very short space of time. I'll see if it overwinters and then maybe find a new home for it. A quiet little foliage plant that has  given me much pleasure is Begonia 'Gryphon' with lovely silvery foliage - a nice contrast to brighter colours and now a substantial plant. If I were here overwinter, I would pot and bring indoors as a houseplant.

Rhodochiton atrosanguineum

Paulownia sucker

Begonia 'Gryphon'

Aralia 'Sun King', an herbaceous species, should be perennial but I think the lovely black leaved Angelica 'Ebony' will prove to be a biennial. Astelia 'Silver Shadow' seems to be very similar to 'Silver Spear' but its hardiness seems to be a bit unknown. Time will tell! My 'Silver Spear' died in 2011 whereas 'Westland' survived. Fatsia 'Spiders Web' was a cautious purchase but it fitted the spot I needed to fill and I've rather come to like it!

Aralia 'Sun King'
Angelica 'Ebony' - rather crowded out!

Astelia 'Silver Shadow'
Fatsia 'Spider's Web' and no it doesn't have a bad attack of red spider mite - that's it!

Some weeks ago I wrote about my frustration with the award winning  Digitalis 'Illumination' (An Annoying Plant) which has now finally produced some flowers but the spike is small and I have to say its very disappointing - not at all like the Chelsea preview plant. Acanthus 'Tasmanian Angel' has struggled too, maybe not surprisingly with so little chlorophyll in the leaves. 'Hollard's Gold' has romped away and I shall have to move it as its swamping my Fatsia Annelise'. My white Cosmos have been a bit variable too. I had though I'd ordered seed of the short one - I think it's 'Sonata' but some have been over 90cm (3ft) tall.

Digitalis 'Illumination' - was it worth the wait?

Acanthus 'Tasmanian Angel'

Acanthus 'Hollard's Gold' and Fatsia 'Annelise'
White cosmos - I do love these!

It was good to grow a few coleus again including the old Victorian cultivar 'Walter Turner'. Canna 'Durban' has been a favourite since I first imported it from South Africa many years ago and before it became commercially dubbed 'Tropicanna'. (Real correct name 'Phasion'!)

Coleus or I should say Solenostemon 'Walter Turner'
Canna 'Durban' (Phasion) sold as 'Tropicanna'

None of these are rare plants although a few might be regarded as unusual and several are very common bedding plants. As Gertrude Jekyll is quoted as saying 'There is nothing wrong with bedding plants, only the way they are used'. Anyway they give me a lot of pleasure. Clearing the garden will be a little heart-rending but it will be good to expose some of the permanent planting that has been a bit lost under the lush summer annuals. Each year I try to make the garden more structural but there again I do love the explosion of colour that comes from seasonal planting! Next year's another year!

Incidentally - if anyone lives near Nottingham and would like any of my tender plants, they are free to a good home and I don't expect them back next year.  The following are available.

Canna musifolia ‘Grande’
Canna ‘Wyoming’
Canna ‘Assaut’
Canna ‘Prince Charmant’
Canna ‘Australia’
Canna ‘Durban’
Abutilon ‘Salmon’
Begonia ‘Gryphon’
Various named coleus
Ensete ventricosa ‘Maurelii’
Dahlia ‘Mrs Eileen’ x3
Brugmansia ‘Sunset’
Cyperus papyrus
Iresine ‘Briliantissimum’
Iresine ‘Aureo reticulata’
Fuchsia ‘Blackie’

If interested - email me!


  1. Time flies so quick and another growing season is about to close. And it's nearly time for you to go back to your winter abode again. The garden is looking so lush and wonderful, and at its peak even.

  2. Ian.

    Great Plants and a Great Garden. There is so much in a little space. Color, foliage, texture and vibrancy. Love. Keep these posts up, there great.