Sunday, June 29, 2014

Successes and Serendipity

I'm a sucker for new plants and to keep my garden fresh, always buy a few new plants each year, often not having any idea where I am going to put them when I bring them home. So a quick review of new and previously enjoyed (as they say in the jargon) plants. Firstly this year's new ones. I have long been an admirer of the David Austin English roses and with my current need to fill my garden with permanent plants, I recently bought a bush of 'Summer Song' which has just given me its first blooms. As with all these roses, the blooms are lovely old blowsy roses but the colour is a little more salmon, rather than the orange that the label showed. As the first blooms opened, it rained and the weak nursery stems drooped but its is still a lovely plant and will I hope settle down and make some sturdy growth. 

At the same time, I also bought a Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' which had lovely muted smoky mauve buds. It has since opened to produce vivid cerise flowers, a bit brighter than expected but certainly colourful. If the mature plant is as floriferous as the promotional picture below, then it looks set to be a real cracker!

My plant of the salvia
Promtional picture in full bloom - wow!

I also recently made an impulse purchase of an Olearia 'Moondance', a variegated form of the New Zealand native O. arborescens. Apparently variegated plants do not sell well in New Zealand so it has not been introduced there. It is said to be hardy to -5C but time will tell! As yet I have no idea where I am going to plant this so am enjoying in a pot.

Last year I purchased two small plants for specific spots in my front garden and both have settled in well. Lonicera 'Little Honey' has softened the corner between my front step and the rather ugly concrete path I share with my neighbour and is now flowering freely at less than 5cm tall.  I recall from last year that it does have a scent, if you happened to be laying flat on the ground! Nearby Euonymus 'Goldy has made a chunky little plant softening the other corner of the steps.

My Schizophragma 'Moonlight' planted a couple of years ago, is working its way nicely up the brickwork next to the front door and is just coming in to flower for the first time. Despite facing north, I think the spot is rather too dry for it, as the older leaves are yellowing - must remember to water! Last time I blogged on Photinia 'Pink Marble' I was a bit cautious (scathing?) and felt it had a bad habit with rather wayward branches. Since then, with a little judicious pruning and some sharp words, it has settled down and is now behaving nicely making a well shaped upright shrub.

My older planting of Weigelia loymansii 'Aurea' with Berberis 'Orange Rocket' is well established, although still not quite as spectacular as the group I originally saw in a friend's garden. Aralia 'Sun King' planted last year has also established well with glowing limey green leaves.

Occasionally fun things happen in gardens purely by chance and I haven't the heart to remove this lovely little ivy that has attached itself to my Trachycarpus. I know all the risks of ivy on any trees but will enjoy this mix, monitor and prune when needed. Long live serendipity!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cleopatra to the rescue!

Well I must be having at least a partial recovery from my horticultural dry spot - I bought a plant! Driving home the other day along a familiar road, I made a spontaneous stop to look at the rather extensive display of plants outside a greengrocer's shop. To my surprise there was a large batch of Canna 'Cleopatra'. Not only were they good plants, and amazingly virus free but they were only a fiver a pot. Instant impulse purchase!

My new purchase

Although not rare, 'Cleopatra' is a novelty amongst cannas, as its a periclinal chimera, meaning that it has mixed tissues. Quite simply the plant has the ability to produce green or deep bronze leaves and yellow or red flowers all from the same plant. Usually the yellow flowers are linked with shoots that have green leaves and red flowers with bronze leaves. The shoots and flowers are however not distinct in their colourings and striped or two toned leaves often occur, as do flowers with two-toned petals.  It is a plant that is curious rather than beautiful, although it can be quite handsome. Being quite unstable, means that it frequently mutates and deteriorates, so some commercial stocks are poor, showing few of the interesting leaf markings. My purchase was quite striking with lots of striped leaves and big bands of shiny bronze.

Cleopatra flowers from a plant in the past

'Cleopatra' is widely grown worldwide and may occur  as 'Yellow Humbert', 'Spanish Emblem',  or 'Queen of Italy'. It is said to have arisen as a sport from 'King Humbert' as long ago as 1895. When I used to grow cannas, I sometimes isolated pure bronze shoots, which grew on well on their own and I sold it as 'Red Cleopatra'. The modern cultivar sold as 'Tropicanna Black' would appear to be exactly this. It's a good plant but no more unique than any of the so-called 'Tropicanna' range.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Anyone seen my muse?

Everyone's heard of writer's block when the inspiration just doesn't flow and as an amateur artist, I've experienced artist's block when I just can't find the motivation to pick up my brushes. Well here's a new one - gardener's block and I've got it! I've spent a lifetime growing plants and in love with gardens but over the last few months, I find the interest has waned. And no I'm not just a lazy couch potato that can't be bothered to put my boots on, its just that the horticultural muse seems to have deserted me! I had thought that after the stark desert landscapes of California, a return to the lushness and diversity of UK gardens would give me an injection of botanical creativity but sadly that has not happened. My motivation has wilted!

If there really are any readers out there that have been following me for a while, you may have noticed that I didn't report on the Chelsea Flower Show. Well the truth is that I didn't go! I wasn't asked to judge this year and although I get free tickets, I just couldn't find the enthusiasm to spend a long tiring day looking at pseudo gardens filled with  preened plants, being swanned over by celebrities and TV cameras. Oh dear - yes I have got a very jaded view and I guess if the RHS read this, I shall never be asked to judge again!

I am getting pleasure from my own little garden and have filled the gaps where I usually grow exotics with some more permanent shrubs and perennials. Being away so much of the year means the garden will have to be simpler. But here we are coming up to mid June and I still haven't filled my pots with anything. I do love summer colour so maybe some bedding and exotic foliage will get me going? Sadly my little greenhouse that was my pride and joy last year is virtually empty. Five small pots of Bowle's golden grass hardly fill it!  I guess if I had returned here earlier in the year, I might have used it more but at this stage, I am rather at a loss to know what to do. Last year the tomatoes barely ripened before I left in September so it hardly seems worth the effort. 

So does anyone have any ideas? Do I need to get into horticultural rehab and force myself to spend an hour a day doing something with dirty hands? Can I find the enthusiasm to visit an NGS garden and face all those blue rinse ladies with their brimming borders and soggy sponge cakes? Shall I go on a wild spree with my credit card at the local garden centre? ( I hear Philip saying 'Certainly not!') Well having bared my horticultural soul, maybe I am on the road to recovery.  I'll try and find something more positive to say next time - keep reading!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A fit of the blues

No I'm not having a bad day so this isn't an expression of my mood! Yesterday was the Felley Priory Rare Plant Fair organised by Plant Heritage which is less of a mouthful than The National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens which it used to be called. This is a great plant fair held in the beautiful grounds of Felley Priory which I've blogged about before. As always I bought a few plants but I surprised myself with one impulse purchase that I just fell in love with - a blue rose!

Rose 'Blue for You' looking distinctly lavenderish if not blue

Now I'm not a great rose lover and the whole concept of gimmicky plants such as blue roses is usually a total turn-off for me but I just fell in love with 'Blue for You', whose registered name is the unattractive 'Pejamblu'. This is a floribunda with beautifully shaped, semi-double flowers in a soft silvery lavender. The colour is quite curious as when I purchased it looked distinctly blue but in some light conditions it appears more of a pale pink.  I have to admit it was tricky to capture the colour in a picture. It was raised by Peter James and introduced in 2007. It is virtually thornless and has resistance to mildew and black spot. 

The same plant photographed in different light looking a rather washed out pink

Now I'm not a great lover of blue in the garden, although I buy a lots of blue clothes - confusing! So the big question is where to site it, as I really have no other blues. I do however have some gaps in my yellow and bronze border so maybe this is the place and buy a few more blue plants to keep it company. Always nice to have an excuse to buy new plants.