Hemerocallis seem to be such trouble free plants in our garden that we are keen to expand our collection and add some new ones to the borders.
We ordered three new varieties from J. Parkers (dutchbulbs.co.uk) and the first of these arrived as bare rooted plants late yesterday afternoon.
To give them a fighting chance we have decided to pot them up and keep them in the greenhouse over winter. Once they emerge and the soil gets warmer we will be able to plant them out into their final positions. We have ten of each of three varieties so they should make a real impact in the coming years as they bulk up.
We think that these should be a really exciting addition and look forward to seeing them start to bloom next year. We are realistic that it may take one or two years before they really come into their own but I think you’ll agree they will be worth waiting for.
Hemerocallis are native to Eastern Asia, primarily China, Korea and Japan. They flower through June, July and August and produce neat fresh foliage as early as February. They are hardy perennials that die back in the winter and grow new fresh growth each spring. Although each individual flower only lasts for a day the plants can go on flowering for months.
Once established they can form large clumps of fleshy roots. These can be lifted in the winter or early spring, and easily divided to multiply up your stock of plants for the garden.
As we get into mid-August the garden has certainly come alive again with a whole series of new perennials coming into flower, the repeat flowering roses back in full bloom and some of the earlier perennials that have been cut back flowering for a second time. Here are my six highlights for this week.
One: Nicotiana sylvestris ‘Only the lonely’
I have been really pleased with these ‘Only the lonely’ this year. They grow from such tiny seeds in the spring that you can hardly imagine that these 4 foot plants will be flowering at the back of the border by August. I have planted these to shine out against a bank of dark green shrubs that demarcate the boundary with the lane beyond. The bed started off in the spring with a mix of cream City of Vancouver tulips and ‘Purple Sensation’ Alliums. This was followed by a mix of white and rose Astrantia, white veronica and a mass of white Lychnis flos-jovis with a pale pink centre. We are now entering the third phase which is deliberately trying to create a cool looking area in the heat of August. Accompanying the Nicotiana sylvestris are a mass of Thalictrum delavayi which we grew from seed a few years ago and are now establishing well.
Two: Zinnia Elegans ‘Lilliput Orange’
We have not grown this variety before and to be honest it is rather small (perhaps the clue was in the name!). Normally we grow the Benary’s Giant Series and I think we will probably return to these next year. Having said that I do think these Lilliput Orange go beautifully with the Delphinium consolida ‘Frosted Skies’.
Three: Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes’
This clump of Phlox have certainly liked the weather this year and are really performing. The scent is wonderful. They are backed by the ruby Penstamon which is now delivering its second flush of flowers.
Four: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherokee Sunset’
We have grown a number of different Rudbeckia this year and I think this big double ‘Cherokee Sunset’ looks really good in the flower border. The large almost Chrysanthemum type flowers come in a range of rich oranges, browns and yellows. It looks as if some Rudbeckia ‘Autumn Forest’ have also crepted into the seed tray. These are the yellow single flowers on the right of the picture with the orange disc. We will certainly be growing ‘Cherokee Sunset’ again.
Five: Tagetes patula ‘Cinnabar’
We haven’t really grown African Marigolds much in the past and I think we have spent the year trying to work out how best to use them in the garden. In some places we have failed miserably as their large size hasn’t suited the location or they have over-powered things we have planted with them.
Because they are such strong growing plants I think they have done best in the large borders where they can easily hold their own against other big plants. Here they are growing with Lysimachia clethroides and the Dahlias ‘Ludwig Helfert’ and ‘Arabian Nights’.
Six: Agapanthus ‘Queen Mum’
My final choice for this week is this beautiful evergreen Agapanthus ‘Queen Mum’. We grow these in large pots so that we can take them into the greenhouse and protect them during the winter. The have huge blooms (nearly 9 inch across) on tall long stems. Each of the white florets is dusted with a delicate blue at the base. Something we treasure.
August this year in the UK Midlands has been almost tropical; energy sapping temperatures, steamy humidity and torrential downpowers of rain. Despite the heat it has been clear that the garden is now entering a new vibrant phase. A new combination of late summer flowers is beginning to emerge and many of the repeat flowering roses are now creating a second flush of colour.
In my opinion one of the most elegant mid-summer bulbs is Gladiolus murielae (which we have always known as Acidanthera). Growing to around 1 metre in height these corms produce a succession of flowers over a number of weeks. Each white, six petalled flower is presented on a delicate arching stem and has a purple throat in the centre. Unlike many gladioli which produce one dramatic show, Acidanthera flowers open one at a time. Each flower has a lovely scent which makes them ideal for including as a cut flower in table arrangements brought into the house.
Acidanthera originates from Eastern Africa from Ethiopia and Somalia to Tanzania and Malawi. It grows on grass and on damp hills at 1200-2500m. Here in Warwickshire it rarely survives the winter in the garden and so we plant fresh, new corms each year. They are not expensive to buy and we have found the best approach is to plant them in groups of 5-8 corms in a medium sized pot of compost and start them off in the greenhouse. When the weather warms up and we can see gaps in the borders we plant out the whole pot without separating or disturbing the corms.
The foliage is very well behaved growing up straight and true and they seem to need very little staking. They really are such a lovely addition to the late summer border and something that I would highly recommend.
It is not just the flowers that make the garden a beautiful place to be. Today is a scorcher. For me this simply means keeping cool with a long drink sitting in the shade of a large tree. The butterflies however love it and it is so lovely to feel that we have created an environment where they can flourish.
The weather this year seems to have been perfect for them giving us a large number of individuals and a great variety. Here are six that I have captured on camera in the last week or so.
One: Red Admiral
The Red Admiral is a migrant coming in waves from North Africa and continental Europe throughout the spring and summer. Increasingly however there are reports that it is over wintering here in the UK. The migrants lay eggs in the UK which subsequently produce a fresh new generation of butterflies.¹
In Britain and Ireland, the most important and widely available larval foodplant is Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). However, Small Nettle (U. urens) and the related species, Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria judaica) and Hop (Humulus lupulus) may also be used.¹
The Gatekeepers in our garden seem to be quite feisty little creatures and seem to spend a lot of time time chasing off other larger butterflies that come close. They like the same habitat as Ringlet and Meadow Brown butterflies which we also see in the garden and close by in the countryside.
The caterpillars feed on various grasses with a preference for fine grasses such as bents (Agrostis spp.), fescues (Festuca spp.), and meadow-grasses (Poa spp.). Common Couch (Elytrigia repens) is also used.¹ At least something is eating the couch!
Three: Small Tortoiseshell
A very common butterfly but no less beautiful for that. It has been rather scarce in our garden in recent years so I am delighted that it is back in some numbers this year. The caterpillars fee on common nettle (Urtica dioica) and small nettle (Urtica urens).¹
The Comma butterfly has very characteristic scalloped edges to its wings which allow the hibernating adults to be almost invisible amongst dead leaves.
The caterpillars’ most widely used foodplant is Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). Other species used include Hop (Humulus lupulus), elms (Ulmus spp.), currants (Ribes spp.), and Willows (Salix spp).¹
Another unmistakeable butterfly which loves the Lysimachia and Buddleias in the garden. We have huge numbers across the garden this year which is so lovely to see.
The caterpillars feed on Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), although eggs and larvae are occasionally reported on Small Nettle (U. urens) and Hop (Humulus lupulus).¹
Six: Silver-Washed Fritillary
This might be stretching the rules of this meme a little as this Silver-Washed Fritillary was not photographed in our garden but in nearby Hampton Wood. These are large woodland butterflies (wing-span c. 72-76mm). They do not sit still very long so I was delighted to get a chance to get this one in a sunny clearing. As they fly they flutter almost like tissue paper in the dappled sun of the woodland glade. The caterpillars main foodplant is Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana) growing in shady or semi-shady positions on the woodland floor.¹ My next challenge is to entice them into our woodland garden.
Well that is it for this week. We share the garden with a host of other creatures and certainly my enjoyment of our garden is not all about the flowers. This post is a contribution to the Six on Saturday meme which is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.
¹ Butterfly Conservation Website – There is a wealth of information about all of these species on this website including further details of their lifecycle, when they fly and distribution maps across the UK.
Yes we have been plant shopping once again over recent months. Certainly there have been far more than six (!) but here are a selection for this week’s Six-on-Saturday.
One: Euonymous japonicus ‘Benkamasaki’ (Erecta)
We have cleared and replanted a short path near the entrance to the garden gate. Although this area looked lovely for a short time during the early summer it tended to look rather untidy and drab for the rest of the year.
We have been looking for plants that will keep there shape and also have some kind of interest during the winter months as well. There is nothing worse than having to brush past wet plants in the winter months every time you go in and out of the house. Rejuvenating this area has also allowed us to dig up, divide and replant the bearded iris that grow well here.
Browsing around the local plant nurseries we came across this Euonymous japonicus which we have not grown before. It has an erect fastigiate habit of branches that are entirely covered in shiny evergreen small leaves.
Two: Rose ‘Eustacia Vye’
The recent lockdown period has also given us time to totally redesign a large border that is directly opposite the patio and one that we often sit near whilst having our relaxed morning coffee (the joys of retirement!). The new border has become known as the ‘Moon Garden’ and the intention is to create a bed that continues to shine in the evening light but also has gentle hints of colour to enjoy during the day. Fragrance will also be an important component of this area as the design develops.
One of the focal plants in this bed will be Rose ‘Eustacia Vye’. We have just planted six of these lovely roses and already they are flowering their socks off. Apparently named after the flawed heroine of Thomas Hardy’s “The Return of the Native”, this rose is highly fragrant and has deep pink buds that open to these delicate apricot pink blooms and age to a soft pink. I am really looking forward to the impact of these shrubs in the years to come.
The new Moon Garden will have a range of white and purple flowers that seem to shine out or glow at dusk. These include plants such as Lysimachia clethroides, Nicotiana sylvestris and the white cosmos ‘Purity’. We have also included the tall purple Verbena bonariensis which to my mind seems to just glow in the evening light.
However it is not just about the flowers as we have also decided to include a a range of plants with silver foliage to add to the effect. These include:
Three: Euphorbia characias ‘Tasmanian Tiger’
This evergreen perennial should grow into a significant plant of around 60cm in height and width. It has striking grey leaves edged with cream white.
Euphorbias seem to like our garden soil and hopefully this one will also settle in well to this bed which is well drained and in full sun all day long.
Four: Helichrysum stoechas ‘White Barn’
Discovered and named by Beth Chatto, we have placed a couple of these lavender sized plants within the new Moon Garden to add additional grey foliage but also a slightly different texture.
Five: Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Ball’ and ‘Golden Ball’
‘Silver Ball’ was another impulse buy as we wandered around the plant nursery. Again for the Moon Garden, our intention is that these will add some formality and structure to this border. A native of New Zealnd, it is a compact, dense shrub that should create two neat domes of around 80cm.
However, having fallen in love with ‘Silver Ball’ we just had to go back and get ‘Golden Ball’ for the new ‘tidy’ beds at the garden entrance and front of the house that I mentioned earlier. The intention here is to create a ‘warmer’ evergreen feature with the golden leaves that will look good both in summer but also throughout the darker winter days.
In last weeks six we highlighted a range of the container plants that we are trying this year and there wasn’t room to include some of the Coleus that we have discovered. We haven’t grown Coleus since the 80’s and possibly they are a bit out of fashion these days. However, there seemed to be some wonderful varieties available now and they happened to find their way into the shopping basket. All being well we should be able to bulk these up and propogate them if are careful.
I am not sure we have found the right position for them yet as some are getting marked. The beauty of plants in pots is that you can move them around to find the position they like best.
In addition to those we found at the nursery we have also successfully grown ‘Festive Dance’ from seed this year. They have been hugely successful and are rather cute little baby plants with a gentle ‘sparkle’ on the leaves.
We have been experimenting this year by creating a range of different summer planters to add pops of vibrant colour throughout the garden. Next year is our daughter’s wedding which we are hosting here in the garden and it is giving us a chance to see just what works and what is less successful. It is still early days but here are six that look particularly promising so far.
One: Surfinia Pink Vein
These pink surfinias, grown from plugs, are stunning little plants producing huge numbers of these striking flowers. We have planted them in a large terracota planter surrounding a central pink leaved cordyline and partnered with grey leaved Helichrysum petiolare, purple verbena and white bacopa.
Two: Begonia odorata ‘Angelique’ and Begonia ‘Cascading splendide ballerina’
In previous years we have found that these large begonias make a real statement on the patio. We normally grow the lighter ‘Angelique’ but this year have partnered it with the orange ‘Ballerina’. Looked after carefully over winter the corms will grow larger and larger every year so an initial investment can provide years of pleasure. I think these sit nicely with the lavender and wisteria.
Three: Super Petunia (Beautical) – French Vanilla, Caramel Yellow and Cinnamon
Super Petunias are calibrachoa and petunia hybrids. So far they are performing extremely well and it will be interesting to see if we can keep them looking fresh and wonderful throughout the summer months.
Four: Lotus Fire Vine
We have also been looking for something that will trail nicely from hanging baskets and provide a more tropical look. These Lotus Fire Vine plants have been slow to get going but they are now coming into flower producing these interesting claw-like orange flowers which look lovely against the glaucus foliage.
Five: Super Petunia (Beautical) – Bordeaux and Sunray Pink
Here we have some more Super Petunias this time in pink and a deep, dark velvety burgundy. They look great contrasting against the dark Cotinus and the silver foliage of the Santolina.
Six: Zaluzianskya (Nigh Phlox)
Finally for something completely different. As the wedding is in August next year we are of course hoping for a warm, sultry summer evening where the guests can wander amongst the plants and enjoy a garden at dusk filled with scent. Zaluzianskya is certainly not a large plant but these tiny flowers fill the air with a wonderful fragrance.
A week or so back (26 June 2020) I was lucky enough to come across this beautiful Marbled White butterfly on a warm sunny morning whilst walking our springer spaniel in local fields. It was warming itself in the sun and was kind enough to stay still long enough for me to catch this photograph.
The Marbled White butterfly usually flies from late June through to early September in areas of unimproved grassland ¹. According to Patrick Barkham ² it is relatively common in midsummer woodland edges and rides in south-west England but rarely occurs in the east or north of the country. The Marbled White ( Melanargia galathea ) is in the family Nymphalidae which includes the striking and often colourful butterflies like Peacocks, Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells. The Marbled White is in a sub-family of the Nymphalidae call the Satyrinae which are commonly called the Browns. The Marbled White is a Brown that is in fact white!
On the food plants for the caterpillars, Butterfly conservation ¹ state that “Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) is thought to be essential in the diet of larvae but Sheep’s-fescue (F. ovina), Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus), and Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) are also eaten. It is thought that several other grasses may be used, but the full range is not known.”
UK Distribution (live link to Butterfly Conservation Website)
Life Cycle (live link to Butterfly Conservation website)
As we move into July many of the hot colours are now emerging and mirror the warmer summer days. However, there are a number of blue flowers out in the garden at the moment that provide a welcome contrast offering a much cooler feel to the planting and make striking companions with many of the strong colours.
Here is my selection for this week’s ‘Six on Saturday’.
We also know this as Brodiaea. In many respects it looks a bit like a mini-agapanthus and seems to grow extremely well in the poorer gravelly soil around the patio. Its leaves are a bit limp and untidy at times but the mass of flowers that it produces in late June-early July are a joy. The flowers sit high on thin wiry stems and make excellent cut flowers.
To be honest we have struggled a bit to get good delphiniums over the years. They are often set back by slug damage in the spring when they emerge from the soil and can often look a bit under-whelming. In addition, we have also found them to be quite short lived perennials that only last a few years in our damp winter soil.
We do continue to persevere because we always admire them when we see wonderful specimens in other peoples gardens. This year we have had success! The slugs seem to have been much less active in the spring due to the hot dry spell and the delphiniums got away without serious damage. Once they are above a certain height they seem to suffer much less.
Three: Clary Sage (Blue Denim)
Clary Sage (Salvia horminum) is a hardy annual that is extremely easy to grow. In my view it does have to be planted out en masse to give an effective show. Each individual plant is rather insignificant but planted together in numbers the bracts will produce an intense blue haze. Here we have planted it with calendula to create what I think is a striking combination.
Once again Clary Sage makes an excellent cut flower.
Four: Eryngium ‘Big Blue’
We have often struggled to grow Eryngium effectively in our garden but I think we seem to have hit the jackpot with this plant of the variety ‘Big Blue’. It has survived the winter and is growing away strongly producing masses of these spikey steel blue flowers. It goes really well with the yellow Sisyrinchium striatum (pale yellow-eyed-grass).
Five: Phlox drummondii
We have only recently started growing this compact annual phlox. It has taken us a couple of years to learn how to grow it well. Once mastered (it seems to like rich, moist soil in plenty of light) it produces masses of these pretty blue blooms all summer. We plant it alongside purple sage, lavender and a blue nicotiana to create a stunning combination.
Six: Catananche caerulea
My final selection for this six is Cupid’s Dart. In addition to having a cute name it is also a highly reliable hardy perennial. At this time of year it produces masses of these blue ‘dandelion’ flowers which float on thin wiry stems above a blue green rosette of leaves. It is particularly effective if you want to create a meadow garden look and I have seen it used beautifully in a natural planting at the entrance of Hidcote gardens.
Although the stars of June are certainly the roses, quietly creeping their way up among the trees and shrubs are the mid-summer flowering clematis. Here are six that are currently flowering around the garden, some large and some small but all add something quite special.
One: Perle d’azur
This pale blue, vigorous clematis has been slowly climbing up a large holly tree in recent years. Last autumn we did some major pruning on the holly to try and get it back into shape and we wondered whether the clematis would be as good this year. In the last few weeks it has begun to flower and clearly we have not done it any lasting damage.
Two: Clematis viticella ‘Minuet’
A much smaller and less vigorous clematis than the Perle d’azur, ‘Minuet’ is climbing amongst a honeysuckle and rose in the old rose garden. It has delightful two-tone flowers.
Three: Clematis texensis ‘Etoile rose’
We are not entirely sure about the name of this clematis but we think it might be ‘Etoile rose’. Each year we think it might be something different. Its small bell shaped, nodding flowers emerge from an ivy trellis close to the house and brighten an otherwise green backdrop.
Four: Blue large flowered clematis (variety unknown)
I have included this because it has such a beautiful flower. Not hugely vigorous it has survived in a quite inhospitable spot in dry shade for a number of years now. In the last few years we have begun to clear the over bearing shrubs and it has responded well. Any idea on the variety? The flowers are relatively large (c. 6 inches across) and it has very delicate markings on the sepals.
Five: Clematis ‘Voluceau’
Another clematis the we planted some years ago but has really come to life in recently years. The reddish purple flowers are very striking against the dark leaves of the ivy.
Six: Clematis ‘Etoile violette’
My final choice is to show just how well clematis can be used to complement other plants flowering at this time of year. Here Clematis ‘Etoile violette’ is growing amongst the rose ‘American Pillar’. It is a striking combination that we enjoy every year. Both are very vigorous and sit together well.
There is no doubt that the richness and diversity of clematis can add value to the garden throughout the year (if you love them too you might enjoy this article as well).