August in the flower 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.


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

Six new garden plants for July 2020

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.

P1040470 Euonymous Jap Benkamasaki

Two: Rose ‘Eustacia Vye’

P1040482Rose 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.

P1040463 Rose Eustacia Vye

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’

P1040479 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.

P1040481 Helichrysum stoechas White Barn

Five: Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Ball’ and ‘Golden Ball’

P1040480 Pittosporum Silver 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.

P1040469 Pittosprum Golden Ball

Six: Coleus

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.

P1040476 Coleus Flame Thrower
Coleus ‘Flame Thrower’

P1040474 Coleus Gays Delight
Coleus ‘Gay’s Delight’

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Coleus ‘Redhead’

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.

P1040543 Coleus Festive Dance
Coleus ‘Festive Dance’


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

Moody Blues

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’.

One: Triteleia

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.

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Two: Delphiniums

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

Mid-summer flowering clematis

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.

P1040414 Perle d'azur

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.

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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.

P1040416 Etoile Rose

P1040417 Etoile Rose

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.

P1040370 Unknown

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.

P1040372 Voluceau

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.

P1040368 Etoile Violette

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).


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

The June garden in all its glory

For this week’s Six on Saturday I thought it would be appropriate to simply let the garden talk for itself.  Just six shots that struck me as I enjoyed the June garden and all its lovely evening fragrance.

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Roses – Sweet Perfum de Provence, White perfumella, Prince Jardinaire and A Whiter Shade of Pale

 

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Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’

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Rose Blush Rambler climbing over the flower studio with purple hesperis and pinks in the foreground

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Rose Festival with fragrant Philadelphus 

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Roses – Rhapsody in blue with Absolutely Fabulous and Fellowship

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Rose American Pillar with Rose Compassion and Clematis Etoile Violet


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

 

 

 

Time to sow biennials

I always try to sow my biennials before the summer soltice (20th June) so that the plants are big enough to plant out by the autumn equinox (22 September) and can establish well before the winter.  We have not had rain for many, many, many weeks but today was a wet one and ideal for spending time in a cozy greenhouse sowing next year’s flowers.

Just as the garden is coming into full swing it does seem a little strange to be starting things off for next year but that is how we will enjoy the same fabulous show again in 2021.

Here are the things I have been sowing today and my Six-on-Saturday for this week.


One:  Foxglove ‘Pam’s Choice’

I love to have foxgloves popping up around the garden and Pam’s Choice is a particular favourite with its white flowers and purple throat.  It is similar to Elsey Kelsey which I also like.  This year it has looked striking growing with the purple hesperis.

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Foxglove ‘Pam’s Choice’ with purple Hesperis


Two:  Hesperis (Sweet Rocket)

We grow both the purple and white forms of Sweet Rocket.  They are just coming to an end now and are making way for planting out summer annuals.  The white form is lovely for brightening up a shadey corner or setting off a dark hedge.  As an added bonus it seems to attract many early butterflies.

For me Hesperis looks best when planted in a decent group of plants rather than singly.  This year we have grown it to great effect with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and Tulip ‘City of Vancouver’.  It does however need a bit of staking.

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Three:  Erysimum (Wallflowers)

Over the years Wallflowers have been used extensively in municipal parks and gardens as part of brightly coloured carpet bedding schemes.  They have perhaps become a little ‘out of fashion’.  We try to use ours in a much more informal way within our early spring borders.  They give a range of rich colours which are unusual in the early spring and sit very well with tulips and other spring bulbs.

Today I have been sowing ‘Blood Red’ and ‘Fire King’ (which look great together amongst pale blue forget-me-nots) as well as ‘Vulcan’ and ‘Ruby Gem’.  In addition I have sown ‘Ivory White’ which you can just see in the picture above with the Alliums.  It wasn’t particularly successful this year but its creamy yellow flowers showed great promise and I think I will try and get more going for this bed next year.

Tulip Jan Reus mixed with Ballerina and scented Fire King and Blood Red wallflowers
Tulip Jan Reus mixed with Ballerina and scented Fire King and Blood Red wallflowers


Four:  Foxglove ‘Apricot’

This tall Apricot foxglove creates a very different effect from the ‘normal’ pink and white forms.  I put it with the Sweet Williams this year and they create a lovely contrast.

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Foxglove ‘Apricot’


Five:  Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)

We started to grow the variety ‘Auricula Eyed Mixed’ when we were cutting flowers as event florists.  It is tall with nice robust stems and seems to be generally free from rust problems if you don’t overcrowd the plants.

The plants produce masses of seeds each year which I collect and keep for sowing in June.  I try to create new plants each year but many of the plants seem to be perennial.  If you cut them back hard after flowering they produce new fresh growth and keep flowering into the autumn.  They seem to stay green most of the winter in our garden and a bit of a tidy up and a feed in the spring produces another crop of flowers the following year.  Here they are growing amongst Nigella to great effect.

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Six:  Astrantia

This is not a biennial but I came across the seeds we collected last year from these dark pink astrantia plants.  What is wonderful about collecting your own seed is that you get so very much more than you receive when you buy seeds from commercial companies.  You do seem to get less and less seeds in a packet these days.

The astrantia seeds from last year all look really good so rather than let them go to waste I will have a go at getting them to germinate.  Many perennials like to have a period of chilling so that they think they have had a winter and are now emerging into the warmer springtime.  To mimic this I have put the tray of sown seeds into the fridge for 4 weeks in a plastic bag and will then bring them out into the warmth to let them germinate.  I will report back on how I get on.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.


 

It is definitely rose time!

There is so much to see in the garden at the moment and Six on Saturday is simply not enough.  However, as we move from May to June it is the roses that are in the ascendency and I really couldn’t have a six this week without them.  I spent today cutting the grass and repeatedly stopped to smell the roses as I went past each time.  The grass cutting took rather longer than usual!

Here are six that I have chosen to highlight today – there could have been so many more.


One:  Boscobel

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This is a beautifully fragrant English Shrub Rose (also known as Auscousin).  This group of repeat flowering roses sits in front of a Cornus kousa which is also flowering wonderfully this year.

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Two:  Rhapsody in Blue

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Perhaps a slightly weird colour for a rose (it is on the way to blue but definitely not a true blue).  It is certainly a talking point and I think goes very nicely with the purple leaves of the Cotinus coggygria.


Three:  Comte de Chambord

P1040245

This is a very fragrant shrub rose that we planted as part of our 25th wedding anniversary rose garden.  Now over 15 years old they are still going strong (as are we!).  They combine very well with the Persicaria bistorta in the foreground and the brick red ‘My Castle’ lupins.


Four:  Rambling Rosie

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About three years ago now we converted the old flower growing area of our floristry business into a more aesthetically pleasing flower garden.  We simply love growing flowers.  We have planted a couple of climbing roses over two new pergolas and it has taken them a couple of years to really get going.  This year they are full of flower buds and ‘Rambling Rosie’ I hope will really perform this year.  Fingers crossed.


Five:  Rose ‘Festival’

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I have a bit of a soft spot for this rose.  It is one of a number the roses that I received as a leaving present when I left the East Malling Research Station in Kent and moved up to Horticulture Research International at Wellesbourne in 1992.  It is a lovely rose and seems to be very healthly despite its age.  In the foreground here is the pink Kolkwitzia which the bees absolutely adore with the white mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata) behind.

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Six:  Paul’s Himalayan Musk

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It has proved quite difficult to photograph this rambling rose which creeps its way up through the trees and shrubs and pops out flowers where you least expect it to have reached.  It is a lovely, strongly fragrant rose with small blooms in large drooping clusters. The colours of the individual blooms change as they age from blush pink towards white.

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That’s it for this week.  I strongly suspect that roses may well appear again in the coming weeks.

The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

 

It has been a rather blustery day…

It has been so windy this weekend that taking pictures for ‘Six on Saturday’ (and doing any gardening) has been a bit of a challenge.  Luckily there has been surprisingly little damage.  My other challenge has been limiting myself to just six as there are so many beautiful things emerging in the garden.  Anyway here are my six for this week.


One:  Anthericum liliago major (St Bernard’s Lily)

We saw this plant in the white garden at Bourton House Garden in the Cotswolds a couple of years ago and just had to have one.  It is lovely and has established very well.  Next year I think we will have a go at dividing it and spreading it further around the garden.   If you get a chance to visit Bourton House Garden is excellent.

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Two:  Eleagnus commutata

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This deciduous Eleagnus has been very successful growing in the long grass at the edge of the shrubbery.  It is currently covered in sweet smelling yellow/cream flowers and fills the air with scent even on a windy day like today.


Three:  Angelica archangelica

P1040126

These plants have been a long term project.  One of those spectacular, tall architectural plants that take a bit of time to grow.  They are biennials and I originally sowed the seed early last year planting them out in the early autumn.  This year they have come of age and the bees and insects absolutely love them.  They are tall (nearly 6ft) and magestic plants that stand up well despite the strong winds we have had this weekend.  I am pleased with them but I think my wife is less impressed!


Four:  Robinia

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This tree was originally grown from a small seedling.  It took a little while to get going but now each year it is covered with masses of white, fragrant, pea-like flowers.  It is something we always enjoy but beware it does have some seriously dangerous spikes.

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Five:  Dutch Iris ‘Red Ember’

As growers and former event florists I think we are both fans of dutch iris and typically grow the mixtures which are blue, white and yellow.  This year we tried the variety ‘Red Ember’.  It has a rather lovely exotic colour and I wouldn’t be surprised if we grow it again next year.  What we do need to do I think is decide what other plants would complement it in the border at this time of year.  Any views welcome.

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Six:  Greenfinches

Next for something completely different.  Greenfinches (Carduellis chloris) have been in trouble in recent years and their numbers have declined across the UK due to disease.  A recent decline in numbers has been linked to an outbreak of trichomonosis, a parasite-induced disease which prevents the birds from feeding properly.

Over the last couple of years we have heard the characteristic calls of greenfinches but they have remained high in the trees and rarely ventured closer into the garden.  This year we seem to have a group of three (perhaps juveniles) that have been skipping around the shrubs in the garden together.  Worth a place in the ‘six’ for this week I think.

P1040199 Greenfinch


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

The sheer vitality of May

There is no particular theme for my Six on Saturday this week other than to highlight the sheer vitality and variety of the garden in May.  Here are my six for this week:


One:  Cotinus coggygria and Wisteria

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I have written recently about our Wisteria and it is complemented here so wonderfully by the new leaves of the smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria).  The early morning sun shining through the almost translucent young red leaves is stunning.


Two:  Anthriscus sylvestris

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In total contrast is the cool haze of the woodland garden where the cow parsley is in its absolute prime.


Three:  White and purple

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In this part of the garden (which is quite shady) we have tried to combine the late season creamy yellow ‘City of Vancover’ tulips with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’.  They have overlapped particularly well this year.  The white biennial sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis) really lights up this darker corner of the garden.  Rather less successful has been the ‘Primrose bedder’ wallflowers which are just visible.


Four:  Honeysuckle

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Whenever you walk down a Warwickshire country lane you will see the wild honeysuckle in the hedgerows.  It really likes this part of the world and so it is only appropriate that we allow it to flourish in the garden as well.  The evening fragrance is to die for.


Five:  Blues and yellows in the flower garden

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I particularly like this part of the flower garden at the moment.  Dutch Irises are such good value.  You get alot of bulbs for very little outlay and they seem to be very reliable in our soil.  We particularly like the mixtures rather than the single colours and they sit beautifully with the perennial wallflower (Bowles’s Mauve) and the lime green Euphorbia oblongata.  Bowles’s Mauve seem to keep flowering all year.


Six:  Weigela

Possibly one of our ‘unsung heros’ in the garden but I think Weigela is also worth a mention this week.  Year after year they flower in some of the ‘wilder’ parts of the garden.  They always bring a smile to our face.


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Six on Saturday – Hosta Identification Quiz!

My wife Carol has grown some fantastic Hostas again this year.  However over the years we have lost the labels and as part of this week’s Six on Saturday we would love to have some help in putting some names to some of the varieties.  Number One is the very large variety in the featured picture above and number Four I think is a lovely variety called ‘June’.   Hope you can help!


One:

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Two:

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Three:

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Four:

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Five:

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Six:

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.