Relaxed meadow-style planting

One of the best things to do on a cold, wet December day is to think back to those sunny days in the summer and reflect on what worked well in the garden.  Sometimes it is a vista or combination of plants that have matured gracefully and now perform well year after year.  At other times it is just a moment when some of the short lived annuals all come together and you stand and look and admire.  Within a couple of weeks the garden will have moved on.

In one quadrant of the new flower garden this year we allowed a number of self sown annuals to develop whilst some of the new perennials were being planted and growing on.  The annuals included Love-in-the-mist (both the blues of Nigella damascena and the white Nigella hispanica ‘African bride’), Corncockle (Agrostemma githago) and some beautiful mixed colour pink poppies with their thin tissue paper petals (Papaver rhoeas ‘Falling in Love’).  This informal combination grew freely amongst the tall biennial Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus ‘Auricular Eyed’).

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The effect was charming and created a relaxed ‘meadow-style’ bed.   Along with the mass of different colours and the texture of the fresh green foliage the bed also had movement.  The different components swayed and reacted to the breeze adding an additional dimension.

All of these annuals cut well and, if appropriately conditioned, allow you to enjoy these flowers for many days in a vase indoors.

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Nigella damascena (Love-in-the-mist)

The pictures here were all taken in the first week of June.  It was a sweet spot when all the flowers were emerging together and in their prime.  As well as the overall effect I also like to look at the detail of the individual flowers.  The tiny, delicate rows of fine dots in the Corncockle and the blue wash in the centre of the Nigella hispanica are particularly lovely.

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Agrostemma githago (Corncockle)

At its peak this meadow style planting was certainly a triumph.  However, I think it is worth highlighting that it is relatively short lived.  This is certainly a downside in a garden where you want to try and create year-round interest.  Once they have set seed the show is over and you do need to have something planted that will follow on.  If you want a show next year you do of course have to leave the seed heads to mature and set seed.  The Nigella seed heads look particularly striking and are well worth leaving to add interest to the late summer border.

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Nigella hispanica ‘African Bride’

My conclusion therefore is that whilst self sown annuals do indeed provide a spectacular show, in a garden setting you do need to set them amongst other follow-on perennials or small shrubs that can continue the performance into July, August and the autumn.

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Papaver rhoeas (Falling in Love)
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Six star plants for early June

This week’s Six on Saturday highlights six very different plants that have caught my attention this week as I have worked in the garden. A few showers of rain have brought the garden to life without damaging the blooms.


One: Nemesia cheiranthus ‘Masquerade’ (Long eared Nemesia)

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This is a first for us this year.  It has a tiny flower, perhaps not much bigger than your thumbnail, but in only a few short weeks it has grown up from seed (sown on 25th March) and is already flowering profusely.  We have included this in our patio pots and it seems to be settling in nicely.  As well as being a charming little flower it is the movement of the stems in the gentle breeze which adds to its character.


Two:  Lupins

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We have a range of lupins across the garden but this one (name unknown) is particularly striking in the old rose garden.  It is a scrumptious colour and goes so beautifully with the foxgloves.


Three:  Nigella damascena (Love-in-a-mist)

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We have grown Nigella damascena and Nigella hispanica for a number of years to include in our country flower bouquets.  It has now seeded itself across much of the flower garden and we are happy to allow it to develop amongst more established plants.  It is very easy to weed out if we have too much of it growing in the wrong place.  Both the flowers and the resulting seed heads make excellent additions to any bouquet.

We have also seen a significant increase in goldfinches in the garden in recent years.  Whether this is a result of the increased availability of niger seeds who knows but it is a happy coincidence.


Four:  Aquilegia ‘Blue Star’

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As with Nigella, we love to let the Aquilegias seed themselves throughout the cottage garden.  They are definitely an important part of our spring garden but they do tend to be consistently in the pink/purple ‘granny’s bonnet’ range.

To introduce a slightly different form and colour range we sowed Aquilegia ‘Blue Star’ seeds last year and put the plants out last autumn.  These have established well and are now producing these lovely delicate flowers.  For some reason these choicer varieties have tended to be short lived perennials and have not always lasted very long in the garden.


Five:  Clematis ‘Voluceau’

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Over nearly 25 years we have planted a large number of different clematis throughout the garden.  Some have absolutely romped away whilst others have only had very limited vigour.

I don’t recall seeing this Clematis ‘Voluceau’ for many years but Carol assures me it has been there all along. This year it has sprung into life. It was probably planted over 15 years ago and has gently chugged way over the years without any great show.  It may be that we have recently cleared, improved and fed the rather tired bed that it sits in.  I am not sure the picture really shows off the real-life velvety plum purple of this variety.  It has a really rich colour.


Six:  Astrantia

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Another favourite from our commercial flower growing days.  These intricate, pin-cushion, rose coloured flowers are always a joy.  They seem to like our soil and come back reliably year after year as long as you keep the weeds at bay.


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.