I thought it would be nice to add a little festive cheer to my Six on Saturday post this week. Despite the rather grey days of December there are some beautiful berries and seed pods around the garden this week.
Some I am sure will be cut for Christmas decorations whilst the remainder will be enjoyed by the birds. The Redwings have arrived in large numbers and are now regular visitors.
One of our main lockdown projects this year has been the purchase of a new fruit cage and the planting of fresh strawberry and raspberry plants in a different area of the garden. We have grown strawberries and raspberries in the vegetable garden in the past but the plants have gradually got weaker and weaker and produced less and less. Time for a change we thought.
In the first lockdown back in March and April we decided to clear a new area on the edge of the orchard in full sun but also sheltered from the north winds by the hawthorn hedge.
The fruit cage
Having cleared the area we purchased a 5m x 2.5m peak roofed steel fruit cage from Harrod Horticultural in Suffolk. We were looking for something that would create an attractive feature in the garden rather than purely being a square box covered in netting. This certainly fits the bill.
With plenty of time on our hands and some nice weather we set about the task. The instructions were good and it all came together very well. With just two people and a large ladder we did manage to put it together ourselves although I think putting on the roof would have been much easier if more people had been available to help with the final lift. With only two of us the peak roof had to be carefully lifted into place in the centre by climbing up the ladder whilst the other bolted it into the frame.
We really only had one hick-up when we discovered that the two top finials were poorly welded and wouldn’t slide into place. It is always irritating to have to wait for replacement parts to come but there was no problem in getting them even though many were working from home at that time. In total it probably took us a week to put up with plenty of time for cups of coffee and lunch along the way.
The task that took most patience was whipping in all the netting to make sure there were absolutely no gaps that would allow the birds to get in. This took pretty much a whole day of careful sewing. The time has been well spent and we have had no birds inside during this first year.
Once complete we decided that half the cage was be put to strawberries and the other half to raspberries.
We were keen to get planting as soon as possible but recognised that we would have to wait until November to plant the bare root raspberry canes.
The strawberries were another matter and so we were able to get hold of cold stored strawberry plants from Ken Muir in early summer. These were lovely, strong, healthy plants and grew away beautifully once they were planted in the ground. Having prepared the soil we planted the bare root plants through weed suppressing membrane. As this was virgin land we knew that we would be fighting the weeds for some time and this gave us an opportunity to keep the weeds at bay as well as keep the strawberries off the soil. The theory was that the black material would also warm up quickly in the sun and aid ripening.
We planted three different varieties to give us a crop over a longer season. These were:
Vibrant – an early variety
Hapil – a mid-summer variety
Fenella – a late summer variety
In theory this should provide us with a crop from mid-June through to late July. What is particularly nice about planting cold-stored plants is that they crop in the first year – and it worked! There is nothing nicer than enjoying the fruit of your labours (with cream).
In this first year the three varieties grew quite differently. Vibrant produced the most fruit whilst Hapil grew a huge amount of foliage and produced less fruit. Our aim is to encourage plants with multiple crowns and so we spent a lot of time this year cutting out all the new runners that emerged.
In November we received our bare root raspberry canes from Pomona Fruits. In this instance we have gone for the two varieties Glen Ample and Tulameen. Both are summer fruiting varieties.
We did debate whether to have both summer and autumn fruiting varieties but concluded that we preferred to get one substantial crop and freeze any excess rather than risk never have enough for a good meal with friends. and family.
Prior to the canes arriving we prepared the ground and installed three strong upright posts and supporting cross wires. One thing we learnt for next time is that if the posts are too tall there is no enough room underneath the netting to effectiveky use the post rammer to drive in the supports.
One downside of planting summer fruiting varieties is that the fruit is produced on last year’s wood. Planting short, bare root canes this year means that we will not get fruit next year and only begin to crop in 2022. Far too long!
To overcome this we were delighted to see that Pomona Fruit provided ‘long canes’ of Glen Ample. We should therefore get our first crop of Glen Ample next summer whilst the Tulameen will grow fresh canes next year that will fruit for the first time in 2022.
Browsing through the fruit catalogues is always fatal and as usual I was tempted by something we had not tried before. We do grow redcurrants and blackcurrants in the vegetable patch but the birds always get to the redcurrants before we do.
There was not enough room for a normal sized redcurrant bush in the new fruit cage but I did spot a cordon redcurrant Jonkheer van Tets. I convinced myself that there would be room to plant this alongside one of the end raspberry support poles. And so it was purchased. It looks great in the catalogue and it would be lovely if it can be kept well trained and produce lots of fruit. We enjoy redcurrants but don’t really need huge amounts so a single, productive plant (where we get most of the fruit instead of the birds) should more than suffice.
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.
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.
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).
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.