A spectacular year for Lupins

The weather this spring in the UK (2021) has been quite extreme at times. April was a very dry month followed by a very wet and sometimes cold May. Now in June we are back to humid heat with little rain but there is still plenty of moisture in the ground. All this has resulted in a huge explosion of growth right across the garden.

We have grown Lupins for many years but I have been struck this year but the sheer size and exuberance of the plants we have around the garden. The top picture shows the brick red ‘My Castle’ in the foreground with the yellow ‘Chandelier’ and white ‘Noble Maiden’ behind. All of this is nicely framed by another member of the pea family, the Wisteria.

The white lupin ‘Nobel Maiden’ set amongst aquilegia and geum and a yellow dutch iris. I have left the garden tools to show the sheer size of these perennials this year.

Many of the lupins we have around the garden are Russell Hybrids from the ‘Band of Nobles’ series. The species Lupinus polyphyllus is a native of western North America. It commonly grows wild along streams and creeks and prefers a moist habitat 1.

In the background is Lupin ‘The Governor’ which sits well with these scrumptious deep mauve lupins in the foreground (name long forgotten!)

Lupinus polyphyllus was originally introduced into the United Kingdom by David Douglas in the 1820’s (2) . A century later George Russell started to develop the Russell hybrids with the aim of creating flower spikes that we denser, larger and more colourful than the original species. These were first displayed to the public at the RHS show in 1937 and have been a popular garden favourite ever since.

In the background is the red Lupin ‘My Castle’ set behind Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and pink Persicaria bistorta. Just emerging amongst the red lupins you can see the apricot foxgloves which create a striking contrast with the brick red lupins.

Over the last few years we have been developing our collection by growing from seed. It has proved to be a very successful way of growing a significant number of sturdy plants at little cost. In general we have sown the seeds in spring, potted up and grown on for about 12 months before planting out in the flower garden. The bigger the potted plant the quicker they seem to establish in the wilds of the flower garden where they have to compete with neighbouring plants and fend off the slugs. Most of the plants in these pictures are probably now three or four years old.

I particularly like lupins when they are planted in groups to make a strong vertical statement in a large bed. The range of colours is very wide and this allows you to mix and compliment these plants with a wide range of other border perennials.

Lupin ‘The Governor’
Lupin ‘Chandelier’
Lupin ‘My Castle’
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Full of late summer colour – Aston Pottery and Gardens, Oxfordshire

Last week we had the great pleasure of visiting the flower gardens at Aston Pottery in Oxfordshire.  At a time of year when many gardens are beginning to decline and look rather tired, the garden here at Aston Pottery was bursting with colour and intensity.

The sheer range of flowers and the quality of the blooms was extremely impressive.  Many people have reported that the Dahlias this year have been poor in their gardens but there was no sign of a bad year here at Aston Pottery.  I was particularly struck by the way the borders had been laid out in triangles giving them both structure and allowing the complementary colours and forms to work well together.

There was no doubt that a huge amount of effort had gone into the planning, planting and subsequent plant husbandry to create a wonderful effect.

Well worth a visit if you get the chance at this time of year.

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Location:  Aston Pottery, The Stables, Kingsway Farm, Aston, Oxfordshire OX18 2BT

Website: http://astonpottery.co.uk/

 

Seeking inspiration for autumn planting from four Herefordshire gardens

One of the great things about planning and developing a new flower garden is that it is a wonderful excuse to go out and seek inspiration from other people’s gardens (not that we really need much of an excuse to visit the beautiful gardens across England!).

During last week (w/b 7 October 2017) we visited four varied Herefordshire gardens to find out how they had maintained the colour in their borders into October.  We want to be able to extend the flowering season well into autumn if possible.  We had not visited any of the gardens before and everyone offered something to think about.

Firstly a little about the gardens and then we will say something about the planting combinations we discovered:

Hampton Court Castle (www.hamptoncourt.org.uk)

Located at Hope Under Dinmore just south of Leominster, Hampton Court has been standing by the River Lugg for 600 years.  This wonderful ‘formal’ garden is divided into a number of garden rooms with island pavilions, pleached avenues, grottoes, a yew maze and more.  We thoroughly enjoyed this garden and will try and visit again at other times of year.

Strong formal lines created by box hedges and topiary at Hampton Court Castle Garden

Croft Castle (nationaltrust.org.uk/croftcastle)

A National Trust garden situated near Yarpole and the home of some wonderful ancient oak and spanish chestnut trees.  If you like walking and have a dog the estate is dog friendly and there are a range of well marked walks throughout the parkland.  The castle has a walled garden and working vineyard.

The delightful church at Croft Castle near Yarpole

Hergest Croft Gardens (www.hergest.co.uk)

A plantman’s garden with a wide range of interesting and unusual trees and plants.  Located in the grounds of a building of the arts and crafts period the garden draws on specimens brought back by the plant hunters of the period.  The garden boasts over 90 champion trees.

The arts and craft era house at Hergest Croft Gardens

Berrington Hall (nationaltrust.org.uk/berringtonhall)

An absolutely stunning Georgian Manor and parkland near Leominster.  The manor sits within the last landscape commission of ‘Capability’ Brown as well as having excellent walled gardens, kitchen garden and orchards.

The Georgian mansion at Berrington Hall sits within extensive parkland designed by Capability Brown

October colour in these enchanting gardens

The first observation is that it is clearly possible to maintain the colour in your herbaceous borders right into October as long as you are clear of frost.

At Berrington Hall we saw beds of complementary colours brimming with colourful cosmos in a range of varieties and shades, complemented with pink malope (Malope trifida).  These beds also made use of Nicotiana sylvestris creating a wonderful structural candelabra effect (and I suspect that in the evening these beds would also be bathed in scent).  Contrasting some of the darker, purple cosmos was the lovely perennial sunflower which we assume was the variety ‘Lemon Queen’

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The borders at Berrington Hall used complementary varieties of cosmos and malope in pink and purple contrasted with the perennial sunflower ‘Lemon Queen’.

Berrington Hall also made wonderful use of grasses within the borders which really come into their own as this time of year.  The tall Miscanthus with its slightly pinkish seeds heads sits well with the candelabra of the Nicotiana sylvestris, Malope trifida and cleome.  The Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ brings in a subtle red/brown which works well with the rest of the border.

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Herbaceous border mixing tall Miscanthus grasses with Nicotiana sylvestris, mallow, cleome and Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’

But of course contrasting colours can give a totally different effect and bring a zing to a border.  At Croft Castle the perennial sunflower ‘Lemon Queen’ sits alongside the tall floating stems of Verbena bonariensis.  In the evening light this Verbena almost has a fluorescence as the light fades.

 

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Contrasting colours of yellow Helinium ‘Lemon Queen’ and Verbena bonariensis at Croft Castle

And lets us not forget the strong shades of autumn colour that can really bring a garden to life.  Here at Croft Castle the Vitis coignetiae was in its full glory in the walled garden.

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Vitis coignetiae providing stunning autumn colours against the formal yew topiary at Croft Castle

At Hergest Croft Garden we saw a more traditional autumn border of michaelmas daisies, sedum and saxifrage in pink, mauve and white.  Very much loved by butterflies at this time of year these combinations are not to be under estimated.

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Long borders of autumn flowering michaelmas daisies, sedum and saxifrage in pink, mauve and white at Hergest Croft Garden

In contrast, Hergest Croft also showed that the more tender perennials such as Salvia confertiflora and Salvia involucrata ‘Bethellii’ can still provide striking border plants at this time of year if frosty nights have not yet arrived.  Mixed with dahlias and other salvias and edged with Liriope muscari these borders are still brimming with colour into October.

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Borders of salvias and dahlias still in full bloom at Hergest Croft Garden nicely edged to the path with Liriope muscari

Dahlias also featured in the beds at Hampton Court Castle gardens along with white cosmos to give a light airy feel and more cottage style to the borders.  A very striking addition was the strong architectural shape of the deep burgundy amaranthus, grasses and white cleome in these borders – stunningly effective planting.

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Architectural planting of amaranthus, grasses and cleome complement the cottage style planting of dahlias and white cosmos in these borders at Hampton Court Castle

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Beautiful combinations of form and texture in these borders at Hampton Court Castle

In addition to this stunning planting of complementary shades, many of the borders a Hampton Court Castle also used contrasting colours to great effect.  Combinations of strong blue with a very dense double ‘feverfew’ and also the yellow perennial Rudbeckia fulgida with tall stands of blue Monkshood (Aconitum) made wonderful combinations for an October border.

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Striking blue and white combination provide something very different at Hampton Court Castle for the autumn garden

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Large stands of perennial Rudbeckia fulgida contrast well with the blue Monkshood at Hampton Court Castle gardens

Plenty to think about…

Well there is certainly no doubt that, with planning, your herbaceous borders can look full of colour right into October.  We will certainly be adding some of these combinations to our future planting plans for the new garden and I hope it has also inspired you to see that the garden has much to offer at this time of year and is not simply shutting down for the winter.