Last month I looked round the garden and chose my ten favourites blooms. This is a difficult task in summer when everything is blooming with such abundance. Still, rather than give everyone floral indigestion, I thought it was a good idea to hone in on just ten that are giving me special delight and give a bit of advice on how to grow them. And I would love it if some of you could do the same. It doesn’t have to be a bloom, foliage plants can be just as exciting.
Coming in at number, one we have the pristine blooms of Codonopsis grey -wilsonii ‘Himel Snow’.
You don’t find this climbing plant in nurseries very often because when they are in full growth in early summer, they twine everywhere and their string -like stems are very fragile and easily damaged. I am not sure how hardy codonopsis is but I grow mine in pots for three reasons. One, they may not be hardy; two, they like a slightly acidic soil which I can’t give them in the ground and three the young shoots are caviar to molluscs. Outside, they may be eaten off before I have even noticed them. In the greenhouse I can keep my eye on them and only put them outside when they are growing strongly. I then put them against something they can sprawl over because they refuse to be confined by their supporting stakes. This plant used to be called Codonopsis nepalensis as it comes from Nepal. It was renamed ‘grey-wilsonii‘ after Kit Grey-Wilson who has done a lot of work on Himalayan flora. They produce plenty of seed but the seedlings are incredibly fragile and have to be left in a pot until the second year when you can handle the dormant tubers. I divide my mature tubers when they are dormant too.
Number two is another pure white, elegant bloom, the Prickly Poppy, Argemone grandiflora. It is also called the Mexican Poppy, that is why I prefer using Latin as it avoids confusion.
I think I will save some seeds of this for my ‘beach’ as it has glaucous, thistly leaves and loves to bask in the sun. I have read that it is an annual but I have had mine for three years.
July is a good time for true blue flowers. Every body loves blue flowers. I have chosen eryngiums today. They have prickly leaves which are very similar to those of the Prickly Poppy. The first is new to me this year. On my beach I have planted the dumpy Eryngium planum ‘ The Hobbit’. As the name suggests this is dwarf and compact.
My favourite though is Eryngium bourgatii ‘Picos Blue’ because this seems to be the intensest blue of them all. Even the stems are blue. Bees find it irresistible too.
They usually come true from seed but this year I have a seedling which is quite different. Ok, it is not the amazing, electric blue of its parent but it is still very pretty.
That is why I love growing things from seed as there are often nice surprises. I have quite a few agapanthus in both blue and white. So agapanthus has to be number four. Hang on, what am I talking about? I should have put it at number one, I love agapanthus, which is appropriate as the name comes from agape, the Greek for love. Three or possibly four years ago, (I lose track) I sowed some seeds from two of them, ‘Lewis Palmer’ and a darker blue one called ‘Volga’. They both have large heads but so far, unlike many large-headed ones, they seem hardy. Lewis Palmer was the man who developed the lovely, hardy Headbourne hybrids which have quite small flowers.
My anxiously awaited first blooms have come up with some surprises. For a start they are not even all blue. And they vary in size amazingly.
Some are sky- blue like this one. This is obviously a child of A.’Lewis Plamer’
But then I got this little white one with brown anthers. How is that possible? It is so pretty.
This other white one has larger flowers with yellow anthers.
Some large flowered ones are still in bud and are going to be later blooming. I can’t wait for this one to bloom, it has the largest bud of all.
But my greatest delight was reserved for this exquisite stripey one.
Although delphiniums come in a wonderful range of blue colours, the one I am featuring is a July -blooming one in blue and violet- purple. For years I have cherished a dear little double one called ‘Alice Artindale’. This year the slugs destroyed the shoots. But now there are other double ones in the Highlander range bred by Tony Coakley in Glasgow. I have ‘Highlander Blueberry Pie’ and I love it so much I am going to look out for more in the range. The flowers are such pretty , frilly rosettes. The clematis on the fence is Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’.
Delphiniums are greedy plants that need to be well fed and watered. They need to be protected by what Sam from A coastal Plot blog calls ‘our slimy foes’. They also need careful staking, although having said that this one is not staked and seems quite robust.
I do seem to be stuck on blues in July and as I love campanulas I have chosen a dear little July flowering one which I have growing in my new gravel garden round the sundial. Its little powder blue flowers are double and it is an absolute sweety. It is called Campanula cochlearifolia ‘Elizabeth Oliver’. Like many double flowers it doesn’t set seed but you can divide it in spring.
I have to include lilies because they are so beautifully fragrant and I have to have some smellies on my list. Earlier lilies such as Lilium regale, Lilium candidum or my Martagon lilies were wrecked by the beastly lily beetles. It seems to me that they are not quite as crazy for the giant Orienpet lilies, maybe the leaves are tougher. There were a few little red horrors but I was able to keep up with destroying them. I won’t go in to how I do it here as I have already revolted quite a few people with earlier descriptions. I rather like the white and red Lilium ‘Leslie Woodriff’ although it is difficult to photograph because all the flowers look different ways.
I also love the pale yellow and white Orienpet lily ‘Late Morning’.
I have managed to protect the lovely oriental lily ‘Lady Alice’ although it was targeted by the little beasts in red coats. With her apricot and white flowers with brown freckles, she is a winner.
My number eight is a plant I mention every summer because I love it so much. It is the hollyhock look-alike x Alcathaea suffrutescens ‘Parkallee’. It is a cross between Alcea rosea and the marshmallow, Althaea officinalis. It never gets mildew and it grows bigger and taller and bushier every year. Normally it blooms in August and September but this one is early this year. It doesn’t set seed but it is easy from cuttings so I have it all over the garden. The flowers are double and apricoty-coffee coloured.
The anthers of each flower are violet.
If you like coffee -coloured flowers and I do, then a pretty annual that I tried for the first time this year is Phlox drummondii ‘Café au Lait’. It is easy to grow and a little charmer.
My last in the list is the easy from seed Scabiosa purpurea. Last year I had ‘Beaujolais Bonnets’ and Chile Black’ and this year I have a nice mixture of colours which have self seeded. They are so pretty and the butterflies adore them.
Phew, this seems a long list, but I cheated a bit and gave more than ten plants. If you care to join me and give your ten very favourite plants each month that would be great. If you prefer a shorter list than tell us about your favourite five plants.