Top Ten September Blooms.

I showed my top September blooms in a recent post, The Exotic Garden. But September is generous with  an abundance of lovely flowers so I have plenty more giving me pleasure in other parts of the garden.

It is difficult to keep the whole garden looking perfect all year round without a large staff and loads of back up plants which I don’t have. My favourite part of the garden in June underwhelms me from the second half of July into August. But in September there is another wave of colour.


September. Anemone japonica ‘Andrea Atkinson’, Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ and asters.

Anemone japonica is a mainstay of the September garden although it can be invasive. This white one, ‘Andrea Atkinson’ is very similar to the popular ‘Honorine Jobert’, although I was told that it is superior, I cannot see any difference. I think it looks lovely with the airy heads of the asters which are spreading through this bed. I decided that I would prefer this anemone in another part of the garden where it could romp away happily without getting in the way of more choice plants. Although I thought I had dug it all up, as you can see this is not a plant which submits to being evicted. But it is pretty and flowers for ages. I have several anemones in different parts of the garden. I love this next one although I can’t remember its name. It is more compact than many of them.

Another long flowering elegant flower is the ugly-nosed Lobelia or Lobelia uliginosa.
It is not ugly at all and it has beautiful azure flowers. I have been told before that ‘Ugly Nose’ is not the correct name and of course I know it’s not,  but it is a handy way of remembering the real name. Uliginous means damp-loving but mine thrives in part of the garden which is not damp at all. It is also not supposed to be reliably hardy but I have had this for several years.

Salvia uliginosa

Next to my ugly-nosed lobelia I have the gorgeous China rose, Rosa chinensis ‘Bengal Beauty’ which has single flowers like flights of red butterflies. Behind the rose are the dark leaves of Cotinus coggyria.

Rosa chinensis ‘Bengal Beauty’

My other China rose, Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ is blooming away happily and this is one of the reason I love these roses, they are the first to bloom and the last to stop blooming.

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’

Pretty little ivy-leaved Cyclamen hederifolium starts blooming in August and is a star right through September. I give mine bonemeal and a good soaking in August specially after a dry summer like this last one. I have colonies all round the garden and each one is different. These start blooming ahead of the leaves.

These in the shade have large leaves even before the flowers appear.

Cyclamen hederifolium

There are white ones.

Cyclamen hederifolium

And silver- leaved ones.

Silver- leaved Cyclamen hederifolium

In the greenhouse I have some tender cyclamen which bloom at different times of the year. The delicate flowers of Cyclamen cilicium are so pretty. Their petals are larger and more pointed than those of Cyclamen hederifolium. This Cyclamen comes from Turkey so I won’t risk it outside.

Cyclamen cilicium

A late-flowering clematis which I love in September is Clematis rhedriana which has pale primrose bell-shaped flowers and has a delicious, fruity scent of cowslips. I used to grow this with Vitis coignetiae which has large bright red leaves in autumn and they looked beautiful together. Here I have it on the trellis surrounding my secret garden.

Clematis rhedriana

I also enjoy a shrub with fragrant flowers in September. It is a member of the honeysuckle family called Heptacodium miconioides. I think this shrub is better known in America where it is called ‘Seven Son’ or something like that. ‘Hepta’ means seven. It didn’t appear in the UK until the 1980’s and I believe the first plant was grown at Powis Castle. Apparently when this shrub is mature it has pleasantly peeling bark. I love it for the scent and for the butterflies who enjoy it so much. When the flowers finish, it has another trick up its sleeve. Its calyxes turn pink. This shrub is supposed to enjoy moist acid soil, neither of which it gets here. It looked a little unhappy with droopy leaves in the summer but is fine now.

Heptacodium miconioides

I love echinaceas and sadly I have found that so many of the gorgeous new hybrids don’t survive the winter so they have to be treated as expensive annuals. Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers believes that this is because they don’t like winter wet, it cause them to rot. Anyway, good old Echinacea purpurea is very reliable and seeds around too. I love any sort of daisy and echinacea is particularly pleasing with its dark central cones.  I have two different ones, Echinacea purpurea ‘Rubinstern’ and Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’. ‘Magnus’ seems to be a paler colour and has downward pointing petals but this could be because it is in a drier part of the garden. I grow it with Eupatorium purpureum which has fluffy pinky-purple flowers and Vernonia.

Echinacea purpurea

I have several clumps of violet coloured Liriope muscari. It has grassy evergreen leaves and I wish I had more of it so that I could create ribbons of it growing through other September flowering flowers.

Liriope muscari

Of course September is the month for colchicums. In the spring I find their oversized leaves rather a nuisance but then I welcome my ‘Naked Ladies’ at this time of the year when they are blooming without those elephant leaves. Colchicum autumnale is the most common and I particularly like this in its white form.

Colchicum autumnale ‘Album’

Colchicum speciosum has larger more showy flowers. I particularly like Colchicum speciosum ‘Atrorubens’ with its lovely purple stems.

Colchicum speciosum Atrorubens’

I’ll finish with a couple of sedums. These start blooming in August but there are some lovely September bloomers. I grow them in my Mediterranean garden.

Sedum ‘Lost Label’

Sedum ‘Carl’

Sedum ”Desert black’ with white Argemone albiflora’

It may be the end of summer but the weather is still really warm and there are still plenty of blooms to enjoy. The French poet, Charles Baudelaire took rather a jaundiced view of this time of the year in several rather gloomy poems about autumn.

Bientôt nous plongerons dans les froides ténèbres;

Adieu, vive clarté de nos étés trop courts!’

‘Soon we will plunge into the cold darkness;

Farewell, brief light of our too short summers.’

But Baudelaire didn’t garden and he suffered from tertiary syphilis so perhaps he had an excuse to be a tad gloomy. But I  think September is a glorious month; we still have plenty of blooms and next month we will have the gardening year’s glorious finale to look forward to.  Do come back  and see next month’s Top Ten Blooms. In the meantime I would love it if you would share your September favourites. Before I go, here are some more of my September delights.

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Six on Saturday. Lovely leaves.

I seem to post a lot about blooms on this blog but I am also a fan of  foliage so I thought I would join in with Six on Saturday to write about some of my current favourites.

I will start with Nandina domestica, known as ‘The Heavenly Bamboo’. It is not actually a bamboo at all and as to whether it is heavenly, a  heathen like me is not in a position to say. The ordinary Nandina domestica is quite pretty but nothing remarkable.

Nandina domestica

I think  purple- leaved Nandina domestica ‘Plum Passion’  is gorgeous.

Nandina domestica ‘Plum Passion’

My latest love is a new red- leaved one called ‘Blush Pink’. It is a sport of ‘Fire Power’. It starts out pink in spring and then instead of turning green it becomes redder as the season progresses. It is compact, so is handy in the garden or a pot.

Nandina domestica”Blush Pink’

I am a collector of old gardening books and one of my favourite sources for fascinating information about plants is the garden historian, Alice M. Coats (1905-1978)  In her book, Garden Shrubs and Their Histories she tells how Nandina domestica  comes from China and Japan. I loved the story of  this shrub being planted outside the door of every house in Japan so that if anyone has a nightmare they could pop out and tell the plant  so that no harm would come to them. Apparently in Japan it is  also considered  excellent for toothpicks, so a handy plant. Mine are rather a long way down the garden, so not ideally positioned  for discussing my nightmares with them. Or for toothpicks.

Anyway, I digress and you might well think that I have used up three of my Six on Saturday and taken up too much of your time with stories about toothpicks, but with my usual sleight of hand I count these three as one: Nandina domestica.

My next plant is a weird perennial with lovely, fluffy foliage. I am probably pushing my luck showing this as quite a few of you were appalled by my weird green rose, Rosa viridiflora recently and this is another aberration. It is called Tagetes lemmonii ‘Martin’s Mutant’. It appeared as a mutant side shoot in California.

Tagetes lemmonii ‘Martin’s Mutant’

I love it with an airy Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ behind it.

Tagetes lemmonii ‘Martin’s Mutant’

I haven’t tried  yet, but I think it would be great for flower arranging.  It grows up to a metre in a long season and has the spicy Tagetes scent. I don’t know whether it ever blooms, mine hasn’t and if it did I would cut them off, I love it as a foliage plant. It is a tender perennial so I have taken cuttings.

I like plants with black foliage so I am a fan of the neat little Coprosma ‘Karo’s Red’. It is not actually red at all; the shiny, little leaves are green turning nearly black. Apparently Coprosma is related to the coffee plant. It comes from New Zealand and is not very hardy but I like to live dangerously.  To be honest, I have already lost Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’, but you know the old chestnut; don’t believe you can’t grow it until you have killed it three times.

Coprosma ‘Karo’s red’

My other black shrub has filigree jet black leaves and as you can see luscious berries. It is an elder, Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’. I grow it with Persicaria amplexicaulis and behind it are some pink asters which you can’t see in the photograph.

Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’

The large rosettes of a hardy bromeliad, Fascicularia bicolor look great at this time of the year as the inner leaves turn bright red.

Fascicularia bicolor

As if this wasn’t enough of a party trick, sky blue flowers appear in the heart of each rosette.

Fascicularia bicolor

You are supposed to pull off the old brown leaves to keep this plant looking good, which is easier said than done. Each leaf comes equipped with vicious spines, I suppose to deter any passing llamas in its native home, Chile. I once tried to divide an  overgrown plant and I carried the scars for weeks. These plants need to be kept dry so are best in gravelly soil. I recently saw them growing in the trunks of dead tree ferns at the  Henstead Exotic Garden in Norfolk. I think I might give this a try.

I will finish with a gorgeous tree which I don’t believe I have shown before and I can’t think why. It is a small tree,  Koelreuteria paniculata  ‘Coral Sunset’. In spring its leaves emerge a startling corally salmon colour.

Koelreuteria panicula ‘Coral Sunset’ Spring 2017

Now in September the leaves are green but still keep some of their peachy colour and the stems retain their lovely deep coral colour. Next month it will go out in a blaze of colour and I will show it to you again.

Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sunset’

So there we have it, this week I am joining The Propagator with my six leafy delights for his popular meme, Six on Saturday. Why don’t you join the party. Very soon I will post my top ten blooms for September. My posts are like buses, long gaps then they come all at once.


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The Exotic Garden.

In March I started a new project which I had been mulling over for some time. When I created my secret garden three years ago I always planned accessing it through a jungle of lush foliage and vivid blooms so that it would indeed feel like a secret garden.

Secret Garden

Last year I created a Mediterranean garden beyond it and this has been a great success. But the exotic garden has quite a different feel.

Arundo donax‘ Variegata’ Dahlia ‘Cornel Bronze’

I learnt my lesson about removing turf to create a new garden when I dug up the lawns in the front garden and then three years later did the same to create the winter garden although I had help with that. First of all, I am getting too old for that sort of milarkey and secondly it is not a bright idea to remove your fertile top soil.

So no turf removal. I made the shape for the new area with the hosepipe and then covered the lawn with cardboard. When I couldn’t find any more cardboard I used a cheap weed membrane. Our bonfire area has clearly been used for this purpose for many years so when I excavated, I  found enormous quantities of ash which was light to wheelbarrow on to the new garden and quickly covered the cardboard and membrane.  The upside of using ash was the fact that after many bonfires it would be sterile and free from weed seeds, although bizarrely, several squashes have appeared growing in the ash and as I have never grown these, the seeds must have survived years of bonfires. Ash doesn’t look great but I planned on hiding it with plants quite quickly.  I then bought some  paving stones to create a path into one entrance of the secret garden and found a few slabs in the garden to make the other path.  So very quickly I was ready for planting.

Here it is in July when the pathway in to the secret garden was still accessible. You can’t even see it now.

Just as I was ready for planting, my lovely son decided to make some space and thin out the plants in pots on his wonderful jetty garden He appeared with, amongst other things, a black bamboo with a frilly skirt of the fabulous grass, Hakonechloa macra. There was a large olive tree, a Eucalyptus gunnii, a mimosa, Acacia pravissima and a huge variegated Arundo donax.  This was perfect timing and gave me some ready made dramatic foliage.  I added a couple of Tetrapanax papyrifer which has huge leaves, a variegated Castor Oil, Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ a golden bean tree and some grasses.

Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’


Tetrapanax papyrifer with poisonous Ricinus communis

I also bought a banana,  Musa basjoo which I hope will be hardy outside .

Musa basjoo

The red banana is not hardy, I had one before and eventually had to give it away when it grew too tall to fit inside the house.  I kept it for two years and used it for a rather recherché Christmas tree but then had to admit defeat when it reached the ceiling. In the following photo you can see the red banana with the Melia azedarach which I grew from seed collected in Greece four years ago. The silvery leaves of Eucalyptus gunnii are in the background.

Melia azedarach and Ensete venticosum ‘Maurelili’


Arundo donax ‘Variegata’


New to the garden is this unusual yucca, Yucca aloifolia ‘Purpurea’. I have never seen it before.

Yucca aloifolia ‘Purpurea’

In the shade along the paths I planted ferns.

Fern with Japanese grass, Hachenochloa macra

I planted several grasses but the one which has astonished me with its enormous size is this Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’.

Pennisetum rubrum


From seed, I grew climbing Mina lobata, (or  Ipomoea lobata as we have to call it now,) along with and Black-eyed Susie for height. For bright colours I grew orange Tithonia rotundifolia, lots of  colourful zinnias, Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Roulette’, tall Tagetes  linaeus and  sun-loving Gazania ‘Talent Red Shades’, bright orange Marvel of Peru, Mirabilis jalapa ‘Orange’.  Leonitus ‘Staircase’ grows ever taller with orange whirly bits at intervals on its long prickly stems. I love Ricinus communis for bold foliage but as I was worried that Hector might eat it I destroyed all but one plant which I hid away in the middle of everything. I grew various canna lilies but these will not germinate from seed unless you find some way of penetrating the hard skin of the seed. They are like ball bearings and trying to rub them with sand paper takes the skin off your finger tips but leaves the seeds intact. I only have a few plants. Next year I will put the seeds in the coffee grinder for a second.


This garden is going to be quite work intensive because I have planted so many tender plants here including house plants.

The real highlight of the exotic garden is the fact that I got quite carried away when ordering dahlias this year and they have all grown wonderfully big and lush on a diet of chicken pellets and constant watering. I have grown a few dahlias for years, starting with the respectable ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and several lovely seed grown ones from ‘The Bishop’. For years black-leaved dahlias were considered the only acceptable ones in sophisticated gardens, but now we are allowed to be as vulgar as we wish. I still love dark dahlias which are nearly black but I have plenty of big, blowsy ones in clashing colours too. Single ones are quietly pretty and bees love them. I love anemone -flowered ones like ‘Mambo’ and ‘Blue Bayou’ too. So here are a few of my favourites.

I could sit here all day talking about my exotic garden and if you were here I would take you down the garden for a close inspection of every plant. It is my favourite part of the garden at the moment.



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Wordless Wednesday. Anyone for Football?

Scadoxus multiflorus


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In a Vase on Monday. Weird Roses.

In the politically incorrect days of the early twentieth century, the celebrated plantsman,  A.E.Bowles devoted a part of his garden to horticultural oddities and called it  ‘ the lunatic asylum’. Here he grew weird plants with ‘mental health issues’ such as the corkscrew hazel. I don’t know whether he grew the unusual Rosa chinensis ‘Viridiflora’ but it would certainly be a suitable candidate for his ‘lunatic asylum’.

When we imagine a rose, we think of sumptuous, velvety soft petals in beautiful colours and of course, exquisite fragrance. The green rose doesn’t offer anything like this. It is an aberration, not a modern, man- made one, but rather the result of a chance mutation. It first appeared in 1743. It is odd because all its petals have become leaves.  Ok, brace yourselves, this is what it looks like.

Rosa chinesis ‘Viridiflora ‘

It has been ignored or reviled and called hideous ever since it appeared. But it was liked enough to be brought into culture in 1856 by a British firm, Bembridge and Harrison and enough people have loved it enough to keep it going ever since. I love any flower with apple green flowers and I like the way these become tinged with bronze as they mature. I also like their tufty, spiky shape and peppery fragrance.

So  for my arrangement today, I looked for a green vase to display them in and found my Masons Ironstone ‘Chartreuse’ jug.

To go with the green flowers I used green hops, Humulus lupulus. These come up everywhere in my garden and are fiendishly difficult to get rid of. But I quite like them at this time of the year for making garlands or for vases.

I have grown quite a few zinnias in bright colours this year but I thought the more subtle colour of Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’ goes the best with my green roses.

I also used a spray of my favourite Alcalthaea x suffrutescens‘Parkallee’.

I have quite a few lovely bottle brush grasses, Pennisetum in the garden so these finished off the arrangement. The ones in the above picture  are Pennisetum alopecuriodes and the stamens of the hollyhock match  it perfectly.

So there we have my weird rose. Before you judge it too harshly, if you think of it as an unusual green flower rather than a rose you might like it better. Vita Sackville West couldn’t make up her mind about it but she did concede that it is very useful for flower arranging. And as it is a China rose it has a long season of flowering.  Anyway, I have an affection for eccentricities,  be it in flowers or people.

Do pop over to Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden and see the beautiful dahlias  in her Vase on Monday and then take a look at all the other vases showing off their September bounty today.


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Top Ten August Blooms.

Cathy over at Rambling in the garden has posted her top August blooms reminding me that it is high time I did the same. It is a difficult one this month as many of my favourites are blooming in the new part of the garden that you haven’t see yet;  it is this year’s ‘project’ and is yet to be unveiled. So my top ten here are all lovely but not necessarily the ones I am crooning over and dragging all my friends to look at just now.

Having said that I am very much in love with the hollyhock which is not actually a hollyhock, xAlcaltlhaea suffrutescens ‘Parkallee’. I wrote about its history in 2014 so if you would like to know more about it click  here 

xAlcalthaea suffrutescens ‘Parkallee’

It blooms later than hollyhocks and as it is crossed with the wild Marsh Mallow it has healthy leaves and never gets rust. Each year it grows taller and bigger and better. It does need to be staked. The flowers are exquisite, semi double and the colour of coffee cream.

You can get shades of pink too, ‘Parkrondell’ or ‘Parkfreiden’ but these do not seem to grow as strongly.

xAlcalthaea suffrutescens ‘Parkrondell’

One of my ‘Parkallee’ plants has thrown up a pink sport which looks very similar to ‘Parkrondell’

Pink sport of A.’Parkallee’

Also pretty in pink, Crinum x powelli is enjoying this warm summer. This plant is a bulb with large strappy leaves and enormous trumpet- shaped flowers. I only noticed last year that it is fragrant. You can get it in white too although I enjoy the sugar pink one. It belongs to the Amaryllis family but it is hardy as long as it is planted in a sheltered spot.

Crinum x powelli

Tobacco plants are lovely at this time of year and easy from seed. I don’t mean those awful dwarf strains but the taller ones like Nicotiana mutabilis.

Nicotiana mutabilis

The flowers of this one start off pink and then turn white. The ‘Whisper Series’ is another tall variety in different shades of pink. This is my current favourite.

Nicotiana ‘Whisper series’

I love green flowers so Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ is always a winner with me. I grow it with ferns and hostas.

Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’

August is Pineapple plant or Eucomis time. I have several of these in pots but I find that most of them are hardy in the garden so they can be planted outside. The most dramatic is Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ with purple leaves and large pink flowers.

Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgandy’

I can’t remember the name of this next one but it looks like Eucomis comosa.

This little one lives in a pot.

I love umbellifers and I grow a shrub with lovely shiny leaves  and yellow umbels which looks great in August with the early Michaelmas Daisy, Aster frikartii ‘Monch’. It is Bupleurum fruticosum. I can’t understand why it is not seen more often.

Bupleurum fruticosum

Bupleurnm fruticosum with Aster frikartii ‘Monch’

Beth Chatto considered Aster Frikartii ‘Monch’ the best Michaelmas daisy for long display and sheer beauty, it starts blooming before any of the others and goes on and on.

Aster frikartii ‘Monch’

My favourite climbing plant at the moment is a potato plant. I don”t much like the earlier flowering Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’ which flowers in June and July because it looks just like what it is, a potato.

Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’

I prefer the pretty white one which blooms a bit later, Solanum jasminoides.

Solanum jasminoides

But my favourite is the dainty Solanum laxum ‘Creche ar Pape’ which is in bloom now. The flowers are white tinged with lilac and  it blooms for weeks on end.

Solanum laxum ‘Creche ar Pape’

Nurseries sometimes list it as ‘Creche du Pape’ which makes more sense grammatically but it is incorrect. It is named after a garden  in Brittany. You see it a lot in France but it is rarer in the UK.

Right, it is time for a bit of bright orange after all these pastels. Most of my crocosmias got wrecked by the heatwave in June and July and were burnt brown or killed altogether. But I have a later flowering one looking great right now. It has large, golden, freesia-like flowers rather like ‘Star of the East’ but bigger. It is called ‘Golden Ballerina’.

Crocosmia ‘Golden Ballerina’

I am enjoying a pretty little annual at the moment. I found the seeds in my pocket. I wrote about my Pocket Seeds a while ago. All my pockets are full of seeds which are begged or borrowed or worse. I have no idea where these seeds came from and I have been waiting with interest to see what they are. Pure white flowers always appeal to me and if they have chocolate centres, I can’t resist them. This is Hibiscus trionum.

Hibiscus trionum

I will finish with another white flower, a lovely little Amaryllid.

Zepyhranthes candida

This lovely plant needs a moist soil. I grow it in my gravel garden which helps to prevent it from drying out. It is named after Zephyr, the God of the West Wind which I think is appropriate for my garden. According to Ovid, Chloris was married to the god, Zephyr. I haven’t told the Pianist this, I don’t want him giving himself airs.

If you are saying yet again, what no dahlias? Dahlias are indeed at the top of my August list but they will have to wait for another post instead of being squeezed in here. Please join in and share your favourite August blooms.

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In a Vase on Monday. Summer Pastels.

We didn’t really need to drive nearly 2000 miles round France to find beautiful beaches this July. Last week we spent a few days enjoying the Suffolk coast. Covehithe has beautiful golden sands and fossils too. Because you approach it down a long track not many people seem to find it.

Covehithe Beach

Blake Morrison, the author and poet loved this isolated beach. He wrote: ‘Sand martins build their nests in the thinning cliffs, and as you walk by they wheel above. Other birds, too, seem to thrive around here – not just the geese flying over in their bomber formations but marsh harriers and meadow pipits. Whenever I’m tempted to list the qualities of Covehithe as a series of negatives – no radios, no jetskis, no parasols, no slot machines and very few people – I remember the birds, the waft of herbs from the cliff and the tide between my toes. It’s a place of melancholy that teaches you what it means to be alive’.

Sand Martins’ holes in the cliffs.

I didn’t find any fossils, just some lovely stones, including one which looks like a chunk of amber. So the colours of the beach pebbles and the wild flowers of the Suffolk coast inspired my vase today;  grasses of course, including fluffy pink Pennisetum villosum and buff coloured, Hordeum jubatum, the washed out colours of  ‘immortelles”, some fennel which grows wild in the sandy lanes round the coast and some sea holly were the basis for it.

Saponaria officinalis or ‘Bouncing-Bet’ grows wild round the Suffolk lanes too. It is very invasive in the garden but I do love the white form. The orange goatsbeard or crepis is also native here. I have grown the pink annual Crepis rubra for the first time this year and I think it is very pretty.

Saponaria officinalis and Crepis rubra

I don’t grow wild thistles in the garden but Centaurea americana is a sort of thistle. Last year I grew a buff- coloured one called ‘Aloha blanca’ which was lovely.

Centaurea americana ‘Aloha Blanca’

|This year I have ‘Aloha Rose’ which is gorgeous too.

I love the little daisy flowers of Helipterum roseum above, and I don’t even object to the non-Latin name, ‘Paper Daisy’ because that it is what it feels like when it is dry. It stays fresh-looking all year round.

Another wild flower which looks good enough to grow in the garden is scabious. This year I have grown a yellow one called Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Fata Morgana’. Again this is new this year but is going to be a favourite.

August is the time for dahlias and bright colours and I revel in these, but I also love the more restrained palette of my seaside- inspired vase today.

I believe Cathy is in Scotland at the moment but nevertheless she is still hosting her popular meme, ‘In a vase on Monday’ and celebrating it with gorgeous dahlias. Do go and see. And now I have to catch up with everyone and see what my blogging friends have been up to whilst I was away.

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In a Vase on Monday.

I have planted up one of my raised veggy beds with annual flowers for cutting again this year. But with a startling lack of originality I have grown exactly the same as last year, so I have again Malope ‘Vulcan’ which I adore for its silky petals and I have just the same cosmos,’ Velouette’ which is lovely but there are so many good ones that I don’t know why I picked the same one again. I have even chosen the same zinnia, although I have others as well this year. So the first vase is pink, but I am dissatisfied with it. I don’t seem to be in the mood for pink.

Malope ‘Vulcan’

Cosmos ‘Velouette’

I have put these flowers in a Chinese paint brush pot which is great for plonking flowers in.

Along with the malope and cosmos I have the fluffy stuff from a smoke bush, Cotinus coggyria and also the lovely pink grass Pennisetum villosum which doesn’t die off in winter here, perhaps it enjoys the protection of the wall. I also used a lovely gaura which is white with pink edges called Gaura lindheimeri  ‘RosyJane’. In the following photo you can also see a bit of self sown scabious and everlasting, Helipterum and some Persicaria. The dahlia is ‘Teesbrooke Audrey’

The dark pink pin cushions in the above photo are Knautia macedonia which seeds itself each year.

I am better pleased with the orange and hot shades in the next vase which is my trusty Chesterfield jug which always looks good with any flowers I care to use.


I grew some little orange thistles called Carthamus tinctorius for the first time this year so I started off with these.

Carthamus tinctorius with Tagetes patula and Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Roulette’

And then I popped in some of my illicit Bulbine frutescens. I like the way it matches the orange and yellow of the climber Ipomoea lobata. I have always called this Mina lobata but the powers that be have ordained otherwise now.

I have used some  crocosmia,  some flowers of the bronze fennel and the seed heads of Bupleurum longifolium ‘Bronze Beauty’ and the annual grass Hordeum jubatum.

I have loads of self seed marigolds in the garden but a new introduction this year is Calendula officinalis ‘Orange Porcupine’.

Calendula ‘Orange Porcupine’

For a little scent and because I love it I added a sprig of Jasmine ‘Clotted Cream’.

Jasmine ‘Clotted Cream’

The seed head you can see next to the jasmine is from Centaurea atropurpurea.

Going from the ridiculous to the sublime, here are some gorgeous arrangements I saw in the amazing Chateau de Villandry recently. Our Bummel round France took us to the Loire. It is great cycling country.

In fact we did a detour because I was keen to revisit the world famous gardens here and I will post about them soon. But the flower arrangements in each room of the chateau in gorgeus antique vases were breathtaking.

I shall be posting about the world famous garden soon but in the meantime here are a few of the vases.

On the stair case.

In the Boudoir


On the Coiffuese

Another boudoir


The fabulous dining

Close up of the dining room arrangement

Oh dear, all these elegant rooms and flower arrangements are giving me ideas above my station or ‘au dessus de ma gare’ as the French don’t say. I’d better get back to my watering.

Thanks to lovely Cathy for hosting the popular meme, In a Vase on Monday. Cathy has been very busy this year sowing and nurturing lots of lovely plants in her cutting garden. Do have a look and see what she has been doing this week.

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My Top Ten July Blooms.

Goodness, a drought like this makes you want to give up gardening and take up something more rewarding like stamp collecting or train spotting. I have been away on holiday and usually having somebody coming in to water pots, veggies and vulnerable plants twice a week will save the garden from disaster.  This summer despite the valiant attempts of the waterers, ( thank you Min and Julie)  and my efforts since I got home, the garden makes me want to weep. Witch hazels,  hydrangeas, delphiniums, ferns and goodness knows what else look dead. There is only one word to describe the landscape round here and that is sere.  Very sere. We have to worry about fires now too. My son had to be evacuated last week after a combine harvester struck a flint stone and caused a fire that gobbled up fifteen acres.

But still there are areas of the garden which are delighting me. My waterers have kept all the new planting in my new project well watered and healthy and this area will have its own post soon. And the Mediterranean garden looks great, although even here there is a dead eryngium which baffles me. I have been to the Cap Ferret peninsula recently and seen eryngiums growing  and flourishing on the dunes in pure dry sand.

Eryngium in dunes, Cap Ferret, France


The Mediterranean Garden.

So let’s start with sea hollies or eryngiums. I love them for the  sheen on their silvery, spiky leaves and some of them have metallic blue flowers too. This one has lovely variegated foliage but even better is the startling colour of the flowers and stems.

Eryngium x tripartitum ‘Jade Frost.

The next one has larger flowers and is perfect for the effect I am looking for in the Mediterranean garden which is lots of form and texture.

Eryngium zabellii ‘Big Blue’

Eryngium planum

Also in the Mediterranean garden and making quite a splash of colour I have the verbascum which is such a feature of Great Dixter. It is one found by Christo and Fergus Garrett, the head gardener in Eastern Turkey. It is called Verbascum chaixii ‘Christo’s Yellow Lightening’. I love it because it doesn’t seem to get the awful mildewed leaves which usually hang limply and unattractively on large verbascums and remind me of damp blotting paper. It does get covered by catterpillars of the Mullein moth in early summer but  I pick them off for the few days when they seem to be active and the damage isn’t too bad.

Verbascum chaixii ‘Christo’s Yellow Lightening’

I love it with the tall Agastache ‘Purple Haze’.

Agastache ‘Purple Haze’

And backed with the giant grass, Stipa gigantea, purple Verbena bonariensis, the huge umbellifer Molospermum decipens and the dainty pink flowers of Althaea cannabina.

My ‘beach’ in front of the shed is looking good right now. The orange sea poppy is still blooming happily and now my seed -grown agapanthus are coming into bloom.

So I will pick agapanthus as my number three July bloom. I grew a lot from seed, the first two are the parents which were a gift from a friend who is a keen agapanthus breeder.

And here are the children. Large flowered agapanthus aren’t reliably hardy but these came through two winters cosily wrapped up in fleece.

And we have lovely white ones too.

The parent of this small white one was a gift from a friend. I am particularly pleased with it because it is tinged with pink which I have never seen before in an agapanthus.

When everything looks dried up and brown then pure white flowers are cheering. Romneya coulteri is a pernickety plant, it doesn’t like being moved and sometimes it will turn up its tail and die. But if it is happy, it races around and takes over. We were alarmed earlier this year to find it had somehow burrowed its way into the house and a piece appeared in the library. But it is so pretty, it has silvery foliage and pure white flowers with a yellow boss

Romneya coulteri

I always try to pick one or two unusual flowers for my top ten blooms so that you can see some plants you perhaps don’t know that  you might like to try. One of these is another pure white flower which is in bloom now. It is a climbing plant, Codonopsis grey-wilsonii ‘Himel Snow’. It dies down to tubers in the autumn and these can then be split up. I have some in a pot but I also have a few round the garden too. It has pristine star-shaped flowers and is an absolute gem.

Codonopsis grey-wilsonii ‘Himel Snow’

Another beauty in a pot grows from a tuber, or is it a rhizome? It is the unusual Sandersonia aurantica. It comes from South Africa and I love it because I adore bell shaped flowers and these are bright orange.

Sandersonia aurantica

I do like orange flowers and this next mallow-like flower is very pretty. Sphaeralcea incana is actually coral rather than orange. It is a shrubby plant with silvery foliage. It is a perfect match with a coral  Kniphofia ‘Timothy’ and the golden seed heads of Stipa gigantea look good with it too.

Sphaeralcea incana with Kniphofia ‘Timothy’ and Stipa gigantea

I also grow it in the Mediterranean garden with terracotta Achillea ‘Walter Funcke’ and Bulbine frutescens which I found in Normandy last year growing on a roundabout.  I just had to have a tiny scrap of it. Alright, I am shameless, but I did risk life and limb and possibly imprisonment for it, but it matches beautifully. Actually, you perhaps don’t go to goal for nicking cuttings off a roundabout in France, but still I could have got shouted at by a gendarme.

Bulbine frutescens

I have to include some fragrant flowers for July. My early lilies get wrecked by lily beetle despite my best and most murderous efforts to keep them under control. But the later flowering tall -growing lilies have tougher leaves and are not so difficult to keep pest free. They smell divine in my secret garden. Lily ‘Lady Alice’ is white and orange with brown spots, some of the flowers are reflexed. It is so pretty.

Lily ‘Lady Alice’

I am also very keen on Lily ‘Late Morning’ which is cream and yellow.

Lily ‘late Morning’

I don’t know who Leslie Woodriff was but this next one is a fabulous lily and is always so healthy and hu-u-u-ge.

Lily ‘Leslie Woodriff’

On the trellis behind Leslie is a trachelospermum which is contributing to the heavenly fragrance in the secret garden. I also grow one on the house wall by French window so that we can enjoy the fragrance even when we go inside, which isn’t very often this summer.

Trachelospermum jasminoides

I love campanulas and I will finish with a bizarre one.

Campanula pyramidalis

I grew it from seed and at three years old it is blooming for the first time. It the Chimney Bell Flower, Campanula pyramidalis. I first saw this used as pot plant, in fact a chimney plant, at Great Dixter years ago. It is supposed to be perennial but as it puts in so much effort to grow very tall I don’t expect it to survive for another year. It is enormous at 210 centimetres tall.

I have another one with two shoots which is not so tall.

If you are thinking ‘What no dahlias? ‘ I do have dahlias, lots of them but I will save them for August. Right now, I have some watering to do. I am so sick of the Sisyphus-like task of endless watering. I expect you are too. But still one would like to have some remnants of a garden left in the autumn.

If you have managed to save ten or just one or two special July blooms from total desiccation, it would be lovely to see them. Please share them and link to my blog.

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Asthall Manor. ‘On Form’

Asthall Manor

Every year, ‘The Women Who Weed’ go off on a garden- visiting jolly. This year our destination was the Cotswolds. This June has been one of the best rose seasons for years and I can’t think of a better place to enjoy it than the Cotswolds. Roses and the wonderful old honey-coloured Cotswold stone walls are a marriage made in heaven. J.P. Priestley wrote about Cotswold stone: “the truth is that it has no colour that can be described. Even when the sun is obscured and the light is cold, these walls are still faintly warm and luminous, as if they knew the trick of keeping the lost sunlight of centuries glimmering about them.” I can’t think of a better description.

Asthall Manor

Our first port of call was the photographer, Andrew Lawson’s garden which had us ‘oohing’ and ‘ahing’ with delight as it was a perfect marriage of wonderful design and perfect planting. This was the hors d’oeuvre and the next day was dedicated to enjoying the amazing  ‘On Form’ biennial sculpture exhibition at Asthall Manor. This is the UK’s largest stone sculpture exhibition which in itself would be a treat, but for a gardener it is the wonderful setting of the grounds of Asthall Manor which is the icing on the cake. This was the home of the famous Mitford family and for those of us who have read the books of Nancy or Jessica, we have abiding images of  Farve hunting his children round the grounds, Muv’s faith in the Good Body to heal itself and the Hons Airing Cupboard headquarters.  If you haven’t read Nancy’s Pursuit of Love you have a treat in store. Asthall Manor is the fictititious ‘Alconleigh’ and Farve is thinly disguised as the xenophobic Uncle Matthew who thought that ‘abroad is unutterably bloody and foreigners are fiends’ and most of his daughters’ friends were ‘sewers’.

I don’t believe ‘Farve’, Lord Redesdale was a gardener, but the new owners have had the grounds designed by the celebrated garden designers, Julian and Isobel Bannerman who designed Highgrove gardens. They are obviously designed to be at their best in June for the sculpture exhibition. There are so many roses that a rose freak like me was in absolute heaven.

I love the way these two are grown together, an idea I will copy.

The next one is a bit of a mystery. My friend has it in her garden and has never been able to find out its name. We were delighted to find it here, but the head gardener didn’t know its name either. Any ideas? It is a little gem and each frilly flower is a combination of pink, yellow and white.

As there are roses climbing on every wall we asked the gardener how they cared for them. I was intrigued to learn that starting at the beginning of September they go round the walls removing all the leaves and this stops diseased leaves falling on to the ground and causing problems for the following year. This does seem very work intensive and indeed she told us it takes them until the following March to complete the task. But the roses are bursting with health and vitality.

As well as roses climbing the walls, I was taken with this way of training philadelphus.

Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’

And I have never seen phygelius growing like this either.


Other planting ideas that took my eye were these frothy peonies growing with astrantias.

Peonies and astrantia.

The colour of this clematis is the perfect match for the centre of Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’.

And I love the idea of growing frothy Crambe cordifolia which I featured last week as one of my top ten June blooms with Geranium psilostemon.

Crambe cordifolia and Geranium psilostemon

The garden has so many lovely features.  There is a gorgeous courtyard with this amazing little water feature.

I love this box parterre which is on a slope so you can see it properly.

And these stone steps on the side of it going up to the wild flower area.

Wild flowers are a feature as you look across the lovely view towards the Windrush valley.

There are man made- mounds that you can climb on which are a nod to Jencks and his Garden of Cosmic Speculation.

I loved the naturalistic swimming pond.

Even details like this fence hiding the compost heap was something I would love to copy.

The beautiful twelfth century church is right next to the house and some of the sculpture  is exhibited there too.

Asthall church

I loved quite a lot of the sculpture and the beautiful garden showed it off to perfection. I couldn’t help thinking that some of the lovely pieces would give my garden rather a classy look. But there was nothing much under £2000. The Pianist is endlessly indulgent about the fact that I am incapable of leaving the house without coming back with plants, but a £2000 bit of sculpture would be pushing his tolerance rather. Besides there were four of us in the car and nobody would fancy sitting with one of these pieces on their knee the whole way home.

By the entrance and our last glimpse of the garden was this magnificent lime tree in full bloom.

Under it there is a message which I rather liked and makes all my descriptions redundant.
‘When one is in the sphere of the beautiful, no explanation is needed.’

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