Crazy about Chrysanthemums.

We are having a wonderful November, beautiful sunshine and no frost means that there is still plenty of colour in the garden. I never used to like chrysanthemums, I used to associate them with dismal pot plants and funerals. But a few years ago I discovered the small flowered Rubellum and Korean chrysanthemums. Don’t ask me which is which, I can’t tell them apart. But they are all lovely. Many of the varieties I have bought in the last couple of years are rare ones propagated by Suffolk Plant Heritage so it is nice to have the added pleasure of helping to preserve plants on the red list.

One of my favourites is ‘Mavis Smith’ which was found by a member of Suffolk Plant Heritage in the garden of her Pilates class. It is the tallest and most vigorous of all my chrysanthemums and instantly recognisable because of its quilled petals which make the flowers look like pink shuttlecocks.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mavis Smith’

I have a clump growing alongside which is another rare chrysanthemum with creamy semi-double flowers called ‘Edelweiss’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mavis Smith’ with Chrysanthemum ‘Edelweiss’

Another pink one, but this time with a white halo at the centre is ‘Jolie Rose’. This is one of my most recent purchases and I am very pleased with it.

Chrysanthemum ‘Jolie Rose’

A lot of the gardens round here seem to grow Chrysanthemum ‘Suffolk Pink’. I don’t know anything about its history but I suppose it is a local one. I read that it is very rare but it is not round here, everyone has it. It is a very vigorous one.

Chrysanthemum ‘Suffolk Pink’

I have bought a dark pink one with tiny pompom flowers this year. It is called ‘Julia Peterson’. It blooms for ages.

Chrysanthemum ‘Julia Peterson’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mei -Kyo’ is an old variety from Japan. It is smothered in pink pom -pom flowers for a long period.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mei-Kyo’

I grow it in front of the long flowering Rose ‘Bengal Beauty’ and alongside Salvia uliginosa.

‘The Emperor of China’ is a very old one, Gertrude Jekyll wrote about it in 1880. It is absolutely gorgeous with silvery pink quilled petals. Its foliage develops beetroot red leaves in late autumn.

Chrysanthemum ‘The Emperor of China’

‘Clara Curtis’ has pale single flowers, it is a very old variety and it is extremely vigorous.

Chrysanthemum ‘Clara Curtis

I have a single, red one which is very pretty and I cannot remember its name so I would be very happy if anyone could help me out.

‘Chrysanthemum ”Buxton Ruby’ has the smallest, darkest, red semi-double flowers.

Chrysanthemum ‘Buxton Ruby’

Coppery colours are perfect for this time of the year and ‘Marion’ is a rare semi-double chrysanthemum which is a gorgeous rich apricot.

Chrysanthemum ‘Marion’

I bought this next one as ‘Sonya’ but I think it may be wrongly labelled because when I googled it, the only ‘Sonya’ I could find was pink. Maybe my friend Anne, who is the propagating queen for Suffolk Plant Heritage could help us here. Whatever its name, it is a beauty.

Anther rare one which is on the endangered list is gorgeous ‘Picasso’ which has masses of double flowers in a lovely, peachy colour.

Chrysanthemum ‘Picasso’

‘Golden Greenheart’ has a double layer of petals and a distinctive green centre. It is rather unusual.


Chrysanthemum ‘Golden Greenheart’

My favourite golden chrysanthemum is the late flowering ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ . It has bronze double flowers which are gold on the reverse of the petals. It is the last of my chrysanthemums to come into bloom.

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

I seem to have rather a lot of yellow ones so next year I shall look for other colours. Again on the red list, I have Chrysanthemum ‘Jante Wells’ which is a rare and sought after variety with bright yellow flowers.

Chrysanthemum ‘Jante Wells’

‘President Osaka’ is a another very rare chrysanthemum. It has sprays of acid yellow flowers.

Chrysanthemum ‘President Osaka’

‘Cottage Lemon’ is very similar but is much more readily available.

Chrysanthemum ‘Cottage Lemon’

I have a few more, but that is probably enough for now. Next year I shall certainly buy some more chrysanthemums because what else fills the garden with such vibrant colour in November ?

I did mean to write about the greenhouse today but the sun was shining and as I walked round the garden there were explosions of colour everywhere and I wanted to come in and celebrate them. I hope you will see one or two that you might like to try, they really brighten up the November garden and they bloom for ages.

Before I go, I will give you a little taste of something that is happening in the greenhouse, and that is a tender chrysanthemum that is just coming into bloom and it is quite astonishing. It was a present from Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and it is quite stunningly beautiful. It is called ‘Salhouse Joy’ and it is certainly bringing me a lot of joy; many thanks Cathy.

Chrysanthemum ‘Salhouse Joy’
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In a Vase on Monday. Mellow Fruitfulness.

I was going to take you into my greenhouse today, in fact I’ve been meaning to do a greenhouse blog for ages, but Cathy at Rambling in the Garden is celebrating the 7th anniversary of her meme ‘In a Vase on Monday’ and so I had to put something together to join in with her celebration. Her challenge today is to create a vase with no flowers and it is a great time of the year to enjoy seeds and fruits or drupes. They come in such an abundance of shapes and colours and they give so much pleasure in the autumn garden. My apple crop has been phenomenal this year and now the ones that are still lying around and rotting are creating a glut for wasps and butterflies. it has been so mild that I still have red admiral butterflies around.

I didn’t have much time to get the material together because it was getting dark but here is what I picked. For berries I chose some lovely, shiny purple Callicarpa bodinieri, nothing else has berries in just this colour, except perhaps for the climber Akebia quinata which sometimes has a strange, pulpy fruit in pale lilac. As we are talking about autumn fruit I have to show it to you. I read that it is edible, but somehow I don’t quite fancy it.

Akebia quinata

But back to the callicarpa berries, I think they would make a gorgeous necklace.

Callicarpa bodinieri

The red lozenge-shaped berries are Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea’. I grow a few barberries for their lovely leaf colour but I grow one specially for the gorgeous fruit and it is the rare Berberis georgei. If I was going to make jewellery out of this one, it would be dangly earrings.

I grow another rare berberis for the beautiful blue leaves in summer. It is called Berberis temolaica.

Berberis temolaica in summer

Now the blue leaves have turned a lovely red colour. They make a nice contrast with the evergreen, vareigated Pittospermum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’.

I used two different types of fluffy pennisetum grasses. Penisetumm villosum is white and Pennisetum alopecuriodes has brown heads and makes a larger plant.

So far we have red and purple berries, but can you spot the pink ones? This is euonymus, I’m not sure which variety, as I grew it from a seed which fell into my pocket. It could be Euonymus hamiltonianus. I have several in different colours but this is my favourite.

I have used a yellow fruit from Chaenomeles japonica.

Some people call these fruit quinces but the real quince is a tree Cydonia oblonga and it has much larger fragrant fruit and beautiful blossom in spring.

Cydonia oblonga ‘Vranja’

The little brown fruit in my arrangement is the rather peculiar medlar. This is apparently edible if you blet it which really means letting it go rotten. I have never been tempted to eat it, but it makes a pretty little tree with lovely blossom.

Mespilus germanica

I am crazy about crab apple trees and I have bought several new ones for my piece of reclaimed garden. The largest one I have is ‘Golden Hornet which was here when we came and it is enormous. If you like crab apples with yellow fruit I would go for ‘Comtessa de Paris’ which has persistent fruit which doesn’t go brown.

Malus ‘Golden Hornet’

I have used a fruit from my little Malus ‘Evereste’ in the arrangement.

Malus ‘Evereste’

The large fruit on the table is from one of my new crab apples and it is called ‘Jelly King’, it is quite a new introduction and I think it is the best of the large fruited varieties. It is supposed to be good for crab apple jelly but I’d rather have the fruit on the tree. And anyway, I really can’t be bothered to mess about making crab apple jelly, life is far too short.

Three of my other favourite crab apples are Malus transitora which has loads of small bead -like yellow fruit and I grew mine from seed so I know it is one of the few which come true from seed. Malus ‘Cardinal’ has gorgeous pink blossom and lovely red fruit.

Malus ‘Cardinal’

Ok, you haven’t got all day, I’ll just show you just one more crab apple which I bought in the early spring and enjoyed its beautiful white blossom. It is called ‘Malus ‘Wedding Bouquet’. The little red fruit persist well into December.

Malus brevipes ‘Wedding Bouquet’

I really meant to include some sorbus berries but I forgot and it is too dark to go down the garden and get some now. So I will show you a picture of my favourite one at the moment. I have a couple of new ones but they are too small to look very good yet. I also have some seed grown ones, so I am looking forward to seeing how they turn out.

Sorbus hupehensis

So there we have it, all the lovely fruit in my vase and quite a bit that would have been in there if I had had more time. These early, dark afternoons rather creep up on you. I have used a brown Hornsea pottery jam pot which I bought many years ago at Hornsea. I thought the colour is nice and autumnal.

Congratulations Cathy, on seven years of bringing pleasure to so many people with your Monday vases. A vase without flowers is a good way of celebrating the autumn garden.

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In a vase on Monday. Two for the Price of One.

I have been absent from the blogging world for a while, partly because I have had a dodgy internet connection which is now sorted, but mainly because I have been working long hours on new projects which I will show you later.

But first to make up for the my absence I have two vases today. The first which I will call ‘Frothy coffee’ is made up of two of my favourite dahlias. One is the beautifully named cactus dahlia ‘Messenger from the Moon’ or Tsuki Yori No Shisha’. The other is the dinner plate ‘Café au Lait’ which is such a gorgeous colour. Frosts are forecast for this week so this is probably the end of the dahlias for this year. I have also used the cowslip yellow Clematis rhederiana which is sometimes known as ‘Virgin’s Bower’. It is a delightful clematis with clusters of nodding, scented bell-like flowers. It blooms for weeks on end. Its only vice is the fact that in one season it grows huge and it is scaling the rose and wisteria arches in my secret garden. So today I have been ruthlessly cutting it back.

Dahlia ‘Tsuki Yori No Shisha’
Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’

Outside in the garden autumn is showing its russet hues everywhere and it is beautiful. But for my second vase I am hanging on to the fresh colours of summer for one more week.

I have used four of my salvias. On the right is the aptly named Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’ and the flowers do look as if they are made of velvet. By the end of the summer this makes a huge bush, but it is not hardy so I take plenty of cuttings.

Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’

On the left are the spikes of beautiful Salvia leucantha ‘Phyllis Fancy’ which also makes a huge bush. This is special as it was a present from our lovely Cathy from Rambling in the Garden who gets us all finding flowers to put in a vase on Monday. Thank you Cathy, I have been enjoying gorgeous Phyllis.

Salvia leucantha ‘Phyllis Fancy’

The other salvia I used is not quite the right colour because it is a rather intense blue rather than violet like the others. But it is quite unusual and I thought you might like to see it. It is called Salvia corrugata which is appropriate as it has corrugated leaves. It comes from South America so it is not hardy.

Salvia corrugata

The deep purple salvia in the photo above is called ‘Nachtvlinder’ which is the German for moth. It doesn’t look anything like a moth, but never mind it is a pretty name. This salvia seems relatively hardy in my garden and I now have big bushes of it.

The pretty white chrysanthemum in the next photo is called ‘Edelweiss’ It is quite rare. I am getting very keen on chrysanthemums as they carry the garden into November so prettily. I now have a good collection of different colours thanks to Suffolk Plant Heritage. But more of these another day.

The Japanese anemone is called ‘Andrea Atkinson’. It is very similar to the ubiquitous ‘Honorine Jobert’ but I think it is better. It blooms from late summer well into autumn.

The white Michaelmas daisy or symphyotrichum as we now have to call it is Symphyotrichum ericioides ‘Snow Flurry’.

The lovely potato vine is the two-toned white and violet Solanum laxum ‘Creche du Pape’, or this is what everyone seems to call it now. Its proper name is ‘Creche ar Pape’ which sounds ungrammatical but it is named after a place in Brittany.

I have missed writing about my special October blooms and now we are into November. I will try and catch up with fruits, flowers and gorgeous leaves very soon. And it is high time I invited you into the greenhouse again where the nerines have been delighting me for several weeks now and still look good. And after weeks of hard work I now have much more garden to enjoy and to share with you as yet again I have pushed back on elastic boundaries and that’s it now, if I go any further I shall be in my neighbours’ gardens. Actually, that is a thought, the people on the left probably wouldn’t notice. But then I mustn’t be greedy. I have masses more space now. I will show you soon.

And of course I am looking forward to catching up with what everyone else has been doing in their gardens whilst I was busy. Until then, thank you Cathy for your lovely meme In a Vase on Monday. Next week it will be her 7th anniversary, so don’t miss it.

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Stinky greenhouse. Stapelia gigantea.

Recently I promised more regular visits to see what is in bloom in the greenhouse. And just at the moment there are some enormous and rather weird blooms on display. But if you could visit here on a sunny day, you might not want to linger long because it smells as if something has died.

Stapelia gigantea

If you have delicate sensibilities you might object to the smell and you will be revolted by this plant’s rather gruesome habits. It is not insectivorous exactly, but it relies on flies to pollinate it. It comes from arid, desert areas of South Africa where there is a lack of butterflies and bees. It is sometimes known as the Carrion Flower because not only does it stink, but the flower is supposed to resemble carrion in order to attract flies to pollinate it. It is flesh- coloured, it has wavy concentric lines like veins and the flowers are edged with fur.

The petals feel like soft suede. Flies are attracted by the smell and the appearance and they lay their eggs on it and pick up pollen. Actually, I never get seeds in mine so perhaps I have the wrong -sized flies. The maggots soon die of starvation so they fall off and presumably nourish the roots.

I know this all sounds absolutely disgusting, but let’s look at it another way. An alternative name for it is Starfish Cactus and indeed it does look like a starfish.

If you go in the greenhouse on a dull day, there is no smell. And the starfish -like flowers are amazing, they look unreal, or as if someone has knitted them. And the buds are wonderful too; they take ages to plump up until eventually they look just like balloons.

In summer these plants lives in a sunny spot in my greenhouse and get regular watering. Flowering is stimulated by the shortening days. In winter they have to come inside because they can’t take temperatures below 10c. They need to be kept very dry in winter so I leave them on spare bedroom window sills and forget about them.

Stapelea gigantea has succulent, four-angled stems which are spineless and velvety to the touch. It looks like a cactus but it actually belongs to the Milkweed family.

I have read that Stapelia gigantea can become invasive in warm climates and in Hawaii it has become a menace, but there is no chance of that happening here in the UK. It won’t seed around, but it is easy from cuttings. If you want a really unusual plant for the greenhouse then why not give it a try? The huge flowers will stop visitors in their tracks. They can be as big as 10-16 inches across and another name for it is Zulu Giant. If you can’t stand the smell, you can always keep it outside in summer in a sunny spot but it shouldn’t be moved once the buds have formed because they might drop off.

Readers of my blog will know that I have a passion for nerines and they are the stars of my October greenhouse, helping me to forget that winter is coming. They are now full of buds and some of them are blooming, so next time I take you into the greenhouse it will be to have a look. Nerines are fabulous with beautiful, starry flowers, luminous colours and no flies or horrible smell.

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A Delectation of Dahlias.

For years I disliked dahlias; I didn’t like the smell and I associated them with the regimental rows of garish colours where earwigs lurked in my grandmother’s garden. I started a few years ago with the fashionable ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and from there decided dahlias were OK as long as they were deep, velvety red like the almost edible ‘Karma Choc’ so I grew a few from seed trying to get ever darker children. You can buy some lovely, dark red dahlias though so I gave up trying to breed my own.

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’

My latest dark one is the sultry ‘Dark Desire’.

Dahlia ‘Dark Desire’

The fire engine red ‘Murdoch’ is also a favourite.

Dahlia ‘Murdoch’

Then I fell for the over- the-top charms of the monstrous Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’.

Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’

Last year I acquired its relative ‘Café au Lait Rose’.

Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Rose’

Another flamboyantly, gorgeous dahlia is the ghostly white, fimbriated Dahlia ‘Tsuki Yori No Shisha’ which translates as ‘Messenger from the Moon’.

Dahlia ‘Tsuki Yori No Shisha’

I am not particularly keen on cactus dahlias but I do have the semi cactus, ‘Ambition’ because it is such a lovely deep purple.

And I had to have the dinner plate deep purple ‘Thomas.E. Edison’.

Another giant decorative dahlia is the sturdy ‘Labyrinth’ which is a glorious, peachy confection of swirling petals.

Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’

The anemone -flowered ‘Mambo’ is unusual.

Dahlia ‘Mambo’

But I have a weakness for single dahlias and they are the ones the bees prefer. The ‘Honka’ series comes in various colours but they are all single with reflexed petals. This one is ‘Honka Fragile’.

Dahlia ‘Honka Fragile’

Dahlias with dark foliage are always attractive and I have several dark-leaved bishops, but the one I particularly love is ‘Waltzing Mathilda’, the colours are so peachy. Here she is waltzing her way through the dark blue Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’.

So far I haven’t mentioned any colarettes, these are dahlias with flat petals and a collar of florets at the centre. Here is one called ‘Night Butterfly’ and she seems to have strong genes because she has bequeathed her distinctive flowers to many of her seedling in my garden.

Dahlia ”Night Butterfly’

And that is what I really want to show you today. You can see the above dahlias in any catalogue but my babies are unique to my garden. If you start off with a varied selection of dahlias, then growing your own from seed is endlessly fascinating because you never know what you will get. And of course it is addictive. If you sow them early they will bloom the first year and each succeeding year they get better and better. These red, year- old children are taller than me.

They look lovely en masse.

Most of the seedlings are single or semi double. I have the odd anemone- flowered one like this child of ‘Totally Tangerine’

There are lots of ‘Honka ‘ children with slender reflexed petals. The yellow one surprised me because I don’t have any yellow dahlias.

I have loads which have inherited the collar from ‘Night Butterfly’, some tidier than others.

I wish I had time and space to show them all to you but as I probably have about sixty dahlias it is not possible. So just one more and it was a total surprise as it is a cactus-type dahlia and I don’t understand how the bees pulled this one off.

I will finish my paean to dahlias with three vases showing the range of colours of my babies. I am joining in with Cathy’s meme ‘In a Vase on Monday’ and I hope she will forgive this long-winded introduction to my vases. As you can see I am a little obsessed After all what else gives you so much colour for the whole of the summer?

If you go over to Rambling in the Garden you will see what other people have found to put into a vase on this last day of the summer. And thanks to Cathy who, come rain or shine never lets us down.

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Lovely Leaves.

It’s a long time since I wrote about foliage in the garden and yet it is such an important element. I use it a lot, not just as a foil for my flowers but to create an atmosphere of its own. I love to use green to make enticing paths like this ancient brick path which is lined with ferns and earlier in the season tall angelica. Overhanging the path is an old mulberry tree on one side and an ancient apple tree overhangs the wall on the other side. The red rose is a jarring note and I will probably move it.

You approach it through this gate at the other end.

Half way down the path this Kalopanax septemlobus looks quite exotic with its spiny bark and big leaves..

Kalopanax septemlobus
Kalopanax septemlobus

But today I want to talk about my Henri Rousseau, jungle garden. I have made a little path of stepping stones leading in to it and I like the green tunnel effect tempting you in to what looks like a hidden path.

The jungly effect of this part of the garden is enhanced by the bright, bold colours of the dahlias and other flowers, but more importantly, it is the foliage which is even more effective and eventually it will probably create too much shade for the dahlias. But that is fine because I love the jungly effect of interesting foliage. The leaves of this Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ are enormous and it is suckering and spreading so it is clearly happy here. Behind it is the hardy banana Musa basjoo which is forming a nice clump. Even though it is reasonably hardy, I give it a fleecy jacket in winter. To the right is the black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra.

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’

I have another type of hardy banana relation called Musella lasiocarpa or the Golden Lotus banana which is supposed to have spectacular golden lotus type flowers. It is still young but it survived last winter outside.

Musella lasiocarpa

The foxglove tree, Paulownia tomentosa has huge leaves too if you cut it down in the spring. You sacrifice the flowers this way but I grow it for the bold leaves.

Paulownia tomentosa

More height is provided by this tall reed Arundo donax var. ‘Versicolor’ another present from the jetty garden.

Arundo donax var. ‘Versicolor’

I love it with the fingers of Schleffera taiwaniana next to it

Schleffera taiwaniana

When I made a video of the garden a month or two ago, I said that the next shrub is a Shleffera but I made a mistake, it is actually an unusual Castor Oil plant called Fatsia polycarpa ‘Green Fingers’. I love the shiny, pointed leaves.

Fatsia polycarpa ‘Green Fingers’

Giant plants add to the jungly effect and I have quite a few of these wonderful rare tree dahlias you see in the next picture. The seeds came from New Zealand and they are the result of crosses between the tree dahlia Dahlia imperialis and hybrid garden dahlias. They were produced by Dr Keith Hammett who sent seeds to Matthew at Riverside Bulbs who gave them to me to grow on and he kindly let me keep some. As they are new to this country we don’t know whether I will get any flowers before the first frosts. Dahlia imperialis blooms in the autumn. But never mind I like the size of the plants and it is amazing they have grown so big in their first year from seed.

Next to it is the Eucalyptus gunnii which I chop down each year because I don’t want it to get too big and I like the round, juvenile leaves.

Eucalyptus gunnii

Nearby there is the golden bean tree Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’ which can also be stooled each year to get huge leaves.

Next to the bean tree there are grasses, the evergreen Pittosporum tenuifolium and the grey foliage of Euryops pectinatus. I have found that this is hardy and it produces its yellow daisy flowers early in the spring.

I have a variegated Pittospermum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’ here too which is lovely for flower arrangements.

Pittospermum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’

An unusual shrub which is much admired in this part of the garden is Rubus lineatus. It is a lovely plant with pleated leaves and nobody believes it is a member of the blackberry family. I have read that it has edible fruit but mine is three years old now and has never fruited. But I love the foliage.

Rubus lineatus
Rubus lineatus

Quite a few of the foliage plants here are are grown from seeds I have picked up on my travels. The loquat, Eriobotrya japonica came from Italy. I don’t think it will flower or fruit in this country but I love the foliage. Next to it is a cistus which I grew from a seed from Corsica. It has shiny pink flowers in June but I would grow it anyway because I love the silvery grey foliage.

Eriobotrya japonica

The olive tree in the above picture was a present from my son as it had grown rather too big for its pot on his jetty garden.

On holiday in the Peloponnese in Greece I found the seed for this pretty Melia azedarach tree. I have never seen it growing in the UK so I thought that perhaps it isn’t hardy, but it has lived outside for two years now. So far it has not flowered but it doesn”t matter as I love the foliage.

Melia azedarach

I like the lacy leaves with the stiff upright foliage of the variegated yucca.

Cannas provide good foliage too. They are easy from seed, or they would be if the seeds weren’t like ball bearings with incredibly tough skins which you are supposed to sand paper before sowing. I managed to take the skin off my finger tips without making much impact on the seeds. Still I did grow this Canna musifolia which has banana type leaves.

Canna musifolia

I have several red leaved and stripey leaved cannas but my favourite is this variegated one called ‘Stuttgart’.

Canna ‘Stuttgart’

At ground level I have hostas and ferns and to my amazement a couple of caladiums which I had forgotten I had and they survived outside over winter.

Caladium

When I first made this jungle garden three years ago the dahlias were the main feature and last year I had an enormous number of additional dahlias which I grew from seed to add to the dahlia delight. I still love them as they bloom from June until the first frosts and are wonderful for picking too. But now that the foliage plants have matured I love them just as much, if not more than the dahlias. Colour comes and goes but the shapes and texture of leaves are a constant joy. And they are so tactile; they can be woolly or silky, shiny, wrinkly or waxy. I can’t remember who wrote that without foliage, flowers just look like colourful hay but I agree with that. Of course, interesting foliage sets flowers off beautifully. But interesting foliage is interesting and beautiful in its own right. I’m not sure if a love of foliage is an acquired taste like oysters which comes to us in maturity. But I love it more and more and I am even contemplating a foliage garden with no flowers at all for my next project. But we will see.

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August Top Ten Blooms.

This is going to be my last monthly Top Ten Bloom post. I have been doing it for several years now and it is getting to be a bit repetitive. Right now I would rather be writing about my Mediterranean garden or my Henri Rousseau garden or beautiful foliage. The other problem is that sometimes at the beginning of the month there is something stunning that I would like to write about and then by the 23rd it is past its best and so I never do get round to it.

Anyway, I shall try and avoid plants I have mentioned in previous posts, I don’t want to repeat myself year after year. And I shall keep this short; I won’t be rambling today or sneakily fitting in far more than ten blooms as I usually do because I am writing with only one functional eye. The other is black and blue and swollen after coming off worse in an argument with a vicious, pointy branch of silver birch, Betula allbosinensis ‘Pink Champagne’. Actually, it wasn’t an argument, it was an unprovoked attack.

I love daisies of any kind so this is where I shall start. Echinaca purpurea is reliable and the clumps get bigger every year. It seeds around too.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’

I’m only at number one and all ready I am popping in a few extra blooms. This year I broke my rule of not buying any fancy new echinacea hybrids because so far they have never survived to see another year. But I couldn’t resist ‘Tomato Soup’.

Echinacea x hybrida ‘Tomato Soup’

And then this one with a topknot caught my eye; ‘Eccentric’ is a good name for it.

Echinnacea x hybrida ‘Eccentric’

And then as I was really getting into buying echinaceas I thought I would throw in this pale pink one too. I have hardly bought any plants during this plague year so a little over-indulgence in echinaceas of doubtful hardiness is allowable.

Echinacea ‘Pink Top’

I love rudbeckias too and usually I grow some from seed but this year I didn’t get round to it so I bought one. It has the ridiculous name of Rudbeckia hirta ‘Happy Smiley’. I nearly gave it a miss because of its ridiculous name but it is so pretty. You can also get ‘Laughing Smiley’ or ‘Giggling Smiley’ if you can bear to possess plants with such silly names.

Echinacea hirta ‘Happy Smiley’

I persist in growing hostas despite the constant battle with slugs and snails. But if I ever gave them up I would always keep Hosta plantaginea or one of its family because the flowers are so pretty and most importantly they have a delicious scent. I have Hosta ‘Guacamole’ in a cast iron urn so it never gets attacked by slugs and I pick the flowers because they make the room smell lovely. This gorgeous hosta is a sport of ‘Fragrant Bouquet’. It has shiny, apple- green leaves streaked with dark green so it is pretty all summer long, but it is the fragrant flowers that I grow it for.

Hosta ‘Guacamole’

Each year I grow a few different cosmos, they are so quick and easy from seed and they are lovely for cutting. This year my favourite is Cosmos ‘Cupcakes Blush’. I love the shape of the flowers and the pinked edges to the petals.

Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’
Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’

But I also like the ruffled flowers of Cosmos ‘Double Click Cranberries’.

Cosmos ‘Double Click Cranberries’

I seem to be straying into more than one for each bloom, so for the rest of my August selection I will confine myself to just one. It is a shame to miss out Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ or ‘Limpopo’ and ‘Hellfire’ or dainty ‘ Golden Ballerina,’ but never mind I can show you another time. Today I am featuring Crocosmia’ Fire King’ because it was a new one last year. It looks lovely with the jolly French Marigolds ‘Flamenco’. I think these are rather fun, I might put some in a pot next year. How times change, a few years I would have been appalled at the idea of growing French Marigolds. Now my Henri Rousseau garden has opened me up to a whole new world of colour.

Tagetes patula ‘Flamenco’

Nearby I have a little species dahlia called ‘Dark Desire’ which looks good with the stripey Tagetes patula ‘Jolly Jester.’ on the right there are the orange pouches of Calceolaria ‘Kentish Hero’

Whoops, I’m digressing again. Back to the crocosmia which is contributing to the bonfire effect in my exotic garden,

Crocosmia ‘Fire King’

I love white bell- shaped flowers and I love white flowers and Galtonia candicans ticks both boxes. It is a bulbous perennial and as it produces plenty of seeds it is easy to grow on and I always have some to give away or put in a pot. I also grow a green- flowered one called Galtonia viridiflora.

Galtonia candicans
Galtonia viridiflora

If your idea of gladiolus is the large- flowered, (dare we say vulgar) flowers that Dame Edna Everage used to pelt her audience with, then I think that the elegant Gladiolus ‘Papilio Ruby’ will astonish you with its sophisticated charm. It grows in my gravel garden and I hope it will survive the winter, I am not quite sure of its hardiness.

Gladiolus ‘Papilio Ruby’
Gadioolus ‘Papilio Ruby’

I love the pixie cap flowers of the climbing plant, Codonopsis lanceolata which is happy with a couple of bamboo sticks to scale. It dies back each year after flowering. I grow it in pots although I have found that it survives outside in my gravel garden too. It has delightful bell -shaped green flowers which are marked with rusty purple inside. I believe the roots of these plants are eaten in their native Korea and they have medicinal properties. But I’ll stick with carrots. This plant produces plenty of seed so you never need be without it.

I have another codonopsis with pure white flowers called Codonopsis greywilsonii ‘Himel Snow’ which blooms a little earlier in July.

Codonopsis grey-wilsonii ‘Himel Snow’

I shall finish with my Chaste Tree, Vitex agnus- casti. Last year I saw this growing wild around the ancient site of Mystras overlooking Sparta in Greece. We should be going there next week but this year I shall just have to enjoy it in the garden instead. The Ancient Greeks grew it round temples because they thought it helped to keep women chaste whilst they were in frenzied worship during rituals celebrating their virgin goddess, Artemis. Pliny wrote of them ‘They made their pallets and beds with the leaves thereof to cool the heat of their lust’. Centuries later, I believe monks made tea from leaves of the plant for the same purpose. Nowadays, it is a useful plant for late summer blooms. Like Hibiscus syriacus, it comes into leaf late in the year. I am told the leaves are similar to those of cannabis. I have never seen cannabis growing but I have seen it recommended as a handsome foliage plants in old gardening books. I am not very keen on buddleia but although the flower spikes of this are similar, I think it is much more attractive.

Vitex agnus-castus.

So there we have ten August blooms with just a few digressions. It could be worse, if I hadn’t got a black eye I should probably have gone off at a total tangent into the cult of Artemis in the Peloponnese which I find fascinating. And there would be more flowers. As it is I am saving my beloved dahlias for another post and here are a few more in a gallery.

So that is the last of my Top Ten Blooms. It would be lovely if you would share some of your August favourites.

From now on each month I shall feature either whatever is looking good in the greenhouse or I shall choose something a bit rare or unusual. I haven’t quite decided which. I would appreciate a little input, which would you prefer; monthly greenhouse plants or something unusual?

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On the Beach.

It’s been too hot to blog lately, too hot to do anything but lie in the hammock and read and plot new projects for the garden. Oh, and there’s been watering to do of course, endless, back-breaking watering. So this is not a post about the real beach; I haven’t been there for months, there are too many ‘staycationers’ swarming around on all my favourite beaches. But my shed looks like a beach hut and I have created a little beach all round it. It’s a pity there is no cool water to plunge into but I have a lot of blue flowers to cool me down. I have waves of blue agapanthus for the sea with white ones to represent the surf. OK, you have to squint at them and use your imagination to imagine it as the sea.

I have shells and fossils and stones which I have picked up over the years.

I even have a resident seagull.

I have a lovely sky blue flax to give me a taste of the holiday we had to cancel last month. We had planned to cycle the ‘Véloroute du Lin’ which follows the traditional flax route across Normandy. So instead of fields of blue I have this, which is pretty, but I would love to see fields of it.

Linum narbonense ‘Heavenly Blue’

I have fabulous Eryngium bourgatii ‘Picos Blue’ in metallic blue. I have seen this growing in sand dunes on Mediterranean beaches so it should be at home here in the gravel.

Eryngium bourgatii ‘Picos Blue’

I like thistly plants and I have another one on my beach which is probably not particularly maritime, it comes from South Africa. I like its silvery lilac flowers and I love the spiky leaves. It is called Berkheya purpurea.

Berkheya purpurea

Bulbine frutescens is another South African plant, this time with fleshy leaves. I think it looks good growing in the gravel. I came upon it for the first time growing on a roundabout in France. To my shame, I risked the Pianist’s disapproval, death by being run over and angry gendarmes because I just had to have a tiny piece of it. Luckily it grows easily from tiny pieces and so I keep some in the greenhouse every winter as it is not hardy.

Bulbine frutescens

You often see sea campion on cliffs and I love any sort of campion. This is the variegated one, Silene uniflora ‘Druett’s Variegated’

Silene uniflora ‘Druetts Variegated’

The lovely starry lilac flowers are Tulbaghia violacea. It looks good with the eryngium foliage.

And yes, that is a foot below. In the foreground is another campion which seeds and spreads readily which is lucky because people are always asking for a bit.

Silene uniflora
Silene uniflora

I always knew of this as Silene uniflora but I think it may be called Silene maritima now.

I have it in pink too.

Silene uniflora ‘Pink’

I don’t suppose camapanulas are particularly beachy but I love them, specially the little ones so I have a few dinky bells ringing in the gravel.

Other plants which are very much seaside plants are various kinds of Drift, Armeria maritima which bloom in early summer.

Armeria maritima

The horned Sea Poppy grows on beaches here in Suffolk and the native one is yellow. I love this orange one, Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum. The flowers are pretty but now they are over. I have cut off all the stems and enjoy the lovely grey leaves.

Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum
Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum

Lined up outside my shed I have a selection of succulents. I seem to have a surprising number of these which is odd as years ago I didn’t even like them. I fell in love with them when I went to Tresco in the Scilly Isles. I associate them with seaside places after seeing them planted all over the cliffs at the open air theatre at Minack in Cornwall. I wish I had some cliffs to display them.

But the pièce de résistance of my beach in summer is the agapanthus. I grew them all from seed and they have all come out bigger and better than any of their parents. So here they are reminding me once again of Tresco where they have escaped from the gardens to roam about on the dunes.

So now I have shared my beach with you I am off to see what everyone else has been doing whilst I lazed in my hammock. If you live in the UK, I hope your gardens have survived the intense heat. And you too. There have been days when I nearly climbed into the goldfish pond to cool off.

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Six on Saturday. And Now for Something Completely Different.

I have grown the lovely perennial snapdragon, Antirrhinum ‘Pretty in Pink’ for several years. It was launched to great acclaim at Chelsea Flower Show in 2015. It grows big and bushy and blooms all summer long and yes, it is hardy.

Antirrhinum ‘Pretty in Pink’

It seeds around and so there are always plenty of plants to give away to friends. But this year it produced something quite new. I am now the proud owner of the first white perennial antirrhinum. I haven’t thought of a name yet. Any suggestions?

Last year I grew the pretty Nicotiana ‘Tinkerbell’.

Nicotiana ‘Tinkerbell’

And I always have the stately Nicotiana sylvestris popping up here and there.

Nicotiana syvestris

So this year I have what looks like a result of their liasion. And it is gorgeous.

And here is another baby which is different again.

People who read my blog regularly probably know that I am nutty about nerines. The first one to bloom is always the bright red Nerine sarniensis which is not hardy and has to live in the greenhouse.

Nerine sarniensis

This year I bought a new one called Nerine sarniensis ‘Corusca major’ which I thought would be bigger and better and redder. I don’t know whether this was mislabelled or what happened; it is early flowering but the wrong colour. If I hadn’t expected a lovely bright red bloom I would be pleased with it as it is much earlier blooming than the other nerines. But pink?

Nerine sarniensis ‘Corusca major’ ?

And now for some plants which are new and different for me but perhaps not for you.

I have never grown watsonia as I am not sure how hardy it is but this year I am trying a lovely peach one in my gravel garden.

Watsonia borbonica ‘Peach Glow’

If it is successful next year I shall try this fabulous Watsonia fourcadei which I saw growing at Green Island Gardens recently.

Watsonia fourcadei, Green Island Gardens, Essex.

I don’t know whether Lily ‘Fusion’ is a new hybrid but it is new to me this year and I love it. It is a cross between Lilium longiflorum and the Leopard lily, Lilium pardilinum. It is my current favourite lily.

Lilium ‘Fusion’

I will finish with something very different. Many people grow the fragrant Abyssinian gladiolus, Acidanthera murielae which is so difficult to bring back into bloom. It is actually called Gladiolus murielae now. The Abyssinian gladiolus is the only one that is fragrant. Joan Wright, who was a plant breeder from New Zealand tried for many years to create a new fragrant gladiolus by making crosses with Gladioulus murielae. Gladioulus murielae ‘Lucky Star’ was the only result. It was originally introduced in 1966 but was lost to gardeners for decades. It is new to me this year and I hope I can keep it going. It is a gem with large, fragrant, white flowers with a fuchsia -pink centre.

Gladiolus murielae ‘Lucky Star’

So there we have it, my Six On Saturday for August. I hope I have shown you something a little bit different. Many thanks to the Propagator for hosting the popular meme and this week I have stuck to the rules, more or less.

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The Jetty Garden Again.

Every summer I write a post about the wonderful jetty garden belonging to our much loved Boaties; my son, Bertie and his partner, Beatrice. Their home is a converted Thames sugar lighter and they don’t let a simple thing like not having any soil get in the way of having a fabulous garden on their jetty. Each year we think it just can’t get any better and it does.

I’m still not sure what the magic trick is to grow hostas like these. This is just one plant of ‘Sum and Substance’.

Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’

And notice there is not a trace of slug damage, although no pellets are used , just daily vigilance and the slimy offenders are thrown into the river.

I’m not sure which variety this next one is but I love the dark purple flower stems.

And this is a novel way to hide an ugly plastic pot. Soleirolia or ‘Mind- You- Own- Business’ as it’s commonly known. The hosta was a seedling.

Tree ferns are another specialty. Here are a couple with Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ The willow on the right hand corner is Salix exigua.

Bertie was complaining that ‘Limelight’ doesn’t look as good as it should because he didn’t get round to pruning it. I just wish my Hydrangea paniculata looked like this.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’

And here is the willow. The tree on the left is an olive.

But back to the tree ferns, I have lost count how many there are.

Birds love the jetty and they have an amazing number of nests in the spring. Here is the nest of a long tailed tit in a tree fern. It is moss and feathers and it is all delicately woven together with spiders’ webs. It is cosily enclosed with a roof . The family all hatched out safely.

The jetty garden is a green oasis with just flashes of colour, it relies on shape and form. So there are lots of different ferns, grasses and hostas. To give height there are trees in pots but also bamboos. I love the way they decorate the jetty with found objects from when they go beach combing. This rope looks wonderful wrapped round the bamboo pot.

I grow the Japanese grass, Hachonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ in a pot too, but it certainly doesn’t look anything like this. We sat at socially distanced tables for lunch and a sign of the times, there was hand sanitiser on the table.

Hachonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

And here is the other table. Lunch was, as always, delicious.

A recent addition is Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ which will need a jetty all to itself once those leaves start expanding.

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’

It seems a good day to write about the jetty garden as it is Bertie’s birthday today, so Happy Birthday my son, and lots of love to you and your lovely Beatrice.

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