In a Vase on Monday. Zinnias and Things.

Zinnias are wonderful cut flowers, like sweet peas the more you cut, the more they flourish and they are so long lasting in a vase.  They go on blooming until the first frosts. I started growing them when I saw them on other blogs. I don’t know why I never thought of it before. There are so many wonderful varieties that choosing the seeds is difficult. I think this one; Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’ is antiquey looking and darkly sophisticated. The spikes of Persicaria amplexicaulis are a perfect match. I thought the fluffy seed heads of Pennisetum alopecuroides go well with them too. This grass obligingly seeds around so I can have it all over.

Last year I grew a mixed selection which were bright and cheery but I think I prefer single colours.

I want to grow lots more next year, but which ones to choose? It would be lovely to hear which varieties other bloggers particularly enjoy. I am very taken with the lime green one that my friend, Christina at myhesperidesgarden grows. That one is definitely on the list.

I grow a lot of salvias, I love them and they are so easy from cuttings. I have been meaing to do a salvia post but now it is a bit late, some of them are looking past their best. But here is a cheery posy of some of my favourite varieties.

This year I grew some from seed that I collected from my favourites. They germinated readily and I was looking forward to some exciting new varieties. To my surprise every one turned out to be the bright red of Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’, like the one in the centre of the picture above. Very nice but I don’t need twenty identical red salvias.

My last vase today contains Nasturtium ‘Black Velvet’. It doesn’t look very black to me , more mahogany, but that is what it said on the packet.

So that is my three vases today. It is nice to have an abundance of flowers to pick in late October. Next month might be a bit more challenging once we have had the first frost. Please see what lovely Cathy at ramblinginthegarden and the rest of the vase fillers have been up today.

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Nurturing Nerines.

‘Nerines, like some plants and many  people, give no trouble provided that they are given precisely what they want’.  Peter Smithers.

I wrote an article about nerines recently for the Suffolk Plant Heritage Journal and since then people keep ringing me up to ask about their non-flowering nerines. This seems to be a concern of some blogging friends too. So this is a quick post about caring for these fabulous plants and making sure you have plenty of blooms to  enjoy in the garden, in pots, a vase or the greenhouse.

First of all, if you want them in the garden make sure they are bowdenii hybrids. These get their leaves in summer before the flowers. Once the flowers form or shortly afterwards, the leaves die down and once the flowers die down the bulb will be dormant until spring. The bulbs are frost hardy down to  – 15 degrees but having said that, the embryo flower buds could be vulnerable to severe frost, so it is a good idea to mulch them if the winter is harsh. On the other hand if it is very wet rather than frosty, the mulch could rot and damage them. So watch out for that. I live in the relatively mild East of England so I rarely bother with a mulch.

One cause of flowering -failure could be bulbs planted too deeply. They need their noses just protruding. They need a sunny site, the base of a south facing wall is ideal and they are happy in a poor soil as long as it is well drained. If you give them a nitrogen rich feed they will produce an abundance of glossy leaves at the expense of flowers. If they are not flowering well give them a high potash feed in summer when they are making next year’s flower buds. The other magic ingredient is summer watering. Just because they like to be baked in the sun doesn’t mean they can go without watering to initiate flowering. Once planted leave them alone, they resent disturbance. They probably won’t flower the first year, they need time to settle into their new home. Once they get going they should get better and better and they will spread by off-sets and the clump will get bigger. If you want to propagate them you can remove offsets when the bulbs are dormant.If you buy nerines as dry bulbs then plant  them in a pot and plant them out once they have developed roots. You can also sow the fleshy  seeds when they are fresh, they contain food and water for the young plant so don’t let them dry out. Sow them very shallowly in gritty soil. They take about 5 years to get to flowering size but you might produce something a bit different.

Any nerine which has leaves in winter rather than summer is a sarniensis hybrid and so not hardy. Efforts were made to cross bowdenii with sarniensis  nerines in order to get the jewel like range of colours combined with hardiness. The resulting plants are beautiful but not necessarily; in fact rarely, hardy.   Nerine sarniensis  comes in a range of gorgeous colours and many look as if they have been sprayed with shimmering glitter. This scintillation is caused by the crystalline structure of the petals and I have not seen it in any other plant. Obviously they need to be kept in pots in the UK. All nerines respond well to pot culture, they like to be overcrowded.

Nerine sarniensis

Nerine sarniensis needs to be kept reasonably dry when dormant in summer with just enough watering to stop the bulbs from shrivelling.  In winter ideally they need temperatures of 8 C – 10C) ( 46F-50F.) Having said this, I keep mine just frost proof and I haven’t lost any yet.

The larger flowered amarines are a recent introduction, they are a cross between Amaryllis belladonna and nerines. The flowers are gorgeous. I have Amarine belladiva ‘Aphrodite’ but there are several beautiful ones available.

Amarine belladiva ‘Aphrodite’

They need just the same care as Nerine bowdenii. When  I say amaryllis I am not talking about the long necked plants you have in a pot at Christmas, they are hippeastrums and I don’t know why people persist in calling them amaryllis. Amaryllis have large trumpet shaped flowers and they are very temperamental when it comes to flowering so I would chose amarines any time in preference. I spoke to somebody who  grew Amaryllis belladonna commercially as a cut flower and he said he was giving it up because they are so unreliable when it comes to flowering. Perhaps they need more sun than we can provide in the UK.

Amaryllis belladonna

If you don’t already, I do hope you will try growing some nerines or amarines; you won’t regret it. What else can give you so much delight as we wave goodbye to summer? If you have a greenhouse full of jewels like this you can’t feel depressed. They should be offered on the national health.

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Top Ten Blooms for October.

There is always a long awaited treat in October when my nerines come into full beauty. Some of them start in September, but October is the month when they are all strutting their stuff, each more lovely than the last. The bowdenii hybrids can live outside and they make ever larger clumps.

Nerine bowdenii


I particularly enjoy the pale pink Nerine bodwenii ‘Pink Surprise’. The flowers are so delicate.

Nerine ‘Pink Surprise’

The ones with sarniensis blood have to stay inside. The lovely vermilion-red Nerine sarniensis starts blooming in September but it has to live in the house in winter as it is too delicate for outside. It produces its leaves in winter and these would be killed by the first frost. I keep all my sarniensis/ bowdenii hybrids in an unheated greenhouse but I cover them with fleece when it is very cold. Favourites include the shimmering dusky flowers of  ‘Mr. John’.

Nerine ‘Mr. John’

And the huge dark pink flowers of Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’.

Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’

Gleaming white Nerine bowdenii  ‘Ella K’ should be hardy but I find that white nerines don’t seem to be as hardy as the pink ones. This one starts blooming in September.

Nerine ‘Ella K’

When ‘Ella K’ is going over then Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’ takes over.

Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’

Best of all though is my wonderful plant of the delicate Nerine undulata. This year there are 46 blooms in the one pot. I suppose I really should think of dividing it, it has lived for so long in the same pot.  This has to be done in spring.

Nerine undulata

My number two favourite is Amarine belladiva  which is a cross between nerine and amarylis. The flowers are much bigger than nerines. I have ‘Aphrodite’ which has delicately stripped flowers. It is supposed to be hardy so this year I am risking it outside. It is a good idea to mulch nerines and amarines because  the embryonic buds are vulnerable to frost.

Amarine belladiva ‘Aphrodite’

My number three is a little plant which I cosset in the greenhouse. It is actually an oxalis but forget the horrors of that creeping weed with red leaves; Oxalis corniculata that gets everywhere. This is an aristocratic little plant from South Africa which sits politely in its pot and causes no trouble.  And very pretty it is too. It blooms right through the autumn.

Oxalis massoniana

While we are in the greenhouse I might as well include the little paint brush plant haemanthus. It usually comes in red but this is Haemanthus albiflos. The chilli plant in the picture  is ‘Apache’, I always grow two or three plants of this, it makes a nice compact plant and fruits prolifically.

Haemanthus albiflos

I am not very keen on fuchsias. They look as if they are wearing the kind of dresses I loved when I was six, pink with frou frou skirts. My tastes have changed now. But I am very fond of a hardy climbing fuchsia called Lady Boothby. It is hardy down to -10. The flowers are a lovely shiny red and purple. I think a climbing fuchsia is rather unusual. I bought it at East Ruston Old Vicarage gardens, you can always be sure of finding something unusual there.

Fuchsia ‘Lady Boothbury’

Of course we have to include Michaelmas daisies in a list of October favourites. The naming of these plants has become a minefield. An aster is no longer a simple aster, or not always anyway.
My favourite is  – come on, let’s give it its proper name , Symphyiotrichum ‘Vasterival’. As you would expect from a plant from this fabulous garden, ‘Le Vasterival’ it is a real beauty. The late Princess Sturdza who gardened near Dieppe in France was an amazing gardener and the garden was one of my all time favourites. She was a very scary lady though. She used to conduct her guided tours clutching a pitchfork and she poked people with it if she felt they were getting too close to the edge of the borders.
S.‘Vasterival is a tall growing aster with masses of starry flowers on black stems. It is ethereally delicate and airy and although it spreads and languorously leans all over neighbouring plants I smile indulgently at it and allow it the sort of behaviour that lesser beauties wouldn’t get away with.

Symphyiotrichum ‘Vasterival’ with Anemone x hybrida ‘Andrea Atkinson’

Most people wouldn’t put Japanese Anemones in their top ten favourite lists, they are very invasive. I dug this white anemone up last year as I thought it was too near the front of the border. But this year she blooms on, serenely unconscious of the fact that she is not supposed to be there. But the flowers are such a pure white and the blooms last much longer than on other Japanese anemones. The name is Anemone x hyrida ‘Andrea Atkinson’. It is very similar to the more common ‘Honorine Jubert’ but I think it is better. It looks lovely with  S.’Vasterival’.

I have rather a lot of asters and I haven’t room to describe them all so I’ll just show you another favourite. It is Symphyiotrichum ‘Little Carlow’.  It is  much better behaved than ‘Vasterival’ and stays nice and compact without falling all over. It is a cordifolius hybrid . I have one by my garden gate and total strangers knock on the door to ask its name.

Symphyiotrichum ‘Little Carlow’

The centres of the flowers are yellow but they are always abuzz with bees and once the flowers are pollinated the centres turn pink. They look pretty with the dark pink flowers of Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Blackfield’.

Persicaria are very useful for late summer and autumn colour. Like the asters they have suffered from a name change, which is a shame as rather  childishly, I always used to enjoy Polygonun ‘Superbum’. As they are knotweeds most of them spread to make nice big clumps. Cathy at ramblinginthegarden has a good collection of these useful plants. She very kindly sent me Persicaria microcephala ‘Red dragon’. It has lovely  dark  red leaves with grey veins.

Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’

I’m not always sure of the names of the persicaria that I have begged or borrowed but I think the next one is Persicaria campanulata. It’s one I – er- borrowed. It’s alright, it spreads so fast nobody is going to miss a tiny little piece.

Persicaria campanulata

The pink and white Persicaria amplexicaulis look good growing with Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’

My next plant has suffered from a name change too. It used to be a chrysanthemum, but no longer. I think it is now called Arctanthemum arcticum. it is an arctic daisy which spreads into lovely clumps and has gleaming, snow white flowers. I love it.

Arctanthemum arcticum

Next month there will be more chrysanthemums as they are the stars of November.

I will finish with something a bit weird and wonderful.It is new to me this year. It is a succulent called Orostachys iwarenge, or Chinese Dunce Cap. It has rosettes from which grow little conical caps of pink flowers.

Orostachys iwarenge

So that’s my list of ten favourites for October. Here in Suffolk the weather has been unseasonably warm and the flowers seem to think that it is still summer. Other parts of the country have had gales and the tail end of Ophelia, but here we have just had incredibly warm days and a peculiar amber sky which then turned yellow and glowed with an eerie light. I hope that you have still got plenty to enjoy in the garden and that you will join me and show us which plants you are enjoying this month.

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In a Vase on Monday. Tyrian Purple.

Last week I celebrated autumn in my arrangement, but today is October and I feel I need  to recapture the memories of summer with some lush shades of  purple, mauve and violet.  Tyrian purple was a costly imperial colour made from thousands of tiny snails. No snails were involved in my arrangement.

Asters are reigning in the garden at the moment and I love the small starry ones which are true to their name. I used my favourites; ‘Le Vasterival’, ‘Little Carlow’, Aster cordifolius ‘Ideal’ and Aster cordifolius ‘Photograph’. These are all actually now symphyotrichums but today I am sticking with the name asters.

There are a couple of salvias; Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’ and Salvia ‘Amistad’ which is a true purple  and looks as if it could be made from crushed snails, unlike the rest of my blooms today.

I also used the lovely white and lilac coloured Solanum laxum ‘Crèche ar Pape’ which I thought must be a misprint when  first I saw its name  because it doesn’t make sense, but ‘Crèche ar Pape‘ is actually the name of a garden in Brittany. I notice a lot of people are listing it as ‘Crèche du Pape’ now which sounds grammatically correct,  but bizarre. Being celibate, I don’t suppose the pope has much need of a crib.

Other flowers are a dahlia seedling,  which is cheating because it’s pink,  a few late sprigs of lavender, Verbena bonariensis and Geranium ‘Rosanne’ which blooms all summer long.  I have featured  the fluffy heads of Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’ before and I will certainly grow it next year as it blooms for ages and is a wonderful cut flower. Ok, I know these are blue but they go quite well with the purple and lilac.

Geranium ‘Rosanne’.

I also used fluffy heads of Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ which is a fabulous grass which has obligingly seeded itself about. The campanula is the invasive Campanula rapunculoides which is a pest and I am always trying to eliminate it. Its common name is ‘Creeping Campanula’ and that is a good name for it.

As it really is autumn now I used a purple fruit as a prop.

It is a fruit of the Akebia quinata and this is the first time I have seen fruit on my plant.

There are plenty of seeds which I shall be sowing.

After I had taken the photos for this post I suddenly thought:  ‘Silly Cow!’

Passiflora ‘Silly Cow’

Passiflora ‘Silly Cow’ with its huge exotic blooms is just the thing to finish off the arrangement and rescue it from being too airy fairy.

I arranged the flowers, (well plonked them actually,) in my black Victorian mourning vase which is appropriate as today I am in mourning for summer.


Cathy who hosts this meme, ‘In a Vase on Monday’ has featured some of her lovely collection of knotweeds today, which are are actually not weeds at all. They are called persicaria these days and very pretty they are too. Do go and see.

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In a Vase on Monday. Celebrating Autumn Colour.

The last few days have been  beautifully warm and sunny  but autumn is here and so my arrangement celebrates the wonderful hues of this season. I used my nice little brown jug which is a Pearsons of Chesterfield jug, it reminds me of a shiny brown conker.

Zinnias go on and on both in the garden and in a vase.

The leaves are heuchera, Spiraea japonica ‘Goldflame’  and an orange coleus. The berries are unripe skimmia ones.  The green hops on the left appear everywhere in my garden and are a bit of a nuisance but still I allow one or two to climb trees.

I have used one rose on the centre  of the arrangement and that is the peerless apricot coloured ‘Grace’.

I have used two different nicotiana flowers. The beautiful Nicotiana mutabilis grows very tall and the blooms start off green and then turn pink.

Nicotiana mutabilis

I have also used Nicotiana alata ‘Limegreen’ as I love green flowers.

For orange flower power I have used a spray from one of my crocosmia seedlings and the bright orange Dahlia coccinea which is a species dahlia from Mexico with single flowers. It is not supposed to be hardy but mine has survived outside for several years.

The shiny, satiny flowers are Hesperantha coccinea ‘Major’. We are not allowed to call it schizostylis any more. I’m quite glad about that because I could never remember how to spell it.

Hesperantha coccinea ‘Major’

As usual thanks to my friend Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden for hosting the meme. Do pop over and see her lovely dahlias and all the other beautiful monday vases.

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Ten Favourite Plants for September.

Like all gardeners I return from holidays anxious to see what is happening in the garden. In my absence this time, there have been gales and heavy rain so the colchicums which were looking so beautiful when I  left are looking a bit dashed. That is the only fault with colchicums , they don’t look very attractive when they collapse in a heap. But still I have to include them amongst my favourite September blooms. The first to bloom in my garden are Colchicum autumnale and Colchicum autumnale ‘Album’. The name is a bit odd for flowers that start blooming in August.

Colchicum autumnale

Colchicum autumnale ‘Album’

My favourite colchicum is Colchicum speciosum ‘Atrorubens’. It doesn’t collapse so readily and it has a lovely purple stem and showy flowers.

Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’

I wrote more fully about colchicums last year and you can read about them here. For now, I will move on to a couple of plants that came through the storms quite unblemished and are looking lovely .  So coming in at number two and number three on my list- first of all, we have what I consider to be the Rolls Royce of the miscanthus family, Miscanthus nepalensis. The plumes look as if they have been spun from silk. Unfortunately it needs a very sheltered place as it is slightly tender, although mine survived the winter happily in my secret garden.

Miscanthus nepalensis


Miscanthus nepalensis

I grow it with the tall, airy scabious, Succcisa pratensis or ‘Devil’s Bit Scabious’. This  has a profusion of neat little blue flowers which are much loved by bees and butterflies.

Succisa pratensis

As it is September I will go from some lovely grass plumes to some really weird berries. I grow several actaea plants because I love their fragrant flowers and attractive foliage. Actaea by the way is the name we  now have to give to cimicifuga.  But although Actaea pachypoda has spires of fluffy white flowers, I grow it for its curious berries which look just like a collection of dolls’ eyes.

Actaea polypoda

Cyclamen hederifolium starts blooming in August and this is the time I give mine a bonemeal feed and a good soaking. But they are looking their best now and they lighten up shady spots under trees where nothing else would grow.

Cyclamen hederifolium

I have them in pink and white and the silver-leaved ones are particularly appealing.

Cyclamen hederifolium ‘Silver leaf form’

Cyclamen cilicium is a little beauty with  twisted, scented flowers and it is in bloom now too. It is a little tender so mine lives in a pot, but the corm is a mass of flowers.

Cyclamen cilicium

Two late flowering clematis are looking and smelling good now. Clematis rhederiana has bell-shaped flowers and I can never resist flowers that look like little bells. They are pale yellow, fragrant and quite charming. One potential drawback is that it does grow very strongly and can quickly take over a wall. The other drawback is the cringe-making common name of ‘Nodding Virgin’s Bower’. The less said about that the better.

Clematis rhederiana

Believe it or not my other clematis is named ‘Fragrant Virgin’s Bower’. But let’s give it its proper name of Clematis flammula. It is a relation of the wild clematis that decks the hedgerows. It has clouds of very sweetly scented white flowers.

Clematis flammula

I have mentioned my lovely late flowering dianthus from Sicily before. It is called Dianthus rupicola and it has very long stems which make it good for picking. I have read that it is not reliably hardy but I have had mine for years.

Dianthus rupicola

Some people dislike kniphofias but I love them. Recent hybrids come in some amazing colours. My latest purchase is called Kniphofia hybrida ‘Rich Echoes’. I have seen a stand of this growing that looked wonderful. It has apricot yellow flowers and would look fabulous growing with a biscuit coloured grass.It was raised by Bob Brown’s son, Ed Brown. Bob has the wonderful nursery, Cotswold Garden Flowers and he has an huge collection of kniphofias.

Kniphofia hybrida ‘Rich Echoes’

Another kniphofia which I am pleased with is the one growing on my ‘beach’ in front of the shed. It has great foliage which makes it look like an aloe. It is Kniphofia caulescens. I grow it with the orange flowered sea poppy, Glaucium corniculatum which has the same glaucous foliage.

Kniphofia caulescens

September is the start of the aster time, or symphyotrichum as we have to call some of them now. Plants of European or Asian origin are allowed to to remain asters. The reliable Aster frickartii ‘Monch’   starts blooming in  early August and goes on for weeks. Beth Chatto said ‘it is absolutely the best Michaelmas daisy for long display and sheer beauty‘. I agree with her, it is wonderful. You can take cuttings in the spring if you want more.

Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’

Two other beauties are in flower  are in bloom now. One is this lovely tall one and I can’t think of its name at the moment. Can anybody help me?

The other is the neat and compact Symphyotrichum nova -belgii ‘Purple Dome’.

Symphyotrichum nova-belgii ‘Purple Dome’

Next month there will be plenty more Michaelmas daises to look forward to.

For my last plant I have picked a salvia. I am very fond of salvias and have quite a large collection. They are so easy both from seed and cutting. As this post is getting rather long I have chosen just one which is new to me this year. It makes a lovely big bush and the flowers look as if they are made from velvet. The leaves are narrow and willow -like and velvety in texture too. It is Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’. Unfortunately it is not hardy but I have taken plenty of cuttings.

Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’

So there is my list of September beauties. I would love it if you would chose your ten September favourites and share them with us. If you can’t manage ten, perhaps you could choose five favourites. It is always good to see what other people are enjoying each month.

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In a Vase On Monday. Fluffy.

Cathy who hosts the meme: ‘In a vase on Monday’ has inspired many of us to create a cutting garden so that we always have plenty of cut flowers without spoiling the effect in other parts of the garden. I have turned over one of my raised vegetable beds to cut flowers this year and I have enjoyed vases full of flowers all summer. I don’t miss the brassicas that would have been here because apart from the problem of the  ubiquitous pigeons, I detest eating boiled caterpillers along with my cauliflowers.

My vases today are both fluffy. The first has a flower that I have never grown before. It is an annual knapweed with huge, cream fluffy heads and straggly whiskers. It is called Centuarea americana ‘Aloha Blanca’.

Centaurea americana ‘Aloha Blanca’

The description in the seed catalogue was ‘ivory white’ but it is more cream and so I used some biscuit-coloured heads of Stipa gigantea and fluffy, cream bunny tails from Pennisetum villosum to accompany it.

Pennisetum villosum has lovely buff coloured flowers and is not supposed to be hardy but I have had mine for years. Pennisetum orientale is more reliably hardy and has slightly pinkish seedheads in great abundance.

Pennisetum orientale

You can get Centaurea americana in pale pink too, it is called ‘Aloha Rosa’, and perhaps I will try it next year. It would look pretty in a vase with Pennisetum orientale. The seed packet says that Centaurea americana is good as a dried flower but I am disappointed with the ones I have dried as they have shrivelled and lost the lovely fluffy effect.

The vase is a pretty Victorian painted glass one.

The second vase is a dear little jug given to me by lovely Anne who knows about my weakness for jugs. I have used the fluffy little powder puffs of a tall growing annual Ageratum houstonianum ‘Blue Horizon’.

Ageratum houstonianum ‘Blue Horizon’

Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’

I love these powder blue flowers and I have a tall, bushy perennial ageratum too, Ageratum corymbosum which has the lovely common name, Butterfly Mist. It is slightly tender and has to overwinter in the greenhouse. It would make a good conservatory plant. It grows quite tall although here it is dwarfed by the tall stems of Nicotiana mutabilis.

Ageratum corymbosum

My fluffy flowers today are my contribution to Cathy’s meme, In a Vase on Monday. Do pop over to Ramblinginthegarden and see Cathy’s Asteroid Explosion.

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Ten Favourite Plants for August.

I have been AWOL again from the blogging world this month, because I have become obsessed by my latest garden project which has left me with no energy or mindspace for anything else. I hope to finish it next weekend and then all will be revealed. And then I will be able to catch up with everybody.

In  the meantime, I cannot let the month slip by without picking out my ten favourite plants. Yet again this a difficult task as there are so many to choose from at this time of the year.

In no particular order then, I will start with a very elegant crocosmia which I bought last year, Crocosmia aurea ‘Golden Ballerina’. It is similar to ‘Star of the East’ but much more graceful and  with very large flowers.

Crocosmia aurea ‘Golden Ballerina’

I never used to like crocosmias because I associated them with the weedy and invasive montbretia which is so difficult to get rid of. First of all I fell in love with the fiery red ‘Lucifer’ and he remained a favourite until he was superseded by the even better ‘Hellfire’. ‘Emily Mckenzie’ is lovely too, with burnt orange flowers with a dark blotch. A couple of years ago the gorgeous  apricot ‘Limpopo’ became a favourite and now I am searching for ‘Spitfire’ which my gardening friends and I voted a winner when we saw it recently in the hot border at Hyde Hall. Crocosmias are easy from seed and they come up with some surprises so it is worth having a go.

Crocosmia ‘Spitfire’ at Hyde Hall.

My ginger lily relative, hedychium is looking good right now. This lovely coral -coloured one is called Hedychium coccineum ‘Tara’ and unlike some hedychiums this one is hardy in my garden even though it looks so exotic. Hedychiums are sometimes shy to flower and so I dose mine with tomato food.

Hedychium coccineum ‘Tara’

Daisy flowers are a feature of the august garden. I love echinaceas and so do the bees and butterflies. Echinacea purpurea spreads into nice big clumps.

Echinacea purpurea

Like many gardeners I have been beguiled by some of the gorgeous new echinacea hybrids over the last few years. Unfortunately they never survive the winter. At the Hyde Hall Flower show earlier this month I saw a fabulous one which is supposed to be winter hardy so perhaps I should have risked it. But I didn’t, so this is one that got away. But isn’t it gorgeous?

Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’

Rudbeckias are gorgeous daisy flowers with a dark central cone and they come in a range of perennials or annuals. I love the tall Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstonne’ which grows to 6 feet tall and has buttercup yellow flower with droopy petals.

Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstonne’

Another perennial, Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ makes a nice statement with its bright daisy flowers.

Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’

I fell for this dark  rusty brown rudbeckia  hybrid  recently. In fact it is Echibeckia summerina; a cross between a rudbeckia and an echinacea. I didn’t realise when I bought it. I hope I haven’t shocked you with such a travesty. I have no idea whether it is hardy or not. But I love the colour.

Echibechia summerina ‘Brown Improved’


My final rudbeckia is a cheerful annual which I grow every year. It is Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’. Maybe next year I will have a change and try a different one.

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’.

And now for something cool after all these hot colours. The gentian- blue flowers of Commelina dianthifolia are quite small and only last for a day but as they are produced with such abundance they create a striking picture. They are easy from seed and bloom the first year.

Commelina dianthifolia

I have planted them in a pot but as they form tubers which are supposed to be reasonably hardy I might try them in the ground.

Dahlias are a must for the August garden and I have quite a few, including some seed grown ones. But I will feature just one today and that is the lovely Dahlia ‘Twyning’s After Eight’ which has such lovely dark foliage and delicate flowers.

Dahlia ‘Twining’s After Eight’

I never used to like hydrangeas as I always associated them with seaside bungalows. There is nothing wrong with that, except I don’t live at the seaside or in a bungalow. But I have come round to them in the last few years and now have several. I particularly like Hydrangea paniculata. This one which I bought last year has the ridiculous name of ‘Pinky Winky’. At the moment it should be called ‘Wishy Washy’ but last year it got darker as the season went on and gradually turned pink.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’

For number eight on my list I have chosen another shrub. As far as I know it is the only mahonia which blooms in summer. I love it for its glossy leaves and orange flowers. It is Mahonia nitens ‘Cabaret’.

Mahonia nitens ‘Cabaret’

I am very fond of Crinum powelli. It has large pink trumpet flowers and blooms for a long time in late summer. It likes to have its bulbs planted  so that the nose protrudes from the soil and gets baked by the sun. The flowers are slightly fragrant.

Crinum powelli

For my last choice I have chosen the Pineapple plant Eucomis autumnalis. I keep it in a pot so that it can live in the greenhouse in the winter. You can increase eucomis by leaf cuttings or seeds. I have a year old seedling coming on which I am looking forward to. Who knows it might be something different.

Eucomis comosa

So here we are, my top ten for August. If you would like to share your top ten or top five plants for this month I would love to see them. And now it is time to catch up a bit and see what everyone else has been doing in the garden whilst I have been busy with my new project.

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In a Vase on Monday. In the Red.

Many followers of Cathy’s meme ‘In a Vase on Monday’ have become so enthusiastic about it that they have created cut-flower beds. I have  got caught up in it too and I have turned over one of my raised vegetable beds to annuals for cut flowers this year.

I always grow a few cosmos and the one I chose this year is a gloriously rich ruby-red, stripey one called ‘Velouette’.

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Velouette’

It is a perfect match for the satiny magenta- red flower of Malope trifida  ‘Vulcan’.

Malope trifida ‘Vulcan’

I like the pointy apple green buds too.

The red flowers look good in my black Victorian mourning vase. The Victorians were addicted to mourning and all the funereal impedimenta that went with it. I like black though and it sets off these dark ruby flowers perfectly.

It is amazing the variety of shades of colour that come under the word red. I don’t think ‘Vulcan’ is a good name for the malope. Vulcan was the Roman Fire God and I think the name should be reserved for fiery red flowers like this Crocosmia ‘Hellfire’. This one is better than ‘Lucifer’ as it has no trace of yellow in it and is redder than red.

Crocosmia ‘Hellfire’

Now that’s the sort of red I think is appropriate for a Fire God.

Thinking about red flowers made me go out foraging in the rain for a few true red flowers in the garden.  And so here is the little vase of  hot reds to cheer up a dismal day. The dahlia is ‘Tam Tam’ and I used dill flower heads.

Dahlia ‘TamTam’

Once the rain came on heavily I had to move indoors and I discarded most of the dill and added a few dark heuchara leaves and some fluffy Pennisetum villosum grass heads for a sultry look.

I used one or two  blooms from my ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ seedlings for different shades of red.

I love the veined flowers of Abutilon ‘Nabob’.

The Nasturtiums or ‘Nasty urchins’ as I thought they were called when I was a child, are ‘Black Velvet’.
I have used a red Penstemon ‘ King George’.

I also used a few sprigs of Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’.

All these reds have made me long for a bit more late summer red. In my last garden, inspired by the red garden at Hidcote, I created a red border. I haven’t got so much space here, but still I think I need to find somewhere to devote to a few more floral fireworks.

In my next post, now I am all fired up, I will explore the red theme a bit more. In the meantime thanks to lovely Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden for getting us all to put something ‘In a Vase on Monday’

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My Top Ten July Plants.

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