As I was cutting the flowers for my Monday vase, I noticed how verdant the raindrops from a recent shower had made the foliage of the garden. I’ve never been organised enough for the monthly Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day organised by Christina of My Hesperides Garden, and now in remembering to link back to her page I find that she has sadly felt obliged to stop her lovely meme for reasons of time deficiency. I know the feeling, Christina, and am continually impressed by anyone who manages to maintain any sort of regularity. Christina gardens in the dry heat of the Mediterranean, a climate as far removed from mine as can be; she relies a great deal on foliage to create structure, movement and sharp graduations of texture, while the colours remain earthy and soft. If you have not yet come across Christine, I do recommend nipping across to her page and having a look at the masterly way she has handled her tricky terrain.
Anyway, better late than never with my foliage, and I hope these pictures may reassure all readers that I am as appreciative of leaves as of flowers.
What with low light levels, compressed daylight hours, and frantic Christmas preparations, December is usually my month off in the garden. However, I still always find time to observe and appreciate the garden, take notice of the few plants that have made a special effort to bring prettiness to a scene that is otherwise bleak, and take some photographs so that I can continue to appreciate the changes, however subtle they might be at this time of year.
What – you mean you don’t have enough jobs indoors at this time of year? Then pour yourself a mulled wine and read a book by the fire, you lucky thing!
The three stars of this month are: my Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, quite the prettiest and most cheerful thing and I wish I had more of them; and the smokebush Cotinus ‘Dusky Maiden’, which has turned the most incredible colours, large puce and fiery coins dangling over the side of their coppery green pot; and Hydrangea ‘Limelight’, which is leafless and bare but for several of its delicate blooms.
Every week I look anxiously for signs of bulbs pushing up, but save for some enthusiastic muscari in pots, there is no sign of anything yet.
I will leave you with my usual views (none of the back garden this month – it is in slight disarray due to the very slow terrace-building that is dragging ever on) and a couple of my pretty robin who always pops out to see what I am up to. Just photos, Mr Robin, no upturned worms for you today.
A botanical eruption has occurred, thanks to a beautiful spring combined with prodigious watering by The Brazilian and my sister while I was away for almost two weeks in New York and Boston (you can see lots of shots of my American garden moments on Instagram). Before I left, the garden had still to throw off the vestiges of spring: the morello cherry looked like a pretty bride all in white blossom, the Menton tulips had still to come out, the drumstick primulas were nodding their purple heads, and the honesty had just started to show its colours. By the time I returned, summer had galloped into town in a coach and four, whip cracking and a whinny and a snort. Fresh off the plane, I dropped my suitcase and stared at the now enormous leaves of the honesty, big as dinner plates, at the delphiniums drowning the roses, at the coarse fronds of the once delicate primulas, the giant seed heads of the muscari and the grotesque, hairy buds of the oriental poppy, and through my haze of jetlag felt as though I’d sparked life in a creature that was now careering wilfully out of control. Had I applied too much blood, fish and bone before I left?
My Menton tulips are currently the stars of the garden. I grew these last year and was so impressed by their size and vigour that I decided to repeat the effect. Though I left last year’s Mentons in the soil, I was sad (though not wholly surprised) to see that none returned this spring. In contrast to snowdrops, muscari and daffodils, which multiply reliably year after year, tulips can be an expensive habit as they need purchasing anew each autumn. Now that this year’s tulips are over, I am already considering which varieties I will grow next year and I will try to write a post specifically about my successes and failures in 2016 which will be of great help when ordering my tulips for 2017.
There were supposed to be more Mentons, but a dastardly squirrel has eaten several of the buds. (If anyone has any suggestions for deterring squirrels, please pipe up.) Meanwhile, the earlier white (unknown variety) and yellow (‘Golden Apeldoorn’) tulips in the large terracotta pot have also been a happy success, though time has reduced them to all but bare stalks and smudges of vintage yellow petal.
Never mind the demise of the tulips, because allium time is almost upon us. The chives are already in flower (I have been adding the flowers to salads for modern elegance and a spicy kick) and the ‘Purple Sensations’ have produced numerous flowers that will be out in the next week or so. I await the giant white ‘Mount Everest’ with great anticipation.
Meanwhile, the garden has been taken over by honesty, a biennial that I grew from seed last year and which has grown somewhat taller than I foresaw, adding plenty of height and colour and delighting the bees; the flat seed pods are beginning to form, and these will look excellent in vases.
No British garden should be without columbines. Last year I raided someone else’s garden for seeds and scattered them across my soil, but despite their famous promiscuity no columbines were begat chez nous. So I blued a tenner on two pots of ready-grown and I’m so glad I did because I am already greatly enjoying the heavenly dark purple ‘granny’s bonnets’, which look so lovely in among the honesty. I have been working hard to increase and maintain a variety of British native flowers in my garden such as columbines, foxgloves, honesty, and lily-of-the-valley, as they look natural, are reliably hardy, self-seed or spread easily (free plants!), have decent resistant to our native pests, and most importantly attract native pollinators.
The future stars of my garden are going to be the geraniums that I planted in profusion this year and last. “When in doubt, plant a geranium” said Margery Fish famously. Several of mine are self-seedlings taken from my mother’s garden and whose variety shall be a surprise, and I have added several ‘Rozanne’ here and there. Already in flower is my Geraniumphaeum or Cranesbill, which is a very subtle little flower of burgundy red, which I planted last year and which I liked very much on a recent visit to Shepherd House near Musselburgh, where they have a very good display of them.
My peony ‘Avalanche’ has been exceptionally vigorous given that this is just its second year (no flowers yet, but I hope I might get some next year). Elsewhere, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, also in its second year, has not developed quite so well and I wonder if I may have planted it too deep. Peonies do not much like to be moved, and I am loathe to take the risk of disturbing it, so will wait another year and see how it does before attempting to alter its position.
As I mentioned, the oriental poppy has grown enormous and we should see flowers in the next fortnight. I sowed quite a lot of seeds from this poppy and was rewarded, or punished, whichever way you look at it, by the runaway success of this enterprise, resulting in at least, oh, a thousand healthy seedlings which I have been potting up and giving away as gifts. Elsewhere, the little yellow poppies that grow like weeds all over Edinburgh have come back again; I do not mind, and quite appreciate the dots of butter yellow they provide to the front of the border. I have also spied seedlings of ‘Black Peony’ poppies half buried at the back of the border, which I grew in 2015 and which lasted about twelve minutes in the high winds. If any survive to maturity, I shall shake some seeds closer to the front of the border where they shall be more visible next year. In a slightly different shade of deep red, my Cotinus ‘Dusky Maiden’ is out (I thought I’d killed it). I am considering moving this sun-loving shrub to the back garden and replacing it with a hydrangea ‘Limelight’ that will go very well with the coppery blue of the pot and will not mind the temperamental and rapid shifts from light to shadow that occur in the front garden after the street trees come in to leaf.
The first delphinium spikes are showing, as are the foxgloves. I adore tall plants; they somehow make the garden feel enclosed and secret.
End of Month View is hosted by Helen at The Patient Gardener. Do visit her blog and see how hers and many others’ gardens have fared during the month of May.
At first glance, not a lot appears to have changed since last month’s view. The cosmos are still galavanting, the roses are still blooming, even the sweetpeas continue to produce, although the pace has slowed somewhat.
However, look closer, and you’ll see that signs of autumn are nibbling away at the edges of the garden. Seedheads have been appearing where once there were flowers, the hostas are looking tired and pockmarked, each crocosmia spike is nearing the end of its tangerine trajectory, the tiny leaves of the meadowrue are browning at the edges… and a barely audible trilling close to my left ear tells me that Mr Robin has returned from South Africa and is back in his hedge. (By the way, I know it is exactly my same robin as last winter, because I got so used to it that I can actually recognise his voice. When I hear other robins in other people’s gardens their songs sound really quite different.)
Roses have been the most impressive stars of September. I have five, which I bought bare-rooted from David Austin last January, and they have astonished me by how quickly they turned from muddy brown twigs to these gracious beauties. My last Wordless Wednesday shot was of ‘Tess of the D’Urbevilles’. Now, I am not normally a fan of red roses. They remind me too much of those terrible things in cellophane that appear each mid-February. But I have a very dear old friend back in London called Tess, and so I was impelled to buy this ‘Tess’, which I thought would look especially good climbing above our back door (more about our back door soon), and I am very glad I did. In spring, ‘Tess’ had to be dug back up and put in a pot to get her out of the way of the builders who were building the back door, and she didn’t like that at all and sulked for at least a month before rallying and putting on the most abundant display of roses of all for the rest of the summer. And she really is gorgeous, and nothing at all like a Valentine’s rose at all. Now that the builders are finished, ‘Tess’ can go back in to the ground by the back door, although I will wait till January before making this transition.
My other climber is another literary character, ‘A Shropshire Lad’. He made a slow start and has not been as prolific as ‘Tess’, but has produced a couple of lovely pale pink blooms. I really need to tie him in, but have not had time to research the best method of attaching a climbing rose to a sandstone house wall. My first idea is wires, but they do need to be secure, and to mark or damage the stone as little as possible.
In the flowerbeds we have a rose which for some reason I keep calling ‘Berlusconi’ but which is actually ‘Boscobel’ and is a rich, antique, pinky yellow. There is also the ‘Lady Gardener’ which is supposed to be an apricot or peach colour, but which has been 1) such a pale pink that I even checked the tags to see if I’d accidentally swapped it with ‘Shropshire Lad’ when I was planted them; 2) a vibrant coral orange. At no point has it been the yellow rose I thought I was buying.
Tranquility is the final rose, but I have no pictures from September because it has not produced a bloom this month, although it did reasonably well in July.
Elsewhere, my Cotinus ‘Dusky Maiden’ has put on a spurt in its large blue pot, which my mother gave me for my birthday in the spring. I first saw and coveted this plant on Angie’s Garden Diaries, and since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery she won’t mind that I copied her and went straight out and bought one for myself.
My Salvias have given off another little burst of activity. I especially love the tiny orange windsocks of S. stolonifera; the other is S. patens ‘Cambridge Blue’ and has a subtlety that I am aiming to repeat more of throughout this garden.
Finally, less subtle is the combination of my coral pink pelargonium with this magenta Osteospermum (apologies, I cannot find its label in my label bag, which one day I shall organise).
September was a feet-up month in my garden, by necessity and design. Now the gardening jobs are stacking up for October: planting out my poor overdue remaining seedlings of delphinium, foxglove and honesty, sowing seeds for the spring, mulching with horse manure and leaf mould, and ordering and planting my bulbs, not to mention working on a brand new and quite large project that I have started on and which I will tell you all about in a post in the near future.
End of Month View is hosted by Helen at The Patient Gardener, and I have begun to collate all my End of Month Views on this page, where you can see the progress of this garden through the past year.