I find the End of Month View meme hosted by Helen@Patient Gardener incredibly useful. Its not that I don’t think about the garden, analyse what I like and dislike, at other times, but it gives a focus for it all, and forces me to get my critical hat on and try to learn. Apologies, but this has turned into a rather long and rambling post as I try to get to grips with my thinking. You have been warned…
This year I have been concentrating on what I call the Magnolia Bed and the Pond Bed.
The Magnolia Bed is in its quiet phase. The last of the sweet rocket, the flowers on the Oakleaf Hydrangea, the occasional geranium flower are the only blooms. The faded Veronicastrum flowers and the honesty seedheads add interest, but this is definitely more of a backdrop than a focal point.
The pond bed on the other hand…
The goal I had set myself for this area was to learn more about combining perennials and grasses and create a rich tapestry of colour and texture for as much of the year as I could. I’ve certainly got colour.
Not everything has gone to plan – does it ever?! At the left hand end of the bed I have some gaps. The one above is partly because of the aquilegias that have gone over and no longer fill the space, and partly because both the Sanguisorba menziesii and the Antrhiscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ have finished already. I deliberately didn’t deadhead the anthriscus because I wanted to collect lots of seed and encourage it self-sow around, and I wasn’t sure whether to cut the burnet back or not – any advice welcome there. They were new plants this year, and I wanted to make sure they established themselves well. Its not helped by the fact that one of the ‘Rustic Dwarf’ rudbekia plants seems to have decided to be stunted and a little floppy. Likewise there is an Achillea ‘Moonwalker’, a lovely deep yellow, which unlike ‘Cassis’ is also really floppy and is utterly failing to make its presence felt. Not something I will be taking with me! I have some Verbena bonariensis in a pot which I will plug the gap with just as soon as I can find myself a border spade. Somehow all the garden tools are now up at the allotment… Recommendations on which border spade to consider would be welcome!
A little further along and there is another gap. Partly this is a colour gap – there is foliage from a yellow crocosmia and from Geum ‘Mrs J. Bradshaw’, but no flowers. I have no explanation for the former failing to flower this year, but I am missing the yellow spikes, they were a key part of The Plan. I did dead head the geum, and it should have flowered on into August, but nothing. The small red flowers would have been perfect here. Of course, if I had been more “with it” a month ago I would have cut back the geraniums at the front of the border, and they would probably be flowering again by now. Does anyone know if it is worth still doing it, or is it too late?
I find this gap particularly annoying as it seems to divide the border in two – something not helped by the creamy-white foxgloves, unexpectedly flowering over a month later than normal. I’ve learnt my lesson, and in the future will make sure that I have colourful annuals in pots that I can plonk in the gaps, but of course most of those will be sun lovers, and this border is part shade. I still have so much to learn about combining colours. Looking through the border from the far right (as in the first image from the pond border above), I think the reason this works (to my eyes at least) it that the blue from the nepeta cools it all down a little and allows the different colours to knit together somehow. I actually have a self-sown nepeta that I could rescue and put in the gap in the middle, but foliage matters too, and I’m not convinced that the nepeta will work so well in that department. If I had another ‘Cassis’ I think I’d try that.
Further round it is a happier tale. Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, Echinacea purpurea and Allium sphaerocephalon predominate, with hints of nepeta.
I love the way that the foliage and flowers of the crocosmia contrast with the rich leaves of the acer in the border behind.
I’ve always been a fan of echoing shapes through a border, I think it adds a sense of continuity, but the way that the drumstick allium flowers echo the cones of the echinacea is just one of those happy accidents that I will try to reproduce in the future.
I love the way that over the past few weeks the drumstick alliums have gone from resembling the rather hard sticks that generate a staccato sound to the woolly ones that give a lovely rounded tone on timpani. These have to be amongst the best value garden plants you can get. Plant the cheap and easily available bulbs in the Autumn, and the foliage alone is attractive in late Spring, then the tight green flower heads gradually transform into fluffy purple flowers smothered in pollinators, and the seed heads stay looking good through most of the winter too. Wondeful.
I still don’t think the border has the coherence of texture that I was after, never mind the gaps, but there are things that the household collectively really likes, which is ueseful for the future, and things that I have fallen for.
We like daisies. Rudbekias, echincea, therefore heleniums, asters… Daisies are in.
FIL and I share a love of the kind of flowers that appear to float above the rest on wiry stems – geums, burnets, verbena, anything like that.
I love the way Stipa tenuissima combines so well with the more delicate flowers of astrantias and scabious, and contrasts with the solidity of sedums.
I am a big fan of Achillea ‘Cassis’, I love the flat umbels of magenta flowers, the feathery foliage, the upright habit. I wish ‘Moonwalker’ was as well behaved and as profusely flowering, but for me, it is not.
From the back of the border I can see ‘Cassis’ set against the strappy leaves of Hakonechloa macra, which makes me want to plant achilleas against taller grasses, though I do enjoy the contrast between the feathery foliage of ‘Cassis’ and its current neighbour, the aconitum.
Gaps and a certain lack of coherence aside, I am really enjoying the pond bed at the moment, and am loving playing around with colour. By next month it will have changed again. The first of the miscanthus is starting to flower, and hopefully one way or another I will have plugged a gap or two.