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.

Magnolia Border

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…

Riotous Colour

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.

Hole

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!

Pond Border Gap

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?

Cut In Half

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.

Good Companions

Further round it is a happier tale. Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, Echinacea purpurea and Allium sphaerocephalon predominate, with hints of nepeta.

Crocosmia Against Acer

I love the way that the foliage and flowers of the crocosmia contrast with the rich leaves of the acer in the border behind.

Echo Cones
Cones

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.

Hard Drumstick
Woolly Drumstick

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.

Rudbekia Rustic Dwarf Mix
Echinacea Purpurea

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.

Sedum Buds
Shaggy And Whispy

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.

Achillea Cassis

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.

Achillea Against Hakonechloa

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.

Flowering Miscanthus

If, like me, you are nosey, check out the End of Month View post on Helen’s site, and you will find links to lots of other people’s EOMV posts in the comments. Better yet, join in!

47 thoughts on “End of Month View July 2011

  1. I agree with you that daisies are in again. Yours look fabulous with interesting combinations and mixes of colour. Grasses are structural but add a looseness to the planting at the same time. Your garden is complemented by artistic photos. I’m off to post my end of month view (after checking for typing errors again!)

    1. Hi Janet, I don’t think I could be without grasses in my garden nowadays. I love the movement they contribute, the architectural quality, and the long season of interest.

  2. Funny I’ve just written an end of year review of our allotment plot which will be posted later today and I’m now thinking of one about the garden.

    We have problems with achillea flopping over so I have plans to support it next year as I love the flowers. We also have a yellow crocosmia that doesn’t flower as much as it used to – I think the problem with mine is that it is now too congested so I am digging it up and retaining and replanting just the largest corms. Our Lucifer is lovely too not suffering from the same problem

    1. Hi Sue, will look forward to reading your allotment review, I’m planning one of my own soon, but there again I have been saying that to myself for over three weeks now!

      I wish the crocosmia problem was congestion, at least that would mean extra plants, but it was new last year – when it flowered beautifully. Ah well, I suppose there is still time.

  3. I am falling off my chair with envy! What an abundance of color and richness! I would go ahead and cut back the geraniums. We are always slow to cut it back at the communal garden (Garden Club project for our Town) because one shift always leaves it for the next! It does recover quickly for us, especially if we get some rain (we need more this SUmmer!)

  4. Hi Janet,

    I think your garden looks stunning and it’s very easy to see the ‘bad’ parts when it’s your own garden and concentrate on them. I feel similar about my own tbh, always see the negative aspects.

    No fair, how do you get the coneflowers to grow? I never have any luck with them, and this year is no exception. I love them and would dearly love to have a swath of Pallida but they just never come back – even though I’ve had the help of a rattie this year eating all my slugs/snails.

    Even if you do continue to steal all my plants ;)

    1. Hi Liz, and thank you. I think I am deliberately critical in these EOMV posts because I use them to work out what I want to do better next year, but I am really enjoying the garden this year, more than ever. A large part of it is because the extra colour is also translating into extra garden visitors, from birds all the way down the food chain. You were part of the inspiration for that, when I was reading your blog last year, so thank you!

      As to echinacea, I’ve grown “White Swan” happily in my heavy clay and part shade, but all the other fancy ones have just disappeared without a trace. Echinacea purpurea is seemingly altogether a tougher beast, and both the plug plants and the ones I grew from seed are thriving. And, best of all, really robust, no staking required! I’ll use rudbekias for the reds and oranges and “make do” with the dusky pinks and be grateful.

      1. Hi,

        It always amazes me how people in the US have coneflowers self-seeding everywhere yet here I am having difficulty even getting them to come back. I love them but at this rate I’m going to give up on them because it’s costing too much having to buy them every single year.
        I’ve had Pallida in a large pot for a number of years, this year a forget-me-not self-seeded into the pot and began to take over, so I had to rip the pot up because the Coneflower just wasn’t surviving. It’s now in a temporary plastic pot and I’m half contemplating either planting the pot in the ground and lifting it in Autumn or just placing the pot in the border and pretending it’s planted.

  5. Your garden is looking great Janet, I think we are always so very self critical. Our borders in the past were very much in the style of yours. Already I am missing some of the perennials which we had, but we are always chopping and changing. Your echinacea looks terrific, we always had difficulty with it, turns out our soil was too acidic.

    1. Hi Alistair, I think being critical of our own gardens is an important part of the learning process – at least it is for me. I too love ringing the changes in the borders, its one of the reasons I enjoy using more perennials nowadays, its harder to justify getting rid of shrubs. You must have very acidic soil to fail with echinacea? Mine is acidic too, enough to grow heathers, rhodies etc. I’ve had lots of trouble with the fancier new Echinacea cultivars, but White Swan and the straight purpurea do really well. Maybe it is a case of which ones you grow? I know I am not alone in having had a lot of problems with the fanicer kinds, GW even did a plant trial on them.

      1. Thanks for the info Janet, I don’t know how often we have tried Echinacea. I think also in the past we would try to squeeze in too many perennials and I felt the echinacea particularly disliked this. It was just quite recently whilst reading on plants for alkaline soil, echinacea and Rudbeckia came up as plants that were particularly not fond of acidic soil. Mind you when we first moved in to this house long before we were made aware of how we should not be using peat, we virtually added tons of the stuff to the borders, just because we had it in our heads that it was beneficial. How very naive, and how do I dare tell you of this. Think I will try purpurea again sometime.

    1. Thanks b-a-g, they were a doddle to grow from seed, and are very rewarding. Will look forward to seeing them in your garden next year!

  6. You have some great colour in your garden now Janet. Just comparing the photos of now with those a few months back – the difference is huge. I particularly like your photo of the Echinacea: the light effect makes the red cone really glow!

  7. Having read and admired your photos l realise why l follow your blog! What terrific photos and full credit to you on a fantastic garden. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks Trevor – its been fun playing around with this border, I’ve learnt loads. I just wish I wasn’t itching to dig it all up and start it again – there again, if we move early next year as we hope, that may be exactly what I find myself doing, just somewhere new! Something you will relate to…

    1. Hi Esther, it really is different, isn’t it! I read your replies post – I think I commented? Enjoy the rest of your hols, hope the weather is kind. Joining the NT will get you in to TNS gardens too, so I reckon it could be great value. Like you say, if you don’t feel you are paying for every garden you can dip in to things and walk out after an hour if you hate it or the weather is horrid. I hope Inverewe is still lovely, it was wonderful when I was last there, but I now realise that was over 20 years ago. How did that happen?!

  8. I think your borders look fab even the ones you arent happy with and I wish mine looked like yours.

    As for the Burnet, I cut back the flower spikes when they are over as I’m not keen on the messy look and I think they bulk up better

    Thanks for joining in again

    1. Thanks Helen – I had thought I was going to leave the burnet spikes for winter interest, but they are actually a bit spindly and invisible, so I will try your cutting back thing and enjoy the foliage and hope they bulk up.

  9. Wow, so many beautiful combinations. Your pond bed is really ablaze with colour, stunning. And I love your purple dissected acer, and the alliums. The reds and purples are well-planned together. I’m not sure that the gaps are so noticeable to the viewer at this distance, it all looks very coherent from here…
    Sara

    1. Thanks Sara – to me the gaps shout almost as loudly as the colour of the rudbekias, but maybe I am just a little overly picky. I suppose it is important to me to be really critical of it as it is the only way I learn, but I admit that I am in love with most of the pond border right now, especially the right hand side round to just past the acer.

  10. I love your pond garden colors. What a feast for the eyes. Also love the pairing of the Allium and Echinecea….purples are great together. I am battling voles right now…so the holes I have are literally holes in the ground and no plant roots….augh!

    1. Thanks Janet, I agree about the purples combining well, and I like the blue of the nepeta showing through too. I think I would rather have my holes to deal with than your vole holes… Are they more or less destructive than the deer?

  11. I’m nodding my head in agreement – love the daisies! And the photo of the rudbekia is stunning! Your garden is beautiful.

    1. Thank you Alison, glad you like it. It is making me smile at the moment, despite the annoying holes.

  12. Janet, it hardly helps to say I wish I had half the colour density and brilliant plant combinations you have. Your review shows only too well that plants do not behave predicatably in one season let alone from year to year so I would keep annuals on hand to plug the places that did not happen the way you wanted/expected. Also I wondered about Japanese anenomes in the border and dare I mention some of the delicate bushy fuchsias – Hawkshead for example?! How about a multi-head garden tool to keep whilst the others are working the allotment then you just choose the head you need for the job in hand.

    1. Laura, you may be a genius, a mutli-headed tool could work really well. In fact I think we already have a couple of handles – I shall investigate…

      Re fuchsias in the border, nice try! But I think I want spires of some sort to contrast with the daisies. Or possibly buttons. I have a Japanese anemone in the border behind the pond bed, next to the acer, and it shows through from certain angles and looks great, so a deep purple one in the border could work really well, assuming it didn’t completely take over. I could buy one and keep it in its pot – or a slightly larger one – and take it with me next year I guess… Thanks for the thoughts, mind now whilring!

  13. Fabulous end of the month post Janet (hoping to do mine later to-day if it ever stops raining) – You have all the plants that I also grow, love the textures together.

    Re hardy geraniums – I cut all mine back 10 days ago – they have now filled in nicely and have sent up a couple of flowers, so I think it is worth doing even now as the foliage will look fresh for longer in the Autumn, even if the flowers are scarce.
    K

    1. Hi Karen, thankyou, what a lovely comment! I’d spotted that we have a lot of plants in common – though you also have some of the full sun lovers that I crave… Will be brave and cut back the geraniums today, can’t hurt, and fresh foliage in Autumn would be lovely.

  14. I wonder if the problem with your moonwalker achillea is the ground it is in. I’ve read that Achillea really doesn’t like rich soil and will flop in those conditions. They tend to be suited to clay and deficient soils with less water.

    1. Oh, that’s an interesting thought, maybe the yellow form is less tolerant of the richer soil than the purple. Thank you! Though too much water is proving a problem at the moment, the ground is very dry. Had to top the poor pond up yesterday.

  15. The garden is looking really good Janet, despite some areas not performing to your expectations :) Not much help with the border spade but I’m a fan if older garden tools you can buy in car boot sales, most of them are still much better than the newer and even expensive ones.

    1. Oh, that’s a good thought, we might be able to get something with a lovely worn and comfortable wooden handle – I hate all this plastic… Thank you!

  16. You have some lovely flowers in your garden.
    While my ‘Lucifer’ has been flowering for a while my two other Crocosmias have not started to flower yet – interestingly my yellow one does not appear to have any flowers at all. It is looking rather droopy and pathetic so I am thinking of moving it. Perhaps yellow varieties are more temperamental!

    1. Thank you, am so reassured to know that someone else has problems with a yellow crocosmia! I do find it strange, ‘Lucifer’ is manifestly delighted with its home, it is huge after only one year. My yellow one has some very healthy foliage but is still small and no sign of flower spikes. Growing within a foot of Lucifer in the same soil. And I lost my lovely Emily McKenzie to the harsh winter. Ah well…

  17. When I scrolled down and saw the pond garden pic I actually said ‘wow’ out loud – it is gorgeous, really gorgeous. And you’ve still got Astrantia (always a fave). I want heleniums, I want achilleas, I want, I want, I want…

    (Like Karen, I’ve hacked back a couple of hardy geraniums in the last few days, and they’re looking like they might just do something – so give it a go.)

    1. Thank you, you just made my morning – which after a lousy night of non-sleep is quite some feat ;-) Am DEFINITELY cutting back those geraniums today.

      1. I think we all underestimate our own gardens a bit, but there’s really no need for you to be hard on that pond garden, ho ho, poor thing, it’s lovely. And now I’m going to cut back the rest of my geraniums – let’s see what happens. Can’t harm them (especially not G. macrorh. album; nuclear attack wouldn’t harm that)…

  18. Dreamy! What a wonderful collection! I have Drumstick Alliums planted near Purple Coneflowers, too. But my Alliums went through all the stages in about one week–probably because of the heat! You have so much color and it’s absolutely beautiful.

    1. The weather has such a profound effect on our plants and which flower together, doesn’t it. Last year most of the alliums had finished flowering before the echinacea got going, but it was OK because I had loads of Knautia out. Every year is different – I suppose it stops us getting bored…

  19. Your beautiful photos show some beautiful combinations. It’s nice to see so many native Americans thriving in another clime and mingling amiably.

    1. Thank you Les, I’m not sure what we would do without native US plants in our English gardens, they have become mainstays for so many of us!

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