Congratulations, it’s a twofer! Two memes in a single post, celebrating both flowers and foliage. Can’t be bad…

Leaves first. I’m joining Christina’s Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day meme. No real surprise, given how hot the weather has been, that the silver foliage plants are really coming in to their own and stealing the show somewhat. One of my favourites is a very common plant, and thankfully very easy to grow from seed – Lamb’s Ears, or Stachys byzantina Ridiculously tactile, they shimmer and shine thanks to the myriad hairs covering the surface of each leaf. Not in the least bothered by the heat.

stachys byzantina foliage

I am particularly enjoying the contrast between the stachys and the wallflower ‘Bowles’s Mauve’.

stachys and wallflower foliage

A far less subtle combination comes from the wonderfully architectural Euphorbia myrsinites (which I have to thank Christina for, I “found” it through her blog and I love it) and the lush purple sedum ‘Purple Emperor’.

euphorbia and sedum

Not all the silver foliage is attractive at the moment – the lychnis, still flowering away, is beginning to look rather tatty in the leaf stakes. I clearly need a good strategy for hiding the foliage at this time of year…

tatty lychnis foliage

Even in the front garden, in baking sun, it is sometimes the green foliage that steals the show. I love the combination of the soft, slightly frilly Lady’s Mantle leaves against the strap-like Hakonechloa macra.

hakonechloa and alchemilla foliage

In the back garden I am excited to see recent gifts from Cathy coming in to their own. Geranium phaeum and Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ are bulking up really nicely and starting to make a real show.

Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon'


And last, but by no means least, at least for this month, is my brand new gunnera. I love gunnera. The very apex of architectural drama in the foliage world. And far too large for my garden. So imagine my delight when I discovered Gunnera magellanica lurking on a stand at a Plant Fair recently. Tiny leaves form a dense textured matt, it spreads – so plenty to fill lots of gaps – and it tolerates full shade. Perfect. Small, but perfect.

gunnera magellanica

That’s the leaves done – but do check out Christina’s blog for links to more celebrations of foliage.

So, flowers. I think this may be a record, me joining in with Cathy’s “In a Vase on Monday” meme two weeks in a row! I took the photos and meant to post yesterday, but ran out of time, and besides, this way I save you from feeling you need to visit twice in two days ;-).

Since I went for strong and dark colours last week, with the dahlias, I have been planning to use pale colours – whites, blues, soft pinks – this week. And I found my eye constantly drawn to the dramatic pompoms of the hydrangeas. What’s not to love?

Hydrangea flower

Hydrangea flower

The vase picked itself – a simple pale cream one, perfect for the soft colour scheme I had in mind. So then I started to look for companions. Which is where I came unstuck. I decided to combine the Monday vase challenge with tidying up some rather unruly plants. So I snipped Verbena bonariensis that had decided to go horizontal, and some overgrown coriander that was flopping too far over the edge to keep for the seeds (I was rather proud of the fact that the green seeds are themselves rather pretty). A little bit of bonkers Ammi majus (contorted thanks to not enough support in its early days). Some dark purple sweet peas for scent and some dark burgundy cornflowers because I have lots. And then I tried to put it all together. It was a disaster. The light and airy stuff was too twisted and too light to combine nicely with the hydrangeas, and I quickly realised that the mopheads made a rather nice minimal vase all by themselves. So here they are.

Vase of hydrangea flowers

As for the rest, I nipped back out and snipped some lush deep pink dahlias and a spray of white astrantia, and lo, a frothy piece of scented lop-sided prettiness that, although photographed in the kitchen, now graces the mantelpiece. A stark contrast to last week, but I am surprisingly happy with the result.

rescue vase

31 thoughts on “Fabulous Foliage and Rescue Flowers

  1. That’s a lovely and lively floral arrangement Janet, like a party in a vase and reminding me of a particular Pollock painting. Must also really give in and add Stachys byzantina in our garden, a plant I can’t resist stroking every time I see it.

    1. “Party in a vase”, I like it! The stachys is a ridiculously strokeable (which apparently isn’t a word) plant, I’m sure you could find room somewhere. It is proving a very effective foil for other plants too.

  2. Ah, so you weren’t cutting the foliage… Haven’t they both done well though? I am not a hydrangea fan but I love the colours of these heads in your vase – like parma violet sweets and Love Hearts ;) – but I love your second vase even more. It still surprise me how simple it is to cut oddments and somehow find they pull themselves together so prettily. Thanks for your recent efforts with your vases – but I know it is bringing you pleasure as well :)

    1. Not enough foliage for a vase yet Cathy, but thank you again, they are all doing really well, although no flowers on the geraniums yet. Those hydrangeas were going to be thrown in the skip when I first arrived, but I have grown to love them, the individual flowerheads are extraordinarily beautiful, and in this context, by the sea, I can forgive their stiff nature. Having said that, I love the second vase more too, and I do love the process of putting something together each week, over and above the frequent bunches of sweet peas plonked in jugs and jars to perfume the house. And clearly I am not alone!

  3. It will surprise I know that I struggle to grow Stachys, it just doesn’t like my soil, I don’t think it is the heat as others do grow it here. Thanks for joining in this month Janet, I’m pleased you found some useful plants for your garden from my garden, you have put them together differently, which is always interesting. I actually really like your hydrangeas, I think I may be becoming a convert – that will shock everyone! The other vase is also lovely, I think you were right to do two! You can add the green unripe coriander seeds to salads too, they’re delicious!

    1. How curious about the stachys Christina, I had just assumed you didn’t like it, I know lots of people don’t. I am still amused at the way the hydrangeas have gone from “they have to go” to my loving them, but there again that is one of the joys of gardening, we all seem to pass from hating something to suddenly falling for it, I can see alpine troughs in my future even now! I will bge interested to if you take the plunge with the hydrangeas, presumably they would require irrigation. I am greatly excited about having created a shady location for an oak leaf hydrangea in the back garden, though hopefully it won’t take 5 years to give me autumn colour… Can’t wait to try the unripe coriander seeds, thank you.

      1. I got the idea for the fresh coriander seeds from Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets, little things are often more interesting than an entire recipe. As to the hydrangeas they would be for the (now) deep shade under the wisteria on the terrace, in pots, they would either need irrigation or I’d have to water frequently but the pots don’t dry out so quickly under the shade of the wisteria and nothing much else wants to flower under here. It will be a bit like eating humble pie as I’ve always scorned the use of hydrangeas in such a hot dry country!

        1. That sounds as if it could work rather splendidly Christina, the wisteria and hydrangeas could complement one another rather well. Worth a small slice of that pie…

  4. The arrangement could be a painting.

    Mini-gunnera. I don’t know what I think of that. It’s the bigg-ness that attracts me rather than the shape of the leaves. But it would be fun to know there’s a gunnera in the garden.

    1. Hi Lucy, I know, its very wrong, somehow, isn’t it, but I like the idea of having a secret gunnera that few people would recognise as such. Undercover gunnera?! At least I can visit the monsters down the road.

    1. Hi Sue, have finally solved the lost comments mystery, as I met had rather rudely lumped you in with the people trying to sell me Louis Vuitton knock offs and cheap Ugg boots. I found and have now rescued your comments from the ignominy of the spam folder, sorry, and thank you for persisting. Your gunners tale confirms my decision to stick to the mini groundcover version!

  5. What a fine example of lateral thinking with your twofer one Janet. I do like that euphorbia/sedum combo but unfortunately dare not let my skin anywhere near euphorbias. You hit the nail on the head creating two separate vases as those hydrangeas look as if they need room to stretch. What soothing muted colours. Vase 2 is most elegantly composed. Which dahlia is it?

    1. Hi Anna, yes, I remember you saying before that your skin didn’t allow you to have euphorbias, I am fortunate, they don’t seem to affect me. The dahlia is Le Baron, rather sumptuous. I’ve been surprised at how much I have enjoyed the muted prettiness of both vases, particularly the second, more accidental one.

  6. A doubly enjoyable post with lots of wonderful pictures.
    I really must take some foliage pictures on the plot and do a post.
    I like the hydrangeas, which seem to have done well everywhere this year. xx

    1. Hi Flighty, it does seem to be an excellent year for hydrangeas, my neighbour’s hydrangea hedge is looking amazing. Sadly the flowers haven’t lasted at all well in the vase, I think I should have conditioned them in some way.

  7. Your hydrangeas look very pretty in the first vase, and the second vase is just beautiful! I like the airy effect, and the deep pinky red dahlias to set off the cornflowers and verbena. I didn’t know there’s a miniature Gunnera – I wonder how far it spreads. I have been chopping down bits of Lychnis as mine has become mostly unsightly too. If you have any brainwaves how to hide the tatty foliage please share!

    1. Hi Cathy, the hydrangeas haven’t lasted very well, but the second vase still looks good. I was musing about the lychnis foliage yesterday and concluded I need to plant it behind late flowering perennials, perhaps perovskia, or possibly grasses. I’ll keep you posted.

  8. Oooo, that last arrangement is superb! I’m a big fan of draping, romantic, asymmetrical lovelies like that. Well done! I’m going to have to look into that Gunnera you mention–smaller and likes shade. Also, I enjoyed the contrast of the Lamb’s Ear vs. the Euphorbia–definitely opposites in form, but similar in color. Great post!

    1. Thanks Beth, I think the warty lopsided vase is my favourite so far, feels very me somehow, not sure what that says about me! I have some euphorbia seedlings awaiting a home, I think I need to grow more stachys and place them together, they would make a wonderful low planting nearer the front of the garden.

  9. lovely foliage Janet, apparently the hair oh the stachys deflect the suns rays (or something like that) and so help keep it cooler and conserve moisture, so I’ve read, I like the hydrangeas on their own, I like hydrangeas so pleased you are not going to dump yours, Frances

    1. Thank you Frances, I think I vaguely remember reading that about the stachys hairs, clever isn’t it. I am a hydrangea convert, they are safe! I just need to sort the planting around them.

  10. Hey Janet,

    Thanks for the charming duet, Janet. I love the GBFD presentation and was quite taken with the gray euphorbia and ‘Purple Emperor’ among others. It’s too cold here for gunnera but what a huge find for you. Will look forward to seeing its advances in it as it grows.

    Absolutely love the orange highlights that admirably ties everything together. I do the same thing myself with orange flowers speckled through my courtyards.

    Best, Patrick

    1. Hello Patrick, I am a big fan of orange, and am loving the way it is currently romping through my little cutting patch. I have high hopes of that little gunners, it should itself out well as long as I keep it well watered in the current dry weather, not the best time to be planting. You must have to be very water-wise with all your lovely pots.

  11. LOL, flower arrangements gone wild. Like you, I find it hard to find just the right combination of flowers. It’s a great idea to clip plants that are unruly and use them for bouquets. Had no idea there was a small version gunnera. Such a gorgeous plant but can’t grow in my current climate unfortunately.

    1. Well, it would be criminal to waste those flowers, however warped their form ;-) I really like the little gunnera, but it is so dry here I am going to have to do lots of watering and mulching to keep it and the other new plants alive.

  12. I like your two for the price of one post. Euphorbia myrsinites is lovely. I also grow E. Rigida which is similar but more upright.
    I love Euphorbia but I do wish they didn’ t have such horrible sap. I have had some awful blisters in the past by getting the stuff on my skin which was then exposed to the sun. The trouble is if you are gardening in shorts or short sleeves you don’ t always notice until the damage is done. Still I wouldn’t t be without them.
    I am not a Hydrangea lover but yours are such pretty antiquey colours.

    1. Hi Chloris, I have been wondering about E. rigida, it looks like a good plant, but I agree with you about the sap, it can cause nasty skin issues. I hated mopheads when I moved here, and initially just left them because otherwise there would be virtually nothing there. They’ve grown on me, this past two years, but they do get in the way of me doing exactly what I would like to do with this border. They may still get their marching orders, particularly as fil has two lovely ones in “his” border down the side of the drive.

  13. I love seeing other people’s foliage love…those hydrangeas are incredible and lacking in my garden this year except for one plant which will be found in a vase soon….love the wild colorful vase as well.

    1. Hi Donna, thank you, I prefer the wild vase too. Shame about your hydrangeas, it seems to be a really good year for hydrangeas here, our neighbour’s hydrangea hedge looks amazing.

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