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Plants in the Garden: Plants at Copton Ash in Kent

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Started by: Tim Ingram

A look at various plants in our garden this spring

Go to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 17 June 2013, 22:18. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Tim Ingram 08 July 2011, 14:38top / bottom of page

One of the most striking and surprising plants in the garden at the moment is Impatiens tinctoria. When I first saw this at Trengwainton Garden in Cornwall it was quite a surprise, but the climate there is as mild as it gets on the mainland. However, we have found it reliably hardy in Kent, though it suffers in hot summers, and often only comes into flower very late in the year. This year though it is flowering wonderfully after our long warm dry spring and I hope I will be able to collect seed later on. Near to it is another rather surprising plant, and that is Lobelia tupa. The form here is about 3-4ft tall but elsewhere, and grown from seed from Jim and Jenny Archibald, is a form about twice the height and with paler more orange-red flowers. They really catch the attention.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 08 July 2011, 14:53top / bottom of page

Certain plant families and genera hold a particular fascination and one such is the Asclepias, with their intricate and complex flower design and strong attraction to pollinators like butterflies. There are many wonderful species from the Western US, very difficult to grow, though I am hopeful I might learn to succeed better with them. However, A. speciosa is a more easy going perennial which shows the features of many of them - lovely soft silver-grey foliage and curiously coloured flowers. Like some others this does run around, but not so much. The flowers don't last too long but are intriguing whike they are there. The Eryngium is the well known species bourgatii, but a selection made by Graham Stuart Thomas which is rather more delicate in appearance and with beautifully marked leaves. It seeds generously!! And finally a species of Alstroemeria for which I have lost the name. This has reappeared in the spot where it was first planted after showing no signs of flowers for several years. Some of the smaller Alstros are very beautiful (especially compared to the somewhat overblown hybrids often seen in Garden Centres) and with new areas in the garden with sand and deep gravel I hope to see if I can establish them more successfully.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 12 July 2011, 07:31top / bottom of page

Our garden is now over 30 years old. This gives it advantages and disadvantages. There is a maturity that comes from trees and shrubs, such as the Trachycarpus and Cornus (below) which is comfortable, but equally there are areas that have become overgrown and trees that have died (an Amelanchier and Ulmus 'Jacquline Hillier') that involve a lot of work in their removal and tidying up. We, and the gardening media in general, tend to gloss over this aspect but when you do it yourself it is as big a feature of gardening as the more enjoyable parts. The stimulating side is that new areas for planting can be made available like a spot in our garden where a large tangle of bottlebrush and cistus was badly damaged in the winter and has been cleared away and replanted with perennials.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 12 July 2011, 07:56top / bottom of page

The idea of a labour saving garden is one of those ridiculous non-sequiturs that real gardeners won't recognise. However, there is a lot to be said for allowing plants to do their own thing, and a more naturalistic laid-back style can be attractive and entail less effort. In my own garden this has often resulted by default and i am slowly learning to tame the wilder areas and introduce a little more drama. Plantings with alpines, though, do require more detailed kork and provide a break from cutting hedges and pruning trees and shrubs. There is something very satisfying in working through a bed and tidying it up which i find much more difficult to apply in the garage or office! The freedom of expression that your own garden gives you is one of its most important features, and allows you to learn about plants in your own way. A few examples are shown below.

These are all plantings along old established rows of apple trees (on dwarf rootstocks). Some of the plants, like Brunnera, Aquilegias and Anthriscus 'Ravenswing', self-seed freely - but others, the Hostas, some Trilliums, Podophyllum and ferns, make discreet clumps, and I am trying to balance the plants so they meld together in a harmonious way. Earlier in the year, there are drifts of snowdrops and small daffodils. The effect can be quite pleasing and the dappled shade and reasonably moist soil under the apples provides an ideal spot for woodland perennials that have done less well elsewhere in the garden.

In other parts of the garden there are plants that either self-sow or spread. The poppy appearing in front of Macleaya is a happy accident, as is Berkheya purpurea seeding into the poor sandy soil under a Trachelospermum by the house. The little Penstemon (seed from Plant World) now seeds gently round-about in a sunny dry border, and as a result has lasted much better than many of the named varieties.

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