Plants in the Garden: Plants at Copton Ash in Kent
Started by: Tim Ingram
A look at various plants in our garden this springGo to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 17 June 2013, 22:18. Go to bottom of this page.
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Finally there are those bold long-lived perennials which just stand on their own in the garden. These often do less well with us because they are mostly summer flowering and by this time our garden often becomes very dry. This year the exceptionally dry and warm spring, followed by some reasonable rains, have benefited our summer garden. The first plant is in effect a giant lettuce (!), Cicerbita plumieri, and very striking, if a little weedy looking - it is in a bed with a similar rather majestic plant, Cephalaria gigantea, which seeds very freely. The two could begin to make an amazing meadow with others like Inula magnifica if there is space in the garden. The lily, L. humboldtii, comes from the western US and I am hopeful may be more adapted to our dry summers (most lilies need more summer moisture than we can provide). And lastly the incomparable Veratrum album. Generally these again do not have the moisture they need to do really well and are so slow to build up from seed, but are really remarkable plants.
Hi Tim - The Impatiens is very striking and a genus that we do not currently grow. If it is hardy for you in Kent then it might be OK for us here in Worcester and something worth giving a try. I am always keen to try and put in plants that extend the flowering season and give added interest.
Chris, if I get some seed set I will put some aside to send you. If it is well mulched in the winter I think it may well prove hardy in the Midlands. (Anyone had experience of growing Impatiens tinctoria?). There are several smaller quite hardy species - a friend has even overwintered I. sutherlandii outside, though this is much more often grown in a hanging basket for its freely produced orange flowers. Possibly the most likely to succeed is I. omeiana, shown below (in the same garden high up on the North Downs), though it hates getting dry.
Gardens are all about change. This bed in the middle of our lawn is a good example. It started life as a weeping ornamental cherry underplanted with Narcissus 'Minnow' and the lovely autumn flowering Crocus speciosus. In time the cherry suffered from severe die-back and was removed. The extant bulbs and a visit to Sissinghurst in spring, when the amazing 'bulb walk' was in full flower, stimulated me to extend the bed, incorporate liberal quantities of chippings, and plant with a wide variety of bulbs.
However, what of the time when the bulbs have finished flowering in the summer and autumn? The bed looked very bare in its prime place viewed from the house. So a few later flowering perennials were added, notably sedums which have a long season of interest in flower and foliage. Valerian seeded in from the main border, a mixed blessing because it seeds much too freely, but actually is very effective with the sedums. And Eryngium bourgatii planted on one corner has also spread rather too well, but like the sedums has died right back when the majority of bulbs are in flower. Acanthus dioscoridis I have mentioned before and around the perimeter of the bed are a few alpines - dianthus,pulsatillas, Daphne arbuscula and Geranium cinereum.
It may not be a great work of art in gardening terms but the bed now brings a lot of pleasure throughout the year. I aim to illustrate it at different times on the website and show how the planting changes. There are a great variety of bulbs in the winter and spring and, like sissinghurst, these give the opportunity to amass a tremendous display of colour in a small space. The pictures below just show the bed taken from the four points of the compass this July.
The sedums used include the fine cultivars introduced by Graham Gough, 'Purple Emperor' and 'Red Cauli', plus several good forms from Joe Sharman. These have crossed and self-seeded to produce a variety of leaf and flower colours. On a smaller scale it would be easy to use more diminutive and spreading species and cultivars.
Maintainance involves fairly regular weeding and cutting down of stems in autumn, plus top-dressing with fresh chippings each year.
I have referred to plants that came from Jim several times through this thread and the following short tribute, which I had put under 'Any Other Topics', really seems more appropriate here. He is someone it would have been so nice to have known more, but the article mentioned below tells you much about him and describes some plants that I for one would love to grow in the garden!
When I was searching through some old Bulletins recently I came across an article by Jim entitled 'Among Moroccan Mountains' (1963, Vol. 31, p.314). Robert Rolfe has mentioned elsewhere of his fluency of language and simply you feel as though you are there with him! Partly this must be because of a personal knowledge of many of the plants described, so you can imagine them in the landscape in your mind's eye, but much more it is to do with the description of how they relate to that landscape in the personal eye of the writer. I find this connection remarkable, even though we live with it all the time. Those people who do things so well seem to do them effortlessly(!) and yet we know this isn't true.
I only say this because as I write about the plants in our garden, Jim & Jenny's names continually come to the fore. So many plants have been grown from seed from their famous seedlists. I was even more lucky to see their garden several times and came away feeling that Jim stood as high in the gardening world as you could get. It is presumptuous to say such things, especially since I didn't know them well, but I think it is a sign of how gardening relates so closely to exploring the world, in different ways for different people, but immediately recognised from one to another.
In a broader context though there have been and are many such people in the AGS and such a lot of fine writing of personal experiences growing and discovering plants. Dipping into the Bulletins promises many pleasures to come and perhaps a slower and more thoughtful approach to the garden. Jim's wonderful individualism lives on!
A couple of interesting and unusual daphnes. Daphne glomerata (from Robin White) has grown quite well for us and produced a few flowers in the past. This year the plant looks to be covered in very many buds, so I eagerly anticipate the flowers! Robin finds the scent unpleasant, but then he is a true connoisseur of the genus.
The second is D. gnidioides grown from JJA seed. This comes from dry areas of the eastern Mediterranean and has very grey foliage, its most redeeming feature. I planted it on a raised alpine bed before realising that it can grow to 1.3m or more. I could imagine interesting hybrids carrying that grey foliage and more colourful flowers!
The third plant is one I have always wanted to grow, though it is tender and not a daphne! This is Pimelia ferruginea. It has a fine form and flower, and carries that same cachet of its relatives, the daphnes. This plant came from the August Flower Show at Great Comp Garden, and specifically from 'County Park Nursery', that wonderful and idiosyncratic nursery created by the redoubtable Graham Hutchins.
Autumn is a rather fascinating time in the garden, not only for the approach of autumn colours that give a flash of brilliance before winter. It took me a while to realise the value of autumn bulbs, and I imagine many gardeners are hardly even aware of these. Cyclamen hederifolium has always been a feature, way back, but only recently have we grown a wider range of the genus, including purpurascens flowering just now, and quite surprisingly graecum, which normally only produces its beautiful foliage in the garden (maybe a very dry spring and moister summer as we had this year is what it needs to flower in the garden - on the other hand it flowers well under glass in pots with the long roots just kept moist through the summer). We only grow a few colchicums but this clump of bivonae is superb every year and should encourage us to try more. Crocus up to now have been a failure due to rabbits grazing off the flowers and leaves but we will try them again now this problem is reduced with our wizard rabbit chasing (and occasionally catching!) Jack Russell! Curiously the winter flowering Crocus laevigatus fontenayi (from Broadleigh Gardens) has always been left alone.
Sedums really come into their own in the autumn with a very long flowering season, attraction to butterflies and huge variety. I have used some of the larger species in a bed otherwise more devoted to spring bulbs. Most striking are some of the dark foliage forms, of which two of the finest have been introduced by Graham Gough (Marchant's Nursery); 'Purple Emperor' (arguably the finest of all) and 'Red Cauli', a variety with very richly coloured flowers (shown in the foreground of the photo below). As a contrast though there are varieties with yellow and pinkish flowers which has led Bob Brown to coin the wonderful name 'Stewed Rhubarb Mountain' for one, though not that below! In the gritty soil of the bed the sedums tend to cross and hybridise and the potential must be there for some interesting new forms.
And then three more extraordinary plants. Fascicularia bicolor has made a massive clump in the garden, not terribly striking until all of a sudden the central leaves of the rosettes turn red and the very beautiful clump of soft-blue flowers nestles deep within. Now it is so large there is little hope of dividing it and it has proved its hardiness over last winter, which damaged so many other plants.
The final two plants are also very distinctive - Hedychium 'Tara', one of the most striking hardy 'gingers', originally introduced by Tony Schilling. Our garden is not ideal for these, usually proving too summer dry, but it has done well this year. Extremely exotic! The second is the lovely climbing Bomarea hirtella, given to me by a friend who has a strong plant twining up the side of his house and finds it fully able to withstand the winter from its deep roots. These can be very late to come into growth and flower in cold gardens but this species does seem more reliable - will wait and see.
Very nice indeed Tim. I have tried the Sedums in the past but they either get destroyed by the wind or devoured by slugs and sometimes both!
I know what you mean David - they do tend to have long whippy stems that catch the wind. 'Purple Emperor' has a more compact habit. We have not had slug damage but some years they are decimated by caterpillars - fortunately not this year. Try some of the smaller varieties - 'Bertram Anderson' is very good and I used to have 'Vera Jameson' from Joe Elliott years ago. These make great groundcover for bulbs.
Earlier on I described the bed in the centre of our lawn which is largely devoted to bulbs, but planted with sedums and other perennials to give summer and autumn interest. By now this bed is beginning to look overgrown and unkempt (some may have thought it looked like this in the first place!). The few autumn crocus that have survived the depradations of rabbits are starting to flower, and it is time to have a really good autumn tidy up!
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