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Plants in the Garden: Summer 2013

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Started by: Tim Ingram

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Contribution from Tim Ingram 09 July 2013, 22:41top / bottom of page

There is a tremendous amount going on in the garden at the moment. I suppose there is that common criticism amongst plantspeople that the Chelsea Show and up-market glossy magazines concentrate on 'display gardens' more than they do the plants - and there is a lot of truth in this. But there is great artistic satisfaction in using plants in the garden, even on the smallest of scales, which is not expressed if you consider them on a much more individual, or botanical basis. Ecologically plants often associate in Nature in ways that are hugely artistic to the eye, even though simply(!) the result of natural processes, so it seems little different that we should get the same satisfaction from trying to do the same in the garden. This year parts of our front garden have been very 'Chelsea-like' despite my very best intentions! I say this partly seriously because there are far too many plants in a small area, and my only explanation is that I find them so interesting, and more importantly want as much variety from which to propagate as possible.

The first picture shows some of the variety in flower. One of the loveliest individual plants at the moment is Gypsophila 'Rosy Veil', which is perfectly suited to our hot dry summer, and behind it are many other 'silvers', something of an overall theme which dates back to visiting Beth Chatto and Ramparts Nursery over 30 years ago.

The wonderful thing about a garden is how plants impinge on you at different levels - the camera is selective and forces you to view plants in discrete groups or as individuals, but the eye constantly scans across the whole scene, so photographing the garden with different perspectives begins to give more vitality. Close up Eryngium planum 'Jade Frost' is a unique plant; Nepeta tuberosa and Phlomis italica combine very effectively; the eremurus are planted with a good small hardy fuchsia called 'David' and the very unusual umbellifer Mathiesella bupleuroides (which I am watching out for seed on); and the uncommon New Zealand Euphorbia glauca has made a fine plant.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 10 July 2013, 07:05top / bottom of page

It can be interesting to view the same scene from slightly different perspectives. Even more interesting would be to view it over time, because a garden is really about change rather than being a 'set piece'. By analogy in Landscape photography it is the weather and drama that impresses most and for the alpine grower this is surely a major underlying factor in understanding the plants we grow, even if we all don't have gardens located up in the mountains! The climate and situation we experience individually has a profound effect on the plants we grow, and how we find places for them to grow successfully.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 10 July 2013, 07:24top / bottom of page

A garden is essentially about finding the right place for a plant, which at the same time teaches you a great deal about any particular plant. So Convolvulus sabatius from the Atlas Mtns. is only just on the verge of being hardy in our garden, but survives in an old barrel in a protected position near to the house, and the fact that it flowers continuously through the summer makes it a good companion to similar plants, such as a rather less 'alpine' pelargonium! A diascia would go well with it too, along with plants like felicia and Helichrysum petiolare. Aloe aristata, remarkably, is considerably more hardy and has survived in our garden through the last three or four winters, when temperatures dropped to as low as -14°C. It looks too exotic to really be or grow with alpine plants, but a dryland planting with Yuccas and silver foliage plants create the right ambience. Artemisia alba 'Canescens' is a plant we have had in the same place for maybe 10 or 15 years; in winter it dies back to bare shoots and is always a surprise when it repeats this frothy display of silver the next summer.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 10 July 2013, 07:49top / bottom of page

'Ragged Robin', Lychnis flos-cuculi, is a pretty plant in dampish places, though Jelitto and Schact ('Hardy Herbaceous Perennials') say that it is only really important for collectors. This double form is called 'Jenny' and is certainly a cottage garden plant rather than alpine fare. There could be some dispute in nursery circles because it has plant breeder's rights and yet presumably is of wild origin. There must be enough collector's around. Acanthus syriacus is a fine small species, which in really poor soil might look closer to the photograph by Brian Mathew in Phillips and Rix's 'Perennials'. With us it grows to 60cm or more but associates well with helianthemums and the lovely silvery leaved form of Potentilla fruticosa, 'Beesii'. The final plant is a helianthemum propagated from a friend's garden many years ago, and which we simply call 'Apricot'. There is a snowdrop named by Joe Sharman, 'Nothing Special', and this rock rose has the same impression; it is an ordinary plant but has always stood out for some reason; free-flowering, attractive and long lived. Only your own garden can tell you this so directly.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 10 July 2013, 08:00top / bottom of page

Teucriums are becoming a bit of a passion and are very varied - T. pyrenaicum is an excellent plant for its scalloped leaves, and now bicoloured purple and white flowers. There are very many campanulas flowering but few can beat C. garganica 'Dickson's Gold' (imagine the excitement when a plant like this first arises). And finally Viola cornuta 'Boughton Blue', which took me a little time to realise was being visited by an extraordinary little moth (through the SRGC Forum I now know what this is). The garden in summer - what can beat it?

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