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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 20 July 2013, 07:39top / bottom of page

When I said that this genus was becoming a bit of a passion, I hadn't realised quite how many we grow! They are remarkably varied in flower and form and these are some examples.

Teucrium pyrenaicum, which I showed in the last entry, forms a very neat carpet on a raised bed and close up the bicoloured flowers are especially attractive. It is growing here with a small genista for which we have never had a name, but provides good contrast.


Teucrium ackermannii is perhaps the most attractive, garden-wise, of the species we grow, forming an extensive and free-flowering bush, and the symmetrical flowerheads seen close up are most striking. In another part of the garden it combines very nicely with a deep purple thyme.

Very different again is T. polium for its soft grey and sometimes gold-flushed foliage. This is quite a variable plant - the yellow flowered form we have is more vigorous, and we also grow several smaller forms with white flowers which would be small enough for a trough. These are not so attractive as the flowers go over - like most white flowers (eg: buddlejas), the older brown flowers contrast sadly with the new fresh ones. But as foliage plants T. polium is hard to beat.

In T. orientale the foliage is completely different, finely cut and feathery, and the flowers large and particularly showy. We haven't grown this long enough to gauge its garden worthiness but it certainly looks a fine plant. Teucrium aroanum is probably my favourite species, again because of its very good flowers and tidy habit, though in sandy soil it can spread quite appreciably. And finally on the sand bed the diminutive and rather more tricky T. musimonum.

This genus would well deserve more exploration and a detailed article and almost all of the species shown are excellent and reliable garden plants given sun and good drainage. Very many gardeners will also grow the shrubby T. fruticans, which tends to be less reliably hardy but still extremely attractive when suited, and then there is the tough and imperturbable T. chamaedrys, which can even be used as a small low hedge in place of box or santolina. Excellent plants all.

Contribution from Margaret Young 21 July 2013, 16:02top / bottom of page

Tim, you bring into sharp focus a realisation that I have sadly neglected these plants (Teucrium).

Mea culpa. I feel I must remedy this lack and the fact that this summer is a "real" one makes me think that a selection of Teucrium might well fit the bill for plants which are suited to sunnier days!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 25 July 2013, 14:53top / bottom of page
'Weeds and Aliens'

Sir Edward Salisbury wrote a detailed book in the 'New Naturalist' series on 'Weeds and Aliens'. This was in the context of the natural British environment (though there is a Chapter on the weeds of gardens), but looked at another way gardens are effectively made up of 'Weeds and Aliens', sometimes on different occasions changing roles.

I could show this first photo as a new and distinguished umbellifer for the garden but in fact it is wild carrot seeded in from the road outside. Because I like umbellifers i probably have a bit of a soft spot for weeds anyway! The two plants behind it are Potentilla recta and Digitalis parviflora, which make an excellent pairing, but once again arrived by accident rather than design. The foxglove is a very good perennial and those extraordinary brown flowers do need a pale background to show up well.

'Weeds and Aliens'

Contribution from Tim Ingram 25 July 2013, 15:12top / bottom of page

Plants remind of places and people and I first saw a related foxglove, D. ferruginea at the old Bristol Botanic Garden, just across from the Suspension Bridge. The great thing about Botanic Gardens, which is probably not realised by many Universities, is that they can open the eyes to plants, and there were many fascinating and unusual species growing along with the Digitalis, with details of their origins and taxonomy. Seeing the plants in the flesh is completely different from just reading about them. The realisation that foxgloves are so much more variable than I imagined led me to grow many more, such as D. obscura, not such an easy garden plant but loving this hot dry summer in the south-east. (The plant behind it by the way is another intriguing umbel, Mathiesella bupleuroides, which has become popular in recent years).

Matthiola scapifera, a neat small stock that came from Parham Bungalow Plants reminds me of a different species that Richard Bird gave me many years ago when I had not come across the alpine species in the genus. And Richard was instrumental in stimulating a number of us in the Kent AGS to stage several Chelsea exhibits, plus one on Umbellifers at Wisley, which won the first Gold Medal for the Society. Interesting connections between plants and people. Latterly I have just been reading of another Matthiola in an article by Jim Archibald on seed collecting in Corsica (in the AGS Bulletin). And for all I know Jim offered seed of it in one of his lists?

Contribution from Tim Ingram 25 July 2013, 15:25top / bottom of page

The last two plants are South Africans, and both have been long lived and reliable with us. Diascias are superb plants for long flowering through the summer and autumn, but many don't persist in the garden. We were given, many years ago, a wide selection of hybrids by Hector Harrison (who also bred some unusual snowdrops). They were nice plants but we didn't manage to keep them for more than a few years. This species though, D. fetcaniensis, has been in the garden for at least ten years, and along with the narrow leaved D. integerrima, is by far the best diascia we have grown. The leaves are almost felted and feel slightly damp to the touch, but it is very tolerant of one of the driest of spots. The second South African, Berkheya multijuga, is a true alpine from the Drakensberg, rather more wonderful for its leaves than its flowers. The berkheyas include some interesting species, including a few shrubs, but only one or two (this one and B. purpurea) are really hardy. A couple of attractive 'alien weeds' in the garden!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 25 July 2013, 16:00top / bottom of page

(I have made another Freudian slip above - when I said Kent AGS, I of course meant Kent HPS; but I don't think of them as being terribly different!).

Contribution from Tim Ingram 27 July 2013, 08:20top / bottom of page
Summer disarray

The garden develops a definite disarray in high summer, especially with the very dry weather we have been experiencing lately. This though hides one of its most important aspects; the production of seed. We have always viewed the garden as a resource as well as pleasure, and collecting seed for the nursery and seed exchanges plays a big role. For this reason, or at least for this excuse, we do tend to let the garden go to seed in summer and autumn, which gives it a disheveled appearance. It is a little difficult to know whether to describe this under the 'Garden' or 'Seed Propagation' section, which just goes to show how closely the two are connected.

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