I enjoy reading a few gardening blogs and they vary from amateur home gardener to professional. One that I always like is ‘View from Federal Twist’ where comments about gardens and gardening are interesting and thoughtful. One of the recent posts discussed the purpose, or deliberate lack of it, of a garden set some distance away from the house, a garden that exists purely in its own right, specifically, a garden developed at Broughton Grange in England. The whole discussion was a refreshing counter to the many “Home Beautiful” type of publications I’ve leafed through recently — I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time in medical waiting rooms! The HB articles discuss the garden as no more than a practical living extension to the house, generally hard landscaping with a few pointy plants dotted about.
Realistically most of us want to be able to both observe the garden from the house and step outside straight into it, gardens like the one at Broughton Grange would suit very few, but I’m glad someone made it. Another interesting aspect of this post were the comments, especially from the English side of the Atlantic where the gardening culture is so strong. From my point of view it’s all a bit sterile without a real garden nurtured for the love of the plants in it. Verandahs and decks are wonderful for sitting and relaxing while gazing at the garden, and hard landscaping very useful, and to be honest a bit more hard landscaping would go down well at my place. I think of my garden as complementing the house rather than being an extension of it, and, as a gardener, it’s also my playground, a space that exists for me to indulge my passion for plants.
So, back to my reality and the rapidly-descending-into-mudslide-winter garden. After the plant-lashing gales came steady rain, much appreciated and I’m really not complaining but it’s slippery out there! The worm activity has been astounding, wonderful little piles of worm casts appearing everywhere, again, not complaining but I do wish they would desist from pushing them up in the joints between my nice pale pavers!
Salvias are still providing most of the flower colour, the inexhaustible Salvia ‘Indigo spires‘ going strong along with the lipstick pink Salvia involucrata. Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ is finally showing off after a slow start, I’m not sure that it really likes me though, perhaps something to do with a recent Spotted Dog digging frenzy, I should get a few cuttings going as insurance…
Phyllis Fancy and Megan’s Magic simply flower forever (such silly names, like the recently introduced Rodney Davey Marbled Group hellebores, ‘Penny’s Pink’ is enough to put me right off the plant, despite my respect for Penelope Hobhouse!) Phyllis happily swallows up all smaller plants nearby but is beloved by small birds so I let her be. Now the racemes, still opening their last buds, are fading to a lovely ghostly mauve grey, quite beautiful swaying above a charming grey green prostrate juniper-like Tasmanian native, the name of which I forgot years ago . Both salvias have produced new plants in the past from stalks pruned off for use as short term stakes and markers. In fact I’m rather careful now about checking that my impromptu salvia stakes have not taken root and infiltrated the precious creature being staked, they’re difficult to remove without damaging aforesaid precious.
On the subject of hellebores, it’s that time of the year again when the first buds are pushing through and I’m reminding myself, once again, that this year I will label all those that do not meet the grade (that very high standard set by Post Office Farm Nursery) ready for removal
The Plantsman has also offloaded responsibility for what seems like a vast number of large pots containing choice Helleborus hybridus plants to my tender care — and more suitable microclimate. They have suffered a little from ‘more important things to be done’ over the last year but we have great hopes for their rejuvenation. A busy time was spent converting the ‘Crocus slope’ into the ‘Helleborus shelves’, involving the repurposing of old fence pickets raised on surplus pavers. Not smart but effective. When summer finally returns they will be re-homed in the Arctic.
Fat racemes of Salvia karwinskii are building their strength in readiness for winter flowering — just hoping they don’t go the same way as Costa Rica Blue. Karwinskii’s canes are long and dangerously brittle and really need tying back more firmly.
I finally planted out Thymus neiceii, a gift from the Plantsman, having suddenly realised it would be perfect filling one of those rare empty spots and tumbling out over the paving in the new, hottish lower deck garden. Other gifts from the same party; Cyclamen graecum album was recently planted in a shadier part of that garden, together with the Cyclamen hederifolium with beautifully patterned leaves pictured below
The 20,000 NZ rock lilies (Arthropodium cirratum) recently pricked out into little pots were brought up from the dark Arctic zone near the creek and carefully stashed in their winter quarters, a small table under a pittosporum on the west side of the house. When I lovingly checked on them the next day, aghast and horror, half had been nipped off at the base! So its back to the Arctic zone where apparently the local snail and slug population are non climbers. Also potted up the last six orange clivia seedlings (seeds snatched from the massed council planting around the Town Hall) and hopefully placed the last seed of the small apricot one (from Franklin Square) in sand under plastic to germinate.
Pelargoniums P. reniforme (thank you Catherine) and P. sidoides both produce their delicate dancing flowers continuously in their sunny beds. I dearly love the darkest of gothic dark maroon blooms of sidoides and have spread her about but haven’t yet found her perfect partner. David Glenn suggests the acid yellow of euphorbias, so perhaps the compact Euphorbia myrsinites would be a good fit. Euphorbia myrsinites seeds itself down the gravel slope (read old bitumen/concrete driveway now breaking apart) so some judicious rehoming may be attempted. P. reniforme, in contrast to her dusky sister, is a brilliant lilac pink jewel.
More pretty pinks from Silene dioica, evidently confusing autumn with spring. This was acquired earlier this year from the redoubtable Flower room co-op, a common, easy, no problem plant, sweet flowers and evergreen green basal rosettes, I can’t understand why I have never grown it before.
The lovely Geranium cantabrigiense is adding soft pink blooms to its reliable ground cover foliage. The smaller leaved white version is even more charming and I have been transplanting pieces to shore up the edges of the paving in shady spots where the grass fails. I could never decide whether I liked distinctive scent of the foliage but after seeing one of its parents, Geranium maccrorhizum, growing in northern Greece I’m transported back to those travels by a mere whiff.
Below a photo of Geranium maccrorhizum growing on the edge of the Vikos Gorge in Epirus. The Plantsman and I also admired it growing rampantly along the road on Mount Falacro in Macedonia, another magically verdant and floriferous area.
The lastest of the roses, just a couple of blooms of R. Othello opening and putting on a brave, beautiful face. This rose is really a lovely rich crimson, I’m coming to the disappointed conclusion that my camera cannot capture pinks and crimsons successfully.
There is always foliage to admire, especially as the peak flowering season ends, like the fat velvet grey leaves of Phlomis bovai morocanna, including a couple of bonus seed heads I left for the birds. While cleaning out the Iris spuria leaves (see the mess in the background, it’s an unmitigated walker, gorgeous stately blooms but infiltrates all its neighbours!) I checked to see if the phlomis had developed any rooted outriders and discovered a stash of half eaten feijoas in its centre, just beside a cosy little burrow — RATS!
Autumn leaf colour is nearly gone, but the fabulous spire of Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ (at least I think that’s correct, was acquired as the Manchurian pear but simply is too fastigiate and not fat enough) continues to light up the garden, the range of warm colours in the leaves is so gorgeous and they look stunning as they fall, scattering across the green of the lawn.
On the subject of the green lawn, the last few mornings have dawned freezing and frosty, the frost remaining on the lowest lawn and the water in the stone trough retaining floating icicles all day. I covered the recently returned-to-the-Arctic seedling NZ rock lilies with shade cloth and brought other sun loving babies up close to the house.
First winter bulbs! The deliciously violet scented Narcissus romeuxii, unfortunately tattered from slug attack but I carefully photographed the good side.
and the chubbly milk drop, Galanthus ‘Three ships’
The first fresh white flowers of Daphne mezureum alba, with the promise of yellow berries to follow.
The Spotted Dog, cosy in a borrowed jacket after supervising the cleaning of the horse paddock on a cold afternoon