garden notes no 36. sorry for my absence. some late spring/early summer flowers.

The rains began two days ago and everything changed again.

From just a few days ago… the end of spring – the heat is withering the thalictrum flowers, the welsh poppies seem fragile.

You might remember the poppy last year where a white spider was eating a bee. This spider in this aquilegia is more yellow, and the bee is bigger

These are spring flowers, giving way to the early summer heat wave. This one is Geranium phaeum, a plant you need to get down close to.

Here’s a marker for summer, Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy, so free with changes. The more you allow them to self-seed, the more variety you will have, from hard red to pale pink, from single to many many-petalled, a few like this one in between.

Veronica stelleri, just a few inches high

It’s growing in a big pot with a few other easy alpines, here you can see Geranium subcaulescens and Erigeron montana ‘Aureus’. It’s a time of transitioning as they say. Late spring, early summer, who cares. Definitely early June.

Going back to another age, just a few weeks ago (May 22), the last little rainy season – solomon’s seal and Euphorbia palustris

Cistus x cyprius (the ‘x’ in the name means that it is a hybrid) on June 13. Its leaves are an almost leaden leathery green, the petals so brilliantly white:

.. and today:

Clematis tangutica doesn’t much mind the rain, but the cistus has hardly put out any flowers this morning. There’s a delicate balance to be struck between the two plants. For a year or two the clematis was anxiously cosseted, now it’s spreading far and wide. without careful pruning it would smother the cistus, but I like their supervised meeting.

on foxgloves

I’ve found it difficult to grow foxgloves. My garden is too crowded to allow them to germinate, they like bare soil for that, even though they produce huge numbers of seeds. The best ones grow wide-spreading rosettes of big leaves in their first year and then shoot up in spring. I was lucky to be able to take dig up a big lush clump of a plant in early autumn and get it established before the winter. They move easily at most times of year; they have a compact, fibrous root system. Unusually among big drought tolerant plants they don’t have a tap root which makes things difficult to move; plants don’t like having their tap roots broken. If you roughly dig up a dandelion and transplant it the chances are it will die, but the broken tap root you left behind will grow a new shoot, even from several inches down, and thrive. Foxgloves are famous for suddenly appearing when a big old tree falls and lets sudden light into the forest. They were spectacular after the great storm of 1987. At G., when we cleared a huge sprawl of laurels, fifty or sixty grew the next year.

A nice little job for those with time at their fingertips:) when dominant biennials like foxglove, verbascum and teasle put out their long inflorescences (that’s the word for the whole flowering shoot) they often grow it of a dense mound of big leaves growing in a slightly elongated rosette close to the ground. The inflorescence no longer needs all these leaves, and many of them are yellowing and dying anyway. Their main purpose seems to be to provide safe homes for invertebrates and to suffocate the growth of lesser plants growing nearby and so preserve open soil for its own seed to germinate the following year. So cut some of them off. Only difficult if you can no longer squat/crouch/bend/kneel. Soon it might be time to get some help in the garden. For some of you that is. My gardener’s squat is the envy of many a practised practitioner of yoga. I don’t know why more skilful amateur gardeners don’t supplement their pension with a little skillful pruning and and close-eyed weeding. The only delicate work you always hear about is dead heading, like the nice lady in the pensions ads with her trug. There still is a terrible shortage of gardeners who know anything about gardening. There’s a market out there.

Here’s a group of foxgloves which sprang up last year – well, flowered last year, sprang up the year before, on a patch at the back of a neglected vegetable garden at G. It had been roughly cleared of weeds which gave the foxglove seed its chance. As with the opium poppy, a big group will include different colours:

Here’s a very easy saxifrage called Winifred Bevington. Into a pot filled with gritty compost I wedged some pieces of limestone. The saxifrage seems to like being in a tight spot. The rosettes seem to flow around and over the stone. Once some unknown bird pecked it to pieces but it soon recovered. I’ve allowed a little yellow erysimum to appear alongside it. Or rather two: one wil flower next year, the other has just finished flowering this year.

The welsh poppy has become my favourite plant for cosying up to others. It’s very good at making the best out of poor opportunities. Here it is with an eryngium:

And with Allium unifolium

A footnote – there’s a sculpture exhibition at St Johns at the moment – I liked this one.

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