Two years ago, with the extensive work on our house slowly coming towards the end, and parts of the garden being finally cleared of rubble, I ordered a small selection of biennial seeds in a flash of optimism that at last I could begin to grow something towards the garden we would be creating. Sown in August, all germinated well in the greenhouse, and somehow survived a rather erratic program of watering, pricking out and moving on, during days beset with distraction from the house.
The choice of biennials proved to be a canny one, as, like many similar schemes, our work up at the house continued to stretch out even after the main construction was completed. It was almost another year before the garden could fully win our attention and most of those plants could be planted into the newly dug borders, and thus it is this year that we are finally being rewarded for our patience with a show of flowers.
The first of this selection to bloom has been the sweetly scented Dianthus barbatus Nigricans, the dark almost-black velvety sweet williams at the front of the borders. They stand tall amongst tumbling hardy geraniums and the lax stems of Gaura lindheimeri, which form a pleasing contrast, graced with fluttering white flowers.
In the last couple of weeks, another spectacle has been unfolding before us: Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica. Through the first year, these produced large rosettes of wonderfully crinkled felted leaves, many growing over 20cm long, which sat patiently in the ground until this spring, when suddenly the plants began to push up tall. This substantial foliage forms a great contrast to smaller-leaved plants nearby.
A number of pink-tinted buds shyly pushed out, each seemingly comprised of a number of overlapping scales arching downwards, so that the effect was of an armoured elephant trunk unfurling.
These have continued to elongate and take on more colour, finally pushing themselves upright to produce wonderful spikes of delicate pink specked flowers in mauve-pink bracts, standing about a metre tall. They work well with the dark purple opium poppies, and the similarly toned pink Linaria purpurea Canon Went.
The last of these sowings are the even more majestic Campanula pyramidalis, or chimney bellflower, both white and blue varieties. Their small tight rosettes have also sent up tall stems in the past few months, one or two that have been curved and curled by the wind and rain, which should soon erupt into fountains of stars towards the back of the borders.
There is something particularly pleasing in watching these plants reach maturity after two years of patience and less than optimal conditions.