Hither & Thither

We have had a spate of weekends away from home lately.

Allium 'Purple Sensation'It has been lovely to visit friends and family and explore places familiar and new, but hard meanwhile to keep up with the garden’s pace in snatched evenings after work, though not for want of trying – not to mention writing and reading posts. With each absence there is a brief moment of mitigation for this loss of time; that first delicious walk around the garden after a couple of days away, bags abandoned in the hallway as we rush outside, exclaiming over how much everything has grown, caught by a tantalising glimpse of something new. Yesterday evening, as well as finding the alliums had fully opened in our absence, we discovered the long-watched first paeony bloom, now resplendent in layers of crimson crinoline. Beautiful. I must try and find the label with its name.

Paeonia lactiflora

One unwelcome souvenir we brought back earlier this month was a rather vicious virus that rendered us both useless for the best part of a week, lingering on into one of the few weekends we were actually in residence. Fortunately the garden has been getting on rather well in spite of our sporadic attendance upon it.

While we have mostly recovered now, the lawnmower has fallen sick; and the grass and daisies – and clover – are rocketing up and taking on a distinctly shaggy look. There is even a pretty little purple viola that has sprung up in the middle of the lawn in a patch of clover – I transplanted one from the grass to the border last year too. We are watching the post anxiously for the new carburettor which should get us back on track once more.

Early June garden

Violet in patch of clover

On Saturday, though, we made a visit to Crocus, the online nursery, for their first post-Chelsea open day of the year, and some much more pleasant souvenirs. The weather was fine, dry and quite warm, with a layer of light cloud preventing us from getting too hot as we perused the vast ranks of plants. Regardless of divided opinion on this year’s show-gardens and the judging, there is little dispute that, as ever, there were some striking plants and planting combinations to enjoy, and this was reflected at the nursery. The mechanics of the open day seemed even better organised than on my visit two years ago, though one plant that my Mum labelled and set on the path to be picked up did not make it back to the collection area with our other choices. Fortunately it was not something that was in short supply, and I could race back across the nursery to grab a replacement for her.

Purchases from Crocus nursery open day

With the garden filling out nicely now,  we made a relatively restrained number of purchases; a replacement Salvia nemorosa Caradonna, as the one we’ve enjoyed for the past two years seems to have regrettably succumbed to winter wet this year (though there’s always a slim chance it may push up a very late shoot for a few weeks yet). The new plant will be added to a slightly sunnier spot, with lots of gravel for drainage, to try and encourage it to settle here.

We also picked up an auricula – Primula auricula Taffeta – to join P. a. ‘Black Jack’ in our fledgling auricula collection; the lovely red Dicentra spectabilis Valentine, to join the pink and white varieties that seem happy here; Astilbe x arendsii ‘Fanal’ (a plant I have tended to avoid as I often find the flowers too showy, though the foliage is lovely so we shall see whether this will change my mind!); and Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’, with beautiful dark foliage, and long purple-flushed spires of white flowers to follow.  We also took a handsome Deschampsia cespitosa in full flower back as a gift for my Mother-in-law; this was from the Gold-medal winning Daily Telegraph show garden designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole.

Deschampsia cespitosa

I didn’t take a camera with me to the nursery, to concentrate on sharing the day with my family safe from the distraction of stopping for a shot here, and another there… which I suspect can become rather frustrating for others. It also kept my hands free to pick up plants! I could not then capture the scale and beauty of the manicured pillars, lollipops and pleached lines of copper and green beech and hornbeam that had returned from the show gardens, which were stunning – though far far outside our budget! They gave a glimpse of the magic, though, that must have been in the air at Chelsea, amid the crowds and hype.

Aquilegia vulgaris 'Lime Sorbet' (syn. Green Apples)

Aquilegia skinneri 'Tequila Sunrise'

Another lovely surprise that we returned to yesterday was the first flowers on one of the Aquilegia skinneri ‘Tequila Sunrise’ that my Mum and I raised from seed last year.  This is a small delicate plant with lovely dark-flushed foliage and red and yellow flowers, joining the masses of taller aquilegias around the garden in cooler colours.

I’m looking forward to a quieter month now; perhaps this warm sunny spell heralds the start of a fine relaxing summer, with lots of days in the garden. Fingers crossed…


19 thoughts on “Hither & Thither

  1. Your garden is gorgeous. I love the last photo. I have never seen a flower like that.

    • Thanks. The little red and yellow Aquilegia is very pretty isn’t it? This is the first flower to open, but there are lots more to come – I’m looking forward to them!

  2. My MIL has a Peony like that one. I really do need to get a cutting / root division of it!
    I know the problem of balancing gardening with holidays/ visits. We are just off on a holiday for a couple of weeks, and I am just organising a garden-sitting rota!

    • We drove past a very similar peony in Upper Hale this weekend in somebody’s front garden. I was admiring it while waiting for the traffic lights to change! Exciting to then come back and find out ours is the same deep colour.
      Hope that you have a lovely holiday, I’m sure your garden will tick along nicely with your friends’ help while you are away – and be pleased to see you back again soon.

  3. It’s exciting to have your borders filling out, isn’t it? I really want to look at mine objectively this year and move or replace things that don’t fit. Good to get some bargain (were they?) newbies too!

    • Yes, I love this time of year; I’m still moving things around to find the best positions. Our purchases were indeed fair bargains, now I’m deciding where to squeeze them in!

  4. I got a few Salvia ‘Caradonna’ last fall, they are just starting to bloom now. I like it, very upright habit, and a striking purple-blue flower.

    • Yes, lovely colour and habit. Ours was planted in a spot that loses the sun earliest in the afternoon; I will try this one in a place where the sun lingers longer and see if it is happier there.

  5. I lost all my salvias overwinter too – but had one in a pot in the greenhouse that I was going to move – thank goodness it survived and is now planted in a gravel sink and coming on a treat. You know what they say – it’s so nice to go travelling, but it’s oh so nice to come home.

    • Caradonna is our only one that seems to have expired – it was late to show growth last year, but not this late. Glad that you kept one safe!

  6. How wonderful, I didn’t know that Crocus sold off the plants that were turned from Chelsea. A good job I don’t still live in the UK! Christina

  7. That aquliegia looks amazing. What brilliant colours. Where did you get the seed from? Oh I so want to go to the Crocus open day but time is limited at the moment. Looks like you got some great purchases.

    • Isn’t it pretty? It should be even more striking as it comes fully into bloom – I’ll be sure to post more pictures!
      My mum bought the seeds from Special Plants nursery; we divided the seeds between us, scattered them in damp vermiculite in jars in the fridge and compared notes when little white curls appeared several weeks later that we could tip into compost and grow on!
      A Crocus open day is definitely worth making time for – if a little dangerous ;).

  8. sorry you had both been unwell but glad you are better now, I love the image of abandoned cases and rush into the garden, I guess most gardeners are like that,
    I like your alliums they are like the ones I bought last autumn which are just a tad behind yours, I didn’t really know what they would be like as they were sold in a multi pack labled ‘border alliums’, I like that little viola too,
    it must have been hard limiting your plant purchases with so much to tempt, your choices sound nice, I look forward to seeing photos of them in your garden,
    I’m interested in your’s and Elaine’s comments about salivas as I bought 2 last autumn, 1 is growing but 1 is not, so I won’t give up hope just yet, so much is late up here, hope you enjoy a relaxing June, Frances

    • Thanks Frances. I’m pleased with the alliums too; they are bigger than the ones I introduced here last year (A. caeruleum, A. sphaerocephalon and the little golden A. moly) and certainly make a splash! Such striking shapes – and I love purple. Look forward to seeing yours in a week or two!
      I love salvias; the Caradonna came back last year – I remember it was quite late to grow, perhaps early June then. I’d read somewhere not to give up until mid-July, so don’t give up hope. There may yet be life in our one, there’s the tiniest hint of green at the base, then I shall have two! Other salvias have come back strongly this year further down the garden where the sun stays longer…

      • thanks Sara, A.Moly I bought many years ago and in my garden it is a tough but friendly plant, in the neglected jungle front garden which I’ve started renovating it was still flowering, when I dug the area I found it had muliplied a lot! I moved lots along the R.Rugosa border, still more to the tweenie and I smile as I look at the jungle border I planted last autumn as A.moly is popping up among many of the other plants, I like it as I know it won’t dominate just be a sprinkling through the border, I hope yours do as well, Frances

  9. Going away is fun but so is returning home. Sometimes my bag has not even got as far as the hallway 🙂 Have just planted an actaea ‘Brunette’ – I’m most taken by the stems. Looking forward to the flowers and the scent too. Karen over at ‘An Artist’s Garden’ mentioned salvia ‘Caradonna’ in a recent post – must find out more. Hope that you are well and truly over the dreaded lurgy and soon catch up with yourself. These long sunny summer evenings certainly help.

    • Ah great minds re the Actaea! I hope yours and ours both settle in well. The foliage is very handsome – I hadn’t realised those pretty flowers would be scented too, even more to look forward to.
      I love the deep colour of Caradonna, and it has a lovely upright habit – my fingers are crossed that there are signs of life in our old one and we shall have two. 🙂
      Sunny evenings are a blessing – I’ve been out in the garden this evening until almost 9, weeding the borders and potting things on in the greenhouse, bliss.

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