Temperatures remain mostly cool on our hilltop, and the garden is looking verdant, with some bright blooms bringing bursts of colour.
After reading that Liz’s sowings of the same Digitalis purpurea Sutton’s Apricot seeds that I too sowed have emerged as a fairly unexceptional form of our native pink/purple foxglove – and given the lack of apricot flowers anywhere to be seen here – those seeds would seem to be the source of my unexpected pink foxgloves this year too. While I may not be quite so taken with them as with the deliciously dark throated Pam’s Choice, or the pleasingly plump Digitalis x mertonensis (see below), they still make a pretty sight, covered in vibrant flowers and continuing to push their spires higher each day: the bees don’t seem to favour any particular variety over another, visiting all the foxgloves with equal enthusiasm.
In fact, nature seems to be conspiring to fill my garden with flashes of bright magenta; last year it was a volunteer Lychnis coronaria, now this primrose, self-seeded from our banks of butter-yellow wild primroses, has just opened the most unexpectedly flamboyant flowers. It looks more like one of the highly-bred polyanthus than a wild primrose, but I am rather taken with its strong – and astonishing – colour.
Soft hummocks of Geranium sanguineum, and the smaller Geranium cinereum subcaulescens, echo this hue; while Clematis ‘Ernest Markham’ is just coming into flower on a recently painted section of our fence, with dozens of further buds poised ready to open.
I sowed lots of sweet william seeds last year; an auricula-eyed mix, and the bright D. barbata ‘Amazon Neon Purple’, which are now lighting up the borders in yet more vibrant pinks, making it fast approaching something of a feature colour, particularly here in the kitchen border where they merge with the nodding heads of the quaking grass, Briza maxima.
As well as providing sweet wafts of scent through the garden, they are proving to be magnets for bees and butterflies; the first Small Tortoiseshells of the year have been keen visitors in the past few weeks.
On the softer side of the spectrum, there are the foamy flowers of the black elder.
This delicious dark foliage makes a strong foil for the blazing penstemon which has leapt into bloom in front of it, while Geranium psilostemon sings loudly nearby too. And did I mention Salvia ‘Wild Watermelon’ is back in bloom and no less eye-watering than last year?
Returning to the softer tones, there are four or five plump, statuesque plants of Digitalis x mertonensis, whose flowers are often described, rather aptly, as reminiscent of crushed strawberries.
There are also mounds of Gypsophila repens rosea sprinkled with dainty flowers, spilling from a container or planted at the front of the border, and several waves of Linaria purpurea Canon Went, whose pale plumes are thrown into relief by the dark flowers of Lysimachia atropurpureum ‘Beaujolais’ and Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’, which is flowering madly this year.
We inherited a climbing rose that I have identified as New Dawn, which smothers our front fence with blooms; in the back another pink rambler, Paul’s Himalayan Musk, planted last year, is beginning to embrace the beech tree at whose feet we planted it, hoping that in years to come its blooms will tumble out of the branches high above. In the borders, one or two of the bush roses that we rescued from the original overgrown garden are also sporting a soft blush pink.
With all these shades of pink, and the modest size of our garden, you’ll be forgiven, then, for imagining for a moment that the place must look like one of Dame Barbara Cartland’s creations; despite all these jolts of pink (which is far from my favourite colour!), the garden is surprisingly verdant still, with alchemilla’s zesty sprays and a palette of whites, purples, blues, reds, yellows and even a few spots of orange scattered through the greenery to create an exuberant, yet not overwhelming, display. The foliage is still the star in our garden at the moment, giving it a luxurious fresh feel.
The blaze of red from the long-flowering oriental poppies in the field border, reflected now in the first opium poppies in the opposite border, draws much more attention than most of the pinks scattered through the beds.
Those clouds of chartreuse provided by Alchemilla mollis through all the borders ties them together nicely, as well as providing another valuable accent. As the garden grows up, it becomes more and more important for me to focus on its structure and foliage, and I am thrilled with how this tapestry is developing. The garden is indeed looking in the pink at the minute, but somehow not excessively pink in colour despite this.