Friday, 23 September 2016

a lightly shady corner

On the last Friday of our holiday a scant inch of rain fell at home.  I have this from three sources, our rain gauge, which is not great at picking up really small amounts but not bad by the time you get to an inch, a Guardian blog by somebody who works at a garden not far from here and mentioned it, and a local weather enthusiast who publishes data for his house at Elmstead Market. Unfortunately there must be an error in whatever software package he's using to aggregate his data, since his historic rainfall records show a total metre and a half over the past year, which is roughly three times what it should be, but his daily readings generally sound sensible.

There is no direct evidence of the scant inch, since the borders are dry and hard as ever.  Next year if we have a dry end to the summer I think I will splash out financially as well as literally and water the beds a few times.  This year I only did the areas where I'd planted new things earlier in the summer, plus the driest section of the long bed when I thought the occupants were actually going to die, and one soaking of the ditch bed after all the hydrangeas had collapsed.  It's tough on the plants, and leaves the garden looking pretty rough.

Today I watered the top end of the sloping bed in the back garden as I pruned and weeded, prior to filling in the gaps from last spring's revamp with more Kalimeris incisa and some Digitalis x mertonensis that are languishing in a cold frame.  I grew them both from seed.  The Kalimeris is a sort of small flowered daisy, and why the botanists decided it was a Kalimeris and not an Aster beats me, though three quarters of the asters are no longer Aster either after the last burst of reclassification.  I planted a patch of several, and only one came up.  I don't know what happened to the others, and suspect them of having been grazed to death by rabbits, since the one that's taken looks reasonably happy.  It would probably be happier if I'd watered it a couple of times over the summer, but it seems to be intent on living rather than toying with the idea of dying.

It makes a nice partner for my rare Aster 'Vasterival', bought from the plant stall at the Plant Heritage monthly meeting.  Lectures resume tomorrow, so I must tell one of the organisers their efforts to get this variety into wider cultivation are bearing fruit.  It is showing me what it thinks of the drought by not getting anywhere near the one metre to 1.2 metres that Knoll Gardens' website tells me it should achieve, but it looks quite cheerful.  I think it might even have started to spread at the root.  The flowers are dainty in construction and a soft pink, held on darkish stems, very tasteful.

Digitalis x mertonensis is a foxglove of medium height and moderate longevity, with flowers the same shade of pink as crushed strawberries.  It is a hybrid, but comes true from seed, which is confusing when you start thinking about it.  I am planning to put it next to the pink flowered sweet briar rose 'Anne of Geierstein', and if they can manage to both flower at the same time that will be highly satisfactory.  The rose ended up on its own roots by a slightly peculiar method, in that I bought a grafted plant in the normal way from Peter Beales, and after a few years the original plant became very sad and sick and died in short order, but meanwhile a low growing branch had layered itself and grew away like mad.  Years later it lives on, but six feet away from where I originally put it.

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