Friday, 26 May 2017

Britain basks, I weed

It is the sort of weather during which Britain is traditionally expected to bask.  That's what the newspapers always say, Britain basks in the however many degrees celsius it was, illustrated with a photograph of a middle aged couple in deckchairs on Brighton beach or young people lying down in Hyde Park.  I must admit I am not awfully keen on basking.  I can manage a couple of days in July with a reasonably good grace, but that's about my limit, and late May is definitely too early.  I've got things to do, without spending all day lying down.

Still, with James Basson winning another Chelsea gold medal for another Mediterranean themed show garden, our front garden is bang on trend.  Olive tree, fig, myrtles, fennel, Phlomis italica, lavender, they are all happy to bask.  The foliage of the little bulbs is yellowing rapidly in the heat, and adds that James Basson show garden weedy look, as do the actual weeds.  The Dianthus carthusianorum, raised from seed and planted last year, are sending up their spindly stalks topped with pink flowers, also very Chelsea, and I have a tray of Dianthus cruentus seedlings coming along to keep them company.  The little Viola corsica I planted out a few weeks back are battling along, but I watered them to be on the safe side.  Self sown asparagus is sending up great fat stalks that are far better than anything I managed to grow in the vegetable garden.

The planting in the front garden is chosen to be highly drought tolerant.  Where it was not chosen wisely it has evolved to be so: the list of plants tried in the long bed and no longer with me is long, and depressing or educational depending on your point of view.  Trying Phlox was just silly, but I blame youthful enthusiasm and inexperience coupled with the Svengali influence of Christopher Lloyd.  It pays to choose your guru carefully.  Falling under the sway of somebody gardening on clay that has already been cultivated as a garden for a century is not the best idea when you garden on deep sand and gravel in the driest part of the country.  I was surprised that alliums weren't having it, but they weren't, and while Centaura montana looks as though it might be drought tolerant with its grey leaves it turns out it is much happier on clay in the back garden. Cardoons likewise were a dwarf fiasco.

Colutea x media 'Copper Beauty' is very happy.  It has grey leaves and burnt orange pea-shaped flowers, out now.  I grow it near a purple leaved cherry, with bronze fennel and an orange flowered Potentilla within hailing distance, and they make a good combination.  I am very fond of the Colutea and was gratified to see them extensively used in part of the Piet Oudolf designed walled garden at Scampston Hall in Yorkshire.  The orange flowered Agastache I tried did not last. Agastache is not the longest lived thing, but they didn't seed themselves either.  Life is too short to keep replacing it.

The grey leaved Perovskia that should have formed part of the group was an utter failure.  Some journalists claim that it is a great plant for dry soil, the drier and poorer the better, but they can't have tried it themselves.  It looks as though it should be happy in those conditions with its fine grey leaves, but it doesn't do at all.  I must have killed half a dozen in various parts of the long bed before conceding that it was a very bad idea and was never going to work.

Even with the drought tolerant Mediterranean species I am going to have to do some watering.  I noticed when watering in the greenhouse that the little myrtles I put in by the Systems Administrator's blue summerhouse in 2015 were looking very stressed.  And as for the back garden. There is nothing as ambitious and ill-chosen as Phlox, but the asters are starting to look stressed, and some Digitalis x mertonensis I planted last year are beginning to droop.  And I'm worried about the clematis, especially the ones that only went in a year ago.  And I had better clamber in behind the oil tank and find out what is happening to the Sarcococca and rambling roses.  Clearly there is no time to be wasted in basking.

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