If you’ve been following my blog for a bit, you will know that I am a volunteer gardener at Wimpole Estate and that I look after the long borders that run across the middle of the Walled Garden.
I’ve been doing this for roughly the last 4 years and at Christmas time I make a collage poster from photographs that record our work, the changes we’ve made and the plants/combinations that we’ve enjoyed best. With the New Year on the doorstep I thought that it would be interesting to share a few of these vignettes.
The year in the borders really begins with tulips. There are snowdrops, crocuses etc before that, but tulips are the first things to add substantial colour. In 2017 we used a three-way colour combination of Negrita, Generaal de Wet and Couleur Cardinal this year and they shone like stained glass windows when the sun was out. It’s definitely a mix of colours I’d go for again.
Another combination, of shining silvers and purples, that worked quite well was: Cotton thistle (Onopordum acanthium), Drumstick allium (Allium sphearocephalon), Artemisia ludoviciana, Salvia turkestanica and Lambs ears (Stachys byzantina). As an added bonus, the bees love nearly all of these flowers and the onopordum is particularly great at attracting hoverflies in their droves.
As the season progresses the colours in the borders hot up. This mixture of yellow, orange and purple is repeated using various plants along the path, but I especially liked this combination of dahlias, sunflowers, cannas and lychnis.
Here are some other blends that I liked:
And some views from the back of the borders:
I love agapathus, but this patch (below) has become too big and needs to be divided again. It is a job that I enjoy and feels very rewarding (all those extra plants – just wonderful). Roll on 2018!
The size of the borders gives me a chance to try out new plants every year. These are typically grown from seed to produce the volume required and keep costs low. My favourites this year were Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’, Tithonia ‘Torch’ (very prolific this year) and Nicotiana mutabilis. They have been cover in earlier posts since I was pleased with them, so I’ll not repeat that here. However, I’ve also been enchanted with the american pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) that was started last year. It didn’t get big enough to flower then, but this year came good.
I decided that I wanted to try this plant when I saw it at the Tropical Gardens in Abbotsbury. It was used as a dramatic screen around the restaurant balcony (it’s toxic though!). What fantastic colour and structure and I love the little, white whiskers against the black fruit. Hopefully, they will come back even stronger next season.
Also flowering for the first time in the borders were a pair of Euphorbia stygiana. They are beautiful, honey-scented domes at the entrance to the east borders. Self-seeds from elsewhere in the garden, we’d chopped them down the previous autumn because they became too big for our space. They’ve bounced back and gifted us with delicious smelling flowers.
The main disappointment grown from seed this year was the Staircase plant or wild dagga (Leonotris leonurus). I planted them out in a prominent position and they grew well, but didn’t start budding up to flower until mid-November when the frosts struck. The plan had been for them to emerge as orange towers through a sea of blue clary sage. It was a bit of a lesson in trialling things where they don’t matter first. If anybody has any hints on getting this to flower earlier I’d be glad to hear.
Black Friday allowed me to indulge in purchasing a few things to try in 2018. So I am looking forward to trying Hibiscus sabdariffa, Agastache aurantiaca and Gypsophila elegans ‘Kermesina’. What plans do you have?
Happy New Year folks and have fun in your gardens!