Thursday, 17 July 2014

In the pink

I always think of July as the month where hotter colours start to take over the garden – and this year, it looks like the temperatures are following suit as proper summer weather arrives. But while scarlet zonal pelargoniums and crocosmias are asserting themselves in some areas, I’m easing myself away from the blues, whites and creams of the spring garden via a gentle transition through shades of pink.

To me there are few sights finer than a drift of foxgloves, swaying ever so slightly in the breeze. They multiply readily from seed, which is produced in prodigious quantity, each dried capsule containing hundreds of tiny seeds. Rosettes of furry, broad leaves will form this year, next year, tall spikes of the familiar flowers. Most foxgloves are now browning as the seeds mature and the capsules swell, but a precious few are still in flower. Catch them while you can, and if you’re too late, wave snip off a crispy stem when the pods have split and wave it around under some trees where you’d like a colony to establish. Naturally, they’re rather poisonous.

We used to call fuchsias ‘dancing dollies’ when I grew up, though I’ve no idea how widespread that nickname is. They’re a great, colourful staple of the garden throughout summer and into the autumn, with such variety of colour and habit that there’s bound to be one for any situation, whether you want them trailing from baskets, grown as lollipop-headed standards, or as shrubs in the border. The petals and berries are edible too.

Lacecap hydrangeas are beautiful plants, and perhaps rather more subtle than their mop head cousins. Although I love them both equally, perhaps this makes the lacecaps slightly more versatile in the garden, as the form of the flower is more delicate and less attention seeking. Beautiful, nonetheless. This pink one is in the garden of a client, cultivar detail lost. Perhaps it’s ‘Kardinal’, which can vary in colour from pink through red to reddish mauve depending on the acidity of the soil.

I always used to get Lychnis coronaria – Rose campion – confused with Stachys byzantia, which has similarly furry silver-grey leaves, although the flowers are quite different – a single, deep pink (or white) flower for Lychnis, a short spike of mauve flowers on the Stachys. Both can establish colonies quickly, stachys favouring layering with its lanky stems, while the Rose campion prefers to seed itself about. A wonderful contrast between the cool hues of the foliage and the zingy magenta of the flowers.

What could be pinker than a double flowered pink? Again that contrast between cool, grey-blue foliage and the flower colour, more subtle this time, but just as attractive. Pinks have a wonderful perfume; spicy, almost clove-like.

I have a love-hate relationship with potentillas. The genus has produced some of the most boring and annoying weeds – chief among them creeping cinquefoil – and many of the herbaceous plants flop about with a vengeance, requiring ingenious supports. Some of the flowers, though, are fantastic. The flower of Potentilla nepalensis ‘Miss Willmott’ here, strawberry like foliage out of shot.

I’m starting to see a point to patio roses – or at least, small roses that can be planted at the front of a border, to provide a frothy mass of long lasting colour. As long as they’re disease resistant – can’t be doing with all that spraying and black-spot riddled foliage looks awful. For some reason, it’s even more annoying on a small leaved plant. The David Austin rose ‘Rosemoor’ is a double flowered repeat flowering rose, with a good scent.

Sempervivum’s have the most amazing flowers. These look like they’ve been made from icing, intricately patterned and garnished with silver hundreds and thousands. Who’d expect such delicacy from these humble house leeks?