Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’

What could be more beautiful?

One of a number of ornamental varieties bred from native elder, ‘Black Lace’ makes a striking plant for the back of the border. It has very finely cut, almost black foliage, which is the perfect foil to the pink-flushed blooms. It will grow almost anywhere, including difficult conditions such as waterlogged or very chalky ground. In autumn, leaves turn rich red. To produce the best coloured leaves, some experts suggest pruning plants back to ground level every year in early spring.  I don’t do this, I’m so happy to see that it has survived the winter.  It needs some irrigation in my free-draining soil and hot summers; it is also planted near a bay hedge which obviously adds to the problem.  It is, however, a tough plant and I think that when has really established itself it will cope better.  I have moved it from a shadier position where its leaf colour was not so good, and it is described as wanting full sun.

It is planted in the triangular rose bed and forms the background to Rosa ‘Secptred Isle which is soft pink and needs something darker to highlight its beauty.

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Melia azedarach

Botanic description
Melia azedarach is a deciduous tree up to 45 m tall; bole fluted below when old, up to 30-60 (max. 120) cm in diameter, with a spreading crown and sparsely branched limbs. Bark smooth, greenish-brown when young, turning grey and fissured with age. Leaves alternate, 20-40 cm long, bipinnate or occasionally tripinnate. Leaflets 3-11, serrate and with a pungent odour when crushed. Inflorescence a long, axillary panicle up to 20 cm long; flowers showy, fragrant, numerous on slender stalks, white to lilac; sepals 5-lobed, 1 cm long; petals 5-lobed, 0.9 cm long, pubescent; staminal tube deep purple blue, 0.5 cm long, 1 cm across. Fruit a small, yellow drupe, nearly round, about 15 mm in diameter, smooth and becoming a little shrivelled, slightly fleshy. Seed oblongoid, 3.5 mm x 1.6 mm, smooth, brown and surrounded by pulp. Because of the divided leaves, the generic name is derived from the Greek ‘melia’ (the ash); the specific name comes from the Persian ‘azzadirackt’ (noble tree).

History of cultivation
This tree, well known as Persian lilac, is native to India but is now grown in all the warmer parts of the world; in many of these places it is naturalized. It is widely planted in Nigeria, for example.
Natural Habitat
A tree of the subtropical climatic zone, the natural habitat of M. azedarach is seasonal forest, including bamboo thickets, Tamarindus woodland. It is highly adaptable and tolerates a wide range of conditions; for example, the most frost-tolerant cultivars can be planted outdoors in sheltered areas in the British Isles.

Melia azedarach here as a multi-stemmed specimen

It is the quickest growing tree I have ever seen.  This was planted as a small seedling plant given to me by a friend, each stem was no thicker than my thumb and about 70 cm tall in 2007.  There is another on the other side of the garden in the left hand border.

Very delicate flowers

The bark is really beautiful at least on young trees like mine.

19th November 2011, the berries on the tree (left hand border)

The butter-yellow autumn foliage and yellow berries against a cloudless sky 14th November 2011

GBFD – Calm amidst the storm

Here at My Hesperides Garden the weather has not been kind to plants.  May has been one of the coldest I remember since we moved here.  This last week there have been horrible winds that have done their best to remove all flowers and distribute them across the garden; I have been surprised at just how tenacious many blooms are at clinging on.  Added to the wind has been the dramatic differences from daytime to night-time temperatures; these have ranged in one 24 hour period from 26°C high to 4° C low!!!!  The night-time lows are equal to most winter lows.  I never know quite what to wear and the plants can’t decide if they should grow or wait.

So although the garden has more blooms than at any other time the importance of good foliage is still paramount in how the garden actually looks.  It provides a calm centre to the stormy multitude of flowers.

Lavender and Perovskia not yet flowering creating a sea of restful foliage

Small Isalnd – sedum and Achellia

Small island

Yes, the Stipa gigantea is flowering but the view is green harmony

Again green harmony (the small island)

As much as I love wistria flowers, and I do, the shade its foliage gives in summer is a reason of its own to grow it.

Everywhere in the garden Stipa tenuissima waves its bright green foliage, adding movement and life to the garden

You can read my thoughts on Stipa tenuissima here.

What foliage is making your garden look special today, to join in just leave a comment with the link to your post.  If you’ve written a post recently that you think is relavent, please feel free to add the link to that.

May feast – visitors to the garden

Scarce Swallowtail

Shield bugs mating on rosa Rhapsody in Blue

There are always a lot of this beasty

Wasps make their nests all over the garden

I used to be terrified of wasps but now, in the garden, I’m happy to see them – they eat aphids, here on Sedum, and butterfly eggs and cabbage white butterfly eggs and small caterpillars.  The sedums looked really sick, ants were milking the aphids until the wasps arrived to clean things up.

This green caterpillar’s days were numbered when I found it on a Heuchera bud.

The stripy bug again, this time on Allium

Sharing a meal; pollen seekers on thyme

Red Admiral

A pollen seeking fly? there were lots all on the same plant

And there are always lizards who don’t usually wait around to be photographed!

in the greenhouse

in the triangular rose bed

The Greenhouse

I’m joining Helen at The Patient Gardener for her round-up of what’s happening in the greenhouse this month.

I posted about carrots grown in a pot in the greenhouse over winter here, we are now eating the crop and they are delicious.  I like carrots raw in salads and the purple ones I grew add an interesting colour.

The tomatoes are growing well, I am continuing with the on-going task of tying them to their canes.  As last year most plants I am allowing to grow three stems and the rest of the other side shoots I’m removing.  I may later try the off-shoots as cuttings (as recommended by Bob Flowerdew) and plant them up to produce new plants later in the season.  I’m not very sure of the timing for doing these so it will all be trial and error, has anyone else tried it?

We have had salad lettuce all winter and there are still some to harvest.  I have planted 3 melons and 3 yellow peppers in the back border but I’m concerned as there is a lot of roots from the Laylandii that have obviously been attracted by the irrigation tubes so that the soil in this border isn’t going to be as rich and moist as I would have liked.  I think I will have to put a membrane of some kind to stop the roots and maybe make this a slightly raised bed.

I germinated the seeds in the house as it was too hot for seed production.  There are some aquilegia from seed I collected from a plant in the garden and also some McKenna hybrids I bought.  The Achilea that germinated well are damping off; they were pricked out into my own compost which I fear is too rich for them, they need sharper drainage even at this stage.

I took sedum cuttings this week some leak and some stem cuttings (this site is great at explaining what you do), it is too soon to tell how well they will grow but I do remember my father taking leaf cuttings from a sedum plant of my great aunt and he was very successful.

A large empty pot contains Freesia corms that I’m very much hoping will grow to provide some perfumed cut flowers.

As soon as I put up the shade netting the temperatures dropped but even with the cold winds we are experiencing at the moment the temperature inside is comfortable warm.  I usually have the door open during the day and will soon, I hope, have it open at night too.

The broad beans I sowed in November are now cropping quite well. As I want the tomatoes to have more air and space I am harvesting by pulling up the whole plants.

Rainbow chard waiting to be planted out

Beautiful vegetable foliage counts for Garden bloggers Foliage Day on the  22nd, just leave a link with your comments on the GBFD post.

May Feast – Rosa Veilchenblau

Rosa can be deciduous or semi-evergreen shrubs or scrambling climbers, with usually thorny stems bearing pinnate leaves and solitary or clustered, 5-petalled flowers followed by showy red or purple fruits

Rambler roses are vigorous shrubs with long, arching, thorny or smooth stems carrying glossy foliage and large sprays of small, single or double, often fragrant flowers in early summer

‘Veilchenblau’ is a vigorous rambler with glossy mid-green foliage and large sprays of slightly fragrant, semi-double flowers 2.5cm in width, purple-violet with an occasional white streak, fading to greyish-lilac

R. veilchenblau with Lavender stoechas

This is my favourite rose of all, I love its orange perfumes flowers that fade so perfectly.  Maybe I love it too because it usually flowers only once a year and so is a passing joy.

Newly opened bloom

Just beginning to fade

Don’t forget its Garden Bloggers Foliage Day on the 22nd, just post and leave a comment with the link.  Looking forward to seeing what you have.

May Feast – Some pleasing combinations

The garden is made up of individual plants that from part of combinations that create vistas.  I wanted to share some of the combinations that I feel are working well during May.

Cotinus ‘Palace Purple’ with Rosa ‘Old Blush’

Salvia with Hemerocallis Stella d’Oro and Phlomis suffruticosa

Rosa rubrifolia and Iris

bluey-pink aquilegea with Rosa Rhapsody in Blue and blue oat grass

Dark, moody Sedum with bright orange Californian poppy

Ground-cover verbena and Californian poppy

Iris ‘Kent Pride’ and Nandino

Rosa ‘Molineux’ with Iris

What combinations are pleasing you this month?