Plant of the Day – Sedum

In truth Sedum is a plant that gives pleasure over a very long season, not just for a day.  The newly emerging foliage in early spring already adds beauty to the planting scheme.  I like the thick, moisture retaining leaves; I like their colours which range from bright green to bluish to purple.

By Mid-September the flower heads are present but they take a while to actually open, several weeks even.  Bees and butterflies find them irresistible.  Better still it is so easy to take cuttings, pieces of stem or leaves will all grow to produce new plants if just pushed into some sharp compost.  The cuttings I took early this year are even flowering; I’ll be planting them all this week.

Sedum spectabilis ‘Iceberg’

Sedum spectabilis ‘Iceberg’ – I like the pure white flower

…and that all the parts of the flower are white, so not distracting from the overall effect

This was given to me by a friend, who doesn’t know the variety – it is one of my favourites, bright green foliage, bright pink flower heads that change to a satisfying deep red.

Starry flowers attract bees and butterflies

Sedum Matrona combines well with grasses, here with Penesetum villosa in the small island and Stipa tenussima

I’m not so sure about the colour combination of purple leaves and ‘brown’ flowers in I think S. ‘Purple Emperor’

Two varieties (one is S. Matrona) mixed with Miscanthus and ground cover Verbena in the LHB.

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – The weather has changed

The change in the weather since last foliage day is very noticeable.  Now the mornings are cold; early one morning last week there was a frost, although it must have been very light as nothing has blackened and the roses are still opening their blooms; during the middle of the day the sun shines and it is still pleasantly warm – warm enough to sit on the terrace with a grass of white wine and enjoy the rewards of a morning spent tidying up in the garden.  As soon as the sun begins to drop, it is cooler and a fire is a cosy addition to the evenings.

Autumn shades of Panicum against textures in green

again the bright yellow colouring of Panicum, matched here by a self seeded Californian Poppy

Close up autumn colour of Panicum - I love the tones of colour

Just a few days separate when the above images of the Panicum were taken.  Change is fast, once it begins to happen.

Only the flowers of Gaura in this view of the large island

I like the tapestry of texture here, layer on layer

Even though there are more plants blooming than is usual in November (see GBBD November), it is the foliage that holds the garden together, creates colour and texture that work on their own or as a vital support for the few splashes of colour that the blooms provide.

The calm centre of the garden

Only the bright yellow of the dying Box (second plant that has died in this position) spoils this tranquil view.

This month I thought I would concentrate on some overviews of the garden illustrating how it is the foliage doing the major task of creating stimulating vistas within the garden and leading the eye to the broader landscape.

View towards the left hand border, the wide angle makes it appear a much longer path than it is in reality.

Looking North from midway along the left hand border

This angle of the garden is almost always satisfying, the solidity of the cypress combined with, at this time of year, the glowing yellow leaves of the pomegranate, the trunk of the fast growing Melia which decorates the sky when you look up with its bright yellow berries, the broad leaves of a Canna and the mat-forming, evergreen Verbena all make this everyone’s favourite spot to photograph.

no flowers are needed!

Sun shinning on the sunny yellow leaves of the pomegranite

Moving around the pomegranate there are the box spheres with Bay hedging and a Miscanthus gigantea that will hopefully reach its stated 8 foot next year.

The back border

In the back border blue leaved euphorbias, and dark claret Heuchera contrast with light reflecting seed heads of Miscanthus and Calamagrostis, while a couple of Hemerocallis are valiantly continuing to put up a few more flowers and the abutilon has nearly regained its stature from before it was knocked back to the ground in the minus 8°C temperature of last winter; its orange flowers picking up on the ‘spring’ new growth colour of the Photinia.

Even though the Heuchera leaves are now a little tatty, their beautiful marbled foliage is a great foil for other plants

When I look closely at the self-seeded offspring of seed grown Euphorbias I am intrigued by the variation in colour, I like that they turn pink with the cold as does my face when I work out in the wind!

Not the flowers of Abelia grandiflora, pink again! but so subtle

View across the large island to the greenhouse and the ever-present sparkling foliage of the olives.

What foliage is adding to the enjoyment in your garden?  Is it autumn colour? maybe too late for that now; or evergreen plants that are ignored in summer to return to notice when the splendour of summer is past?  Do share; just add a link to your post when you leave a comment.

Pam at Digging also has a foliage meme which is usually the day after Bloomday, too soon for many of us to be able to get a second post up, here’s the link to this months post.

And to finish, nothing to do with foliage at all; just look what I picked yesterday!

planted in March, strawberries continue to fruit into November, amazing value

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day 22nd September

I wanted to begin this meme, which I do hope many of you will join because I think most of us underestimate the important role fulfilled by the form, texture and different colours of the foliage of the plants that fill our gardens.

When you consider it; what you actually see in the garden is probably 80% foliage and only 20% blooms.  I accept that what we see is the flowers but even then if the foliage around them is not pleasing then even the flowers won’t look their best.

I’d like to explain with images of my garden why I think we should take more time choosing plants not only on the basis of their flower colour, how long they flower for, and their perfume (hopefully); but the overall effect of the foliage: it’s texture; the detail for the leaves, and its colour.  Sometimes foliage colour can make or break a planting combination and if the foliage colour does harmonise or contrast with the flowers it can make the flowers themselves look muddy.

I’m going to begin with what is one of my favourite parts of my garden.  This is the Left Hand Border, the section nearest the house.  I think it looks good at almost all times of year.

If you look at the photo, you’ll see that actually probably more than 80% is green,  Yes there are some flowers – two kind of Sedum are flowering  now and the ever present Verbena (ground-cover) has has some blooms but for the rest it is the texture and colour of the foliage that make this an interesting angle of the garden.  Beginning on the LHS is a pomegranate, next to this in the back ground is a bay hedge (so always green and a sense form, a great background plant) in front of this is Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’, then Sedum Matrona, then Festuca glauca ( this is a signature plant in the garden, always planted in three’s I some them in every border), by the side of this in the foreground is the Verbena.  Then a tree which was in the garden when we purchased the property with next to it the broad leaves of a Canna, They are usually taller than this; to the front are the strappy leaves of Agapanthus still with their seed heads.  Next are a Choisya ternate and then a Melia with large palmate leaves.  Looking from a different angle the foliage is even more important to the composition.

No flowers here at all

Behind this, the linking plant being the Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ is a small area devoted to box balls, grasses and a Teucrium also shaped into a ball and some thyme that naturally form a globe .

The Verbena bonarienis is a self seed, I'll be removing this

At the end of the LHB is a large white Mulberry, it has grown a lot in the last 4 years and it now castes quite a lot of shade.  Here texture and form reign, although at this moment the Acanthus are at their worst.  The old foliage is yellow and crisp and the flower stem brittle, but I can see the new growth that will make this area green all winter.  Hostas thrive here; as long as they have shade they don’t mind if it is quite dry, there  are fewer slugs and snails if it is dry, of course.

Hosta add so much form and light with their variegated leaves

Hosta, Anemone 'Honerine Jubert', Solomon's Seal, with large Canna leaves and again the bay hedge

At last the anemones are beginning to grow, they have struggled in this position but now there is more shade they are managing to clump up and even flower, I love the leaves especially contrasting with the shiny Canna that I grow just for the foliage the flowers on this variety are pretty insignificant.

Messy, too many different plants with not enough difference between them.

Moving on to the back border, I’m struggling here to achieve the look I want.  Here there are too many different grasses mixed together badly.  If texture and form are the main features then I think there need to be big blocks of the same plant, this is true of all planting really but with flowers you can get away with some smaller points of interest.  I need to work on this border; I want it to be mainly grasses with just a few other plants to add variety with some solid form.  There are two walnut trees; I am aware that they interfere with the growth or other shrubs but seem not to impede the growth of grasses.

A little further along, past the fig tree I am very pleased with the planting I did this spring.  There are two varieties of Miscanthus; M. sin Gracillimus and M. sin Graziella.  In front of these are 5 Pennisetum ‘Little Bunny’.  This border is irrigated once a week and it is worth noting that these Little Bunnies are thriving whereas some others planted just across the path, but in a bed that isn’t irrigated are struggling.  I intend moving my unhappy Bunnies to where there is some irrigation and a little shade in the back border.

As most of the foliage will continue for long periods I’m not going to talk about all that’s giving me pleasure this month, if you’d like to see a few of the silver leaved plants that are still sparkling in the sunshine please click on the image below.

Large Island

Please leave a comment with a link to your post about foliage and thank you so much for joining in.

There is another post about foliage by Pam @ Digging the day after GBBD; I know that for many of us 2 posts in 2 days is hard so hopefully spacing it like this will work well.  If you linked to Pam’s digging I am happy that you link back to the same post but maybe you should say so that other visitors will know that they’ve read it before.

End of Month Review, August

The bee eaters have been flying low around the house as if to say goodbye until next year.  Normally they are high in the sky and although we know they are beautifully coloured, as we see flashes of iridescent blue and gold; we’ve never been able to see them so clearly before!

I don’t claim any credit for these photographs, my husband who is quite keen on bird watching took them.  I did try, but the birds flew so fast and only hovered in a tantalising way before diving off in unexpected directions.

On 15th August, GBBD I reported about the difference in the weather this year – cooler, more rain – on the 16th the weather changed completely!  The daytime temperatures rose from the mid to high twenties to the high thirties and I believe one day 40° C!  No rain, not even a little morning mist and the night-time temperatures were the same as the daytime ones a few days previously.  Only in the last couple of days have temperatures become more tolerable – I hate the heat!  Many of the trees I had planted in 2009 became very stressed; the persimmon lost all its fruit; the fig that has always been here lost half of its leaves and the September fruit, which had been growing and ripening well, is now dropping of the tree and although we are able to eat some, many the ants get first!

Miscanthus with fig tree (almost without leaves)

The sun sets earlier and one of the pleasures this brings is to see the grasses, most are flowering now, with their seed heads being lit from behind.  I am going to make a determined effort to collect some seed and try to grow more.  Many don’t need water and so would be great on the bank which is very steep and therefore always very dry; even some of the Gaura succumbed to the intense heat of the last couple of weeks.

Pennisetum villosum with Sedum Matrona in the small island bed

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' on the upper slope

Pennisetum 'Little Bunny'

The almost impossible to photograph Eragrostis spectabilis with in the background Pennisetum 'Karley Rose'

Some Miscanthus are already flowering and most are much more tolerant of drought once established than the books would have you believe.

Above is either Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’ or M. Graziella, I moved it to the circular rose bed this spring as it grew less tall where it was before and I thought it would fit better here; luckily Rosa ‘Queen of Sweden’ is also growing taller than expected and so the Miscanthus forms a pleasing division between this rose and the shorter deep coloured ‘Tradescant’.

In this general view with the umbrella pine you can see how the seed heads and grasses combine with the flowers to create an overall ‘fullness’ in the garden.  I like the very solid forms of the Box cubes and bay that contrast so well with the airy grasses and ephemeral Gaura.

My plans for September are to divide and move some of the plants that have begun to outgrow their allotted spaces.  I’ll begin next week with Irises as they won’t mind even if it stays quite hot, then some Hemerocallis that were on the list last year and are very squashed where they are now.

Finally I’d like to introduce a new meme I’m starting about Foliage in the garden.  It can be foliage plants that don’t flower at all, foliage when the flowers have finished, grasses which I think count as both flowers and foliage, new growth that might be very different from the mature leaves and of course we are coming into autumn (at least in the northern hemisphere we are) so I hope for some fabulous autumn colour.  It will be the 22nd of each month.

If you would like to read more about what’s happening in other gardens all over the world visit Helen at The Patient Gardener.  Once again a big thank you to Helen for hosting this meme for us.

Sunny, sunny day

Today has been the most wonderful day!  The sun shone all day, there was no wind and I had the time to be in the garden until the sun set.  For most of the time I was warm enough with just a short sleeved T-shirt, so this year’s tan (at least on my lower arms) is underway; don’t misunderstand me, I’m not actually very interested in getting a tan but working outside so much it happens and sadly usually only on my lower arms and face and to garden I wear jeans and never shorts as I find it uncomfortable kneeling on the ground (and my knees get too dirty) if I wear shorts.  Here in Italy this is called a ‘builder’s tan’ because everybody else would make sure they were tanning evenly, not getting lines where a T-shirt ends etc.  But I’m not Italian and I garden wearing the clothes that are comfortable for me when I’m working outside, so I have the unfashionable tan.

The low evening sun, lights up Miscanthus around the garden

Today I spent most of my time weeding the bank.  This was not easy for two reasons: 1. the plants I was weeding around were very small (most had only been planted as seedling in the autumn) and 2. The slope is quite steep and it is very tiring balancing and weeding.  The slope is unfortunately too steep to mulch so my answer will have to be to plant very close together to squeeze out the weeds!

Miscanthus is my favourite grass, and I love most of them!

Euphorbia rigida is the first to flower this year, I like the pink rim to the leaves

I have been weeding and tidying most days this week as the weather has been good, though the wind was strong so it felt quite cold.  The joy of not tidying up too much early in the winter is that it has allowed time for seedlings of the plants in the beds to establish themselves and be ready to pot-up or move to another location.  The circular rose bed yielded about 100 seedling of Gaura.  This meant I spent almost as long potting these up as I did weeding the bed.  I didn’t cut back the parent plants yet as we may well have some more cold weather and the top growth protects the new growth.  I put the seedling in my very small cold-frame which already contains cuttings of Penstemon and Solarnum jasminoides (I did these in late autumn and most are green so I’m hoping they are making nice strong roots).

Even though dry Sedum flowers are still adding to the ‘images’ in the garden, at their base, the new shoots are already pushing up.

This is Sedum matrona

In the vegetable garden I only have a few crops (I think I might try to grow more next winter as even with all the cold weather we’ve had this winter I’ve enjoyed a great crop of Broccoli; leeks and Black Tuscany cabbage have also done well.  And here’s a photo to show you what I meant about my garlic pushing out of the ground!

New moon planted garlic

Broccoli has continued to produce secondary stems that are delicious

Black Tuscany Cabbage, perfect for Ribollita.