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?

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End of Month View, April 2012 – Growth!

The end of April is like the end of May or even end of June in the UK.  Everything is coming into flower, every day when I walk around the garden I am surprised by some bloom I didn’t even see the bud of the previous day.

The tulips are no more – I’ll be writing a follow up post as to what happened to the rest of the tulips I was expecting to flower.

So this past week has been a week of firsts!  First roses, first irises, first strawberries, first hot still days with butterflies sipping the nectar of thyme flowers.

I have French Lavender planted at the base of most of the pillars around the terrace; it hasn’t really looked very happy and I have been pondering whether I should remove it and plant with something else; but I hadn’t thought of anything else so it was a pleasant surprise to see that this year it is looking lovely, sprawling out to give solidity to the pillar roses climbing above, another first.

Yellow roses are forming arches up and over the pillara and beams that form the pergola

Rosa mutabilis is forming a real hedge for the first time and is full of flower.

I planted a banksia rose three years ago; it has struggled as it was planted into very poor soil (more or less into solid tuffo) with no irrigation but this year for the first time it has filled out and is covered in a profusion of pale yellow blooms.

Some planting combinations that I planned last year, and moved plants around in the autumn are now producing the effects I hoped for.

I planted more Gladioli bizantinus near a prostrate Ceonothus, I like the clashing combination of colours.

I moved Irises last autumn, Kent Pride to be close to the new growth of Nandino; I moved some Iris Jane Phillips near to Rosa Molineux and some to nearby the Ceonothus/Gladioli combination shown above.  After I wrote the post I was admonished by a friend who said that I was transplanting the Irises far too late and that it should be done in July; I am new to Iris growing so knew that I would just have to wait and see – all the irises I transplanted have thick buds or are already opening their fascinating flowers to reveal their ‘beards’.  I don’t think my friend was wrong, just that in Italy the growing season continues much longer into autumn (especially last autumn when it was warm until Christmas) so there was plenty of time for the tubers to settle and grow.  Most plants will die if transplanted in July, which is when I apparently should have moved them; probably Iris could be moved then because their tubers hold all the moisture they need for the summer anyway.

Iris Jane Phillips

Ceonothus and Thyme growing satisfyingly together, a more subtle combination

Thyme also combines with Cistus' more vibrant tones

Iris Jane Phillips with pink Cistus and the pink new leaves of Mahonia

All the above combinations are to be found at the top of the drive border; this year this is filling out so that the shrubs are beginning to grow into each other, pushing out some of the more transient perennials.

Some combinations are happy accidents; the above cistus was newly planted last autumn, I very much like how it reflects the colour of Iris ‘Kent Pride’ next to it.

Iris 'Kent Pride'

It will be better still when the cistus grows and produces more flowers.

Many roses are flowering already but I’ll save those for another day,  There seem to be more buds than usual on the roses which could be due to the cold spell in the winter or that they are now more established.

R. Sophie's perpetual

Looking across the upper drive border out to the surrounding countryside

I’m joining Helen the Patient Gardener for her End of the Month View, do visit her to see what is happening in other gardens at the end of the April 2012.

My thoughts – Tulip combinations

There was a time when I didn’t really like tulips, I don’t even remember why but for many years now they are truly one of my favourite flowering plants.  I love them for their bright colours, for their beautiful flower shapes and because they flower early and tell me it is spring.

In England I would carefully work out the flowering periods and order to have the colours I needed spread over a six week to 2 month period, from Early April to Mid-May.  Here they grow differently, true I don’t have to left them when they have flowered and many will return year on year making it easier to fill the borders with colour but they flower for a much shorter time-frame, from the last week in March to the end of April if I am lucky.  In a warm spring as last year they flowered for perhaps three or four weeks.

Last autumn I was strong willed and ordered no new spring bulbs.  This was partly due to wanting spend the money on other things and more importantly I knew I needed to move and divide many perennials and thought I would be very short on time.  The fact that the weather remained very warm right up until December meant I could have found an opportunity to plant some.

It has been good to review which varieties really do perform well a second year and which need to be considered annuals.

I have decided to plant the varieties I know to be shy about a return visit in pots which I will place on the terrace to enjoy from the windows or even to plant in places where I will cut them to enjoy inside the house.

Those that are to be planted in the borders will need to be combined with plants that will grow to hide the tulips’ foliage when they have finished flowering which is not particularly attractive.

Another consideration which may seem strange to some non-gardeners is that I like blooms to dye well, by this I mean that the petals should turn an attractive colour and fall gracefully.  White blooms can be difficult in this respect as white blooms, of many different plants, turn brown.

Here are my thoughts on the tulip varieties I have grown over the last few years and the combination plants I have found successful.

Above is the boundary Photinia hedge with its orange, bronze new foliage with Rosa Westerland whose new foliage is a similar colour with T. Brown Sugar whose petals are a caramel colour.  There are more planted in an adjacent bed with muscari to give a contrast from some angles.  As ‘Brown Sugar’ dies, its petals look like a piece of iridescent silk, almost more beautiful than when they are first out.  Added to this almost all the bulbs planted in 2010 have flowered again this spring.   Tall orange Hemerocallis grow to hide the foliage as it dies back.

T. Brown Sugar with muscari

T. Brown Sugar dying with style

T. Linifolia Planted in 2009, most have flowered this year. They are low growing and suitable for rockeries so should naturalise everywhere. Small sedum grow to cover the foliage.

T. Negrita

Here T. Negrita is paired with a silver leaved Buddleia (I think it’s called Silver Wedding) and a very fluffy, silver leaved Artemisia.  The Negrita were planted in 2010 and I am almost sure there are more now than when I planted them.  Others I planted in 2009 in the circular rose bed are also flowering again although not so well and I think this is because the rose bed is irrigated in summer and the tulips prefer to be left in baking soil if possible.

Above, T. Pretty Woman planted on the upper drive bed – there are some Gaura here but what you can see is wild, self-sown Rocket.  Perfect I can pick the leaves and it will grow taller to hide the foliage of the tulips as they die back.

Fringed Lambada planted among Hemerocallis Stella d’Oro. These are a beautiful tulip, described by Peter Nyssen where I buy all my tulips and other bulbs as rhodonite red, margins chinese yellow. Thye have returned in the same numbers as planted in 2010 so well worth growing.

T. Lambada - close-up

T. Aladdin with Euphorbia mysenites - the perfect foil for many different tulips in my garden. I misnamed this pretty woman in my earlier post

Not many Princess Irene have flowered this year

T. Gavota or possibly Recreado another good companion for Euphorbia with T. Princess Irene

T Peerless Pink? planted with Queen of Sweden roses

I may have mentioned in posts about tulips last year that they have a strange habit of growth in my garden.  They begin to open their flowers while their stems are still very short.  I did wonder if this was due to the fat that this garden is very windy, however, until the last couple of days there hasn’t been much strong wind and the tulips have maintained this growth pattern.  The stems do grow with the tulips continuing to flower but it certainly makes them less elegant at the beginning.

Which varieties didn’t return?  Just as useful and important to know when planning a long-term display.  There was only one Fringed Blue Heron, however there were only a few last year I remember that these bulbs didn’t seem as good quality as the others when I planted them.  I like the colour so I may try again.

T. fringed Blue-Heron

Euphorbia rigida has swallowed most T. Double Dazzle but again worth planting again anyway.

There isn’t even any foliage to show where Double Early Peach Blossom flowered so beautifully last year.

The disappointment is lessened because I had thought they were something else and the colour wasn’t what was needed in the Small Island bed.

For more about early tulips in my garden this year see here.

There are more tulips yet to open so the season will last a little longer, I’ll post about them and their companion plants later.