Plant of the Week: Solidagos

We have several types of Solidago at the nursery, all useful in the autumn flower beds and all very attractive to insects.

Solidago rugosa “Fireworks” is 3 to 4 foot tall with dark stems and leaves topped by slender branches of mid-yellow flowers making a lovely airy display. This plant is native to North America where it grows in damp woods and meadows.  The nursery is on heavy clay and it flowers here from August to October

providing late nectar feasts for bees and hoverflies. “Fireworks” makes a long-lasting cut flower.

Solidago sempervirens ,this is taller at 5 to 6 foot tall .It is  rarely offered for sale  in the UK and is native to the Eastern seaboard of the USA. It has strong stems which do not need staking, with golden-yellow fluffy flowers. Flowering at the same time as “Fireworks” it is equally attractive to insects, and is a useful seaside plant being very tolerant to salt exposure.

Dahlias again!

In pursuit of the dahlias we saw at Giverny I’ve come across a lovely nursery on the web, Rose Cottage Plants. They have a large selection of mouth watering dahlias  and some rather lovely tulips. I’ve pared down my list of dahlias to order in the New Year  to 8. I have room for no more than 2 , (well I could probably stretch it to 3!)  so I’ve got  some very serious thinking to do to reduce the numbers, still my numbers are nothing compared with my sister’s list which stands (currently) at 20!

Quart into a pint pot! I think its probably genetic.


Well no “Plant of the Week” blogs for the last two weeks as we have been on holiday. The first time for many years ,we chose a short cruise taking in several horticultural destinations that we’d been wanting to visit for ages, Giverny, Tresco & the Eden Project. If asked, prior to our departure, which destination we were anticipating would be our favourite,  I think we would have both plumped for the Eden Project.

We were amazed!! Giverny won hands down.

The lily pond and Japanese gardens were beautiful; but what really took our breath away was the wonderful planting around Monet’s house.There were beds and beds (10 or 11 I can’t remember) of mixed planting, roses, shrubs, grasses, perennials and  annuals all colour themed and quite narrow in comparison with some of the usual mixed borders we see here in the UK but utterly stunningly beautiful.

The plants that really inspired me were the huge range of Dahlias that I’d not seen before. I’m no dahlia expert, I grow perhaps half a dozen different ones from year to year mostly to use as cut flowers. I realise that specialist growers and the National Dahlia Collection have a huge range but have to admit that until I saw them growing at Giverny I hadn’t appreciated the impact they can have in a mixed border or just how stunning they look. I am truly now a dahlia convert and have the National Collection catalogue to hand to choose some for next year. I am , of course , hampered by the fact I have a miniscule garden…………… however that’s never yet stopped me buying plants!

My only criticism of the garden at Giverny is that very few plants were labeled and so I shall have a very hard job identifying the dahlias I’d like to acquire, still there’s nothing like a challenge!

Plant of the Week: Kniphofia rooperi

This kniphofia is one of the latest ones to flower giving a lovely punch of colour to the autumn border.The large spherical heads, slighly flattened at the top, are a bright redy/orange and yellow on stout  four to four and a half foot tall stems . Like all Kniphofias it is hugely attractive to bees ( see second photo) Kniphofia rooperi has the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Plant of the Week: Phlox paniculata “David”

All Phlox have a lovely spicy scent which perfumes the garden during the  summer months, this cultivar also has a long flowering period, resistance to mildew and is superb for cutting. It has large clear white flower-heads and dark green foliage , reaching 4 foot it rarely needs staking and grows easily in part shade or sun. Like all Phlox it appreciates a rich moist soil.

Phlox David 3There is a sport of this plant, Phlox paniculata “David’s Lavender”, which I have recently acquired and I am trialing it in my garden to see if it performs as well as”David”…….watch this space!

Plant of the Week: Another Hemerocallis seedling!!

Well this is possibly the last one for this year as most of the  seedlings that have scapes have flowered now. It would be lovely to discover a good really late flowerer but looking at the seedling beds I don’t see any evidence of that, however this week’s seedling is one from the 2012 or 2013 batch. I’m not 100% sure of its parentage but I’m guessing it may be one of the  Spirit of Sapelo X Suzy Cream Cheese crosses. We have nicknamed it “Ole Stripey” and we’ll grow it on for a couple more years before deciding whether to formally name and register it. The photograph shows it in the cottage garden with Geranium Anne Thomson.Ole Stripey2

Who would have thought….

Who would have thought, back in the sunless, soggy early summer, that I would now be praying for rain. Who would have thought that the sentence; ‘I wish it would rain’, would have ever been needed!!! But, here we are in the final few days of July, watering, not just the plants in pots, but plants in the ground.

The most badly dried-out plants are the phlox. Their leaves droop pathetically at the back of the borders. Phlox, of course, have quite shallow feeder roots, spreading out just below the surface. If you dig them up to move them, be prepared for them to suddenly re-appear in that same spot, as the longer roots have the ability to regenerate top-growth, therefore making them suitable for root-cutting propagation. Best planted in semi-shade, to help them cope with drier weather, they also benefit from a good feed.

Some plants just shrug off heat and a spell of dry weather and cope beautifully with lower light levels and rain. Believe me, plants like that are to be cherished!! Geum, potentillas, hemerocallis, chicory, geraniums and lysimachia all spring to mind, as do persicaria, galega and miscanthus. To be fair, there are very few ornamental grasses that require special conditions.

But paying attention to special conditions can mean you are able to grow a much wider range of plants. We have a beautiful, highly scented Mandevilla laxa growing on a west facing wall at the nursery. It’s a plant from the sub-tropics which can tolerate a few degrees of frost. However, our nursery garden is exposed and cold. How do we get it through a typical English winter? Well, obviously, the west-facing wall helps, but we also helped the odds by (a) planting it’s root-ball right up against the footings of the wall so it was in contact with the concrete: (b) planting a Stipa arundinacea right on top of said root-ball. All this helps to keep out the winter rains and protects the roots from frost. In the winter of 2010 when our bay tree was killed to ground-level and all the ceanothus shrubs died, our Mandevilla sailed through it all.

Of course, Mandevilla never need extra water.Pity more plants aren’t like that. I wish it would rain!!