I've been looking at the easy plants which will help me simplify my garden (see April 17) Alchemilla mollis and hardy geraniums are two which are really the basis of this garden - troublefree and gorgeous for months, forming mounds which give the garden a billowing and relaxed look.
To punctuate these forms I need tall, elegant spires - foxgloves do the job beautifully, but they don't always come back - or at least not in the same places, being biennials, and it is a lot of work really, growing them on each year to plant out. With results like this photograph from three years ago it seems worth it - but they only look like this maybe one year in three.
I am thinking of trying delphiniums instead. Risky, here in the wet and sluggy west of Scotland, but I am about to send for '36 plus 6 free' plug plants (why don't they just say 42?) to give them a try. You seldom see them in gardens here - there may be a good reason for this! - but I have heard of one gardener who succeeds with them, so will seek her out for advice. I think provided I am vigilant early in the season they may do well, and rather than diminish each year, as the foxgloves seem to do, they should increase and make bigger, more slug resistant clumps.
A five year old boy I know called them 'boxing gloves' and when he was gently corrected stamped his little foot and said 'Oh no, I wanted them to be boxing gloves!' The individual flowers are sometimes more elegantly referred to as 'fairies' thimbles'. Delphiniums, though wonderful, don't taper so elegantly at the top as the foxglove (in fact the tops look more like boxing gloves! Well Andrew will love them.)
Any growing tips welcome....
For a look at three gardens in our village last June, type in living.stv.tv/105142-gorgeous-gardens-raising-cash-for-charity/ and click again (clumsy isn't it). There is a clip from a television programme which the Scotland's Gardens Scheme arranged to promote our Open Gardens days (this year on 26 and 27 June). It was a lot of fun, though right now we are looking at big patches of grass which have died out for no reason that we can fathom, and thinking, will it look OK by June? We're raking and seeding and wishing it would get warm enough for the seed to germinate.
This month's Coast magazine is also featuring the garden - all this fame!! The photographer who came to do it, Andrea Jones was lovely and it was fascinating to see the garden through another artist's eyes. And the writer Paula McWaters made me laugh with her punchy opening line 'What gets Freda up in the morning is the thought of Cedric Morris. Not the man, but the annual poppy that is named after him'.
Offering to open the garden to raise money for charity led to a lot of new things and new people in my life....
The hardy geraniums are fabulous plants - easy, long flowering, perfectly hardy, disease resistant, beautiful and come up year after year - what more could you ask of a plant? They form lovely mounds around the garden - that 'billowing' look, which I like to contrast with spires of foxgloves, tall alliums and veronicastrum.
I can hardly believe I grow 19 different ones in my quite small garden! (I've just been out to count). My favourites include 'Ann Folkard', magnificum (see yesterday's photograph), 'Rozanne', 'Patricia', psilostemnon, lancastriense, 'Max Frei' and 'Mavis Simpson'.
'Ann Folkard', pictured, spreads for yards around, weaving its way lightly through and over other plants. It has a very long flowering season and is always covered in bees. I adore the zingy magenta with the limey green of the young leaves.
The longest flowering has to be 'Rozanne' - a delicious blue, much more compact than 'Ann' - it flowers from June till October - amazing.
The little wild geranium robertianum - Herb Robert is allowed to grow in and out of things at the back of borders, and I grew geranium robertianum 'Celtic White' from seed. Very dainty it prettily sprinkles all over the place, and crossed with the red to produce a delightful pink form.
next posting opening the garden for charity
If I am seriously trying to simplify my garden, I need to look at the plants which do best here and see if I am making the best of them.
The easy ones that is. The ones which don't need staking, spraying, feeding, protecting from frost, frequent dividing and general cosseting. Are they interesting enough? Exciting enough?
I couldn't garden without alchemilla mollis which meets all these criteria. It's called Lady's Mantle because each leaf after rain, lookd like a pretty shawl with beads all around the edges. The flowers are a fresh lime green, and frothy, giving a relaxed cottage garden look for a couple of months. As soon as the flowers start to brown, you can cut the whole plant close to the ground and it will very quickly send up a clump of fresh new leaves which will last till the autumn. It does however seed itself around, but, if you catch them quite small, they are not hard to remove. I always allow some of the self sown seedlings to stay - the composition is then different every year as the balance changes between groups of plants, and when I need space for a new purchase, it's usually an alchemilla that has to go. They weave through my garden like a unifying band and if you have a big space to fill you can't have too much of it. It tends to collapse a bit after heavy rain but does recover without any help from me.
All in all a star plant!
next the hardy geraniums
There is a delicious scent in the air here! Unpolluted by deisel or petrol fumes, our air is clear and smells mostly of forest and sea, but in the last few days the sticky leaves of the balsam poplar are opening and although the trees are 30 or more metres from my garden the perfume of them is very strong in the air all around the house. If the said trees were not surrounded by thickets of brambles I would pick a stem or two to scent the room, and perhaps try to root a piece - it's said to be easy - and I could then grow one myself for future pickings.
Meantime I am enjoying the scent of tiny narcissus in vases in the house, and have you noticed that primroses have a light, sweet smell? Try a few in a small glass on the bedside table. I'm anticipating the perfume of the honeysuckle which is looking promising all along the fence, and of the sweet peas starting to climb the wigwam, and of the night scented annual stock which I will sow tomorrow. Scent is a wonderful sensual pleasure in a garden.
Now, how could I get to that tree....
There is beauty and power in something reduced to its simplest form, and that is exciting to me. Consider the powerful effect of the tree if you were sitting in this room by architect John Pawson, master of simple. It is more potent as a living thing than a whole forest of trees....simple can be strong, beautiful and exciting.
In the aptly named series Beautiful Minds on BBC4 James Lovelock creates a model which he calls daisyworld which reduces a complex theory (of our planet as a self sustaining system) to something which we, the layperson, can understand by making it simple. Simple as in comprehensible and simple as in reduced to its essence. There is beauty in that.
Beauty and simplicity are very closely linked for me, and beauty sustains me.
I 'll open another category on the blog - Simply Beautiful - where I shall occasionally post something I find exciting because of its simple beauty. Thanks Lynne.
In actual fact nothing is
simple. I can remember as a quite young child it snowing, and being awestruck when my father showed me, in a childrens' encyclopaedia, photographs of much magnified snowflakes and no two were ever alike
!Perhaps it is because we would be very uncomfortable in a permanent state of awe - overawed
- that we seek to believe that some things are simple, and predictable. It gives us a sense of stability and permanence which might not stand up to serious scrutiny, but is probably a requirement for sanity. (Volcanic eruptions happen, as we know.)
I have just ordered 'Snowflakes' from amazon to have in the house for the children who visit, in memory of my Dad. You can see the exquisite photographs from the book at www.SnowCrystals.com
I do love snow still, and am working on a painting of snow falling, seen through the large windows of a friend's house.
Spring has at last sprung. It's reassuring somehow to see all the reliable favourites come back. The white daffodils are called 'Jenny' and they remind me of Piglet's little ears flying. The yellow ones are 'February Gold' - better late than never. I don't have a name for the primrose - I love the little dot on each petal and its dainty colour. The tulip I have not grown before. It's called 'Czar Peter' and has very exotic markings on the petals. Viola labradorica seeded itself in some chippings - it spreads itself prettily around. The chequered pattern on fritillaria meleagris never fails to amaze. One of the lovely things about the spring flowers is that I seem to have time to really look closely at them - everday miracles!
photographed today in Greenock, Scotland!
Does anyone remember this Charlie Brown cartoon by Schultz? I'll post it when I find it, but picture Charlie Brown standing with his head hanging, and his arms limply by his sides. He is saying to Lucy -
'This is my depressed stance. When you're depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand. The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you'll start to feel better. If you're going to get any joy out of being depressed, you've got to stand like this.'