Category Archives: Euphorbia

Mostly Irises

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One reason I don’t blog more is because I feel I endlessly repeat myself. But the truth is that the garden repeats itself too … there may be more areas developed each season, but the stars (the ones that endure on heavy clay with fierce summer heat) give me more of the same (but better) every year.

Seven years into gardening here, I am really beginning to appreciate what I’ve created. The Rose Walk (always hard to photograph, because the path is too narrow) is rising to its exciting peak with the first rose, ‘Fantin Latour’, starting to flower in the warmth today.

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The Bon Viveur’s little Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’ has found what I hope is a happy home.

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And down at the bottom, Crambe cordifolia has exciting buds emerging.

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Let’s hope something (an insect?) does not come along and blight my pleasure as it did last year.

The Knot Garden continues to give its best, and it seems I have won a small battle against the wretched Box Tree Moth caterpillar: box provides the crucial structure (all from cuttings, so it’s taking a while). This year the tulips were exactly the same as last – but muddled up. I lifted them, mixed them, and then replanted in November. Going over now …

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The tulips were lilac ‘Blue Heron’, purple-black ‘Paul Scherer’ and a rather pretty primose called  ‘Cistula’. The last was a bad choice because it flowers earlier than the other two. Last year I had no flowers from ‘Cistula’ and this year, a smidgeon. I nearly complained to Peter Nyssen’s about it. But complaining is not something I enjoy.

The ground here is now covered in purple heucheras, Alchemilla mollis and Stachys lanata to mark out the patterns that the box makes. The other day I had a brain wave (well, I think it was) and decided to add a purple Ajuga reptans as edging to show off the silvery stachys and compliment the heucheras.

The peonies are not really supposed to be here, but the Stachys shows them off nicely.

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The Long Border is coming into its peak as well. Asphodeline lutea and thalictrum time again. I wish the asphodeline didn’t annoy me so much from mid-June onwards. But when it arrives in late May, I forget all about last year’s annoyance. A repeated plant is so very much more satisfying, but difficult when it doesn’t die back gracefully.

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This year the cardoon is much bigger and more dramatic. Must move the Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ that overshadows it from mid-July. Too late again this year. I’ll have to water anything (continually) that I move from now onwards.

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And the grey of this and Artemesia ‘Lambrook Silver’ really highlights the foliage of one of my favourite roses. Its either Rosa rubrifolia or R. glauca. I can’t keep up with the times and have stopped trying.

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But I wish Rosa ‘Canary Bird’ wouldn’t die off quite as much as it does. The whole shrub shouldn’t look so tatty with dead stems when it flowers. Some day?

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But the main thing I’m falling in love with all over again at the moment are the irises. Just like the old roses. How could you live without this plant that does it just once every year, but when it arrives it sweeps you away?

I was reading a lot of Eckhart Tolle in the winter. But I wonder if I can ever be ‘saved’? He says that, in the ‘now’, the best way to appreciate something in nature is not to know, or think of its name. He’s right. When I look at a tree, and don’t think ‘tree’, I do see it with fresher, more delighted eyes – especially in spring. Unfortunately this is a hard trick for a gardener hung up on the history and names of plants.

So – the name of the iris? Here are those that I do know and am appreciating at the moment. Many destined for a new, more accomodating border down below in the garden when it comes time in July to divide and replant. The first is obviously ‘Carnaby’, which heads up this post (look back).

Then there’s ‘Blue-Eyed Blonde’ (the slugs love it as much as I do) …

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And ‘Kent Pride’ …

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‘Blue Rhythm’ is just coming into flower.

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‘Raspberry Blush’ is luscious …

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‘Langport Storm’ has already been and gone (a really precious plant, although not a big ‘doer’).

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And (with ‘Carnaby’), the most recent to flower in the heat today, ‘Foggy Dew’ …

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And now a few whose names I do not know – a fact that’s driving me crazy! Can you help?

First is one of the commonest of garden irises – let’s call it the ‘old brown’ iris. In villages around here if you don’t see wild iris, Iris pallida ‘Dalmatica’, or a yellow (nameless – much like mine) it will be this one. I imagine it may be the same where you live?

The closest I can come is a thing called ‘Bruno’, which dates back to the 1920s. Someone must have a name for it. I even suspect I used to know it!

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Then there are the two – one white, one yellow – that I probably look at most in the garden, since they are on the Vine Terrace where I relax at the end of the day. I think it’s hopeless imagining that I’ll ever find a name for the white, but maybe the yellow?

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Finally, always amongst my very favourites, a plant I simply call ‘Sylvia’.

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It was given to me by a friend (strangely enough, called Sylvia) who found it in a heap by the side of the road. Someone just had too much – and not enough friends! Now, with a sumptious colour like this and the vigour that means you have so much you need to throw it away, this is some special plant.

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And it looks particularly rich with the Bon Viveur’s valerian. Now seeding upwards from their original bed. How do they do that? Do the seed heads pop? They were always supposed to go on the wall, but I thought I’d have to go up to the Mirror Garden and shake seed downwards. Aren’t plants very, very clever? Sometimes (but not often here, at Chatillon) they even do what we want.

All of these iris have all seduced me into buying more cultivars from Iris Cayeux (wish I could see their fields right now). Including one call ‘Black Suited’, which they reckon is the best ‘black’ they’ve created. Oh, and since I love yellow irises and can’t resist the name, ‘Common un Oeuf’ is also to be added to my ever-growing collection.

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Easter Sunday 2019 & the Mirror Garden

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I was up very early on Easter Sunday this year, because I couldn’t sleep.

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A special experience to sit on our balcony and watch the sun come up over Chatillon from about 6.30am. I’ve done this often enough during the summer when that time of day is the only relief we get from the sun until the cool of the evening.

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But I love my bed too much to do it often on a cold April morning. The old village on the ramparts and its little chateau are always enchanting in the early light.

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Fired with enthusiasm, I rushed upstairs in my dressing gown to the little Juliet balcony off our spare room to take pictures of the Mirror Garden.

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This is the oldest part of the garden, created by the sculptor who previously owned the house as an outdoor exhibition space for his work.

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I tend to take it for granted now, but with the grass just cut the day before, even this difficult part of the garden was looking superb.

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Why is it difficult? Well, there’s perhaps a foot of topsoil up here (at the very most) before you begin to hit the rock on which the ramparts were built. The ‘lawn’ was previously watered by the sculptor during dry summer weather, but I don’t bother. And it shows. A paradise for dandelions and other weeds.

Originally I wanted to make a garden in grey, green and yellow, simply to compliment the view and the mirror. I won’t clip the box until I see the first signs of the Box Tree Moth caterpillar. Clipping the beasts off and then spraying with Bacillus thuringiensis was quite successful last year, although the little dumplings are still trying to recover properly.

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Euphorbia rigida (above) and E. characias subsp. wulfenii are happy, but my favourite E. characias subsp. characias (with the black eyes on its frogspawn flower faces) died.

With a difficult garden like this, you have to learn to love plants that many gardeners consider to be weeds. The number of complaints I’ve read about self-seeding habits on other blogs. I’m just glad something showy can create a pretty picture.

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I put in a special request with the Bon Viveur to bring more Euphorbia cultivars (particularly ‘Black Pearl’) back from England. Unfortunately when he arrived it was with ‘Silver Swan’.

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An elegant but less than tough form that will expire without a doubt up here. I’m going to plant it down on the Rose Walk and then maybe take cuttings, so I can try it in different places in the garden.

The two Helleborus x sternii seedlings (from a  Hardy Plant Society member’s plant of ‘Boughton Beauty’) do well – the pink-flushed seedling, closer to the parent, has not died although I thought the weather might be too cold for it.

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The blue pots sit in place of the two large sculptures for which the garden was made. Overall, the design is very architectural and the layout of the box hedges leads the eye and begs for something more dramatic than my blue pots and their contents. So far I have tried to fill my pots with artichokes, Melianthus major and (last summer) the tall Salvia ‘Mystic Spires’. Nothing works!

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I want delicately twisting double-helix metal shapes, in a kind of wild, modern style, to evoke the ‘spirit of the place’.

The border below the mirror should be full of greys and yellows. But there is only about 6 inches of soil, so most things struggle.

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The climbing yellow rose ‘Lady Hillingdon’ hated it here and is now living elsewhere in the garden. Artemsia ‘Powis Castle’ and ‘Lambrook Silver’ don’t do badly, but I realise that I need to regularly replace them. This year 4 new seedlings were planted out.

What do you suggest?

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The crowning glory at this time of the year is always the Banksian rose, Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’.

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It was cut hard back in autumn 2018 and has proved to flower well on the new wood. The haircut was to save the tower wall (incorporated into the house, but part of the old ramparts) from being covered in the aggressive seedlings of Muelhenbeckia complexa – that planting was definitely a mistake!

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The only chemical I use in the garden is glyphosate (Roundup). The Muelhenbeckia is giving way, but I don’t know what I’ll do when I get through my stock pile of glyphosate. Hopefully I’ll have won the battle by then.

The other side of the rampart wall is the village street and, as you can see, our car parking area (we are gilets-jaunes friendly around here).

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From over the wall the tourists can enjoy the lavenders I planted to edge the Mirror Garden. But the bees enjoy them more …

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It’s a bit late to be wishing you Happy Easter, so I’ll wish you happy May Day instead!

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