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On a Chalk Hillside August 2021

Gravel Garden Planting – Progress on the replanting in the top half of the subshrubs and bulbs border

It is interesting to me as the days pass and the border grows up WITHOUT the Lavatera cachemiriana overwhelming everything, how many of the plants that were originally in there are making their prescence felt once again.  Early in the spring it was the bulbs, which put on a fine show, with the forget-me-nots (Myosotis ‘Sky Blue’) I had transplanted from the vegetable garden around them.  Not just the hyacinths that I could see under the Salvia Officinalis previously, but also bluebells (as below in April) and early white alliums:-

However, the downside of a bulb patch is that, as you know, you have to leave the leaves of bulbs to die down naturally – which looks progressively more untidy if you don’t have other plants growing up round them to hide the yellowing leaves – and as you can see from this picture below from early June in my keeness not to overshadow the pinks with sappy leaf growth, I have not yet got the planting right in this corner of the bed to do that job:-

Along the top edge of the bed, two plants that were there originally and which were buried under the lavetera are the Dryopteris filix-mas fern, and the Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ (Hylotelephium Telephium (Atropurpurem Group) ‘Purple Emperor’) .  Though I could see one tiny stalk of the Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ (Hylotelephium Telephium (Atropurpurem Group) ‘Purple Emperor’ when I replanted the bed, and kept my fingers crossed it would thrive, it has quadrupled in size and in June was looking like this:-

Deep joy – a cutting from the plant I bought from Hadspen Gardens all those years ago and it had survived.  Even more joy as you can see only a few inches away from it in the bed, at the same time of year the new leaves of my new roses are picking up the purple colour:-

The surviving apricot flowered rose was putting out a good display against the Geranium ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’ in mid-June too:-

I have mentioned I had a Geranium Endressii-type in the bed still (it was a self sown seed into a path that I moved into a bed so I cannot hand-on-heart say it hasn’t crossed with any other geraniums here – round the garden I have lighter and darker pink forms, and some with more veining on which definitely suggest promiscuity between the endressi and versicolour geraniums.)  Other geraniums I planted in this bed include the annual Geranium molle – a mauve form that I particularly love – it makes a taproot with the rounded geranium leaves arranged round it, so is easy to transplant in the spring from wherever the seeds have germinated it on my chalk soil.  Although it is supposed to do well in grass, it prefers to seed itself into paths and borders here, which is fine with me!   Here it is during June near the front of the border next to the Rumex sanguineus:-

Also in this border is Geranium versicolor:-

And in June, the Geranium psilostemon I dug up from behind the bog garden, divided, and replanted in the border, started flowering – this year it is very short, nothing like the 1.2m it can get to – maybe next year!:-

I took the shot below in mid June to try and show you the different flower sizes of the Endressi type geranium at the top of the shot compared to the G. Mrs Kendall Clark which is much much larger, and the tiny Geranium molle flowers at the bottom.   As you can see the felted silver leaves of the Verbascum Olympicum are shooting up to dwarf everything with its yellow flower spike later in the year:-

Here is a tapestry of leaves from early June as I look down on the border – most of the silvery leaves are from Papaver Somniferum that have grown in the disturbed soil as unfortunately the drought we had in the winter/spring here caused the little plants of the Otter Bush (Gomphostigma virgatum) I told you about last month to die.   Thank goodness I still have the mother plant in that pot to take more cuttings this year and try again! :-

You can see the small rooted cuttings of the Santolina chamaecyparissus above, which have survived, as well as the Lamium maculatum at the bottom of the picture both providing a bit of silver despite the demise of the Otter Bush.   The Dryopteris felix-mas fern frond in the left hand corner and the feathery leaves of the Tanacetum parthenium ‘Aureum’ entwined with the flowers of Geranium molle at the top of the picture contrast well with the different geranium leaves of the G. Psilostemon to the left, and the G. Endressii bottom right.  

By July the planting had changed again.  Here is a shot taken standing on the path above the bed looking down the decking steps towards the acer:-

As you can see the Verbascum Olympicum is towering up to give height in the bed.  The apricot rose is looking very happy, as are the Poppies (Papaver Somniferum) and the Veronica longifolia ‘Blauriesin’.  Here are some shots showing these more closely:-

In the last photo you may be able to see the small white flowers of the Golden Feverfew weaving through – Tanacetum Parthenium ‘Aureum’.  You can see here two of the Papaver Somniferum variations I have here.  The single mauve one sometimes has no darker markings within, and as you can see the redder frilled one has a range of “frill” within.  I was concerned that these (which remind me of 1950 bathing caps) would not be good for polinators, but as you can see from the picture below, I needn't have worried:-

The Golden Hop (Humulus lupulus “Aureus’) looks pretty stunning as a backdrop to the bed, meeting up with the Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’).  In June and early July the Hop cupped the Dwarf golden conifer Thuja occidentalis ‘Golden Globe’  like a bowl, making a very impressive effect, but by late-July it was trying to drown it.  Indeed, this is one of the things about the replanting that I particularly like – the way the bed now connects to the beds around it, giving new and lovely effects.  
On the decking steps the pinks were flowering:-

And at the top of the bed the Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ (Hylotelephium telephium (Atropurpureum Group) 'Purple Emperor') was knitting beautifully with the Geranium psilostemon and Geranium versicolor:-

Whereas when I showed you the bed in June it was the Geranium Mrs Kendall Clarke that was the star plant, from late June right through July it has been the Veronica Longifolia ‘Blauriesin’.  As you can see from the shots below.   Firstly with Geranium versicolor at the beginning of July:-

As the flowers open gradually up the flower spike from the bottom over a long period here it is in mid-July:-

And with the small flowers out at the top of the spike here is the Veronica longifolia ‘Blauriesin’ on 1 August with the Papaver somniferum seed heads picking up the blue/glaucus tones:-

(I could also have chosen the Golden Feverfew as a star plant as you can see it is still flowering away around all the other plants.)   The Veronica longifolia ‘Blauriesin’ was planted next to the Geranium Mrs KendallClarke to continue the blue flowered theme, which it has done admirably.  I realise that this ploy of chosing plants of similar colours that flower one after another is something I do a lot.  I am thinking of the white scented flowers I planted round the Mediterranean courtyard that I told you about – the double white lilac Syringa vulgaris 'Madame Lemoine', flowering in April to be followed by the Choysya ternata flowering in late April/May, which in turn is followed by the Honeysuckle Periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’ which you can see in the photos above is still flowering beautifully in July and scenting the garden amazingly.  I was reminded of all this whilst watching Beechgrove recently when the head gardener made a similar remark with regard to purple flowering plants she had planted to be succession planting in one of her borders – so I am not alone in this technique!

Next month a catch up with my gardening over the summer. 

Posted by Sheila May

2 Comments To "On a Chalk Hillside August 2021"

Nick Hoggmascall On 30.08.2021
I'm wondering if your G. versicolor is not an G x oxonianum hybrid: the G. versicolor I have grown forms a plant less robust than the one you show and the background behind the petal netting is white or at best palest pink rather than the pink you show. Reply to this comment
Sheila May On 30.08.2021
Hi Nick, I bought the original plant as G.Cinereum Group "Ballerina" many many years ago, but it never had the purple centre that the Ballerina has. Over the years it has hybridized with my endressii geraniums, and the one I pictured above could well be more of an g x oxonianum hybrid rather than a "true" versicolour. I will make a note to do a blog piece showing all the variations of flower/leaf that I have round the garden sometime. Thanks for the comment. Sheila
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