If you choose a theme, or perhaps a specific plant, for your garden it is inevitable that it will result in gaps. Maybe these gaps only occur for a few weeks or maybe for eleven months of the year. I always look enviously at gardens hosting national collections, and they do look amazing when that national collection is at its best, but I also need to remind myself that they are probably not as amazing for the rest of the year.
My focus is on planting edibles and wildlife friendly plants that provide food for me and the wildlife throughout the year. Although I am fortunate enough to have generous vegetable beds to grow most of my food, I'm quite keen on mixing edibles into the exisiting ornamental beds. Keen, but as yet not entirely successful. More on this later in the year as my experiments develop.
As well as functional, I want a garden that is beautiful. We now have massive windows in our upside down house that allow us to look over the garden from our first floor living and dining spaces.
The garden's previous owners were skilled gardeners who had a real knack for year-round interest and the borders have great structure for winter and amazing shrub blossom and bulb displays for spring. In the summer, things tend to peter out a bit but they would fill the gaps with annuals.
I'm not a big annual flower person. I find that all my seed sowing energy (and room) is taken up with my vegetables. I grow a few like calendula for companion planting, cosmos and nicotania for the bees and sweet peas for cut flowers and their lovely scent. But that's it. I'm not against growing from seed but tend to want to sow perennials that will give me years of pleasure or things like the Californian poppy that I can broadcast and allow to self-seed in each years.
All of this means that the two months of the year that I'm not teaching are the two months of the year that my garden is the least impressive. And I would like to change that.
The bed that faces our large windows is the bed I want to tackle first. I had already lifted the crown of the blue conifer (possibly a blue juniperus) and a golden choisya (possibly choisya ternata Sundance). Underneath these I planted a clematis 'Purpurea Plena Elegans' (to climb up the choisya) and c. 'Blue River' to climb up the big square thuja in the middle (maybe thuja plicatas Zebrina). I also put in an acanthus mollis 'Rue Ledan' and an echinops (from seed given to me by the HPS) under both to give a bit of white/purple flowery height although both are still coming into flower.
C. Blue River was only planted last July so it's still establishing and the c. Purpurea Plena Elegans seems to prefer the east side of the choisya.
The border had lots of existing pink flowers planted with some red and yellow daylilies and lots of white phlox and white potentilla among the foliage of variegated pieris and euonymous. In the hope of brightening things up a bit, I planted some rudbeckia I had grown from seed, a lemon salvia macrophylla, an eryngium and geranium 'Rozanne'. I also put some cosmos in there if I have any spare and this year it's a lovely cosmos bipinnatus Sea Shells Mixed which has gorgeous fluted petals.
The pinks, whites, yellows and purples work well together but they are lost among a mess of green. Furthermore, the red daylily jars against everything and will need to be moved.
I would like to replace the red daylily with another one because not only do they repeat flower and provide great structure in the summer but they are edible.
One of the daylily national collections is a 10 minute drive away in Histon so I intend on sourcing my new plants from there with one replacing the red daylily and the other replacing the small conifer I will remove.
I have my eye on hemerocallis Amerstone Amethyst Jewel and h. Flip Fiasco although, with the latter at nearly £20, I will only be eating the tubers in a few years' time when I'm dividing. But the flowers only last a day so will make very pretty additions to my salads.
I am hoping with a focus on a yellow and pastel summer colour palette, this border will look better next July and August.