I thought it was time for a good planty talk. The approaching autumn season is when planting and transplanting of plants is often done, while the soil is still warm so that roots can establish themselves before the soil cools down. I notice in gardens, including my own, how there are often bare patches towards the front edges, so I thought it would be good to talk about lower growing perennials. Of course, shrubs and seasonal bulbs can be planted at the front too. It’s a good idea to have low perennials coming through when the spring flowering bulbs have finished, or before the autumn flowering bulbs have started.
I will talk about a few of the low growing perennials which we grow at Frensham. I would like to stress that these edging plants look much better, I think, in multiple groups. Single plantings look a bit spotty, even in a small space. Perhaps you don’t agree with me?
Sisyrinchium bermudiana: With perennial grass-like foliage, this sisyrinchium flowers over a long period. Originating from Bermuda, this plant has bluey-mauve flowers, needs very little if any attention, and multiplies quickly from seed. It withstands very dry conditions
Lysimachia monelli. Formerly known as Anagallis monelli, some gardeners consider it an annual but it behaves as a perennial for us. This vivid deep blue pimpernel originates from the Meditarranean. As it doesn’t set seed it just keeps flowering!
Pelargonium sidoides. Originating from South Africa, the leaves are a bluey-green, with long stemmed dark wine flowers. It tolerates a very dry situation. Ours gets no special watering throughout the summer months.
Lathyrus sphaericus. I bought seed from a listing on Trade Me. With soft feathery foliage, the small brick red flower is most attractive. This annual plant fills gaps easily, entwining itself around its neighbours. It gives plenty of seed which we collect and share with other gardeners. It is very easy to grow.
The carnation Enigma has a compact form and produces highly scented mauve flowers which hold a hint of grey. This makes an excellent edger and was bought at a local nursery.
Rhododendron ‘Chikor’. Bred by the Scottish plantsman Peter Cox, this very small evergreen rhododendron has lemon-yellow flowers. Named for a Himalayan village, it was introduced in the UK in 1962 and is readily available here. We bought ours from Blue Mountain Nursery.
Alchemilla erythropoda. Given to me by a gardening friend many years ago, this grew well at the base of the rock garden. Eventually it disappeared, but I have managed to get another. The second part to the name, ‘erythropoda’ tells that the plant will have red stems.
Origanum rotundifolium. This origanum has pale green bracts, looking a bit like hops. It will tolerate very dry conditions. As it branches out in a circular form we have ours potted in shallow, circular pots.
Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’. This requires the same conditions as O. rotundifolium. There is more pink in this variety.
Geranium nodosum is a geranium much admired in our garden and not generally known. It has underground runners so it is best planted in rugged places where nothing much will grow. Ours has been doing very well for years against the north side of the garden shed. Pale lilac flowers sit above slightly shiny leaves.
Tiarella cordifolia. Also known as the foam flower, this variety has soft green foliage and it is the one most usually grown. Spikes of pink buds are followed by starry creamy white flowers throughout summer.
Tiarella wherryi has leaves like emerald velvet. Native to the woods of south east U.S.A. it has ivy-shaped foliage. It needs a damp position, and doesn’t increase as quickly as T. cordifolia.
Nemesia ‘Lilacberry Ripple’. See photo.
Photo 1: Nemesia ‘Lilacberry Ripple’ in pots in our garden.
Dianthus ‘Far North’. This plant is readily available and carries single white flowers from mid-summer until early autumn.
Pulmonarias. They like dappled shade and do very well here where the ground is sometimes quite wet. Strap shaped white spotted leaves are accompanied by pink, mauve, blue or white flowers in spring. The leaves get larger after it has finished flowering and the plan is easily divisible.
Buxus microphylla var. ‘Koreana’. This variety has small leaves and forms a very neat shrub, ‘microphylla’ being small leafed. We have planted a series of these through a woodland section, but they would make an excellent edging plant.
Dianthus ‘Bombardier’ has a small dark red flower over bluey grey foliage. I bought mine from Hokonui Alpines more than 20 years ago, and was told to keep deadheading it, as it can flower itself to death.
Antirrhinum hispanicum roseum. A favourite of mine for many years, this plant has chubby pink flowers. I acquired some more recently from Hokonui Alpines.
Liriope muscari is a very much admired plant in our garden. It is naturally found in shady parts of woodland edges of southern Japan through to China. Part or deep shade gives it optimal conditions. It has evergreen tough strappy foliage and is mostly seen with soft purple flowers, although there is a good white variety, ‘Munro White’ which we also grow.
Asparagus pea flower. With deep crimson flowers it is easily grown from seed. It looks great in our potager or as an edging plant in other areas. The asparagus pea plant forms compact clumps, and after the seed pods have dried, it can be pulled out, as the plant will be getting leggy. New seeds sown directly throughout the spring and summer never fail.
Fragaria ‘Lipstick’ is an evergreen strawberry from the Latin word for strawberry, with bright pink flowers.
Fragaria ‘Pink Panda is another evergreen strawberry which we grow at the edges of the Mutabilis rose garden. The pink flowers on the strawberry plants pick up the exact pink of the Mutabilis rose as it goes through its various colour changes.
Geranium renardii is an attractive compact plant with white flowers which have very fine mauve lines. The grey-green velvety leaves add to the interest.
Oxalis ‘Ken Aslet’. I have grown this for many years in a trough but it would be equally ideal at a garden edge. It can be unreliable in its flowering. Some years it does and some years it doesn’t.
Photo 2: Oxalis ‘Ken Aslet’ by the late Malcolm Shearer.
Geum ‘Lemon Drops’ is a delightful geum with its soft lemon flowers drooping over its short stems.
Gazania ‘Takatua Red’. The gazanias originate from South Africa, with its flowers opening when the sun is out. Ours is planted at the edge of a concrete paver pathway in the potager, therefore it gets the added heat from the paver which means that it does very well.
Photo 3: G. ’Takatua Red’ in a corner of the potager. M.Long
Photo 4: Part of the paddock to the left has been fenced off and new, larger compost bins are being constructed. This was Ron’s idea and it is doubly good because there is going to be a clean out of all the old materials and things which have been accumulating behind the farm sheds over the years, including before our arrival.
I have just finished reading “E. A. Bowles & his Garden at Myddelton House 1865 – 1954. This book gives clear insight into the man who is responsible for many of the plants that we grow today.
(Click the images to enlarge or view the gallery)
At a meal gathering recently, Buckwheat Blini were served with smoked salmon and a bowl of creme fraiche mixed with horseradish cream. So delicious! The salmon came from Anatoki in Takaka and was the best I've eaten outside of Scotland. (It is available on-line which is a happy thing!)
The ones we ate that evening were made traditionally, with yeast, but this is a non-yeast recipe that is equally as delicious in my very humble opinion.
Heaven on a plate and especially good with a glass of chilled white wine ** Buttermilk can be bought at supermarkets, but you can make your own: for each cup of milk add 1 tbsp of lemon juice (or white or cider vinegar). It could curdle a bit but is ready for use. This process also works with nut milks.