Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Perfect Gift

There are so many delights that the countryside offers and none so beautiful as a field of red poppies. We glimpsed a flash of red as we travelled along a narrow Sussex lane, with double yellow lines either side of the road and no lay-bys so we couldn't stop. We flashed passed another wider entrance with rutted tracks dried by the June sunshine. And then the vision disappeared behind hawthorn hedges.

We travelled more slowly on our return journey and with great care and trepidation pulled into the entrance of the field bumping over the tractor rutts...what a picture, thousands of poppies growing in a farmers crop...

Two weeks later when we drove by again they field had been harvested and every trace of red had gone. The brief glimpse was for me a perfect gift.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Clematis 'Perle d'Azur'

Clematis 'Perle d'Azur'

Without any prepared borders in which to plant anything, I am drawn, in a 'nursery-fix' moment, to purchase three clematis that looked as if they had seen better days. It is not for the first time that I have entered a small nursery and shuddered at the neglect of the plants in the sale area. Having run my own nursery for eleven years, I am more than aware that there are areas which are waiting with plants needing attention of one kind or another, but in the sales area - never. The plants were toppling over, entangled around each other with old dead-looking tendrils, clinging wherever. Undaunted, I looked at labels and made my selection. Philip was standing back, knowing that to comment would not be wise. Weeding the worst offenders out, I made my purchases, pointing out that in two of the three plants, death seemed more likely than life. The guy must have been standing in for the owner, because he hadn't noticed (nor had my OH) the early signs of new life pushing up from the central crown.

Clematis 'Perle d'Azur' was one of the plants I rescued, paying a minuscule part of the asking price...

Pots are the only answer at the moment in this tiny back 'yard' that we will call garden soon. A tall grey pot seemed perfect, but this clematis is vigorous in its growth, so an obelisk is for the time being its only support. I have wound the stems backwards and forwards, and have been well rewarded with quite a few blooms.  One of the great delights of growing plants in pots, is the ability to scrutinise them at close quarters.

The blue of the flowers is lifted by the hint of pink on the central bars. The tiny hairs on the buds can been seen, and the joy of watching one tight bud gradually unfurl, until for several days the flower bobs proudly in the breeze is special indeed. Then of course is the added joy of watching the developing seedpod.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sollya heterophylla AGM

Sollya heterophylla is a treasure...for me. It is one of my memories, now quite distant, of a friendship with one of the great garden designers Rosemary Verey. After the death of my mother, I was privileged enough to accompany my father to her home 'Barnsley House' in Gloucestershire. The unease that I had felt at meeting someone so important was dispelled by her easy manner and welcoming, homely disposition. After that first meeting I was always invited and during my father's last months she would ring me regularly to enquire how things were. Sometimes we wept in unison over the telephone at the obvious conclusion of the situation. She gave me strength and succour and the enthusiasm and confidence to work in my father's garden and bring it back to life.

Sollya heterophylla was one of the first of many gifts that Rosemary gave me. It hasn't grown to its full potential, but I love it none the less for that. It has like so many of my plants, minimal care, yet it is once again covered with tiny little blue flowers, with darker blue buds. Last year it was overwintered in the shelter of the house wall, which, when the sun shines gets full sun for many hours. It comes form West Australia, and is also known as the Bluebell Creeper, or the Australian bluebell creeper. A twining perennial climber with lance-shaped evergreen leaves, and small bell-shaped flowers in nodding clusters. The cylindrical berries can be purple or blue. With my plant they are deep blue. It will grow in full shun or part shade on an East, West  or South-facing wall and isn't fussy about the soil conditions.

It is a gem of a plant. One that I still treasure 35 years on.