Pig­ments of your imag­i­na­tion

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

The cold, late spring has done our gar­dens quite a favour. Thanks to the low lev­els of sun, plants are thick and stocky, not tall and gan­gly. The colour lev­els look pro­por­tion­ally higher on stock­ier growth, and the low tem­per­a­tures mean the blooms last far longer. The fra­grance lev­els seem to be more in­tense, and they linger in the cooler air, too. And at last the roses and del­phini­ums have de­cided it is time to bloom. If we are not go­ing to have siz­zling-hot sum­mer weather, then we might as well strive to make the level of colour in our gar­dens trans­port us to par­adise in­stead. Many gar­den­ers com­plain that their colour lev­els de­crease come July. Susie Pasley-Tyler’s gar­den at Co­ton Manor in Northamp­ton­shire (co­ton­manor.co.uk) is the ex­cep­tion. Her gar­den is open from the end of March to the end of Septem­ber, and I have never seen it have an off day. A sea­soned gar­dener, she al­ways keeps the colour com­ing. Her ba­sic premise is to ar­range her bor­ders with a third to flower be­fore the end of June and two thirds af­ter. This makes great sense. Susie points out many plants that flower af­ter the be­gin­ning of July go on for far longer, of­ten three months. She in­cludes asters such as Aster x frikar­tii ‘Mönch’ (90cm high), which has end­less laven­der-blue, daisy-like flow­ers; it starts in July, far ear­lier than many asters, and will go on to Novem­ber, of­ten as not. In dry weather, give it wa­ter. Susie also grows Aster x frikar­tii ‘Jungfrau’, which has blue/pur­ple flow­ers with yel­low cen­tres (6070cm), and Aster x frikar­tii ‘Wun­der von Stäfa’, a laven­der blue (80cm). None of th­ese needs stak­ing and all are re­sis­tant to mildew. They were all bred by the nurs­ery­man Frikart and have the same hy­brid vigour, hence the amaz­ing flow­er­ing po­ten­tial. Susie keeps up with new in­tro­duc­tions too. Breeders are work­ing fran­ti­cally to bring us non­stop colour. She pointed me in the di­rec­tion of two stun­ning, hardy, non-stop salvias, which I have or­dered. Salvia ‘Amis­tad’ is a newish, hardy salvia. Its deep­pur­ple laven­der flow­ers with black ca­lyces and glossy green leaves will work with many colours. Robinssalvias.com is an amaz­ing web­site and well worth vis­it­ing if you are think­ing of ex­tend­ing your range of th­ese use­ful plants. ‘Amis­tad’ flow­ers from May to Novem­ber, is hardy (with Susie so far) and 1.2m high. You can or­der it from Wil­liam Dyson (great­comp­gar­den.co.uk). An­other new one is Salvia x ja­men­sis ‘Nachtvlin­der’, which is to­tally hardy (even in Ger­many where it was bred), with splen­didly dark pur­ple-ma­roon flow­ers. It flow­ers from May to Novem­ber and is around 75cm high. Lynsey Pink and her hus­band, John, have a National Col­lec­tion of salvias (as does Wil­liam Dyson), and they sell this too (call 01329 832786). I will also be fol­low­ing up Nepeta gran­di­flora ‘Sum­mer Magic’. This new cat­mint (avail­able from hardys­plants.co.uk) flow­ers from May un­til Au­gust, can be cut back and then re­flow­ers again: fab­u­lous. There are some old favourites few of us would do with­out. One is Hy­drangea ar­borescens ‘Annabelle’. At High­grove they sup­port it with hazel sticks around the edge in an art­ful fash­ion, keep­ing it a bit more to­gether and stop­ping the blooms drop­ping af­ter heavy rain. I ex­per­i­ment with the prun­ing, as they flower on new wood and how­ever you prune you get flow­ers (just don’t prune hard to the ground in spring). Gen­er­ally, though, the heav­ier the prun­ing the big­ger the flower heads. Lighter prun­ing gives stouter stems and more (but smaller) heads. The dried flower heads left have pres­ence too. The newer Hy­drangea pan­ic­u­lata ‘Lime­light’ is ex­cel­lent, flow­er­ing with limey-green flow­ers that fade to white and then pink in Au­gust and Septem­ber. Grow the herba­ceous Clema­tis her­a­cleifo­lia ‘Cassandra’ nearby; it has blue, fra­grant flow­ers for two months at the end of the sum­mer. For some­thing in the or­ange spec­trum, He­le­nium ‘Sahin’s Early Flow­erer’ starts in early July but goes on to Novem­ber, and even in dull weather it looks hot. Dead­head­ing and cut­ting back are es­sen­tial, and a few min­utes a day with some se­ca­teurs will ex­tend your en­joy­ment no end. At Barns­ley House, Rose­mary Verey and her team used to dead­head for an hour ev­ery day; in­di­vid­ual flo­rets of del­phini­ums were re­moved so the spikes looked pre­sentable for longer, but I don’t know of any top-notch gar­dens to­day where they would have the time and ded­i­ca­tion to do this. How­ever, Susie is a firm ad­vo­cate of cut­ting back. Even plants such as brun­nera will be shaved back to the ground af­ter flow­er­ing (around now), and in two weeks they will be back in leaf and flower. Sheets of Vi­ola ‘Mor­wenna’ are flow­er­ing now, but Susie will cut them back and they will bounce back and carry on for the rest of the sum­mer. Plants such as sweet rocket ( Hes­peris ma­tronalis) and corn­flow­ers, which can get strag­gly while fad­ing, can be re­ju­ve­nated by cut­ting back, sharp­en­ing their look and giv­ing yet more colour. Can­nas ex­cepted, many things ben­e­fit from this treat­ment, so al­ways keep your se­ca­teurs to hand and err on the bru­tal side. An­nu­als, dahlias and ten­der peren­ni­als are ob­vi­ous can­di­dates for colour. Susie also rates Cos­mos bip­in­na­tus ‘Candy Stripe’, drought­tol­er­ant and stun­ning, and Nico­tiana mutabilis ‘Marsh­mal­low’, glo­ri­ous and tall (over a me­tre). Rain or shine, you might still need sun­glasses. Ad­vice on what to do in the gar­den this week,

Hues you can use: clock­wise from left, Susie Pasley-Tyler’s Co­ton Manor gar­dens keep their colour from March to Septem­ber; ‘Sahin’s Early Flow­erer’ starts in June but flow­ers un­til Novem­ber; deep­pur­ple ‘Amis­tad’; x ‘Mönch’ starts in July; and ‘Candy Stripe’ will add bright­ness to any plot

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