Tag Archive: herbaceous


WP_20150909_12_43_35_ProFollowing our ‘Hebridean Hop’ we went on to stay for a week in Northumberland with 6 old friends, in a house we’d been to before (we rent out a house for a week in different locations every year – this was our sixth consecutive holiday together). It is usually a stay involving (too) much food, drink as well as trips to interesting places and walks on beaches and in the countryside.

On one of the days we travelled south towards Morpeth to a National Trust property I’d wanted to visit for some time- in fact the last time we were here, but for a mistake in reading the road signs, we would have visited then. Anyway, despite a couple of wrong turns this time (including using Satnav) we eventually made it.

Wallington Hall was gifted by Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, Socialist MP and ‘illogical Englishman’. The Hall features huge pre-Raphaelite paintings around the Central Hall, beautiful furniture, treasured collections and quirky curiosities; and it was great seeing volunteers baking in the kitchens (free samples) and on hand to explain things. I also loved seeing some old letters and newspapers out on display- these added a real sense of time and place to the house. There was also a well crafted exhibition in one room on utopias. My own contribution to the personal ‘visions’ wall?- ‘Globalisation= collective responsibility’

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The 13,000-acre estate was too big to explore in one day, but we made sure to see the hidden walled garden, nestled in the woods.  It was beloved by Lady Mary Trevelyan and remains a beautiful haven whatever the season.  Entering through Neptune’s Gate, you sweep down a stone staircase, by the Mary Pool and soak up the tranquil atmosphere; this is special place for our friends John and Ann, who, along with Richard and Ann, were with us on the day.

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We wandered past colourful borders, which because of its northerly location, gave late summer ‘oomph’, even though it was September when we visited. The planting combinations in the herbaceous borders and further afield in the walled garden, are a triumph. This was once a productive kitchen garden but is no almost entirely ornamental. It slopes gently and a natural stream meanders through it, which creates a wide range of planting and design opportunities. There is also an elevated terrace walkway with a splendid glasshouse to one side, full of tender specimens and beautifully presented.

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This is definitely another of those ‘Garden of Smiles’- almost at every turn there is a feature or planting group that just works.

WP_20150909_12_25_57_ProFurther information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

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IMG_9860I mentioned my trip to Bury St. Edmunds a couple of days ago. On the afternoon of that trip we visited a new garden to us, Wyken Hall, just a few miles north east of the town. This is my sort of garden.

After a very good lunch in the on site restaurant, we had a stroll in the sun. An Elisabethan Farmhouse forms the centre point of the range of gardens which include a number of small, but beautifully designed ‘outdoor rooms’ (the veranda,  pictured above, is furnished with 5 original mississippi rocking chairs), as well as a large, well stocked kitchen garden and several herbaceous borders, some cleverly colour-  themed. I particualrly enjoyed the pond with its elevated deck, a beech maze and the Silver Birch glade. The site is also home  to a working vineyard and  is well worth a visit (RHS members free, others £4, open from 2pm most days).

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Old School Gardener

close up of Xerochrysum bracteatumAs you might guess there aren’t that many plants beginning with ‘X’, but Xerochrysum is an interesting genus of around 6 or 7 species of short- lived perennials and annuals which are native to open grassland and scrub in Australia.

The stemless lance – like leaves are hairy. The flowers are dasiy like with papery white, yellow or pink bracts and a central disc of, often, yellow florets. The perennials can be used to fill in gaps in herbaceous borders and low – growing cultivars are suitable as edging or for containers.

The name Xerochrysum comes from Greek xeros meaning “dry” and chrysos meaning “gold” (this refers to the common yellow papery bracts that occur within the genus).

X. bracteatum is often grown for its cut and dried flowers and it self seeds freely. Also known as the “Golden Everlasting”, this is one of the best known of the “paper daisies” as it is a very widespread species occurring in both annual and perennial forms. It varies in habit from prostrate to a shrubby plant of about 1m in height. The leaves are usually large (up to 100mm long) and green to grey-green in colour. The individual flowers are very small but are formed into a large cluster surrounded by large papery bracts. The overall appearance is that of a large, single “flower” with the bracts as the “petals”. However, well over a hundred true flowers occur inside the ring of bracts.

The ‘golden everlasting’ has been cultivated for many years and a number of forms have been selected for cultivation. These include several which have resulted from both chance and deliberate hybridisation. Some examples are:

  • “Diamond Head” – perennial; green foliage, 0.2m x 0.5m. Yellow flowers

  • “Dargan Hill Monarch” – perennial; grey leaves, 0.8m x 1m. Yellow flowers

  • “Cockatoo” – perennial; similar to “Dargan Hill Monarch”, pale yellow bracts around a head of small orange flowers

  • “Princess of Wales” – perennial; similar to “Dargan Hill Monarch” but more compact (0.6m x 0.6m). Yellow flowers

  • “Kimberley Sunset” – perennial; grey leaves, 0.8m x 1m. Pink flowers

In addition, breeding work in Europe and Australia has produced annual forms with an outstanding range of colours – yellow, red, purple, orange. These are excellent for a massed, colourful display. Most forms are suited to cultivation in many areas. The annual forms can be purchased in packets from a number of commercial suppliers and established as instructed on the packs.

Perennial forms are usually quick growing in a sunny, well drained position. They benefit from a regular light pruning annually to encourage branching and a greater number of flowers. Severe pruning to overcome “legginess” may be successful but only as a last resort.

Golden everlasting responds well to annual fertilising, usually with a slow-release type and appreciates an assured water supply. The plants vary in their ability to withstand frost but most are at least moderately frost resistant.

Propagation of X.bracteatum from seed is easy; no pretreatment is required. Propagation from cuttings is also fairly easy and is the only way that named cultivars should be propagated.

Xerochrysum is half hardy to frost hardy and should be grown in moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Those cultivars which reach 90 cms or more need staking. They can be propagated from seed in the spring. they might susceptible to downy mildew.

These very popular plants bring long-lasting colour and warmth into the garden. There are many cultivars available in nurseries with flowers varying from white through cream, lemon, canary yellow, gold and bronze. Many of the pink varieties are the result of plant breeding, most probably using South African species as this colour is very uncommon in Australian plants.

They will keep producing flowers particularly if spent flowers are continually removed. Butterflies and other insects love them and will flock to your garden adding another layer of interest. They are also excellent as dried flowers keeping their shape and colour well for years – just hang a bunch up-side-down in a dark airy place and let them dry for a few weeks.

Sources and further information:

Australian Native Plants Society

Wikipedia

Growing Xerochrysum bracteatum-RHS

Old School Gardener

IMG_7088I frequently visit this wonderful Jacobean Mansion and more particularly it’s gardens and parkland. After all it is just 7 miles from home. A  walk around the park after a Christmas Day ‘brunch’ has become something of a family institution, often complete with festive headwear!

I try to visit the gardens at different times of the year as they offer something for every season, and back in September I was keen to experience the late summer colour festival of its herbaceous and other plantings. At this time of year it’s mix of formal and informal styles is most evident.

Coincidentally, there was a splendid event going on to celebrate the role of the Hall in the Second World War, including people dressed in military uniforms and plenty of vehicles and ‘kit’ from the time. This is my photo record of my most recent visit along with a very good summary of the gardens’ history and features from Wikipedia:

‘A house and garden existed at Blickling before the estate was purchased by the Boleyn family in the 1450s, but no records survive to give an indication of their appearance. After Sir Henry Hobart acquired the estate in 1616, he remodelled the gardens to include ponds, wilderness and a parterre. A garden mount– an artificial hill in Blickling’s flat landscape, was made to provide views of the new garden. With the accession of Sir John Hobart (later the 1st Earl of Buckingham) in 1698 the garden was expanded to add a new wilderness and the temple was constructed.

In the latter half of the 18th century John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckingham, embarked on works that would radically change the appearance of the gardens. All traces of formality were removed, and naturally arranged clumps of trees were planted to create a landscape garden. By the 1780s an orangery had been built to overwinter tender citrus trees. Following the 2nd Earl’s death in 1793, his youngest daughter Caroline, Lady Suffield, employed landscape gardener Humphry Repton and his son John Adey Repton to advise on garden matters. John Adey Repton would go on to provide designs for many garden features.

 

The estate was inherited by nine-year-old William Schomberg Robert Kerr, 8th Marquess of Lothian in 1840. He later re-introduced the formality and colour schemes of the parterre. After his death at the age of 38, responsibility for the gardens rested with Lady Lothian and her head gardener Mr Lyon. Philip Henry Kerr, 11th Marquis of Lothian, inherited the estate in 1930. After disparaging comments in a publication of Country Life, Lothian engaged socialite gardener Norah Lindsay to remodel the gardens. In the parterre she replaced the jumble of minuscule flower beds with four large square beds planted with a mixture of herbaceous plants in graduated and harmonious colours. Other improvements included removal of a line of conifers in the Temple walk, which were replaced with plantings of azaleas.

The garden today

The garden at Blickling covers 55 acres (22 ha) and contains formal and informal gardens, Grade II listed buildings and structures, woodland, specimen trees, Victorian garden ornaments, topiary, the kitchen garden .. and 18th century yew hedges.

The lawns which frame the main approach to the hall are bounded by yew hedges which were first recorded by William Freeman of Hamels in 1745. Surrounding the hall on three sides is the dry Moat. The plantings in the moist, sheltered conditions of the moat were considerably revised by Lindsay who introduced hosta, species of hydrangea, buddleja and rosemary.

To the rear of the hall is the noted Parterre garden which is located on the east lawn. Originally created as a Victorian sunken garden it was remodelled by Lindsay in the early 1930s. Set around an 18th-century listed stone fountain, she divided the garden into four large, colourful herbaceous beds surrounded by L shaped borders stocked with roses and catmint with an acorn shaped yew marking each corner.

 

In the terraces above the parterre there are plantings of peony, seasonal beds and the Double Borders created in 2006, contain a wide variety of perennials, shrubs and grasses with colours ranging from hot to cool. Close by, are the White and Black Borders which were established in 2009, together with a collection of eleagnus.

The western side of the garden features the lawned Acre which is fringed by a spreading oriental plane tree. Outdoor sports such as croquet are played here in the summer months. Further highlights are a collection of magnolia underplanted with autumn cyclamen, the shell fountain and the kitchen garden. To the north of the parterre is the Wilderness garden which is bisected by radial grassed avenues flanked with turkey oak, lime and beech trees and naturalised bulbs. The wilderness hides a Secret Garden with a summerhouse, scented plants and a central sundial.

Nearby is the listed 18th century orangery which houses a collection of citrus trees. Adjacent, to the building is the steep sided Dell which is home to many woodland plants including a selection of hellebore and foxglove. In 2009, an area of woodland was cleared close to the orangery to create a new garden. Stocked with a wide range of woodland plants including camellia and varieties of mahonia. Opened in 2010, it will be known as the Orangery Garden.

The Grade II listed Temple is approached by the Temple walk which is lined with azalea planted by Lindsay in her original 1930s design. Scattered throughout the garden are many garden ornaments including thirty pieces supplied to Lady Lothian in 1877 by Austin & Seeley of Euston Road, London.

Future projects include the creation of a philadelphus and rose garden. Both of which will be located in the Wilderness and open to the public in the near future .’ (Note – these have now been established and are open to the public- see pics below).

Further information:

National Trust Website

Wikipedia

Old School Gardener

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Our last, late summer visit to a west country garden, Killerton, did not disappoint. We enjoyed a very informative tour in a golf buggy and strolled around the grounds on a sunny afternoon. Lying just outside Exeter, Killerton is a massive estate and we had a little trouble actually finding the entrance (road signs and sat nav conspired against us!). Nevertheless we had a warm welcome.

Killerton is notable as the ‘home given away’. It’s last private owner,  Sir Richard Acland did just this with the whole estate of over 2,500 hectares (including 20 farms and 200-plus cottages), one of the largest acquired by the National Trust. Acland held a strong belief in the common ownership of land and was a founder member of the British Common Wealth Party, formed in 1942 to oppose the wartime coalition and to advocate a co-operative form of socialism, in contrast to the state-led approach of the Labour Party. However, the group never achieved an electoral break through and Acland joined the Labour Party in 1945. He was also one of the founders of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

The original gardens at Killerton were designed in the late 18th century by John Veitch, one of the leading landscape designers of the time. It features rhododendrons, magnolias, herbaceous borders and rare trees surrounded by rolling Devon countryside. Many of the trees and the views of the surrounding countryside are very impressive – here are some pictures.

The grounds also house – typically for the 19th century – an Ice House and a curious Summer House which is of a rather gothic design and features a strange assortment of decorative materials – including animal bones, hides and fir cones! Here’s a second set of pictures.

However, the ‘parterres’ or mixed herbaceous borders, full of late summer colour when we visited, stand out as my most significant memory of Killerton. These were designed by the late 19th century gardener, garden writer and designer William Robinson. They have some classic plant combinations and bold drifts, typical of the mixed herbaceous borders coming into vogue around this time, and which have been influential in English garden design up to the present day. This area features a central path and secondary paths with Coade stone urns as focal points. The layout of the borders is perhaps curious given Robinson’s advocacy of  ‘wild gardens’ – a more naturalistic approach to garden design. But even these semi formal designs, with their ‘loose planting’, were seen as revolutionary.  Apparently, Killerton’s head gardener at the time said:

‘it of course spoilt the park, starting as it does and ending nowhere, I got into bad odour condemning it’.

Robinson’s ideas about ‘wild gardening’ spurred the movement that evolved into the English cottage garden, a parallel to the search for honest simplicity and vernacular style of the British Arts and Crafts movement. Robinson is credited as an early practitioner of the mixed herbaceous border of hardy perennial plants, a ‘naturalistic’ look in stark contrast to the high Victorian ‘pattern garden’ of planted-out bedding schemes. Here is a gallery that, hopefully captures the best of these glorious borders.

Further information:

National Trust website

William Robinson- Wikipedia

Old School Gardener

Nepeta- soem varieites are called Catnip or Catmint because cats love them!

Nepeta- some varieites are called Catnip or Catmint because cats love them!

Nepeta is a genus of about 250 species of perennials and a few annuals, native to cool and moist to hot and dry habitats in scrub, grassy banks, stony slopes or in high mountains, in non tropical areas of the northern hemisphere. So as you can see, there’s pretty much a Nepeta to suit every garden situation!

Some members of this group are known as catnip or catmint because of their effect on cats – the nepetalactone contained in some Nepeta species binds to the olfactory receptors of cats, typically resulting in temporary euphoria!

They have sturdy stems with opposite heart-shaped, green to grey-green leaves. Nepeta plants are usually aromatic in foliage and flowers. The tubular flowers can be lavender, blue, white, pink, or lilac, and spotted with tiny lavender-purple dots. The flowers are located in ‘verticillasters’ grouped on spikes; or the verticillasters are arranged in opposite groups – toward the tip of the stems.

Nepeta can be drought tolerant, being able to conserve water. They bloom over a long period from late spring to autumn. Some species also have repellent properties to insect pests, including aphids and squash bugs, when planted in a garden. Nepeta species are used as food plants by the larvae of some butterflies and moths and as nectar sources for pollinators like bees.

Nepeta makea a wonderful sprawling edge to an informal border

Nepeta makes a wonderful sprawling edge to an informal border

Nepeta can be grown in any well drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Some species, like N. govaniana and N. subsessilis prefer moist, cool conditions, whereas N. sibirica likes it fairly dry. There are a few tall growing varieties, like ‘Six Hills Giant’, with a more upright habit. These need staking or support to see them at their best.  Most Nepetas will rebloom if sheared back after their initial flowering (N. x faassenii and N. nervosa for example). Some won’t provide much of a second show, but their foliage will be refreshed and tidied by the shearing.

Nepeta looks wonderful when covered in flower from early summer. The pale, often lavender-blue flowers perfectly complement the hairy, scalloped and wrinkled, silvery, blue-green leaves. The flowers appear as a haze of blue from a distance. It is often used as an informal, low hedge echoing the colours of lavender (and is used as a substitute where lavender isn’t hardy enough). But it has a rather lax form and will spread itself to cover its allotted space (and more!). Nepeta is best planted at the front of the border, edging a path, so that when you brush past it you will catch the full scent from its aromatic leaves. Nepeta is also a classic underplanting for roses. The colours complement and the foliage hides the ugly ‘knees’ of the rose bush.

We have some here at Old School Garden and this year I’m experimenting with it in some raised planters to try to get a cascading effect, as I’ve seen it used effectively this way on top of an old garden wall in Devon, though I suspect some varieties will have longer stems than others so are better suited to this treatment. The pastel blues of Nepeta combine wonderfully well with pinks and yellows, such as day lilies and yarrow (Achillea). It also looks good with Allium cristophii and Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’.

Some suggested varieties:

  • N. nervosa ‘Felix’ – Compact plant with vivid lavender-blue flowers. (12″ H x 24″ W)
  • N. x ‘Six Hills Giant’ – One of the tallest growing Nepetas, with lavender-blue flowers.(36″ H x 30″ W)
  • N. subsessilis ‘Sweet Dreams’ – Pink flowers with burgundy bracts. Likes a bit more water than most Nepetas. (2′ H x 3′ W)
  • N. racemosa ‘Walkers Low’– has 8″ spikes of lavender-blue flowers.  ( 2 H’ x 2′ W)

Nepeta faassenii 'Six Hills Giant'- foliage

Nepeta faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant’- foliage

Nepeta is one of those plants that thrives on neglect. Too much fertilizer will only make it grow lots of flimsy foliage. A lean soil and somewhat dry growing conditions will encourage both flowers and scent. Many of the newer varieties of Nepeta are sterile, producing no viable seeds. This is a plus if you don’t like the weedy, self-seeding habit of older Nepeta varieties, but it means you will need to either buy plants or make plants from divisions or cuttings.  Division is not a requirement, but if you’d like more plants divide it in spring or in autumn. The Royal Horticultural Society have given it their prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Nepeta longipes

Nepeta longipes

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

BBC – Catmint

About.com

One plant 3 ways- Nepeta design tips

Old School Gardener

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delphiniumsDelphinium is a genus of around 300 species of flowering perennial, biennial and annual plants that are native throughout the Northern Hemisphere and also on the high mountains of tropical Africa.

The name “delphinium” derives from the Latin for “dolphin”, referring to the shape of the nectary, though there is also a story that in ancient Rome men were pursuing a dolphin for commercial exploitation so Neptune turned it into the Delphinium!

The common name “larkspur” (referring to the bird’s claw shape of the flower), is shared between perennial Delphinium species and annual species of the genus Consolida. The famous 16th century herbalist, John Gerard gives ‘delphinium’ as an alternative name for Consolida, says that there is little written about any medicinal uses other than as an antidote to scorpion stings. He mentions the idea of laying delphiniums in the path of a scorpion tol render it totally incapable of movement until the plant is removed but says this is just one of many ‘trifling toyes’ that are not worth reading! The town of Larkspur in Colorado was given its name by Elizabeth Hunt, wife of the governor, in 1871 because of the abundance of delphiniums growing in the area

Delphinium nuttallianum

Delphinium nuttallianum

Species names of Delphinium include:

D. ajacis = possibly based on the marks at the base of the united petals which were compared to the letters AIAI

D. cardinale = scarlet

D. consolida = joined in one

D. elatum = tall

D.formosum = beautiful

D. grandiflorum = large flowered

D. nudicaule = naked stemmed

D. sulphureum = sulphur – yellow

D. tatsiense = of Tatsien, China

D. triste = sad, the dull blue of the flowers

D. zalil = native Afghanistan name.

D. 'Blue Nile'

D. ‘Blue Nile’

Delphinium_cv2

The delphinium is much admired, particularly in the cottage garden setting. Delphiniums are tall, majestic plants with showy open flowers on branching spikes. Each flower has 5 petal-like sepals with 2 or 4 true petals in the centre called a bee. Delphinium species include all three primary colours, blue, red, and yellow. Hybridisation of delphiniums has resulted in many new colours and attractive flower forms and growing heights. Most garden Delphiniums are of the hybirds raised from species such as elatum, formosum, grandiflorum and sulphureum. Flower colours range in shades of blue from palest sky, through to gentian and indigo; rich purple, lavender, pink to purest white.  In England Blackmore and Langdon, nurserymen and leading breeders of Delphiniums, were producing hybrids from early in the 20th century, producing named varieties of large well-formed delphiniums. Others have also added their skills and developed the most dramatic and eye-catching plants to grace our gardens.

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Sources and further information:

The Delphinium Society

RHS- Delphiniums

How to grow Delphiniums- Sarah Raven

Gallery of Delphiniums

The Poison Garden – Delphiniums

Quizzicals: answers to the two clues given in Plantax 13…

  • Bovine stumble – cowslip
  • Simpler tombola – rafflesia

..and 2 more cryptic clues to the names of plants, fruit or veg…

  • Cold yearning
  • How Jack Charlton refers to brother Bobby

Special thanks to Les Palmer, whose new book ‘How to Win your Pub Quiz’ was published recently. A great celebration of the British Pub Quiz!

Old School Gardener

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monarda 'Cambridge Scarlet' in one of the borders at Old School Garden,sittign well alongside a young Gleditsia triacanthos

Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ in one of the borders at Old School Garden, sitting well alongside a young Gleditsia triacanthos and Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’

With around 20 species of annuals and rhizomatous,clump-forming, herbaceous perennials, Monarda – or ‘Bee Balm’ because of it’s value in treating bee stings- would be a relatively small genus, though it also has many garden-worthy, hardy hybrids.

Hailing from North America, and otherwise known as ‘Bergamot’, Monarda like sun, but will grow in dappled shade too, but plants established in partial shade or filtered sun have higher incidences of rapid horizontal spread and flower less. Their natural habitats are the dry prairie and also woodlands, so they vary in their soil requirements from those that like a dry soil to those liking moisture – all need moisture retentive soil though and if the soil is too dry they are prone to mildew, as they are here in Old School Garden. It can also tolerate clay soil. The incidence of powdery mildew can be reduced by allowing good air movement between plants, ensuring the soil does not dry out, removing diseased leaves and stems to destroy the overwintering stage of the fungus and choosing mildew-resistant cultivars. Fungicides or horticultural oils can also be used to control powdery mildew.

Generally, propagation occurs by hardwood and softwood cuttings, root cuttings, layering, and division. The latter, quite frequently, is the most popular method out of necessity:  on soil that stays moist, plants can spread fairly quickly so the plant should be divided every 3 to 5 years to reduce spread, keep the central core of the plant healthy, preclude root rot, and improve air circulation about the foliage.

The flowers are a delight, arranged in whorls, rather like sage. They are tubular, with 2 lips, an upper one that is hooded and a lower one that spreads and they often come with coloured bracts. The plant is long flowering, from mid to late summer, and blooms almost continuously if deadheaded periodically. The blooms make excellent cut flowers, both fresh and dried.

Wasp on a Monarda punctata

Wasp on a Monarda punctata

Being attractive to bees and butterflies it is a good plant for wildlife gardens, though only Bumble Bees can gain direct access, honey bees and other insects getting in only after something larger has made holes!  Because of oils present in its roots it is sometimes used as a companion plant around small vegetable crops susceptible to subterranean pests. Bee balm is considered a good plant to grow with tomatoes, ostensibly improving both plant health and tomato flavour.

Ranging in height from 20–90 cm (8–35 in), Monarda have an equal spread. The stems are distinctive, in that they are square in profile, and taller varieties often require staking. The slender and long-tapering (lanceolate) leaves are not particularly striking to look at but are aromatic and are a definite reminder of ‘Earl Grey’ Tea, which is flavoured with Bergamot and the leaves are sometimes picked for pot pourri. Slugs can attack new growth in the spring but the genus is low in allergens.

Most hybrids are derived from Monarda didyma or M. fistulosa.There are over 50 commercial cultivars and hybrids, ranging in colour from post – box red to pure white to deep blue, but these plants tend to be smaller than wild species, and have often been developed to combat climatic or pest conditions. Other hybrids have been developed to produce essential oils for food, flavouring, or medicine. The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM):

  • ‘Beauty of Cobham’(pink)
  • ‘Gardenview Scarlet’
  • ‘Marshall’s Delight’ (pink)
  • ‘Squaw’ (red)
  • ‘Talud’ (pink)
  • ‘Violet Queen’
Monarda citriodora ('Horse Mint')

Monarda citriodora (‘Horse Mint’)

Monarda are great perennials for meadows and wild gardens, along streams and ponds, in woodlands and also in the garden border. The boldness of bee balm makes it equally good for massing or as an accent, and it mixes well with other summer perennials such as phlox, iris, day lilies and yarrows. The long season of colour attracts bees, butterflies (and in North America, hummingbirds) and these will capture your attention as well.

Monarda also looks good with:

  • Veronica ‘Blue Charm’ which bears spikes of light blue flowers at the same time as bee balm. The habit and flower shape contrast well.
  • Aster – masses of small, pale blue flowers appear in summer on heart-leaf aster and provide an airy contrast to bee balm.
  • Coneflower (Echinacea) – the large daisy flowers of purple coneflower mix well with those of bee balm, especially in sunny wildflower gardens.
  • Evening Primrose (Oenothera) – blooming in summer, the clusters of yellow goblet flowers of common sundrops mix well with bee balm, especially the mahogany-colour varieties.
  • Astrantia major ‘Ruby Wedding’
  • Persicaria ”Red Dragon’

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

‘The Monarda Speaks’- blog article

Monarda citriodora (Horse Mint)- video from Texas

Monarda and powdery mildew resistance- University of Chicago study

Old School Gardener

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Achilleas coming into flower at the back of one of Old School Garden's borders

Achilleas coming into flower at the back of one of Old School Garden’s borders

The bright golden plates of Achillea are coming into bloom in Old School Garden and they look splendid, too. Achillea millefolium is commonly known as Yarrow – a name often applied to other species in the genus which is made up of about 85 flowering plants.

Achillea is native to Europe and temperate parts of Asia and a few grow in North America. Achillea can be mat-forming or upright perennials, mostly herbaceous, with sometimes aromatic, pinnately divided or simple and toothed leaves and flattened clusters of small, daisy-like flower-heads.  These heads of small flowers sit like mini helicopter pads at  the top of the stem, the flowers being white, yellow, orange, pink or red. The Achillea is a useful source of food for the larvae of some moths.

The genus was named after the Greek mythological hero Achilles. According to the Iliad, Achilles’ soldiers used yarrow to treat their wounds, hence some of its common names such as allheal and bloodwort. I somehow have the idea that the flower plates are also  reminiscent of Achilles’ ‘burnished shield’ (assuming he had one) and it’s this connection that I’m reminded of whenever I see them.

Some of the species names are:

A. alpina = of the alps or alpine

A. argentea = silvery white, referring to the foliage

A. compacta = compact

A. millefolium = thousand – leaved, the Yarrow or Milfoil

A. mongolica = Mongolian

A. montana = of mountains

A. ptarmica = from the greek ptarmos, meaning sneezing – the dried flowers were once used as snuff, otherwise knownas the ‘Sneezewort’

A. rupestris = growing on rocks

A. santolina = resembles the plant Santolina

A. serbica = of Serbia

A. tomentosa = downy foliage

Achilleas are traditional border flowers valued for their feathery foliage and striking flat, circular heads of flowers throughout the main summer season. They team well with other perennial flowers and are a vital ingredient of a traditional herbaceous border. They are also at home in island beds, cottage gardens and other perennial planting schemes.They look good with Leucanthemum and Kniphofia.

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

How to grow Achillea

Achillea filipendulina

Article by Chris Beardshaw

Quizzicals: answers to the two clues given in Plantax 12…

  • Place in Oxfordshire painted a gaudy colour – ‘Blenheim Orange’
  • Tie up skinny coward – Bindweed

..and 2 more cryptic clues to the names of plants, fruit or veg…

  • Bovine stumble
  • Simpler tombola

Special thanks to Les Palmer, whose new book ‘How to Win your Pub Quiz’ was published recently. A great celebration of the British Pub Quiz!

Old School Gardener

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My mother – in – law is currently on a two week visit to us. A keen gardener (she was until a year ago Chair of the Tavistock Ladies Gardening club), she is not as mobile as she once was (she celebrated her 83rd birthday last week). However, she still enjoys looking at gardens so this is a great excuse (as if I needed one) to get out and about to see some interesting local gardens. The weather has also been kind so we’ve been to a few places that I haven’t been before, or haven’t seen for a good number of  years. Two of them are in Norwich, our local cathedral city, and they are fine examples of gardens developed for very different reasons; the one out of  the passion of a Victorian entrepreneur, the other based on a medieval religious garden.

The Plantation Garden

The Garden in 1897

In 1856, a prosperous upholsterer and cabinet maker living in Norwich, took a long lease on an industrial site just outside the old City walls. His name was Henry Trevor, and for the next forty years, he spent considerable sums of money and much effort transforming a chalk quarry into a magical garden.

Henry Trevor

In many ways, Henry Trevor’s garden was typical of Victorian taste and technology. He built a fountain, terraces with balustrades, rockworks, a Palm House, and a rustic bridge. He planted elaborate carpet beds, woodlands and shrubberies. He designed serpentine paths to conduct the visitor along circular routes, and he built and heated several greenhouses with boilers and hot water pipes.

Henry Trevor, however, was also a man of strong personal tastes. His “Gothic” fountain is unique, and he displayed great enterprise in using the fancy bricks from a local manufacturer to create medieval style walls, ruins and follies. Within less than 3 acres, he established a gentleman’s residence and garden that reflected in miniature the grand country houses of the Victorian period. Visitors were frequently welcomed in the garden by Henry Trevor, for he was always ready to allow his garden to be used for charitable causes.

The Garden in Victorian times- the Palm House no longer exists.

After the 1939-45 war, the garden was virtually abandoned. Fortunately, much of the structure has survived, and is gradually being restored by the The Plantation Garden Preservation Trust. The first task of its members was to clear a forest of sycamores and a blanket of ivy to reveal what had become hidden during the past 40 years. Since then, they have restored the flowerbeds, fountain, balustrading, Italian terrace, rustic bridge and in 2007, the Gothic alcove.

Trevor’s original passion has been matched by this band of volunteers and our visit, on a beautifully sunny afternoon, showed considerable progress in the restoration programme since my last visit some years ago. I was particularly impressed with the enormous amount of work done to stabilise, weed – proof and replant the steeply sloping sides of the garden, which remain topped off with a range of majestic Beech and other trees.

The Bishop’s Garden

Our second visit, on one of it’s open days in aid of local charities, was to the Bishop’s Garden, a four acre green oasis in the centre of Norwich, sitting in the shadow of the Gothic cathedral.

There has been a garden of sorts since around 1100 AD when Bishop de Losinga began to build the cathedral and palace. From the existing garden one can still marvel at the original detailing of Norman stonework on the North Transept of the cathedral which is only visible from the Bishop’s Garden.

In the early 14th century, Bishop John Salmon greatly increased the size of the garden by compulsory purchase of additional land. The general form of the garden was laid down at least 300 years ago. The lower end was cultivated and separated by a wall running straight across the garden. The colossal Old Bishops Palace which still stands was completed in around 1860. In 1959 a major change took place when a new Bishops House built and the Old Palace came to be used by Norwich School. The garden was reduced from 6 and half acres down to the present 4 acres. Records show that in the 1940s up to 15 gardeners were employed reducing to 9 in the 1950’s and today the garden is looked after by 1 fulltime and 1 part time gardener, plus a team of volunteers.

The garden has a range of features typical of many grand gardens developed over the last hundred plus years – large herbaceous borders (which have a persistent ground elder problem and are to be successively dug up and weeds systematically removed in the coming couple of years), a small woodland walk and box – edged rose beds. There is a long shade border with Hostas, Meconopsis and tree ferns, all but the latter looking splendid on our visit. There is also a large wild grass labyrinth, very popular with children (I walked it and contemplated my life as I went…). This is of a size where it can be easily mown using a ride on mower, the gardener told me that he cuts it all down in the autumn and then the path edges are left for the various wild flowers and other species to grow up over the growing season.

There are also extensive shrubberies containing many rare and unusual plants, among these being a Hebe planted from a sprig taken from Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet in 1840. There is an organic kitchen garden and  ‘bambooserie’. The garden continues to evolve with new plants and features being introduced year by year. The Bishop’s Garden has developed links with Easton College, helping horticulture students gain valuable experience.

Though busy on our visit, including delightful music from a local Youth Orchestra and Choir, one can imagine the garden creating a peaceful mood – one where a succession of Norwich Bishops, stretching back 1000 years, paused to reflect, pray and secure spiritual renewal.

Sources and Links:

The Plantation Garden

The Bishop’s Garden

Old School Gardener

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