Summer borders

Well I have to say, things are looking good from the terrace. I formed this bed of mainly perennials to wrap around the steps and form an enclosing screen of green and white which would obscure the parched and dog-damaged lawn beyond. I probably shouldn’t refer to it as a border, because it is actually in the centre of the garden and straddles both its sunny and shady sides.

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At this time of year the main players include Astrantia, Thalictrum, Lavatera, Hibiscus and a form of Lysimachia which I found at Witley Court a few summers back. There was no real plan to this scheme. Most of the plants I already had and needed to relocate. So despite the somewhat haphazard nature of its conception, I think it is starting to work well. Contrast is probably key to this success. Not in colour but in leaf form, flower shape and height. As I say, this was not planned but I will observe and learn from it.

The oldest and tallest of the inhabitants is the Thalictrum flavum, or Meadow Rue. The one I have here is susbsp. glaucum and its beautiful, delicate grey-green foliage is probably what first caught my eye. At this time of year it has reached its full height, and I am confounded by its ability always to exceed the 1.5m I am told to expect. I try to stake it, but it is too late to do properly. Whilst I have complained before about its having become a bit of a thug, I have learned to deal with it. In about June, as it is nearing full height, I reach for the secateurs and cut every other stem down to within about a foot of the earth. Over the following weeks, this will trigger new growth, so by now when normally I would be faced with an unmanageable mass of giant drooping and leaning stems, I can remove the few tall troublesome ones and watch as perfectly upright new stems start to rise and take their places.

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In contrast to the glaucus foliage and fluffy flower heads of the thalictrum, there is also the Lysimachia with its green strap-like leaves and vertical spires of tiny white star-shaped flowers. I don’t actually know which Lysimachia this is. The label wasn’t particularly expansive, and I think it could be L.ephemerum or L. clethroides, it doesn’t really matter. It came from the gardens of Witley Court which we visited four years ago and I recall buying the last two pots they had. In the four years since it has multiplied impressively, and continues to do so, providing a wonderful architectural verticality next to the looser form of a white Mallow I bought from the Beth Chatto Nursery, Lavatera thuringiaca ice cool.

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I have bought several of these plants over the years, but few have survived. The one I am left with, however, has thrived, and I wish I knew why. It has a beautifully open pure white flower comprising five perfectly heart-shaped petals and lends a kind of wide-eyed innocence which I love. Sadly by this time of year after many weeks of prolific flowering, it is beginning to fade and the petals are dropping. Luckily a neigbouring Hibiscus steps in about now and takes over.

 

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Hibiscus is slow-growing. I don’t remember exactly when I bought this one, but assuming it was at least ten years ago, progress has been glacial. Admittedly, I have moved it a couple of times, which I suspect it doesn’t like. It is Hibiscus Syriacus, and has a wonderful dark red centre and paper-like white petals which are a kind of sophisticated version of the Mallow. This year it has done very well, and its late-flowering habit means that there is something to look forward to in the later summer months when everything else seems to be fading.

I have Talked about Astrantias before, so I won’t go on. However their contribution to this bed cannot be overlooked, as they provide such a wonderful contrast in both leaf-form and flower. Their deeply lobed palmate leaves are a foil for those of its companions and their mass of tiny pin-cushion flower heads threaded amongst the taller occupants seem to tie the whole thing together in a composition which almost looks planned.

And I can sit on the terrace enveloped by their burgeoning foliage, blissfully ignorant of Dixie’s continued and frequent toilet visits to what remains of the lawn.

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6 thoughts on “Summer borders

  1. I had spent a good deal of my time looking for someone to explain this subject clearly and yo2r&8u17;#e the only one that ever did that.I really appreciate it. Pretty insightful post.Never thought that it was this simple after all.

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  2. Very pretty hibiscus and white mallow (Lavatera thuringiaca). I’ve a pink mallow in my garden, but it’s not nearly as pretty. I need to do what you’ve done and make certain I have something in bloom spring, summer & fall.

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