Friday, 15 September 2017

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - An Annual Event

Every year I grow a handful of annuals to plug the gaps in my garden, and in September they strut their stuff as if there is no tomorrow. Which, in the event of an early autumn, is tragically the case. Perhaps I should elevate annuals beyond gap-plugging, but I love using them to lift a dull corner of the garden or to add a new dimension to permanent schemes so that each border is slightly different every year.
Cosmos bipinnatus 'Cupcakes'
Cosmos is a stalwart of the garden gap. This year I stuck to Cosmos bipinnatus 'Cupcakes' with its remarkable unbroken single petal. It might be beautiful but I should have known better than to attempt to grow a plant with baking connotations. Needless to say 'Cupcakes' turned out like many of my culinary efforts: disappointing. For every light fluffy sponge, there were at least three flops failing to develop that gorgeous cupcake shape. 
Cosmos bipinnatus 'Cupcakes'
I accept that I am no Mary Berry, but for once I am unable to blame my culinary inadequacies. Perhaps other seeds infiltrated the batch, or 'Cupcakes' isn't as stable as we would hope. Either way, I have some very ordinary looking Cosmos among the cakes. It's like getting turnip surprise when you’re looking forward to double chocolate gooey pud with cream and custard. I might be disappointed, but the bees like the flops. Then again, more cupcakes might have made us all happy. 
Persicaria orientalis
A year ago today I posted about my hope that Persicaria orientalis would do the decent thing and seed itself around*. The good news is that it has! The even better news is that it relocates well. I have dug up a number of plants and placed them where I want them and they have all thrived, although they are shorter than their parents, unlike one particular Nicotiana affinis. It has reached dizzying heights by comparison to its bedfellows and would give Nicotiana sylvestris a run for its money. 
Nicotiana reaching for the sky
Tithonia rotundifolia 'Torch' has exceeded my expectations. This huge, glorious clump of shining orange blooms towers over the sunflowers that are hanging their heads in deference to its marvellousness. Who can blame them? Even the wind and rain won't stand in the way of tithonia's magnificent display.
Tithonia rotundifolia 'Torch'

Zinnia elegans 'State Fair' has been brightening up a dull corner for weeks. Next year I plan to sow more. I had intended to add these beauties to the cutting garden, but got sidetracked on the walk there by some Zinnia-sized gaps in the border. 
Zinnia 'State Fair'

Cosmos was destined for the cutting garden too and fell into a gap in the border en route. Seeds were more successful in getting to the cutting garden. Marigolds and cornflowers are mingling together and look particularly loved-up.
I have cut very few cornflowers because they are so popular with bees, yet all of these annuals have been used at some time in flower arrangements this summer. They have made such a difference in the garden and indoors. I really should sow a greater variety of them in future. Which annuals do you use for plugging border gaps and flower arranging?


I am linking this post with Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at
Why not pop over there and see what is blooming in gardens elsewhere in the world?

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Secret Gardens of East Anglia

Beautiful books with depth seem to me to be a rarity. Many of the visually arresting publications gracing my coffee table and shelves have little to say beyond the photos. Secret Gardens of East Anglia differs in that it might have been two books. One, a masterclass in photography by the hugely talented Marcus Harpur, who, sadly, died recently; the second, a fascinating insight into gardeners and their gardens by Barbara Segall. The two combine to create a visually delightful experience and an exceptional read. 
Parsonage House (Photo: Marcus Harpur)
The private tour of twenty-two gardens ranging from a dramatic, densely planted city plot to spacious stately homes is a joy. I have lived in East Anglia for almost half of my life. Some of the gardens in the book I know well, others are new to me. Proximity is irrelevant though, as this is a book for everyone who loves gardens, regardless of whether they will ever set foot in East Anglia.
Ulting Wick wildflower meadow (Photo: Marcus Harpur)
Yes, I want to visit the gardens - who wouldn’t after drooling over all those mouth-watering photographs? But the stories of the gardens and their gardeners, so engagingly told by Barbara, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and propelled me outside to reconsider my own plot. The stories and photographs in this book have inspired me to be a braver, more audacious gardener. To garden bigger and better and with greater passion than ever before.
Wyken Hall (Photo: Marcus Harpur)
I must confess that I know Barbara and I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher. That said, had I not been given a copy, it would have been at the top of my Christmas list. I have returned to Secret Gardens of East Anglia on several occasions since I read it for the first time. It is, without question, my favourite book of the year.