End of month view-July 2016

Another month, another transition, or so it seems to me. July seems to have been the month when the pinks, reds, blues and mauves of early summer yield to the yellows, oranges and scarlets of late summer. I’ve gone overboard on Dahlias this year. I bought 20 new varieties from Varfell and while a few didn’t make it, most are seriously strutting their stuff. Mix in some Heleniums and begonias and I’m set for months of colour.


I discovered that the view from the bathroom is better than from the bedroom, except for having to hold the camera at arms length so as not to get the window in the picture. Imagine a line from the top left to bottom right; above it everything gets sun most of the day, below gets shade for most of the day. Thus I have a ribbon of sun loving, hot coloured planting above the line and cool pinks, blues and white below it.


Dahlias do things with colour that nothing else can match. They seem to have a clarity and intensity of colour that sets them apart. It seems that gardeners either embrace it or reject it. Some people try to do both, going for Dahlias with washed out pastel shades or squiffy, very dark flowers. I don’t myself see the point in that, but each to their own.


Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’

A lot of people seem to struggle with Heleniums, which I personally don’t understand as they seem to grow fine with minimal input for me. Having said that, ‘Moerheim Beauty’ has not grown anything like as well as ‘Sahins Early Flowerer’. ‘Chipperfield Orange’ does well too, flowering a bit later and quite a bit taller. They are hugely popular with butterflies and bees.

Our small front garden faces south and has the white wall of the house at its back. Agapanthus love it, with ‘Northern Star’ being one of the best but sadly also the most popular with slugs. Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’ flowers at the same time making an interesting combination.


At the foot of the house wall we stand out a great many pots for the summer, mainly of succulents but also a few with bedding for colour. I picked up a Pennisetum at the garden centre which is doing well; just noticed it has a cricket on it. At least it’s not locusts. I must see if I can find its label and I must water it, now!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This end of month snapshot is my contribution to the Patient Gardener’s end of month meme. Check it out for virtual visits to a host of other gardens at the turn of the month.


Allotment update

It is the nature of allotments that both inputs and outputs are almost always little and often rather than big, one off events. Ideal for blogging if you’re into all the minutiae, not so much if you’re not.

My Kestrel potatoes now have blight and I will take the tops off in preparation for lifting them. Shame really, another week and I’d have had a better yield of baking size spuds, which as far as the other half is concerned is all they’re fit for. They break up if you boil them. The maincrop Sarpo Axona are clean as a whistle and will stay in for some time yet.


Blighted Kestrel alongside healthy Axona


My onions are the best I’ve ever grown; at least that’s how they look, but they’re not bulbing up as enthusiastically as I’d like and my sister rang yesterday because hers were looking great but have gone down with mildew. I’m cautiously optimistic about mine.


Onions doing well, small patches of salad and slow leaks.


My runners are now flowering freely, though I’ve yet to see a bean. Can’t go wrong with runners though, or can you? I didn’t do very well last year. Peas are fantastic, my Greenshaft have the biggest pods I’ve ever seen. Hope there’s room in the freezer.


Firestorm Runner Beans and Hurst Greenshaft peas, looking good. Hours and hours of shucking peas, I can’t wait.


Sweet corn was a disaster; I’m inclined to blame leatherjackets as the stems seem to have been gnawed just below ground. I’m not too fussed, they can be replaced with winter cabbage. Corn is a lot of faff for not much return I reckon.

Salad leaves have been mixed; lettuce, which I was expecting to get mauled by slugs, has done well. Flea beetle rendered mustard and mizuna useless. Enviromesh or in pots in my tunnel next year.

Now that it’s a bit drier the slugs have diminished as a problem and their options for daytime hiding places are far fewer. Mostly they’re hiding under the same plants they’re feeding on.


Hydrangeas are to an extent the victims of their own success. There are very few plants to rival the mophead macrophylla hydrangeas for providing the maximum flower display for the minimum of effort. As a result they are absolutely everywhere and familiarity rapidly breeds contempt.

The good news is that they are also a rare example of a plant group where you can have your cake and eat it. Search around just a little and you can find varieties that are just different enough to escape being branded as ubiquitous, but are still floriferous and undemanding to grow. That at least is what I have aimed for when I have added them to my garden.

The July 2016 issue of “The Garden” has an article about Hydrangea serrata and its varieties, describing them as “more nuanced, refined, elegant and chic” in comparison to the mophead hortensias. I agree completely, I have six, plus at least one hybrid.

Hydrangea serrata ‘Shichidanka’ has grown only 3 feet in the many years I have had it. It is in shade, but within the rootrun of a sizeable maple, so it is often dryer than it would like. This year has been a good one for it, with plenty of moisture available and I have been rewarded with a fair sprinkling of tiny blue stars that whilst possessing a certain charm can hardly be described as a display. Herself has been trying to get me to dump it for years but I have resisted. I should propagate it and get it growing in a better spot.


Hydrangea serrata ‘Shichidanka’

Hydrangea serrata ‘Shojo’ is stronger growing, with lacecap flowers in abundance, each with only a few ray florets. The blue colour seems to have been applied sparingly, adding to its delicate appearance. In less acid soil it would create the same effect in pink.


Hydrangea serrata ‘Shojo’

Hydrangea serrata ‘Fuji-no-taki’ AGM has only managed to get about a foot tall and two wide in the four or five years I have had it. Reliably smothered in flowers each year, it has become a real favourite of mine. The ray florets are numerous and largely hide the fertile flowers; each being a small double with the bracts diminishing in size as well as getting greener towards the centre. It has a tendency for the blooms to become spotted in the garden but this is much more noticeable in photographs than on the actual plant. I have in the past grown it under cover and it didn’t suffer in the same way. Hopefully as it gets taller and the flowers get improved air circulation, the problem will diminish.


Hydrangea serrata ‘Fuji-no-taki’

Hydrangea serrata ‘Kurenai’ has the usual lacecap flowers but is distinctive for the strong red colour that they turn as they age. It starts out deep pink, inclined to mauve on my acid soil, with the small fertile flowers being blue. Dark stems and a dark reddish-purple flush to the leaves add to the effect. It is not the strongest grower and I shall have to ensure it doesn’t get swamped by the plants around it.


Hydrangea serrata ‘Kurenai’

Hydrangea serrata ‘Tiara’ AGM was named and introduced by Maurice Foster, author of the aforementioned article. My plant is now around five years old and stands around three feet tall with a spread of about five feet. It is hard to see a leaf for the amount of flower it is carrying. Mine is a clear light blue which would become pink on an alkaline soil. It hasn’t done it for me but I have seen it produce good autumn colour at RHS Rosemoor.


Hydrangea serrata ‘Tiara’

Hydrangea serrata ‘Sizun’ has far more ray florets than ‘Tiara’, approaching a mophead effect by comparison, a comparison that I cannot avoid having planted them beside each other. The serrated petals and green leaves edged purple save it from looking coarse but I may at some future date move it. Both plants suffer from such close proximity, ‘Tiara’ looks like it is producing a lesser display, ‘Cap Sizun’ borders on looking common.


Hydrangea serrata ‘Cap Sizun’

‘Garden House Glory’ is a variety I planted only this year. A hybrid between serrata and macrophylla, it is a lacecap that I am expecting to flower pink, even in my conditions, and to be repeat flowering. ‘Izu-no-hana’ is a macrophylla variety with double flowers in lacecap heads but again it has only been in the ground since last autumn, so no pictures yet.

The Dutch Ladies series of Hydrangeas appeared in suppliers catalogues around 2010. Hydrangeas were undergoing a big surge in popularity and a good many new varieties were appearing, something of a chicken and egg affair. To my mind the most distinctive of them were the ones that combined strong red-purple colouring in the new foliage with bicolored flowers, typically white with a pink edge. Hydrangea ‘Sabrina’ is perhaps the best of the ones I have seen, but sadly I don’t have it. The old Japanese serrata variety ‘Kiyosumi’ almost certainly had a part to play in their parentage, it having these characteristics but on a rather unruly plant.

Hydrangea ‘Selina’ and H. ‘Salsa’both have dark emerging foliage, going largely green by  August. ‘Selina’ has lacecap heads with ray florets that I have seen in reddish pink and purple-pink. ‘Salsa’ is a mophead with strong pink flowers grading to white at the centre. Both of mine are young plants that haven’t really got into their stride yet but from which I expect great things.


Hydrangea ‘Selina’


Hydrangea ‘Sabrina’

Around the same time but from a different nursery, I bought young plants of ‘Dolce Kiss’. It infuriates me when I see names like this:
HYDRANGEA macrophylla DOLCE (R) KISS ‘Dolkis’ cov  Hortensia DOLCE® Kiss
Nurseries are left not knowing what to sell it as, customers don’t know what to call it. Which is a shame because it is a beautiful plant. The new leaves are strongly infused with purple, the lacecap flowers have ray florets which are white with a pink or purplish edge.


Hydrangea ‘Dolce Kiss’

Anyone who knows Cornwall will know Trago Mills. Love it or hate it, there’s no getting away from the fact that their plant centre can and frequently does turn up some surprising things. In this instance it was a large delivery of “You & Me” series hydrangeas. These are of Japanese origin and appear to be a range of compact double flowered mopheads. I suspect they have been treated to keep them compact but suffice it to say that the one I failed to resist was ‘Together’. Fittingly herself and I settled on it as the one we both liked. It’s gone in a pot, which scuppers its chances of flowering blue without treatment, so I expect it to flower pink or purplish pink next year, if we haven’t killed it before then.


Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Together’

The last three, bringing the total to fifteen, which surprised me greatly, are Hydrangea paniculata varieties. A few years ago, after quite a number of new varieties had appeared on the market, the RHS ran a trial of paniculata varieties. They concluded that a lot of the new ones were a big improvement on a lot of the old ones and made a lot of changes to the AGM status within the group. Unfortunately, breeding has continued apace and the exercise could probably do with being repeated. I have ‘Unique’, ‘Early Sensation’ and one with no label. That’s the one in the picture, trained on a 30 inch stem so it shows above the low hedge that it stands behind. Generally reckoned to flower on current season’s wood after the macrophyllas are done, this one has different ideas. I may be able to identify it when it’s fully out, but I doubt it.