I, like many other gardeners who wish to add colour to their borders will plant annuals, which have been grown from seed, or have been purchased as ready-made plants from a nursery or garden centre. However, I have one deep red annual Antirrhinum, which every year appears in my garden as self-set seedlings, and this is due to the fact that I allow it to set seed. Antirrhinums are better known under their common name of snapdragon, which are not only superb, hardy, colourful plants loved by bees and other pollinating insects, but in my garden, have the added benefit of not being favoured by slugs and snails.
Last month I mentioned how Lupin ‘Polar Princess’ seemed to illuminate the dusk of a June and July garden. Well, during August my Yucca flaccida ‘Golden Sword’ produced two large spires of creamy-white flowers and these look outstanding(see above), especially so around nine o’clock at night. I had better point out that it is often said that Yucca’s will only flower every seven years, this is a fallacy as my yucca, being variegated seems to flower every other year, but Ron Mitchell who lives at the top of Central Avenue has a green Yucca that has flowered every year for over forty years. I must admit that I have never seen a Yucca set seed in the Midlands, this is mainly due to the fact that long tongued pollinating insects and humming birds, which are native to Mexico and Texas, cannot thrive in our climate.
For many years I have grow Schizophragma hydrangeoides(right) on the East facing wall of my house, this is a self clinging climber, which at first glance resembles a climbing Hydrangea, but Hydrangea’s have four sepaline bracts around each tiny flower, whereas Schizophragma has only one bract, but this is much larger. On an exposed trellis close to my garden path I planted Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Roseum’ and this has light pink bracts, but this year many of the bracts have a half moon piece cut out of the side, this I put down to leaf cutter bees. Whilst on about climbers, I have 28 varieties of Clematis growing in my garden and the oldest is a fifty-year-old Clematis ‘Jackmanii Superba’, which during July, August and September produces a mass of purple-blue flowers. I cut this Clematis down to within a foot (30cm) of the ground every February and it still manages to climb up an ivy covered line post and into the crown of a ten foot (3m) tall standard Ligustrum lucidum ‘Tricolor’, whose variegated leaves are a perfect foil for the purple-blue flowers.
My bog garden, although only around four square metres in size, contains thirty plants and these have mainly been chosen for their size, although there are six Hosta’s, four are miniature forms, and my four native orchids do not take up much room. I do however have three Iris siberica forms that I have to keep in check, also Iris laevigata, the ‘Japanese Water Iris’, which although ten years old and growing two feet (60cm) in height, still forms a tight clump. Iris laevigata has flattened flower heads with no beard, but it so attractive that all people with streams, ponds, or even waterlogged soils should grow it.
Zauschneria californica needs just the opposite type of soil and will only thrive in well-drained soils in full sun. I grow the award of garden merit form named ‘Dublin’, and this has suckered to cover almost the whole of the top part of the double raised bed on the South side of my greenhouse. Every year ‘Dublin’ produces so many tubular orange flowers, the top raised bed blazes with colour. Incidentally, the common name for this plant is ‘Californian Fuchsia’, why I do not know, as the flowers look nothing like a Fuchsia.
Let me finish with Dragon Flies. Each year I have a number fly around my garden. I do not have a water garden, I cannot see one locally, and as flying adults have such a short life span, the females need water plants on which to lay their eggs to enable the young to hatch, and then live in the water. In water, the young are like sharks and eat all small insects, tadpoles and even small fish, and after a period of up to five years, they will emerge, shed their waterproof coat and spread their wings to begin another life cycle.