Pick of the Plants
Every year I try to grow some different plants, plugging gaps in the borders with annuals that I’ve grown from seed and a couple of new perennials. This keeps me interested and it means the garden never feels static; it’s always changing from year to year.
I’ll spend the winter months scouring garden magazines and books, and seed and plant catalogues looking for plants I haven’t grown before. Often there’ll be a plant that crops up time after time, with recommendation after recommendation and I’ll think ‘I’ll give it a go’.
For some reason these plants rarely live up to the hype. I’m not sure why, perhaps because my expectations have been raised to unrealistic levels by so many plaudits. Nasturtium ‘Ladybird Rose’ and the poppy Papaver ‘Amazing Grey’ have been recent disappointments – the former because the colour was a bit non-descript and the plants weren’t very vigorous; the latter because while the flowers looked lovely arranged in a vase, I found the unusual purple/grey petals looked odd in a garden border.
Having said this, the successes of trying out new plants far outweighs the losses, so I thought I’d do a round-up of my favourite plants from this summer.
Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Apricotta’
This half-hardy annual took a while to get going with such a hot and dry June followed by a cool and wet summer but by August it was blooming profusely. On my rich clay soil it wasn’t quite as compact as the seed catalogues suggested (height and spread 45cm), growing to about 60cm, but that was no bad thing. The flowers came in varying shades of pink and apricot and had an unusual almost neon glow about them. They proved very popular with bees and hoverflies and made lovely cut flowers.
Eurybia x herveyi
I love asters for their hit of long-lasting colour from late summer right through to November. Some asters I’ve grown have been prone to mildew but this one was super healthy, with branching stems that were topped with lavender-blue daisies. The slender petals were more delicate than those of my favourite, Aster ‘Monch’, and it worked really well planted in among ornamental grasses and alongside the silvery foliage of Stachys byzantina.
Nasturtium ‘Tip Top Apricot’
This mound-forming nasturtium (some are climbers/trailers, producing very long stems) was another one that took a while to flower, but once it did it was a cracking little plant. It conveniently filled in gaps at the front the border and artfully tumbled over the edges of the raised beds. I loved the soft orange flowers with splashes of raspberry red and so did the bumblebees. Nasturtiums are one of the easiest annuals to grow from seed and they’ll happily self-seed once introduced to a garden. They also make lovely cut flowers for little glass jars.
Echium ‘Blue Bedder’
Echium, or viper’s bugloss as it’s commonly known, is a wildflower that’s often found on shingle beaches by the coast in the UK. This named variety is more compact which makes it a good choice for the front of a garden border. I love the pink buds which open into blue, bell-like flowers. This is one of the best plants for bees and it has hummed with life throughout the summer. It’s another that will self-sow. The only downside is the plant is covered in tiny hairs which can cause skin irritation.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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