Gelli Uchaf Plant Palette – Late May

Last 2 weeks of May 2016

1: Aquilegia vulgaris. The sort of plant we love, since almost none of those currently in the garden have been planted, they’ve just grown from seed which we’ve saved and scattered. For a good six weeks they light up the garden with colour – historically we’ve favoured dark blue or purple forms, but as with much of our planting, I’m becoming less of a control freak and pinks and even the odd red now creep in. It’s a brilliant, favoured nectar source for many bumblebee species as well, though honeybees don’t visit the flowers. It also associates so well with other cottage garden type flowers, and slugs and rabbits don’t touch it either. A short lived perennial, you do need to leave some seed to fall, or it will die out eventually. Is it a thug? We don’t think so…SDIM7008 (2)SDIM6880 (2)SDIM6994 (2)

2: Clematis montana ” Broughton Star”. One of the first Clematis we planted at Gelli, we love both the purple green foliage and masses of red pink, semi double flowers. For just over a month it’s a star performer in our terrace garden, and I’ve even managed to propagate this cultivar from cuttings, so have a few plants around the property. BUT it’s the classical example of an appealing to humans, hybrid, whilst being an insect free zone. So we have it scrambling over a wall, and largely hiding a Cotoneaster horizontalis. The wasps, bumbles and honeybees descend in hordes onto the Cotoneaster’s tiny and insignificant flowers, hidden amongst the splendid Clematis, and the terrace hums…SDIM6975 (2)SDIM6884 (2)SDIM7004 (2)

3: Meconopsis cambrica – The Welsh Poppy. Similar to Aquilegia, a vigorous seeding native, short lived perennial with big insect appeal. Lovely yellow, and occasionally orange, papery flowers. If you can be bothered to dead head them, it extends the season, but you usually get at least 8 weeks of flowers from it. Scatter the seed anywhere, and see where it pops up. You have little control over where it appears, but if sown in profusion amongst other plants it never dominates. A brilliant lesson learned for relaxed gardeners – I used to rip up all the orange forms. I never won the battle and now relish the informality of where they appear. They also look particularly lovely flowering amongst Bowles’ Golden Sedge, which narrowly missed this rather arbitrary cut…SDIM6898 (2)SDIM6879 (2)

4: Silene uniflora – Sea Campion. Another native plant which we love. A fairly long lived perennial, which usually flowers continuously from late April through to September/October. Grey green foliage, we always grow it from scattered seed, which survives in the poorest conditions, in at least sunshine for part of the day. For example amongst the cobbles along our front path. A coastal native it’s a brilliant nectar source for many moths, bumblebees and other insects, and the foliage survives through all but the harshest winter months. Scatter some of this along the fringes of all those paved urban front gardens and it would work wonders for our native insects.SDIM7000 (2)SDIM7013 (2)

5: Saxifraga urbium – London Pride. A common plant but brilliant ground cover. Bulbs can grow through it, and it co exists well with Purple Bugle, Ajuga reptans ” Burgundy Glow”, which is another favourite, but reaching the end of its period of flower in early June. Today in sultry weather, the tiny Saxifrage flowers were covered with honey bees, red faced from the Saxifrage’s pollen. It does just as well in dry shade as full sun, with us here…SDIM6885 (2)SDIM6954 (2)SDIM6894 (2)

6: Oxalis oregana f. smalliana. Another wonderful ground cover for a shady spot. A native of North American redwood forests, it spreads fairly slowly with us beneath mature Larch trees, and coexists with our native wood sorrel. But as you can see, the leaves and flowers are at least twice the size, and it seems capable of growing right up to the base of tree or shrub bases, giving flowers over about 2 months, and attractive leaves throughout the season. Cyclamen hederifolium looks good with it, and the purple leaves and flowers of Labradorean Violets.SDIM6893 (2)SDIM6784 (2)

7: Acer linearilobium. We grow a few Acers, and late May is one of their best seasons as the new leaves emerge. Many have been grown from seed, but this bought in medium sized species, is one with a lovely new leaf colour and shape.SDIM6889 (2)

8: Hesperis matronalis – Dame’s Violet/Sweet Rocket. A short lived perennial or biennial, which we grow in it’s white form. It fulfils the role of White Honesty (Lunaria annua) earlier in the year, by adding white flowers amongst more highly coloured plants and the diverse greens of late spring foliage. In addition it has a wonderful scent and if grown in sunny spots is a great nectar source for many insects. But if performs just as well in part shade. Unfortunately it doesn’t seed as prolifically as Honesty, and seedlings are a bit prone to slug damage, so it may be best to sow in pots or a nursery bed and plant out as small plants.SDIM6888 (2)SDIM6950 (2)

9: Azalea “Persil”. Late May/early June is the 3 week season for deciduous scented Azaleas here. This is a white with yellow throated form of the medium sized shrub, which flowers reliably and has a good scent. Always enjoyed when in flower.SDIM6886 (2)

10: Primula japonica. We grew all these Primula from seed and think it is a form of P. japonica. It is a stunning magenta colour and flowers before any of our other Primulas, reaching its peak at the end of May. Produces masses of seed, but individual plants are fairly short lived, and it seems to move away from areas where it has been growing thickly after a few years. It also has minimal insect appeal, but is still a firm and reliable favourite, and a plant which glows whatever the weather…SDIM6897 (2)SDIM6745 (2)

11: Valeriana pyrenaica – Pyrenean Valerian. Quite a recent addition to the garden it has a valuable role in giving colour, height and scent over a 3 to 4 week period, and associates well with Aquilegia. It’s visited by honeybees and some bumbles, and is slug resistant. The only caveats are that it seeds prolifically, which can be blown about like dandelion seed and so it’s probably best to dead head many of the plants after flowering. It also becomes quite a wide based plant, so has potential to shade out smaller early spring bulbs. But in damp part shade it’s a great plant for us when used in drifts, and any unwanted seedling plants are easy to pull up, or move around.SDIM6854 (2)SDIM6859 (2)

12: Saxifraga fortunei rubrifolia. One of our favourite plants throughout the year. Many visitors think that it’s a Heuchera when seen at this time of the year. The foliage looks attractive, with olive green upper leaf surfaces with pinky purple undersides. It’s very effective ground cover emerging late enough to give early spring bulbs a chance if planted amongst it. It survives in quite deep shade, or full sun, provided it doesn’t get really dry (rarely a problem here). So we enjoy it for most of the year…and then it’s star turn occurs in September/October, when it explodes into flower spikes with thousands of tiny white Saxifrage type flowers. And it’s easy to propagate by pulling apart larger plants in the autumn, and replanting the smaller pieces.SDIM6890 (2) __________________________________