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July 2012

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Alstroemeria, iron pyramids, thalictrum and rodgersia

Alstroemerias give me great pleasure, supported with sheep wire which is left in situ from year to year, the taller varieties look so good in a herbaceous border, and flower for weeks. They demand full sun and good drainage. I also grow the dwarf forms to 30 cm high and have them in front of dwarf spring-flowering rhododendrons.

My wife Rose has a cottage garden here within the garden at Lakemount and this has become a focal point during July and August for visitors. It is crammed with herbaceous plants and dahlias. A long timber trellis screens our compost area, and it is now smothered in flower - climbing roses, clematis and sweet peas scramble for attention. A long-flowering broom-related shrub, Genista ‘Porlock' has been flowering for months but now needs pruning and training back to the trellis, the same applies to April-flowering Clematis montana.

Rosa ‘Mutabilis' takes to training against the trellis also, and it will flower well into the autumn reaching two metres tall, producing single flowers in a mix of pink fading from orange, and with us, it never needs spraying. Galvanised iron pyramids or obelisks are so useful adding structure in winter, ideal for supporting the new Raymond Evison clematis varieties. Ideally pyramids need to be 1.5 metres to 2 metres high. The most floriferous varieties are ‘Angelique' which is pale amethyst; ‘Fleuri', dark purple red, and ‘Parisienne', a rich cobalt blue that will grow to a maximum two metres. I always plant them deep with lots of manure or compost.

Producing columbine-like foliage, Thalictrum aquilegifolium is a beautiful plant reaching 1.5 metres, topped with flowers of rich rosy lilac, and later on its seed heads are also very attractive. The relatedThalictrum delavayii is the queen of these, the flowers tipped with cream stamens that contrast with the pale lilac petals. The only drawback is its brittle stems, so lots of staking needed. Try underplanting it with foaming gypsophila. Thalictrum ‘Hewitt's Double' has tiny rosettes of pure lilac, a real charmer when planted with the blue-leaved hosta ‘June'.

Astrantia ‘Sunningdale Variegated' has been a great plant, originally purchased forty years ago from Marjory Fish, a knowledgeable lady gardener from Somerset. Having split the plant last autumn, the damn thing has reverted back with masses of green leaves. Today I have removed a variegated piece and potted it up in the hope it will clump up.

Thankfully, our Beschorneria yuccoides has recovered from the dreaded cold winters. I left it undisturbed except for a mulch of compost. The glaucous spiky foliage looks great against grey Liscannor paving, and I divided a piece which is kept in a pot for safety. I was given a packet of seed of Clematis alpina and, without much effort, they have germinated. As they dislike being disturbed, I have potted them singly in tall narrow pots, and next spring they should be ready to be planted in the garden.

For shady corners under mature shrubs, I grow rodgersias. With grand leaves like the foliage of a horse chestnut tree and pink flowers, Rodgersia pinnata ‘Superba' is fantastic. But I have had little success with Rodgersia tabularis because I had it in too dry a spot but I am delighted with Rodgersia ‘Cally Strain' which has huge heavily textured bronze leaves topped with late flowering pink flowers.

Fuchsias are the mainstay for summer colour here. They thrive on moist or dry soil and only need one pruning a year. Flowering this year started during May due to the mild winter and should last till late November. I like to plant them in drifts on the edge of a bed underplanted with spring bulbs, or used as pot plants. Sometimes I sink the pots in a bed to fill gaps. Cuttings taken now will root quickly, and by autumn these will be flowering plants.

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