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July 2011

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Ginger lilies in pots, using garden obelisks and blue-flowered amsonia

Thankfully I do not have as many gaps in my borders as I had thought I might. But the plant house suffered badly. Of all the casualties I miss my enormous pots of clivias, Brachyglottis repanda ‘Purpurea' trained over two meters up a wall, and my beloved tender fuchsias. Due to lack of replacements, the house is a little empty.  Amsonia

I have just hard-pruned a defoliated Chilean myrtle, Luma ‘Glanleam Gold' and Azara microphylla ‘Variegata'. Ginger lily, or hedychium, replacements are ready to flower, they give a quick jungly look, grown in pots, I plunge them in borders or keep them near a door where we can enjoy their delicious scent. Masses of dahlias have been grown in pots, again plunged in borders, the pots will be lifted during late November and kept in a frost free area during their dormant period. I planted them in groups of three or five, my favourite being ‘Weston Spanish Dancer', its name typifies its yellow and red tipped petals.

‘Carolina Moon' has a cool appearance in shades of lilac and white, I should have planted Hosta ‘Blue Moon' in front of it for the perfect colour harmony. Dahlias make fantastic cut flowers, give them a weekly liquid feed until September. Cornus controversa ‘Variegata' looks cool, sheltered by a mature apple tree, which has ‘Rambling Rector' rose cascading through. I planted some camassias and alliums through the meadow grass at its base which are tolerating the competition.

For instant height in a border the answer is an obelisk. On a budget, one can create a natural effect using bamboo or hazel rods, tying in the four main uprights with strong string and weaving in some lighter supports for strength. The other two possibilities are hardwood or galvanised wrought iron, and these are available in many designs. From past experience, I now place a much higher obelisk than I think I need - at least two metres high with an extra 30 cm in the ground for strength.

These can be used informally as we have here at Lakemount in Rose's cottage garden, placing them singly or in groups of varying heights. Equally they can create a grand entrance using matching plants such as clipped yews to give an exact pair in shape. When choosing plants, avoid vigorous growers, such as wisteria or Clematis montana as they will outgrow their allotted space quickly. Sweet peas look superb trained up a hazel obelisk, keep picking the flowers for longer flowering. My favourite choice for an obelisk are the new shorter cultivars of Raymond Evison's clematis. Other planting choices include sweetly scented trachelospernum or the golden ivy leaves of Hedera ‘Buttercup'.

I am so glad to have removed both Allium sphaerocephalum and Crocosmia ‘Lucifer' from a border - they may reappear, so I am always ready with the fork. Both these plants are great flowerers, but plant them in bad ground or a gravel area. My river of gravel has masses of bearded iris, now being divided, the leaves cut by half and planted with its rhizomes showing over the gravel. Following on for summer colour will be mixed grasses inter-planted with seedlings of purple top, Verbena bonariensis.

Many tree ferns died last winter, and I have just popped some seedling tree ferns into the top of the dead ones, hopefully they should root in. One of my hot plants this season is Amsonia -according to American visitors here, whose it hails from, it grows much stronger here attaining one metre high, covered in July with blue flowers, and during late October its leaves turn butter yellow which contrasts against Acer var. dissectum ‘Garnet'. Look out for it, it's a winner!

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