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September 2011

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Outstanding campanulas, geraniums and robust Allium angulosum

The longest drought that I remember here in north County Dublin lasted from March to mid-June and finally came to an end on June 13 with the first welcome rain. But since then there has been barely enough rainfall to keep the garden growing. Trees coping best with prolonged drought are oaks, field maple, malus, pyrus, cherry, cotoneaster, pines and cedars. East2011

Dry conditions suited roses very well and there was a great display with repeat flowering of many species and cultivars still taking place particularly from Rosa chinensis ‘White Pet', ‘Blush Noisette', and the climber ‘Phyllis Bide'. Complementary plantings of delphiniums and aconitums were superb from late May to the end of June. The present display of blue-violet Salvia grandiflorum, Lythrum ‘Robin' and agapanthus are breathtaking.

Likewise the rock garden displays have been outstanding from late April. Dry conditions suit the majority of alpines and many are repeat-flowering after a long growing season which built up food reserves. There is a good display now from many campanulas including Campanula turbinata, ‘Yvonne', Campanula tymonsii, C. x stansfieldii and many of the Campanula pusilla and C. rotundifolia types. Campanula ‘G.F. Wilson' is probably the best campanula in the garden with its dark violet blue flowers and very neat habit. Several unnamed excellent dwarf dianthus cultivars are blooming again in shades of pink contrasting well with the various blue shades of the campanulas. Silenes are in full bloom now - pink-flowered Silene schafta and white Silene maritima, together with Gypsophila repens and Gypsophila tenuifolia, both pale pink. Sedum spurium ‘Rubrum' is a very strong pink but is needed among the more pastel shades. All the above alpines are in the west-facing rock garden along with many bulbs which thrive in these conditions.


The east-facing rock garden is again in full flower with Viola cornuta cultivars in shades of blue. This side is not as dry as the other side and suits these violas well, along with the early summer roscoeas and orchids. The backbone of the rock gardens however is provided by dwarf salvias, Allium angulosum, campanula-like Platycodon mariesii and two excellent roscoea species, Roscoea purpurea and Roscoea auriculatum. Geraniums are coming in to flower again including the native Geranium sanguineum and dwarf forms mainly of Geranium cinereum. Some welcome patches of yellow are provided by Sedum middendorffianum which contrasts well with the generous drifts of blue agapanthus and the purple spikes of Lythrum ‘Robin' in the lower moister areas of the rock strata.

I am currently building up a collection of reliable dwarf alliums. These are superb plants for the driest sections of the west-facing rock garden, where they take up very little room between the other mainly carpet-growing alpines. Flowering later in August they are invaluable in extending the alpine season. Allium sikkimense and A. beesianum are both very dwarf, blue-flowered species - better in slightly moister areas. Allium carinatum subsp. pulchellum in both pink and white forms is taller, to 40cm, and very graceful. These are placed so that they are not competing with any other alpine flower colours so their full grace and delicate beauty can be appreciated.

Allium flavum, a dwarf form only 15cm tall, is very attractive with its pale yellow flowers. Allium cernuum is very good here but flowers earlier in July. Allium angulosum is an excellent robust species with beads of lavender-mauve and will grow in wet conditions even better. These species along with several other unnamed cultivars in my collection have not proved susceptible to neck rot. A look-out is needed for rust disease which can affect some species such as A. beesianum and appears to be the same species of fungus that attacks spring onions.

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