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December 2005

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Pampas grass, eryngoes, cardoon and convalescents

Eryngium variifolium has also a variegated basal clump and steely spiny flowers The decaying contents are in the compost heap and their substance will return in due course to the beds that they have recently vacated. From the house the devastation is hidden by two enormous evergreen clumps; on the left a strong group of New Zealand flax while the right hand side is fronted by the gold-striped pampas grass, Cortaderia selloana ‘Aureolineata'. This is a favourite grass of mine, which is now ten years old . It just barely survived its move here almost seven years ago but since its recovery has gone from strength to strength and is lovely right through winter. Other grasses are slowly collapsing into anonymity. We usually lack the hard frosts that make them so attractive during winter in harder climates.

Associating eryngiums with other plants is not particularly easy. For this reason I avoided them until I moved here and found that they do well in poor soil. There's a good scattering now and I particularly like the varying forms of Eryngium bourgatii which have attractive variegated foliage. Eryngium variifolium has also a variegated basal clump and steely spiny flowers. It has made itself at home here and self-sows around quite a bit, a bonus if, like me, you favour the natural look in the garden. The tall Eryngium x oliverianum startles with its intense blue. It's probably the best blue I have. More highly rated for its architectural quality is the South American Eryngium agavifolium with fashionably green flowers.

Eryngium variifolium has also a variegated basal clump and steely spiny flowers.

The cardoon, Cynara cardunculus, has expanded in the left-hand side border and was constantly endangering the lives of its more delicate neighbours. It has wonderful silver foliage early in the season and blue thistle heads on two metre high stems in late summer, making it an indispensable plant for large borders. The leaves tend to die away in mid Summer as the flower stalks extend leaving a nasty decaying gap. It just had to be moved to the right hand border where taller, more robust thugs have their way, particularly as summer advances. It was a herculean task and was I glad when it was over. Shifting large perennial plants is a necessary part of the annual work and putting it on the long finger only increases the work load.

The left hand side of the front garden has a particularly thin layer of soil and many of the plants there have been slowly deteriorating. I spread a good many heavy loads of compost here in the autumn and hope to give it an extra boost with manure in spring. In the meantime I've removed some terminal cases to convalesce in a richer, more comfortable environment.



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