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June 2004

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Flat out in June, miracles, a teaser and Rosa laevigata ‘Cooperi'

I'm flat out this month - in June gardening triumphs over all other activities. Visitors are expected and the garden has been tidied over and over again to bring it up to viewing standard. It's very satisfying to have my efforts admired and even criticised. In June also the Wicklow countryside is at its stunning best and I occasionally take a day off to visit other gardens in the county. This is all part of the gardening process and I never regard it as time lost. Even the more humble gardens will often have a plant or a feature unique to itself and make the visit worthwhile. At the very least you can meet new gardeners or unexpectedly run into long-lost friends. A further bonus is that the open gardens often have unusual plants on offer. Several of my most interesting plants have thus been acquired - legitimately - during garden visits.

Such a teaser is Symphyandra armena, a monocarpic member of the campanula family.

It's easy to sow seeds in early spring, full of enthusiasm at the start of a new gardening year. The lip-smacking range available lures me into ever-increasing the number of species sown. As soon as germination starts the anticipation and pleasure is tempered with the realisation that a great deal of work is involved in pricking out, labelling, potting-on and watering through that crucial first few months. The cool shaded side of the house where all this activity takes place is, at the same time, the most interesting, and the most aggravating, part of the garden. It is constantly under siege from droughts, floods, slugs and cats. Miracles occur surprisingly frequently and the babies become flowering adults - only then showing that the packets are sometimes wrongly labelled.

Such a teaser is Symphyandra armena, a monocarpic member of the campanula family. I have grown it sporadically for years as S. zanzegura but recently read that the plant in cultivation under this name is really S. armena. This was rather puzzling as the Alpine Gardening Society's Encyclopaedia of Alpines describes S. armena as white, whereas my plant is blue. No doubt the true plant will appear sooner or later. In the meantime the plant has died and I'm searching for self-sown seedlings ; so far without success.

Most gardeners are enjoying the June flush of roses now. My garden is somewhat short of rose-power but Rosa laevigata ‘Cooperi' which I brought as a cutting from Bray five years ago has proved again to be such a beautiful plant. Known as Cooper's Burma rose, this evergreen cultivar has red stems and lovely, white wild-rose flowers - it was raised at Glasnevin from seeds sent from Burma and it may be a hybrid. Perhaps I should be searching for more roses that would appeal to my taste.

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