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July 2008

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Purple thalictrum, interplanting heathers and over-planted photinia

Spring-flowering shrubs can look dull during this season so I like to contrast them with touches of herbaceous plants. In front of viburnums and skimmas that are out of season, I have planted some fine-leaved Thalictrum ‘Purple Marble', which has leaves stained with purple and grey, and its lilac flowers will last for weeks.

The yellow daisy Euryops pectinatus flowers for nine months but has to be cut hard back now and looks ugly, but a giant kale, Crambe cordifolia, planted in front will produce masses of scented cream fluffy flowers with large coarse foliage. To extend the season try some long flowering Penstemon ‘Rich Ruby', but don't forget to deadhead it regularly.

Winter-flowering ericas will tolerate limy soil, but they are boring in summer, so interplant them with a low grass, such as pennisetum, especially the hardy variety Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Red Head'. Another good complementary plant is Fuchsia ‘Genii' with red and purple flowers over golden foliage, and pop in some Gladiolus papilio at the back of the bed to flower till October.

In a shady situation beside mature azaleas, veratrums thrive and make a great summer companion. Their huge pleated leaves set off lots of small white flowers and the veratrums flower till late autumn. For an edge of border plant, I grow Roscoea cautleyoides, its yellow flowers setting off dark-leaved heucheras. The superb winter-flowering Daphne bholua has Canna ‘Pretoria' with large green and yellow leaves as a contrast.

For dry poor ground, I find oenotheras thrive, underplanted with nepeta and Verbena bonarensis, and with tall miscanthus and phormiums behind. This is also the ideal area to keep those invasive plants under control like macleaya and Geranium palmatum.

Generally, photinias are overplanted, but it is a good plant when cut back regularly and in summer white-flowered watsonia looks superb against it. Gillenia trifoliata is a graceful plant with spidery white flowers and leaves turning orange later on, and to extend the season try some eucomis, the pineapple flower, in a sunny site.

Summer flowering climbers look wonderful when trained over a pergola - my favourite is bomarea, growing each year to two metres high and flowering well into autumn with orange tubular flowers. Clematis ‘Polish Spirit' thrives here with its fine purple flowers. Sweet peas planted up tripods are good this year.

Generally, photinias are overplanted, but it is a good plant when cut back regularly and in summer white-flowered watsonia looks superb against it.

Nepeta and many daisy-flower plants, such as osteospermums and anthemis, need cutting back, a second flush of flowers will appear then. Pots sunk in the ground of dahlias and lilies are useful to fill the dull spots in borders. Lavender dislikes our rich and wet soil, but I grow them also in pots with great success.





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