Gardens can be a tricky beast, at the mercy of so many variables they can become a cause of frustration, sorrow, joy, elation, discovery and passion. Pick your destination, hold the course, and let time take care of the rest.
They may have waited until July, but the wildflower beds on the South Front are finally singing and definitely worth the wait. As soon as the first Linaria maroccana begin to open, you know you’re onto a winner. We’ve used a couple of similar mixes in the past and this has always been the case. A couple of flashes of pink, purple or yellow and within the next fortnight the beds have erupted! They’re now full of poppies, flax, linum, gypsophila and many more, the bees are loving it and it all sets off the sweet pea wigwams perfectly. The second lot of sweet peas have now been planted so they should take us well into September with an abundance of flowers and perfume.
These mixes are a fantastic way to add instant colour to bare soil, but you will have to play the waiting game and that does always mean you’re at the whim of the season. We had a late start to this spring, so we had to wait a little longer than usual. Sometimes you just have to roll the dice.
These mixes are a great way to add colour to bare soil and with how varied they are it’s a nice way to create a new display each year. You can also sow them lightly onto areas that you might be wishing to develop as species rich grass in the future. As many of these mixes utilise plants that thrive on broken soil, they make a good stop gap whilst grass is forming underneath them. They’ll disappear after the first year or two, but hopefully in that time the diversity within the herb layer of the meadow will start to shine through.
We’ve taken a similar approach this year with the Heart Garden as we look to establish a small area of flower rich sward bejewelled with a selection of bulbs. We’ve used a mix calcareous grass and wildflower mix that is suited to our soil but have allowed for a sowing on some annuals to provide colour and interest in the short term whilst the other bits establish. Soon we’ll cut it all down and over sow with yellow rattle to remove the vigour from the turf edge that was put down, and as the annuals decrease year on year, the grass and herb layer will produce a more permanent colourful display.
Down on the Causeway the spirit of perseverance manifests itself slightly differently. It really highlights the variation that occurs with certain plants in different places and how each garden is so different. The apparently mutant form of Sanguisorba ‘Red Thunder’ that is currently trying to take over the whole border is far removed from the well behaved, delicate plants that were on the herbaceous borders. Perhaps dividing and moving them around a bit will calm them down. The small Stipa barbata ‘Silver Feather’ that went in just ahead of last year’s drought are just starting to grow away now. They’ll take a while to fill out, but their delicate arching stems bring so much to the front of a border when they’ve filled out that they’re well worth the time and growing space. Just a little bit of bulking up to do ahead of next summer. We’ll swap over the Monarda bradburiana and the Scutellaria incana as one has decided it wants to be taller than expected and the other is quite happy closer to the soil. These are all part of the fun of it, seeing what does well, what doesn’t. What’s going to be taller, shorter, broader, floppier than billed and of course how these plants will fare in a different garden situation
With the best will in the world it might not work out, but other times everything goes as planned. When it doesn’t, be prepared to adapt, but until that point, keep the faith.