The Autumn Border was first created about 20 years ago. I went to a lecture given by Bob Brown and it evolved round a vase of flowers which were flowering in the month of October. I remember coming home and feeling very excited as I had already had the idea of planting late flowering things at the very bottom of the garden. There were already two Sorbus Joseph Rock and an Euonymus Planipes. At that time there was a huge Cotoneaster Cornubia which I later took out as I found it too huge and unattractive. I dug the whole bed myself, which was relatively easy, though I do not think I could do it now, as the soil is very good down there. I then planted three groups of Miscanthus Yakushima Dwarf. Dwarf is laughable as they are huge. There were three plants in each, this was my lack of knowledge as I could have got away with two. Years on we have now taken out the middle one as they were trying to join up.
This year I am loving the border. We have put in three groups of Achillea Gold Plate. Amazingly they seem to have stood up on their own, and we have repeated them along the border. Helenium Sahins early flowerer, which flowers for three months if you dead head it. They are next to various Monardas, making beautiful Indian clashing colours. I would never have thought of that if we had not gone to India about ten times, and the colour schemes really appealed to me. We are repeating Eupatoriums along the border, and Rudbeckia deamii twice. A few years ago I would have not been captivated by yellows, but I am beginning to love all these strong colours. There are also plenty of Aconitum Carmichael (which are a strong blue, planted together with white, these are all flowering in October. This border is wavy but all very wide. It is basically a blaze of colour. Nothing is supported in this border.
The borders are still at their peak. The Hemerocallis are flowering, and for them to look good you should really take off spent heads and pull out the dead leaves. You might think I am being fussy but it really makes a huge difference. Corky had finished a while ago but it dies better than others, the one with the brown stripe on its flower. Janice Brown looks lovely, peachy coloured, but only if you do what I suggested earlier on. I am going off the larger flowered ones, partly because they die badly due to their size. In fact I think I will get rid of them. One of their advantages is that the leaf comes up very early.
The Agapanthus are all flowering, not only do they have a very good leaf, but it is rather fascinating the way the flower emerges from a kind of sheath. Hemerocallis Quink Drops is doing it at this moment. This came from Graham Gough, Marchants Hardy Plants, and anything from there is a star. It is strange how many people come to the garden and think that agapanthus should be grown in pots. Another very special one is Indigo Dreams, very very dark blue. Agapanthus Windsor Grey is a very soft mauve grey, and does not seem to mind being smothered with alliums and camassias early on. All other things would mind.
Not many people seem to grow Monardas rather to my amazement. The colours and the shape of the flower as it opens are very special. I love to touch them as they have a lovely lemony smell. You can do wonderful colour combinations with monardas, as they flower at the same time at Helenium Sahins early flowerer, which flowers for three months if you dead head it. You can do it in chunks, not singly. We had the hottest day I have ever known in England a couple of weeks ago, really unpleasant, but the garden survived, probably because it only lasted two days. I could not even walk the dogs round the block, I turned round and came back half way!
The last rose to flower, Blushing Lucy, is flowering its heart out up our last remaining apple tree. It was a gift, years and years ago, from the famous Mrs Merton’s garden, where Sue Dickinson worked for some time. I went and looked at some pots that Sue has just done, and realised immediately how hopeless mine were! I have tried to improve them, and resorted to going to Burford Garden Company, where I could not find the plants but managed to find the right colours which was better than nothing! All the Eryngiums are flowering, and what a spectacle they are, the blue of the flower and the stems is so beautiful, and they last a long time. Someone came round the garden at the weekend who said that they did not like blue, I could not believe that I was hearing right.
My younger son Thomas took me to this film on Piet Oudolf that has just come out. I enjoyed it a lot, and in fact would like to see it again. I dont agree with everything he says or does, but a lot of his ideas are really worth listening to. The grasses that I grow in my garden are looking amazing at the moment, particularly the Calamagrostis, El Dorado, Avalanche, and a couple more. What else looks pretty and fresh for months on end, and involves no deadheading or maintenance. I have to admit that I had to experiment with several of them until I discovered what suited my garden. James has now retired, and I am really enjoying having him around, he has taken over my Pilates teacher, Mei! We had a photographic workshop with Clive Nichols, and James adored it, and said he learnt a lot. Clive is a really good teacher, and makes it all fun.
We are cutting back at the moment. For example all the Astrantias, as if left would just seed everywhere, and if cut flat and watered will eventually flower again in the Autumn. What we call the soldiers near the garage, I am cutting raggedy, as I think they look better that way. I will put a photo on sooner or later. All the Alliums have been pulled out as they also would seed and do not look good after a while. Nepeta Nuda looks lovely, and she stands upright which is more than other nepetas do. I am so pleased with the garden this year, and cannot find anything to grumble about.
The incessant rain that we have had lately has transformed the garden into a magic place. The colours are soft and remind me of Ireland. The growth is amazing and everything is standing up. Finally the colour combinations are working, particularly the placing of Camassia Electra in two of my borders. It is a very pale blue, a beautiful colour. Sybil Kreutzberger told me you should plant Camassias in the grass, which I do at the bottom of the Avenue of Malus Transitoria, but the odd one in the beds transforms the beds at that time of year. I have since discovered that there is a pale pink Camassia and am thinking of planting it in the Autumn border at either end where there is plenty of space before the perennials bush out.
This seems to be a year for disease. Geranium Ardennes, with an interesting bright red flower, is covered in whitefly, so that the leaves have all turned black, in fact I am so fed up with I am going to throw it away. It is a tricky number anyway! Euonymus Cornutus Quinque Cornutus, a real mouthful I know, its top branches are decimated by some insect and Polly has had to spray it. This is one of my most unusual plants in the garden with tiny brown flowers and amazing berries in a a kind of five pronged hat. The Verbascums have unattractive looking caterpillars on their stems, and the Lilies in pots have to be watched for red beetles. I hope this is not enough to put you all off gardening! Yesterday morning I discovered a lot of black fly on some of my Achilleas.
Allium Firmanent is now flowering, a dark coloured mauve June Allium, very useful, and Dianthus Carthusianorum, slightly difficult, but unusual and lovely. The star of the garden is Stemmacantha Centauroides, majestic, with a grey leaf and white tennis balls on top which look as if they have been wrapped by Christo. I am so sorry that I cannot put any photographs on, but my i pad is refusing to load them and I have to find time to spend some time with Apple to get them to sort it.
The whole picture of the garden and the colours have changed. It is time for the alliums to take the stage, and they certainly have. Allium Purple Sensation reigns supreme on the main lawn on either side. At the bottom of the bank in the Burgundy border is Allium Globemaster, a softer mauve and a shade bigger. You have to watch the alliums carefully that they dont take over. Last year and the year before we took a lot out. Even more dangerous is. Nectaroscordon, given me by Victoria Wakefield. They smell too strongly, not a pleasant aroma, and Polly and I. do not think it is a good form. It slowly escapes from a sheath, and increases more in the ground more than you can imagine apart from seeding wickedly. In the Reine des Violettes border we have a June allium. Firmament, which is darker, and quite useful. In the Klimt bed is quite a lot of tall white alliums, called Mount Everest, white,, and quite a bit more expensive. I suggest you buy them wholesale from Peter Nyssen which you will find on line. The main border was vastly improved this year by planting Camassia Electra next to two herbaceous clematis which were dark maroon. They are also next to Thalictrum Elin and Thalictrum Anne which are both a shade somber. The colours together were beautiful and seemed to lift it. You have to remember that Camassias dye down to nothing so dont forget to plant either side things that will fill that space.
We have had perfect weather, a wet spring, which was badly needed, and the beds have joined up and are excitingly lush. Almost everywhere we now have got the knack of changing the foliage so they all look interesting before they start to flower . A lot of things seem to have grown a lot, surprising after last years difficult summer.
The peonies are starting to be the star of the garden, and I will put some pictures of them on in my next blog. I m going to try again with pictures
The tulips are not over, because there was very hot weather over Easter which is now followed by cold and windy weather which is holding the garden up. The borders are on the way to leafing out, and I feel I have made two quite big mistakes with my tulips this year. I thought I loved Belle Époque, and I now think it is rather strange instead of beautiful. I had my hopes pinned on Sapporo which is in the Chartreuse border, but find it deeply disappointing! Still,our new ideas for next year, now is the time to assess your tulips, I think will be absolutely lovely. The Chartreuse border, because we have taken out a large Skimmia Kew Green, leaves quite a lot of bare earth at the moment. The tulip Sapporo has let us down, not chunky enough and it does not really do what it said it would. It said it would start off yellow and turn cream. The Klimt border is always reliable, and tulip Sanne goes on flowering for a very long time. Out the front we have been sent the wrong tulips, which I am going to complain about! Couleur Cardinal, first spotted at Powys Castle, is glowing and has different shades of red on the outside. Ballerina never lets me down, and combines well with Purple Dream. In the par terre we have planted the same combination two years running, and it was much improved by the addition of Black Bean.
Both Cornus Controversa and Cornus alternifolia argentea are in leaf. The first one almost a month before the second. The ferns are unfurling, and Polly has mowed the lawn with swirls rather like Bridget Riley. It will be interesting to see what the Autumn Border looks like this year as we have introduced quite large sections of yellow, and the middle large clump of grass, Miscanthus yakushima dwawf, has gone.
Our new border with the Salixes irrorata has taken off. They were small when they arrived but with good roots and have almost doubled in size. Everything in the paddock has got so large, particularly as two of the large trees went in as whips. All of the camassias at the bottom have come into flower, and the Malus Transitoria are a picture..
For a change I can talk about two successes at Prosilio. When we arrived the whole wall of the courtyard was covered with the yellow Banksian rose, and how it stopped you in your tracks. It only went in two years ago, and looks so beautiful and very healthy. In Corfu you do not have to spray your roses, in fact things get planted and then forgotten about. Water is what they really need, as quite often it does not rain for four months which is very testing. I think our watering system furred up years ago, The tumble down walls on the property, which is about five acres, have all been rebuilt by Dmitri, and look splendid giving a lot of structure as you drive up the drive. The whole place is about five acres. The second success is our Echiums, there are fourp clumps of them and I was looking down the slope from the terrace and my heart jolted at the sight of three or four blue visions. Last year they looked so dead that I was about to get Giannis to get them out.
The first week we were here it did nothing but rain, apparently in a week it rained for the whole winter. It did make things a lot easier for me as I was weeding some newly planted rosemary round an old olive tree. I was coaxing it into life last year when it was not raining at all. Now thank goodness it has taken, and the rain helped me to do some weeding without wrecking myself. James is doing some what he calls cutting down the bottom, which is a huge help because I could not do that. He likes taming a landscape, rather than weeding. Gardening is so different here as it takes time to learn what is going to grow successfully on basically rock. The Kermes oak though pretty, is a pest, as it seeds everywhere, like in between walls, but it is evergreen and makes everything look natural. When we arrived here, fifteen years ago, there were no cypresses at all. We have a lot now and they are quick growing.
The best thing of all here is the view of the sea, Avlaki Bay, and Albania. The sky is so amazingly blue, it is really a paradise.