Plant of The Month – August

It’s strange how a group of plants suddenly grabs you. August is the month of BYD’s. . . .eh?. . . Big Yellow Daisies to the uninitiated. All the heleniums, helianthus, helichrysums, helianthemums (well done, a cistus family relative not a daisy). We’d got Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ but that was about it. We weren’t worried but we were missing a trick.

Pettifers had been ticking along nicely, doing August rather well, with our grasses and asters, a sudden need for punchy colour would be filled by shoehorning in some crocosmias. Then, in a magazine, Gina saw Coreopsis tripteris. We did a mutual raising of eyebrows, a sly smile passed between us and we raced off to the Autumn Border – Gina won, she sent me back to get bamboo canes as markers just as I rounded the last corner a nose in front.

That was 2 years ago. The plants we bought sailed through their first summer and then through a very wet winter increasing in girth very well. This spring we decided we wanted more and so split the biggest 2 plants and moved the other 2 around to create more of a swathe rather than the 4 clumps we had before. As a result, this summer they have surpassed themselves with a good 3-4 months of golden yellow daisies on 6′ stems, waving gently in the wind – sturdy but still ‘see-throughable’. The Autumn Border is huge, very deep and all the plants are nearing 6′ (our groundcover is Aster ‘Sonora’ at 3′) so Coreopsis tripteris fits in as a touch of yellow, not as a bold statement plant as it would in a smaller border. But it would work in a smaller border, yes it’s 6′, but it’s vase shaped, delicately leaved with a sprinkling of flowers and the stems are well-spaced – it’s like Verbena bonariensis in form, only on steroids! In drier soil or a drier/hotter summer it would be shorter. Frequent division seems likely to benefit it, it certainly didn’t like being crammed in the pot from the nursery, but then that’s typical of members of the daisy family.

Introducing a new plant can do more than give you the thrill of a new discovery. With us, it actually highlighted a deficiency in the border which we hadn’t noticed previously. The border had been too blue, too mauve, too sombre. If it hadn’t been for Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ (a BYD!) the border would have looked like a thunder storm was brewing. The yellow of the coreopsis blended in with the yellow and orange of the helenium and contrasted with all the blue and purple shades in the eupatoriums and aconitums

So for us, Coreopsis tripteris has ticked all the right boxes.

(Coreopsis is colloquially know as tickseed. So Sorry. Really bad horticultural pun. So, so sorry)


The Summer Season

9th August

When you think of this summer you think of a month of temperatures in the 90s. The garden stood up to it quite well, and although everything is flowering well I do not really like this time of year. We do not have a watering system, and all we can do is to mulch everything in the spring. Already we are entering into the soft autumnal light and lower temperatures in the 70s which is much kinder to the plants. We do not water unless it is newly planted, for example our new trees, the Crateagus laciniata, Magnolia sieboldii, and the new grasses.

My puppy Pertemba has been a huge success and is absolutely adorable. All my friends kept telling me I must be completely mad to have a puppy and they have all been proved wrong! He arrived virtually house trained and plays with Tensing all day long. He enjoys all the people that we have round the garden. My younger son Thomas is engaged to Anya, a very beautiful Russian girl and I am now a grandmother to a little boy called George. This has really been an exciting year for me.

This weekend we had Sybille Kreutzberger to lunch and I was interested to see what she thought. She says what she thinks too! She was in such good spirits that she had us all laughing. She took one look at the beech hedge out the front and murmured “scorch” under her breath. It does look terrible as it got cut a couple of days before the temperatures in the 90s. As we have quite a lot of clipping we have to space it out otherwise it would be too much for Polly at one time.

On Monday we went to see Sybille’s garden and were greeted with a haze of soft colours and interesting plants. The colour was mostly coming from clematis, mostly the viticella variety, and made me resolve to have some more as August is a difficult month.

In our garden the geraniums, astrantias and acquilegias have all been cut flat, as you get the new foliage and sometimes new flowers. Allium pulchellum will seed everywhere and you wonder why you have it in the garden at all, although it is very pretty. Luckily we have had rain and thunderstorms for about 3 weeks. All the other alliums have been pulled out, ‘Globemaster’, ‘Purple Sensation’ and ‘Mount Everest’. We still have not got the Burgundy border right. It is difficult because when the Camassia and Allium ‘Globemaster’ are finished it leaves big gaps, and it is not a large border. We are going to put a Phillyrea latifolia at one end of it for structure and it will look good when you look down on it. The new yew hedge has grown very well as have the ‘soldiers’ in the courtyard . This year the dahlias look healthy and are all flowering. They were planted straight out in the Parterre without being potted up as the tubers were too big. I always get very nervous about the dahlias, though Polly seems to remain quite calm, as it is important they look good when they take over from the tulips. I do get fed up when you order things and then get something quite different. This happens with the tulips and the dahlias, because it then spoils your whole colour scheme.. We have ordered all our tulips and I cut out pictures of them from catalogues and paste them in a book saying which border they are going to go in. This is a great help for when they arrive. We are going to take Rose ‘New Dawn’ out simply because I am bored with it, and it is not very healthy. I think it would be fun to have a change. We have put two stone pineapples either side of the entrance gates, apparently it is a symbol of welcome. All our new Eryngium ebracteatum var. poteriodes are completely in the wrong place, they do not show up unless they are in the front, so they will have to be moved. They are a strange little plant, rather like a sanguisorba, probably better in the second year. I love the Ratibida pinnata, it remains to be seen if it comes through the winter. I do hope so as it is one of my favourites.


Our new stone pineapples!


Ratibida pinnata


Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ in the Autumn Border


Eryngium, Allium pulchellum and sphaerocephalum and Clematis ‘Alionushka’


The Lilac and Peach Border


Echeverias and sempervivums in pots around the blue bench


Path leading away from the blue bench lined with pots


Achillea and Stipa tenuissima


Pertemba! Our new Lhasa apso puppy

Summer At Pettifers

The most important event of this gardening season was when the head gardener of Broughton Grange Garden, who is called Andrew Woodhall, came to have tea with Polly half way through May to see our garden.
He loved it so much that he suggested having a link with us on his web site. Andrew is softly spoken and charming and had worked for Sting before going to Stephen Hester at Broughton Grange. Anyway Polly and I both agreed that it was a huge compliment, and we are now up on his web site.
It has been a terrible gardening year, and has rained every day which is bad for morale but it has suited the garden, which has never looked better. All the changes we made 2 years ago have settled in properly and grown well. The roses were a disaster, particularly the Portland ones, Jacques Cartier and the Conte de Chambord. just balling and not opening. We took The Alchemist out as it had such bad black spot, and is only a once flowerer. The star was New English Rose Port Sunlight, the flowers were not spoilt and the foliage is healthy. It was hardly sprayed as it was too wet all the time. Sally Holmes and Phyllis Bide were good.

A lot of people who came round wrote and said the garden was inspirational. A new feature at the front of the house is the sundial by Harriet James. It has gold lettering and is in two shades of blue. This summer has not been perfect for it as we have hardly seen the sun.
We are still struggling with the Burgundy Border, but think we know what to do in the autumn. Sue Dickinson, head gardener to Lord Rothschild at Eythrope, said that it had too many strappy leaves, which as I am always telling people to change foliage I should have picked up on.
It was exactly what Polly and I had already agreed. There were 3 or 4 things all with a similar leaf, and it is not a big border. She wants 6 of our scilla peruviana and some rose cuttings of Blushing Lucy. It is very difficult to find things that Sue actually wants. We are probably getting rid of all our scilla peruvianan, as the evergreen leaves get badly damaged and the flower is not big enough. It is possible that it is getting too shaded by the beech hedge which has now got pretty large. This year we have had 6 groups of Dutch to see the garden, who are always very enthusiastic and take lots of photographs of the huge teapot that we have, and the aga to our amusement.

We have made a new border which goes under the unromantic name of “the oil tank border” which is where the huge topped beech and the holly tree came out. It is coming on and not bad for the first year, we have in it a slightly strange clematis which I am not sure whether it is going to stay. This particular border is looking pretty at the moment. It has two very pretty grasses called stipa pseudoichu, they are white wands dancing in the breeze, intermingling with polemonium foliosissimum ‘Cottage Cream” which has been flowering for months. The strange clematis is ‘Dancing Smile’ and is a huge ball of soft pink and green. My Pileostegia Viburnoides is looking beautiful for almost the first time, as normally I dont like it very much.

About a week ago I got back from a month in Corfu, and was greeted by the garden looking marvellous. It is one of the best times for it in the autumn and the autumn border was a sea of colour, with asters, grasses, kniphofias, sedums, roses, dahlias. Polly has done all the clipping beautifully, and since she has been with me the garden is really transformed. Her hard work shows, and the only moment of desperation this year was when huge black slugs, but vast, were eating all the dahlias.