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Very much a sign of early summer.

Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing' in flower

Whether it is the banks of cow parsley and other related umbellifers flowering down the verges of country roads, or the arrival in the garden of clouds of that variant of cow parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing', the umbellifers are a definite marker of early summer.

Perhaps this is why they are so popular among garden designers exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show.  There seems to be a certain amount of kudos to be gained from showing a new and exotic umbellifer - a couple of years back it was Baltic Cow parsley (Cenolophium denudatum) - it will be interesting what new exotics are brought to show!


Artemisia 'Powis Castle' - beautiful silver grey foliage and scent combined!

Artemisia 'Powis Castle'

From some of my previous posts it may be clear that I very much enjoy and value scented foliage plants.  Artemisia 'Powis Castle' is one of those really good value plants, which despite its lack of anything to note in the way of flower, I really wouldn't want to be without. It has amazing feathery silver grey cut foliage which has the most pungent aroma - it is cultivar of the tree wormwood!  As a shrub that originates in the Mediterranean, it loves good drainage and a sunny position, however I have found it to be reasonably adaptable.  By the end of the year it can get a bit leggy however wait until the last frosts of winter are over before cutting it back.

It is also bears the name of one of my favourite gardens, Powis Castle, which is just outside Welshpool, Powys.  The garden occupies a hillside position which gives it spectacular views and has some truly remarkable terraced borders full of a wide range of tender perennials.  The House is also well worth a visit! - National Trust - Powis Castle


Tree paeonies joining the display

Paeonia 'Akashigata' in flower

Further to my last entry - I couldn't resist posting a photo of this magnificent paeony flower which I saw blooming at the same time as Paeonia d. subsp. mlokosewitschii.  Paeonia 'Akashigata' is a fabulous Japanese tree paeony, which combines the most stunning flowers with fine slightly glaucous leaves.  Like the other paeonies, it doesn't flower for long - but it does have the advantage of providing a handsome foliage element in the garden when out of flower. Plus tree paeonies provide an interesting structural form in the winter garden once the first frosts have encouraged their leaves to drop.


Another favourite, the Honey Bush

Pots of Melianthus major

Along with Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Rex,' a plant with the most stunning foliage is Melianthus major, the Honey Bush.

Melianthus has been grown in this country for a number of years as it produces the most elegant, slight glaucous, toothed foliage. In colder areas, the plant is often cut back to ground level, sprouting afresh in late spring. However due to increasingly mild winters more gardeners are getting to see its flower spikes, which are produced on the last year's stems - strange hooks of rusty red flowers dripping a sweet sap - thus the name honey bush.  

I know at least one garden which had Melianthus trying to flower in February this year - a reflection of our warming climate?

Oh - one final thought - like Tetrapanax, Melianthus is very prone to sucker around which is worth remembering when choosing where to place it!


One of the really great tropical effect foliage plants!

Pots of Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Rex'

Continuing the current theme of foliage plants, one of my all time favourites, if just for the shock and awe factor, is Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Rex' - the Rice Paper Plant.

This is potentially a real giant of a plant, with leaves that can reach over half a metre across. Sometimes growing as a tree, on other occasions becoming more shrub-like, it is a real conversation piece of a plant.

While it does need a little bit of careful establishing and is prone to really hard winters, there are many of these growing in London gardens - sometimes a bit too vigorously.  Be warned - it often suckers around!   


Sweet Cicely - a most decorative herb

Sweet Cicily in flower

Myrrhis odorata, or Sweet Cicely is one of those herbs that happily grows in the garden despite one never really making use of it as a culinary herb.  It has I believe an anise flavour and no doubt can find can find various uses in the kitchen.

However I very happy just to enjoy its delicate foliage and flowers in the garden.



New month - yet more vigorous new growth!

Potted plant of Cardiocrinum giganteum

The May Bank Holiday is nearly upon us.  With some much needed rain, the increasing day length and sun strength the conditions are just right for getting thing growing.  

In the glasshouse we have some nice vigorous examples of Cardiocrinum giganteum, a really rather spectacular member of the Lily family from the Himalayas.  Given the conditions that they like, which is moist, humus rich but well drained soils in sun or partial shade, they will eventually throw up a flower spike of up to two metres high, topped by great white trumpet flowers.  Quite a sight!     


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