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Geranium phaeum - another cottage favourite

Geranium phaeum in flower

Thinking of cottage garden plants, here is another one of those great classics of the rambling border - the black widow or dusky cranesbill, Geranium phaeum.  The plant in the photo is G. phaeum 'Lily Lovell' which is a particularly fine variety with larger, lighter purple flowers.

The cranesbills are generally good performers with a long flowering season, especially if they are given a mid season cut back.  Many are also perfectly happy in a fair amount of shade.


Centranthus ruber - a great cottage garden plant

Centranthus ruber in flower

A plant that always makes me think of cottage gardens, stone walls and the seaside is the wonderfully generous Centranthus ruber - Red Valerian - although it comes in a variety of shades from white through to a deep pinky red.

Loving sun and good drainage this is a great plant for producing drifts of flowers buzzing wit insects. If it likes you it will merrily seed about and happily grows in cracks in walls.  It is also a plant that attracts cats - they seem to find something attractive in the smell of the roots / stems if they are bruised - rather like the allure of catnip!


Things slowing down as August approaches

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' in flower

By this point in the summer, things are generally slowing down as we approach the August lull.  The early show has long past and the Autumn display has yet to get going.  August always tends to be a slightly subdued month.

One plant that is stil putting on a good show is Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'.  Quite rightly there has been a lot of interest in hydrangeas over recent years - especially forms of H. arborescens and H. paniculata.  H. 'Annabelle' is particularly popular.


Cynara cardunculus - another magnificent thistle

Cynara cardunculus flower

On the subject of thistles, perhaps the most spectacular, and indeed largest of the ornamental thistles in the Cardoon - Cynara cardunculus.

Grown as a specimen plant, allowing sufficient space and light, it truly is magnificent. In smaller town gardens it can sometimes struggle to show its best.  Sometimes the slightly smaller cultivated globe artichokes are a better option.


Cirsium rivulare 'atropurpureum - a thistle of charm

Cirsium rivulare in flower

There are certainly members of the thistle family that I would wish to keep well away from the garden - creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) comes to mind and is an absolute little horror!

However the same cannot be said for Cirsium rivulare 'atropurpureum' which is an altogether more desirable plant to have in your garden.  Given good moist but well drained soil and some sun it is very handsome.  It has the advantage of height - up to 1.5m - and therefore make a definite statement when planted among lower perennials.


One of my rose favourites - Rosa 'Margaret Merril'

Rosa 'Margaret Merril' in flower

One of the plants that we used at the Miro gallery job - away from the water - was a real old favourite of mine, the Rose Margaret Merril.

Margaret Merril is a fabulous floribunda rose which produces the most beautifully scented white flowers with a hint of peach at their heart.  It has good dark green foliage and is simply a wonderful plant.


Another amazing performer

Tulbaghia cominsii in flower

This is another little star of a plant - perhaps not quite as dramatic as the Madeiran orchid, however this beats it hands down on the fragrance front. 

Tulbaghia cominsii is a very prolific flowerer, which given some encouragement will flower non stop from mid to late spring until near the end of autumn.  While only 15cm high, its produces the most delicate flowers with a heady clove scent.  The foliage is fine, slightly glaucous and grass like.  Like many of the tulbaghias it may seem a slight and delicate plant above ground however it produces a great volume of fleshy roots so beware of growing it in narrow-necked pots.

I picked this plant up at a plant show many years ago and I would be very upset to lose it.  It is a real charmer!


Just plain spectacular!

Dactylorhiza foliosa in flower

I saw these in a friend's garden and was unsurprisingly left amazed and not a little bit envious. 

Dactylorhiza foliosa (exact naming of these orchids can be decidedly tricky as they are often hybridise), the Madeiran Orchid, is a spectacular relative of a number of our native purple spike orchids.  If they like your conditions and are allowed to settle they can form the most impressive display of sumptuous purple spikes of flowers - and each individual flower is beautifully and delicately marked.  Here grown with ferns, hostas and brunnera they are truly magnificent!



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