Thursday 31 December 2015

Plant of the Year 2015: Monarda 'Gewitterwolke'

Monarda 'Gewitterwolke', October, with Miscanthus 'Yakushima Dwarf'
Last year my friend Jimi Blake, from Hunting Brook Gardens in Co. Wicklow, brought me a selection of Monarda cultivars that he had found to be good additions to his regularly changing garden assortment. Among them was the German selection 'Gewitterwolke' - the name means "thundercloud", which he particularly rated. This spring space was found to accommodate the small plant in the main border: it motored ahead and with a judicious pinching-out of the shoots quickly formed a nice multi-branched plant, nestling between Miscanthus 'Yakushima Dwarf' and Aruncus 'Horatio', which between them have given it the perfect setting for the rest of the year. It is perhaps because it worked so well with the surrounding plants that it caught my eye repeatedly through the season, and thus has become my Plant of the Year 2015.

The dusky flowers and bracts must have suggested the name; here 'Gewitterwolke'  is seen in August with Dahlia 'Freya's Paso Doble' behind, another candidate for Plant of the Year.

Evening light just catching the flowers. Aruncus 'Horatio' behind and Dahlia 'Twynings Revel' beyond (Plant of the Year 2013)

Another very pleasing combination was formed with Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Orangofield'
Another excellent Monarda also deserves a mention - 'Scorpio', a Piet Oudolf selection that plays a big part in his plantings at nearby Scampston Hall, where I got the plant from, in fact (promptly split and shared with Jimi). It's a slightly brighter purple and stood a bit higher than 'Gewitterwolke' this year (next year may even them out), and made - and makes - a superb contribution to the garden. Both are supposedly mildew resistant, though they both had some mildew by late September or early October, but insufficient to be unsightly or cause diminished growth. Such mildew-resistance is essential in any Monarda I'll choose in future.

Monarda 'Scorpio' in August

'Scorpio' (bottom right) still looking great in early October.

Seeding heads of 'Gewitterwolke' standing firm this week, alongside (though not visible) the Miscanthus and Aruncus, despite best efforts of Storms Desmond to Fred over the past month. 'Scorpio' is also still in good vertical condition.

Garden People 2015

Galanthophiles: Jörg Lebsa, Matt Bishop, Steve Thompson

The Plant School: Rosemary Campbell-Preston and her group, The Savill Garden.
Nursery folk: Sue Milliken and Kelly Dodson, Far Reaches Nursery, WA

note the trousers

Designer dude: Dave Demers

West meets East: Dan Hinkley and Tony Avent, with Kathy Musial, Heronswood

Propagator, writer, conservationist: Robbie Blackhall-Miles

Name-changers (sometimes): the RHS Nomenclature and Taxonomy Advisory Group

Mother: Susan Grimshaw, Winter Hill, Cookham.
Rhododendronistas: David Millais, Hannah Wilson, RHS Harlow Carr Rhododendron Show

Plant explorer: Jens Nielsen

Belgian dendrologists: Abraham Ramnmeloo, Philippe de Spoelberch, Arboretum Kalmthout

Author, photographer: Troy B. Marden, Burnby Hall Gardens

Groundsman: Ben Paterson, The Yorkshire Arboretum

Devonians: Keith Rushforth, Dick Fulcher, Sorbus Study Day, Ashill

Plantsman: Gary Keim, Harewood House

Hortihorts: Darran Jaques, Rob Stacewicz, Soho

Saturday 19 December 2015

Seventeen degrees

The almost unprecedented spell of mild weather continues unabated, and seems likely to extend into January. Although there was little sun, a warm moist wind has blown all day, with temperatures of  16-17oC through the middle of the day. Such temperatures are comfortable for us, and help on the fuel bills, but are not good for the garden or the wider environment; actively growing plants will be vulnerable if a hard frost comes. Fitting these temperatures, or other 'abnormal' weather into the picture of global climate change is difficult, but surely they are part of the complex jigsaw that is only going to get muddled further as time goes on.

Crocus laevigatus 'fontenyi' at RV Rogers nurseries, Pickering, at lunchtime - the flowers open as far as they would go without recurving.

Galanthus elwesii 'Mrs Macnamara' usually comes into flower in early January: it's at least two weeks early this year.

'the colder the weather is, and the deeper the snow is, the fairer and larger is the floure, and the warmer that the weather is. the lesser is the floure, and worse coloured' - astute observation by John Gerard in the 16th Century, confirmed by the miserable flowers of Eranthis hyemalis 'Lightning' just appearing.

Well-developed flowers on this seedling hellebore

The mild weather made it quite a pleasure to get outside and get on with cutting down the perennials. Strong winds earlier in the month had wrecked most of the standing stems, and the next season is coming on apace below, so there was no compunction in going for it.

The Silver Sebrights found good pickings around the bases of the perennials - they're particularly fond of young snails.