Five plants I really regret

I wish I’d never allowed these five plants a home

Sure, weeds are a pain. But weeds are something inflicted upon us, through no fault of our own. They are nothing compared to those spectacular great planting mistakes that you have no one to blame for but yourself.

Oh yes, weeds may get you down with their persistence, but they don’t make you feel like a clueless, naive fool every time you go into battle with them. Nor did you spend good money acquiring them.

No, the biggest planting follies in my garden are entirely of my own doing – with more than a little help from the cheery plant catalogues. For their relentless optimistic euphemisms definitely played a role. By time I learned that for ground cover, you must read rampant weed, for fast growing you must read thug and for robust you must read completely indestructible, ever – the damage was long done.

So just as I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self that dying my hair black was a really really bad idea (the bath will be ruined and your eyebrows will look weird), these are the tips I would give my less experienced gardening self, should time travel ever allow it.

Younger me, whatever you do, don’t be tempted to plant…

Crocosmia Lucifer

Crocosmia Lucifer and bee

Crocosmia Lucifer - a beautiful thug with world domination on its mind

Oh crocosmia, how deceptive your apparently fragile charms. How splendid your red flowers. No wonder my early visions of the garden featured bold rifts of sparkling scarlet. And yet how soon you abused my generous hospitality. Like a particularly socio-pathic house guest from hell, once I realised just how comfortable you were going to make yourself, the battle was already lost.

My fight with this plant is well documented in this blog (and has already resumed for 2012). Yet despite repeated weekends on my hands and knees, several broken spades, bleeding hands and bucket after bucket of rock hard giant corms, these thugs are going nowhere.

And the things they never tell you about this plant – yes the flowers are pretty for about a week. Then the leaves turn to brown scrappy strings – and the corms get so huge and dense so quickly you can forget about planting anything else in the same space.

“Don’t plant it at all, ever” says my time travelling self!

Quickthorn

Sigh, no one at all to blame but myself on this one. Afterall, the clue was clearly in the name. Quick – oh yes. Thorn – too bloody right! This plant does make a good hedge, so it is not completely evil like Crocosmia. It keeps out predators, and although I haven’t tested it, I’m sure if you have a problem with roaming grizzly bears, elk or maybe even elephants, this will surely keep them at bay.

Unfortunately it doesn’t just prick you with its thorns, it violently stabs you. And because it is so quick (yes, I know, its in the name…) it needs regular pruning so chances of being stabbed are high and its alleged flowers and berries never appear. I’ve had to give up composting the prunings and now burn them in situ for my own physical safety.

It is far too thorny to even think about removing – but boy I wish I’d picked the beech or hornbeam for my hedge!

Time travelling Vicky says “it’s cheap for a reason!”

Pyracantha – yellow berries

pyracantha

The flowers and berries don't offset the serious thorn power

It has never lived up to its promise of appealing to the birds – they refuse to touch its yellow berries – and even the bees are snooty about it, much preferring the horribly stinky cotoneaster which flows around the same time.

All this plant is good for is growing quickly, some pretty berries and savage thorns – not a particularly unique niche, and one filled by other more agreeable shrubs in my view.

At least so far it hasn’t been that hard to remove (at least if you exclude all the bleeding).

“The birds avoid these and so should you!” is the back through time advice on this one.

Polemonium

polemonium

Lovely in isolation - shame they don't stay that way

These blue and white flowering plants are like those hapless teenagers who advertise their party on Facebook. You love them in isolation but that feeling is hard to maintain when 200 thuggish friends are rampaging through the garden. You wish they’d just learn to behave responsibly.

Vigorous, self seeding, shady loving, hardy, prone to flopping over in wind and rain (which we have on the odd occasion here in Scotland) – they also have the annoying habit of going straggly after flowering and seem to deliberately harbour colonies of couch grass in their roots.

I don’t remove all of them – the bees love them and they are pretty – but I do regularly have to purge great swathes from the borders as they soon choke everything else. But at least they don’t have thorns, poison or rock hard corms…

“If you must use these (really wouldn’t delphiniums be so much nicer?) keep them at the back of the border and don’t let them get out of control. Good luck with that!” says my wiser time travelling self.

Bamboo

I can only apologise unreservedly to my entire neighbourhood for introducing this one. Especially as it prefers my neighbours’ gardens to its own and is making a full on invasion along the street.

A fine yellow stemmed plant – and a real bargain at that! Poor innocent me! I now know that I did everything wrong when planting this (I didn’t contain the roots, I planted it far too close to the fence). Unfortunately it’s way too late. Sorry about that… The canes are useful though, right?

My time travelling self says “seriously, don’t plant this – you may have to move, in shame.”

So there’s my top five! Periwinkle, lily of the valley, marjoram, epimedium, red dogwood, achillea – count yourself lucky you didn’t make the list too. Only your usefulness and charms make the pain of keeping you at bay worthwhile!

And if by chance you’re still thinking of planting Crocosmia Lucifer – I beg you, don’t do it ūüėČ

Nemesia carnival mix seeds have been priceless

Much of my summer planting may be still struggling into bloom due to the foul Scottish weather, but not Nemesia Carnival Mix. A single £1.49 packet of seeds from Suttons is responsible for about 70% of the flowering joy in my pots at the moment. In bold oranges, reds, yellows and pinks, every pot that contains, or is near these fabulous little plants looks better for it.  It puts a smile on my face whenever I see it.

nemesia carnival mixI am not on commission here, but for once, everything that the website said about this plant is true:

  • Yes – the plants flower quickly and brightly coloured – think dazzling oranges not wishywashy greyish pinks.
  • Yes – they are compact plants bearing large flowers, much more so than the Nemesia Paintbox Mix I have used in the past.¬† Compared to the Carnival Mix, the Paintbox plants seem quite straggly and weedy (though until discovering this variety, they have been my previous first choice of Nemesia.)
  • YES – they are weather tolerant.Even Scottish Highlands weather tolerant.¬† Even gales and four times the monthly rainfall in 2 hours tolerant.¬† Even low night-time temperature tolerant that has made the pelargoniums sniffy, which is a lot to ask from a half hardy annual.

They have been flowering for several weeks now and are due to go on until September (longer maybe if the weather holds, as I did  second, later sowing).  The plants in flower now were sown 20th February. I started them off in the propagator, then potted them into a bigger tray and moved them outside relatively early (after first hardening them off on the window sills).  They made good growth in April before being sat back, like everything else, by the miserable May.

I’m sure in warmer places they would have been flowering for months now, but given that my fuschia, lillies, phlox, godetia and lots more have still to break a bloom, I’m very happy with all their efforts so far.¬† Their rewards have been far in excess of the effort it took to grow them and both germination rates and survival rates have been very good.

I have only had one mature plant from the entire sowing go poorly on me and that is because I first baked it, then drowned it.  After giving it drying out time in the greenhouse tent, it is bouncing back with new flowers and the foliage has perked up.

According to Sutton Seeds’s website, I can make an August/September sowing for early flowers next year.¬† It will involve the plants moving indoors with me, but it will definitely be worth a try.¬† I assume I leave them to flower indoors, because I can’t imagine they will cope with the February/March temperatures here.

So, based on alround versatility, flower quality, ease of growing, size and bushiness and general loveliness РNemesia Carnival Mix is my flower of the year so far.  And I still have some of that £1.49 packet of seeds left!  These other images, taken today, show its full versatility, I hope:

Rain stops play in Inverness

Much anticipated, my day in the garden – like the Scottish Open Golf Championship here in Inverness today – simply didn’t get to be.¬† Crashes of thunder, flashes of lightning and absolute torrents of rain thwarted even my bravest attempts to make the most of my first day in the garden for weeks.¬† 10 cm of rain fell overnight, there was hours of violent storms during the night that overturned trees in the area and caused a landslide at the golf course, and apart from the odd respite, today wasn’t much better.

Clad in my shorts and mac (I’d always rather have just wet legs, than wet legs and wet trousers) I managed to duck out between the worst of the deluges to try some sacrificial pruning on some of the flowers hammered in the exceptionally heavy storms during the night.

foxgloves in rain

Foxgloves at strange angles due to the storms

The tall white and pink foxgloves were particularly badly hit and I pruned many of them down to a pair of leaves in the hope of getting a second flush of flowers.  The leaves of the potatoes also got the chop Рthey have been wind damaged and are beyond saving, so I have cut back the foliage and will just have to hope the spuds are salvageable.

Earlier this week I arrived home from a work trip to find my pots about 24 hours away from a serious drying out crisis – yet today I was putting what I could under cover in the plastic greenhouses to try and stop them getting any wetter!¬† The lovely red pelargoniums which are in full flower would definitely prefer being on the dry side, to virtually drowned as they are just now – if this doesn’t stop soon I’ll have to bring them indoors.¬† Some of the pots of mixed flowers are definitely looking sorry for themselves (and they’re not alone!)

I began to cut back some of the hedge Рa miserable task well suited to the conditions Рbefore noticing my outstretched shears were making me look a lot like a strangely dressed lightening conductor.  Not wanting to sizzle as well as squelch,  I eventually gave up and retreated indoors.  It may be July, but getting the fire alight is the only appropriate response to this meteorological menace.

Gardening against the elements, instead of with them, is no fun at all and I think if this was my first year as a gardener I’d have admitted defeat by now.¬†¬†¬† Still, the slugs and snails are happy and this morning I counted 24 bedraggled sparrows in a row on the hedge.¬† I’m sure its all going to look very pretty – if only it ever stops raining….

Transformation in progress

The front garden is starting to show results from the tool breaking efforts of earlier this year.

evolving front gardenIt is hard to believe just a three months ago I was battling crocosmia and pulling up the last of the heather, which had smothered everything. The windswept front garden was pretty dull and really not a priority until I moved my desk and found myself looking at it all day, every day.

Staring at an uninspiring patch all day was clearly the gardening motivation I required.  And now the garden is emerging as a pretty, small cottage garden with its own personality.

Orange and red lillies are emerging, contrasting with purple lavender, alliums, blue iris, yellow geum and yellow poppies.  Green and yellow foliage, Alchemilla Mollis and the black elder are making a beautiful back drop.

I must admit that the overall effect is better than I could have hoped for, but is perhaps largely accidental.¬† With the heather out, I didn’t really know what would come through and I while I had a mental plan for the new planting I put in, I had no idea what would come through from self-seedlings or previous year’s bulbs and plants.

Seeing it come together has helped me get a sense of where to go next with the garden. A little more dark foliage (I’ve put a few dahlia tubers¬† in);¬† some more bright yellows/oranges (perhaps I’ll move an Azalea from a pot into the ground).¬† A bold smattering of blue, purple and red will also work.¬† But the green is really holding it together, so I don’t want to lose that.¬† As a whole, the garden is more herbaceous than before, so it will not look so good in winter, but maybe I can use winter bedding to fix that.

This weekend I shall be sure to take more cuttings from the Sambucus nigraBlack Lace‘ and distribute them to friends and neighbours.¬† Right now the plant is looking so impressive, it is stopping passers by in the street.¬† Yesterday two tourists stopped and took a photo of it and today a lady couldn’t resist touching and smelling it.¬† I have got one strong cutting from last year and a few softwood cuttings going from this year, but think there is local demand for more!

The picture below is a little taste of what is in full bloom at the moment – and no heather to be seen!

Mid June blooms in the previously neglected front garden