Eryngium planum

This is the perfect summer for Eryngium planum, and the difference between last year’s performance and this, is marked. In 2017 we had much more rain and not a lot of sun and my sea hollies produced too much lush growth, the stems flopped, and the effect was unremarkable. By contrast, this summer, the open, upright habit shows off to perfection a multitude of silvery blue flower heads (about the size of a thimble) with narrow bracts, and they are irresistible to bees, butterflies and other insects. Sun and good drainage are key, as is low fertility, so they are especially...

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Itea ilicifolia AGM

There’s no doubt that many herbaceous perennials are suffering in this hot dry spell, and although I try to keep watering anything that I have planted this year, those longer established plants just have to survive on their own reserves. However, in the shrub category, there are one or two which seem positively to thrive, to glow even: the most obvious in our garden being the not-so-often-encountered Itea ilicifolia. This hardy evergreen shrub has fresh, mid-green, holly-shaped leaves, and right now it is covered in cool lime-green icicles … exceptionally long and graceful summer catkins which will flower right...

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Aeonium arboreum

With no hint of even a scattered shower on the horizon, and  increasingly frenetic morning and evening activity with the watering can, as I rush past my Aeonium arboreum I throw it grateful and admiring glances in equal measure and make a mental note to water it in a few days time! With their bold, architectural structure, aeoniums not only make a big aesthetic contribution to the group of plants in pots outside our front door, they demand very little in return, and I can’t imagine being without them. There are many different forms, one of the most striking being which...

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Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’

There is a faint lull in our garden in the middle of June, many summer flowering plants are poised for the next act, but right now Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ is the show-stopper. It has been flowering for several weeks already and will continue to do so for many more to come … and it is truly eye catching. Three or four years ago I decided to test out a few different penstemons, so I bought plug plants, probably 20 or so different ones. Already, by the second season, ‘Dark Towers’ had filled the top slot, no question. It is...

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