Virtually all of us know someone who has been affected by breast cancer, so this week we are going pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Day on Friday 19 October and suggesting some pink additions to your garden that you could purchase now, along with a donation to Cancer Research.
And actually it is surprisingly easy to find pink flowers still glowing in the middle of October.
Nerines are the ultimate in-your-face, strutting their stuff, bubble gum pink autumn flowering bulb, and could easily be adopted as the very emblem of the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign. The most common and easy to grow is Nerine bowdenii and it loves to be squeezed into the hottest, driest spot in your front garden, or seems quite happy baking in a cramped clay pot, so why not go out and buy a couple on Friday and pop a fiver into the Breast Cancer collecting tin at the same time, or donate online when you get home.
Another great purchase would be a few pots of Cyclamen hederifolium. These wonderful little corms will be happy in the most inhospitable areas of your garden, in deep shade amongst gnarly old tree roots. They seed readily and spread quickly into great sheets of pink and white and looked quite splendid at RHS Wisley a couple of weeks ago, where there was also a fantastic range of autumn crocus – another possibility for your pink purchase.
Hesperantha coccinea, the Kaffir lily, is also just hitting its stride and has some wonderful luminous pink varieties like this beauty we spotted at the extraordinary Larch Cottage Nursery in Cumbria last week. This was a nursery recommended to us by Caroline (so besotted was she that she actually wrote a review of it) so we weren’t surprised to find it had a wine bar on site, but what we weren’t expecting was the frankly amazing number of unusual plants and trees on sale all displayed in interconnecting garden ‘rooms’ amongst gothic statuary and pools. So if you find yourself adrift on the higher reaches of the M6 with a couple of hours to spare do pay it a visit, if not,then your local garden centre is bound to have a stock of these beautiful plants.
Yes, everyone! It’s time to THINK PINK! Let’s really get behind this cause and see if we can take another step towards curing this horrible disease.
Pink often needs careful handling in a garden, and the knicker-pink of Laura’s nerines argues with almost everything, I find. So it’s just as well that they thrive in conditions that most plants would find impossible. My favourite setting for most pink shades is light green – think ‘Bonica’ roses in a posy with Alchemilla mollis. Cliché-d, I know, but undeniably lovely.
There are shrubs in flower now that will combine these colours for you in a rather delightful way. One of my Desert Island plants would be Hydrangea ‘Limelight’, whose conical flowerheads gently transform from early summer right through to November…lime-green to white to cream and now the most evocative of blush-pinks still suffused with green. The colour reminds me of the litmus paper I played with to pass dull hours in the Chem. lab at school.
Leycesteria formosa (pheasantberry) is sporting much darker pink flowers at the moment. Long and intricate pendant earrings of which Pru Leith would be proud. I have seen this grown as a small tree, but I prefer to cut it hard down each spring. This harsh treatment ensures that it’s furnished with its bright green leaves right to the bottom, grows to a shrub of 4-5 ‘, and flowers its socks off.
And then there’s my fabulous Salvia ‘Kisses and Wishes’, carted home on the train from Chelsea this year (thank you, Anne!) where it was launched by Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants.
This plant was originally discovered by a friend of Laura and Louise, Sarah Jane Knott, who runs a terrific nursery, Forget Me Not Plants, in her back garden and sells from a super-enticing market stall in Horsham every Thursday and Saturday (from which L and L are apparently physically incapable of resisting the purchase of least three plants on every visit, “just popping into Horsham….”)
And I have to mention the glorious common spindle, Euonymus europaeus. It combines its outrageous pink seedcoats with ORANGE seeds. As our family so often says about Caroline, someone ought to say something…..
I know L & E despair of my horticultural taste but as they say, ‘I don’t know much about it but I knows wot I likes’, and these really caught my eye at the weekend – gazanias or so I thought. No no, said Laura, they are cinerarias (what?) but worse was to come. The living plant encyclopaedia Bill Tait put us both right – they are actually mesembryanthemums (and even bigger whaaaat? from me), and, get this, they’ve now changed their names to Dorotheanthus bellidiformis. I completely give up, although Bill did reassure me that people like me could call them Livingstone daisies. They’re annuals,and what an October knock-out, let’s get some seeds for next year!
Personally everyone I know who has been diagnosed with breast cancer has survived it, what a hopeful sign of the progress we’re making against it and the other cancers which took our own mother’s life and then our step-mother’s far too young.
So I’m all for long-term planning, but heck next Autumn is a long way off! We’ll have won the lottery by then and Monty will be digging our borders.Surely most of us are looking for some pre-Brexit action and I’m certainly up for a bit of pink to warm up the rather cold blue and white blooms that typify a spring garden. So instead of the blue or white ones, how about ordering some Muscari ‘Pink Surprise’ or some pink hyacinths or what about trying the early flowering pink tulip ‘Foxtrot’ which is ideal for pots being quite short and stumpy (Laura, basically).
I love, love, love Louise’s Great Plant this Month. Despite thrashing around in the tundra that is our garden – it’s been blooming its little pink heart out for literally months and months.
And cut from the same mould, I don’t think you’ll be sorry if you order a Lavatera × clementii ‘Rosea’. It has pink, hollyhock type flowers which are a little bit more magical in colour than other flat pink mallows. Like Louise’s diascia, it’s another ‘balls of steel’ true survivor – and there are more and more of them around us every day.