Summer’s delight

The abundance of L Tupa is welcome during the summer, Charlie Wilkins reports.

OPEN garden events continue to inspire and delight, and it fortifies my belief that gardeners really are special people. How modest and generous of spirit their attitude.

How welcoming their greeting. They seem to take the view that they work in a common field and that any benefits that come their way are to be shared unstintingly.

But gardeners have always been baton carriers, taking what has been handed to them and passing it on down the chain. And not just plants mind you, but their knowledge, mastery and expertise, freely given to be enjoyed by as many as possible.

At one of these recent ‘open garden’ events I listened intently (in exchange for advice on the dramatic flame-coloured Lobelia tupa) to a bevy of country folklore concerning the weather and planting.

Among these I learned that the feast day of St. Bartholomew (Aug 24) is the day on which the ‘cold dew’ that presages autumn falls, and on Sept 29 (feast day of St. Michael the Archangel) trees planted then ‘will surely not go amiss’.

The conversation eventually turned back to lobelias big and small, and in particular to the large perennial variety sold as L. Tupa. This form is spoken of in awe by those who grow it, for it becomes a huge plant with magnificent leaves-for which alone it would be worth growing-if you have the room.

From the giant rosette formed by the foliage, rise 5 foot tall stems set with blood-red flowers totally unlike those of the bedding and border types (see illustration).

The plants delight in a deep rich, damp soil (this summer has suited them admirably) but beware slugs and snails which find emerging growths delicious. Their worst damage is executed in spring and early summer.

For all that a well grown specimen would make a dramatic outdoor pot plant on a terrace (a large pot please) and in isolation in a border it would look architecturally magnificent.

August is a testing time for herbaceous and indeed mixed borders. It becomes clear, as the month progresses, whether the gardener is going to witness a rapid and early disintegration, with unfettered colonies of yellow sunflowers and golden rod, or whether a plan has been at work to provide late flowers for admiration and for bees. Therefore, Lobelia tupa should most definitely be chosen in all gardens for flowering in late summer and on into autumn.

Gardeners in southern counties can see the magnificence of Lobelia tupa mixed with really dramatic dahlias in the rose garden at Fota Arboretum, Cork from this month.

The name lobelia commemorates Matthias de l’Obel who came to Britain from the Low Countries to be physician to King James 1.


¦ An open garden event in aid of Cork

Simon Community takes place today, tomorrow and Monday at The Water Margin, Cappanacush East, Templenoe, Co Kerry. The garden will be sign posted from the N70 Kenmare to Sneem road, four miles from Kenmare. Refreshments will be served and plants will be for sale. Suitable parking nearby

¦ Terra Nova Gardens (winner of Best Garden in Ireland 2005) hold their final open day of the season tomorrow from noon to 6pm. To celebrate, they are having a fun treasure hunt with prizes plus a fabulous €1, €2 and €3 end of season sale of out-of-the-ordinary perennials. Situated near Kilmallock, Co. Limerick the garden is sign posted from the main Cork to Limerick road a few miles north of Charleville. Full directions and information 063-90744.

¦ A free talk on how to brighten up your garden takes place at Griffin’s Dripsey on Bank Holiday Monday at noon (also on Wednesday and Friday at the same time).

¦ A Farmers Market will take place tomorrow noon to 5.30pm at Hosfords Enniskeane. Local outlets will be in attendance with fine baking, jams, art, crafts and surprises. Torc will be in concert from 2pm in the Blue Geranium Cafe and the Carbery Art Group Exhibition continues to the end of August.

¦ Early Michaelmas daisies such as the lilac-blue Aster X frikartii and thomsonii types will be found lovely if sourced and planted now. They’ll bloom in time for the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel on September 29th. Other late plants include persicaria and golden rudbeckias, these latter being commonly called Black-eyed Susans! Just ask at your local garden centre.

¦ A diminutive but determined little flower is the hardy Cyclamen hederifolium. Tubers can be bought now and if planted immediately will settle quickly. These thrive in shade and uncongenial soil. Even when planted in the arid ground at the foot of conifers they respond by flowering through autumn before leafing out with magnificent ground cover foliage for the remainder of winter.


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