Peter Dowdall suggests similar plant types for the garden.
I normally don’t even get a chance to leave my garden during these months of July and August but thankfully this year I have found myself travelling the highways and byways of Ireland over the last few weeks.
Once again I find myself gobsmacked at the beauty of our countryside.
We are so lucky to be living in such a spectacular natural environment but we need to remind ourselves constantly to slow down and admire that which is all around.
There is such an abundance of life in our hedgerows and such colour at the moment.
I was recently admiring one alive with purple loosetrife, orange montbretia, white meadowsweet and honeysuckle.
It seemed to go on for miles and was as good a herbaceous border as you are likely to see, and all for free thanks to nature on the side of the road.
I wouldn’t recommend growing any of these in your own garden unless you have rolling acres, as each one is more than a bit invasive.
The purple loosetrife alone is colonising large areas of ground and creating some problems by crowding out other native varieties. Not quite the scourge that is the Japanese knotweed, and a whole pile more attractive, but invasive nonetheless.
On that note, I am glad to see so many communities and local authorities tackling the Japanese knotweed problem on our roadsides, with signs up warning of the dangers of cutting and moving the plant and many stands which would normally be 3m tall at this time of the year, have been significantly weakened and lessened by chemical control.
What will happen when glyphosate is banned, which it surely will soon? It is still the recommended chemical to control this thug of a weed? More on that at another time.
Similar displays to those of the hedgerows can be created in your own garden at the moment using more cultivated forms and species that are better behaved than their streetwise cousins.
There are many Crocosmias available nowadays which will bring the same lovely foliage and flower shape as the common orange Montbretia, but won’t be nearly as vigorous.
The best known of all is the tall, stately red flowering crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ which will produce upright foliage and sturdy flower stems up to 1.5m tall.
Some other varieties to keep an eye out for however, are ‘Emily Mc Kenzie’ with large orange flowersand a deeper, nearly red centre, ‘George Davidson’ which produces masses of yellow blooms and the nearly red coloured ‘Babylon’.
These three varieties are all quite vigorous without being troublesome but my two favourite varieties have a chocolate brown tinge to the foliage and take quite some time to bulk up to a decent sized clump, Crocosmia ‘Sulfotare’ with lovely yellow flowers against the dark leaves and ‘Dusky Maiden’ which produces blooms that are burnt orange in colour, which work beautifully again with the nearly brown foliage.
The feathery blooms of meadowsweet or Filipendula can be replicated by using astilibe ‘Gladstone’. Growing to about 1m it will produce masses of white plumes above lovely dark green ferny foliage forming a good-sized clump over a few years.
An easy to grow herbaceous perennial, astilbes like damp, humus-rich soil and ideally semi-shade and what I really like about them is that all you have to do when you want more, is to wait for the winter, then lift the clump out of the ground and divide that one plant into many smaller ones.
Astilbe ‘Bridal Veil’ is another, even purer white form which won’t grow quite as tall and the blooms are more airy and feathery, a good one to source if you can.
Many of the Veronicas will remain in flower right through August and into September particularly if you keep dead-heading and trimming them back.
‘Pink Beauty’ is a lovely form, producing upright stems of mauve/ pink flowers which can give the same effect as purple loosestrife without taking over your garden.
These Veronicas and Veronicastrums are an underused plant in my opinion, as nearly every colour is represented in the genus, they have a good, long flowering period, are virtually trouble-free and are great plants to draw in the butterflies and bees.
I love the variety Veronica ‘Ulster Blue’. It’s a low-growing, spreading form which sends up little short flowers of a deep blue, similar to stumpy blue, furry candles growing out of the ground.
The buds start off green but the blue colour works its way up until there’s no green to be seen.
There’s something very attractive about the nearly navy blooms with the fresh green foliage, but it’s the texture of the flowers which make it one worth having for colour in the garden late into the season.
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