helichrysum ‘hendrix’

My attitude towards orange and yellow is changing. Every year I mellow a little and let a bit more into the garden.

Steve is a big fan of rudbekia. I wasn’t keen at first, but they do suit the softer September and October light.

cottage garden, gardening blog

Rudbekia and verbena bonariensis pair well. The verbena’s gone haywire this year. More on that next time.

So, on balance, I can tolerate some late summer yellow. In fact, I’ll admit that I’ve started to rather like it. But I’ve flatly refused to allow any orange flowers. Until now.

This spring I bought  a packet of helichrysum hendrix seed from Higgledy Garden on a whim. We’d just extended our two main borders and I wanted some cheap and cheerful annuals to pad them out.

Benjamin from Higgledy has a wonderful knack of making all his flowers sound like must-haves. But I went for these because he said they last well into the autumn, and for the past couple of years we’ve been making efforts to keep the garden in-flower for longer. I thought they might help.

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OK, it’s a bit unruly. But we’ve never had this much colour so late in the season before. 

And so they did. The flowers are quite papery and robust. I reckon they’ll last until the frosts, so we may get another month out of them yet.

Benjamin says helichrysum hendrix come in ‘an amazing array of colours’. He’s not wrong. We’ve had pinks, purples, whites, crimsons and combinations of those.

We’ve also had bright dandelion yellow.

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Dandelion yellow. It’s growing on me.

And we’ve had orange. I’d love to call it copper. Or burnished gold. But it’s just orange, isn’t it.

cottage garden, gardening blog

Orange. In my garden. I never thought I’d see the day.

The surprising thing is, I like it. But if I start considering regimented rows of marigolds for the garden next spring, tell me to have a word with myself.

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outside-in: May 12/12

Outside-in charts my attempts to bring the garden into the house with haphazard English Freestyle flower arranging.

There’s so much going on in the garden this month that I almost forgot to bring any flowers inside until yesterday evening.

picked in the rain, cottage garden, gardening blog

It was raining so it wasn’t really ideal for flower-picking, but I managed to get a good haul.

alliums and peony, cottage garden, gardening blog

For the first time ever I picked some peonies. The Karl Rosenfeld variety which didn’t flower at all last year has lots of buds coming. I allowed myself three and left the rest outside.

Brookside geranium and rose, cottage garden, gardening blog

Bringing the first roses of the new season into the house made it feel (and smell) like summer is well and truly here, despite the rain and the fact that we have lit the wood burner twice this week.

Brookside geranium close-up, gardening blog, cottage garden

I really, really love this geranium. It’s called Brookside, which is impossible to say without a Liverpudlian accent if you grew up in the UK in the 80s like I did. We bought this plant from the nursery at Burrow Farm Gardens when we were driving back from a trip to Devon last year. If you’re ever in East Devon the gardens are well worth a visit – and you won’t be able to resist taking a few things home. I hope we can get back down there some time soon.

allium roseum, gardening blog, cottage garden

This allium (Roseum) is probably my favourite new plant of the year so far. It’s more delicate and subtle than the other alliums we have in the garden, and I can live with its oniony smell in the house.

So, that’s the last in my 12-month series of outside-in posts. The idea was to see if I could keep the vases furnished with flowers from the garden all year round. We just about managed, although I did resort to weeds – ahem – wild flowers in March.

It’s certainly true that we have far more flowers in the garden now than we did this time last year. It’s partly because the mild winter has brought everything forward by a good three weeks.  But I can also see that we’re slowly starting to add new layers to the fabric of the garden. And we’re getting better at choosing varieties that flower early or late in the year to extend the season and keep things pretty.

verbena bonariensis

gardening blog verbena butterfly

Last year I noticed lots of gardens with elegant purple flowers that lasted way into the autumn. I had no idea what they were, but finally identified them as verbena bonariensis.

Steve had also admired them, and since he is far more organised than me, he bought some seeds which he tried to grow in a couple of trays on the spare room window ledge. Unfortunately nothing happened – probably because we kept forgetting to water them. Eventually one of the cats decided the trays would make a handy upstairs toilet.

My dad came to the rescue and gave us a tray of young plants he had grown on the nursery. By this time we didn’t have much room in the garden, but we dotted them here and there, wherever we could find a space. We stuck a few in pots too.

They have shot up over the past few weeks. Some are close to six foot. But they are so slender that they don’t overpower the garden. From a distance, their long graceful limbs give an interesting height and shape to the borders. Close up, each stem has a cluster of exquisite mauve flowers that are a real crowd-puller for bees and butterflies.

gardening blog verbena bonariensis bee

bee-magnet

Apparently verbena bonariensis is a short-lived perennial. It’s more likely to survive the winter if you leave the dead stalks alone. And it’s also a prolific self-seeder.

So, they don’t just look great, they are low maintenance too. Hopefully this means we can leave them to their own devices, and we won’t have a seed-cat-pee-combo in the spare room next year.