Posted in gardener's jottings

Countdown in June

A summer’s sun is worth the having” ~ French Proverb

As soon as washout May turned the corner, the sun’s shone down on June…so far. Being away next week for a little while, I’m now anxious about drought, though a neighbour will pop in to water – I hope before the plants take their last gasp.

And this is the final full month for me and my plants in this small gravelled courtyard. It has been a delightful spot to garden in, for the past 18 months. In such an intimate space I’ve come to fully appreciate the plants, whilst Covid lockdown gave me the time and impetus to catalogue them too.

Some plants are still nameless and hence ex-catalogue, and seeking to ID them from the internet. is not the most reliable source. A London gardener who gave me a giant hosta thought it might be ‘Big Daddy’ but the leaves are not blue-green enough whilst the flowers are supposed to be white rather than lilac. I am currently betting on “Empress Wu”

Producing a massive, semi upright mound of medium green foliage. The leaves are slightly corrugated with a thick substance, very pale lavender flowers produced from late June to mid July.” ~ New Forest Hostas

Most of the plants will be travelling with me to Derbyshire. The more colourful ones, including Lewisia and my favourite Salvias, will go in my daughter’s garden, adjacent to me, so I can still visit them! Some like my current selection of Nemesias are too garish for the planned Japanese themed garden and being frost tender will have to be protected against the Derbyshire winter. I will have a small glasshouse for them but since they are short-lived it hardly matters.

I don’t want to leave the garden bare for the next occupant and have planted up the three big pots which belong here. This includes clematis ‘Rouge Cardinal’ – just starting to flower now so I still have time to enjoy it.

Before leaving, I also have the satisfaction of having restored an old, resident climbing rose back to full glory. It produced no flowers last year but now with pruning and feeding it is busting out all over in single white flowers. The aphids are also appreciating this show! Garlic spray is some help but mostly this tough rose seems to be impervious to the predation.

Astronomically speaking, it isn’t summer yet but I’ve added some of this month’s blooms to the summer flower portrait gallery. After all, next June’s Japanese style garden, will be a very different palette.

Take a scrolling stroll through the potted garden in June

Posted in plant pieces

Osmanthus – not to be overlooked

The very name should command our attention – from the Greek osme meaning fragrant, and anthos meaning flower. Not surprising given that is belongs in the Oleaceae family. Yet despite this, and perhaps because most of the time these are leathery evergreen shrubs, Osmanthus is not as well appreciated as it might be.

I first encountered this genus when gardening in London and needing something that would fill a difficult gap in a south-east facing dryish, shady border. And so I planted one of the Holly Olives or Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’. This variegated shrub hails from Japan and means ‘five shades’ as it does wander through the palette of cream-yellow-greens and throws in some Spring rouge and bronze.

shades of the Japanese holly olive

Although tolerant of the situation I’d forced it into, it would have preferred much more light, liking both full sun to part shade. It would then have flowered, in a barely visible but highly fragrant Jasminesque way from late summer.

Having left it behind in London, I wanted to give this shrub a second go, especially as it perfectly suits plans I have for my forthcoming Japanese garden. (Most Osmanthus are from eastern Asia and in Japanese are called mokusei. The flowers are added to tea.). Thus, a new one was purchased back in March and is enjoying much more light and attention than its predecessor.

One Osmanthus that certainly drew my attention was growing in Russell Square gardens. A dark-green, small-leaved plant with a smothering of tiny white very fragrant flowers that assailed the passer-by in late Spring. I eventually identified this also as an Osmanthus and could hardly connect it with the small holly-like shrub I had mouldering in shade.

Osmanthus burkwoodii vs heterophyllus

I think now it was Osmanthus delavayi but had added it to my wishlist as Osmanthus x burkwoodii. Not too far off with my guess as it is in fact a hybrid between O. delavayi and O. decorus raised by Burkwood and Skipwith.

So this Spring I also purchased a Burkwoodii (by mail-order as we were still in Covid lockdown). It was not in good condition and I’d evidently missed its flowering, but now the plant has put on much new growth and is starting to look like a serrated-edged privet. This may account for why it is widely used in hedging – something I may eventually plan to do in my new garden, after taking cuttings.

“An evergreen saved from ignominy by pure heads of sweetly fragrant white flowers in mid spring – good at lighting up a semi-shady corner behind ferns or glimmering white narcissi” Val Bourne – Garden Writer on Osmanthus x Burkwoodii