At home with the triffid

While I was nervously approaching my triffid (see last post for photographic proof) or possible Angelica gigas, I suddenly realised how well everything alongside it in my new bed is doing. It’s shameful – you get so bogged down in individual plants, and if you’re me in individual details of individual plants, that you miss the bigger picture.

Admittedly the new bed isn’t easy to photograph and make look good unless I dangle off the porch with my toes. It’s much bigger than it looks here, too, being an irregular shape enclosed in a roughly 5 x 5 metre square.

Ostensibly the focus is the Triffid (or it will be, when it flowers) – it definitely merits that capital letter – but the bed’s not really hanging together yet. It’s only its first summer, and it will be better next year, when the white fuchsia just off centre grows up more. Most of the plants in it have had some sort of mention in the end of the month posts, like the cerinthes and the Verbena bonarenses, but I’ve not brought them together yet.

The cerinthes in particular have been fascinating me. I know I’ll have them next year – probably where I don’t necessarily want them as there are seeds everywhere – and now some of them are taking on an almost bronze tinge in certain lights.

Some of the others are fading to pale and will come out soon, but they’ve been wonderful.

Tucked in among the cerinthes are a few salvias (nothing exciting; just a solitary and anonymous six-pack box I found in amongst some bedding plants, I think they’re S. farinacea), which are finally beginning to show signs of growth. This weather…

Behind the cerinthes and the fuchsia are the three Verbascum chiaxii albums which I received from Hillwards earlier in the year, and they have been excellent – a great focus for the middle, and truly beautiful. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – more verbascums for me next year.

They have another advantage: the slugs don’t seem to fancy the taste. They’ve had a go at almost everything else.

To their left (or do I mean right? Hm), is the Echinops ritro which I moved over from the screaming wilderness that is behind my greenhouse. The insects seem to adore it, and so do I.

Today I noticed that it’s suddenly sprouting some new stems. Have explained to it that Now Is Not Spring.

I also seem to have moved a certain amount of couch grass and a vast amount of blackfly along with it… This at least gave me the chance to try a recommended organic remedy on the blackfly – which also infested a nearby globe artichoke – and it really worked. It nearly killed the plants, mind, but they’ve both recovered and are thriving, only sans blackfly (hooray). Garlic water: 3 fat cloves of garlic crushed and steeped in hot water, then the liquid boiled up and reduced a bit to concentrate it, then cooled and put in a sprayer with some washing-up liquid. I think I overdid the latter – you only need a teeny bit. Both plants looked rather sad for a while, but they’re better now. And it least it also did for the blackfly.

They weren’t remotely interested in the nearby Cosmos, which are also putting on a spurt of growth and about an inch a minute. I bought a packet of mixed ‘sea shells’ Cosmos seed, and I have to say that a) no way were there the number of seeds in that packet that there should have been, and b) only about a third of them are the ‘sea shell’ form. But those that are – oh, yes:

The shocking colour of the crimson is great against the variegated white fucshia; a combination I must remember. Actually, I don’t mind the ordinary ones, but that’s not what they were supposed to be. Hrumpf.

Moving counter-clockwise round the outside of the bed the next plants are the achilleas, but they really aren’t going to do anything this year. Scattered among them are the nicotiana which may be why the slugs haven’t snacked on the achilleas or cosmos – they’ve been too stuffed with tobacco plant to move their slimy little bottoms over a few inches. The poor nicotianas are a sad sight: some have been chewed to the base, some have been snacked around the edge, some have lost stems. All of them are damaged to some degree. Grrrrrrr.

Then come some garlic chives, again transplanted from elsewhere, and what will eventually be a clump of Pennisetum thunbergii, a grass I’ve grown from one of my RHS seed scheme packets. I’m hoping I won’t need to move these, but I may do. At the moment I’m entranced by the fan-like form of the incipient clumps.

Behind them rears the Triffid. ‘Nuff said.

And the other side of the Triffid are the cerinthes (yes, I did go overboard). In among them is the Cirsium rivulare atropurpurescens which I bought at Crug Farm plant sale in May. It’s been a real winner, flowering on and off since then, with its beautiful crimson thistle heads contrasting with the cerinthes and the verbenas. Like the echinops, it is popular with insects:

Extremely popular. Totally and utterly absorbed…


14 Comments Add yours

  1. Christina says:

    The sun has really made a difference in your garden. I especially love the Cirsium rivulare atropurpurescens , does it grow from seed? I must try. Christina

    1. kate says:

      Unfortunately the sun has gone now; I think we just had summer. That’s apart from the week of summer we had in March (sigh).

      I’m with you on the Cirsium, it’s gorgeous… I expect you could grow it from seed, though the seedheads get mushy and mouldy very fast. That may be the vile weather; it is a thistle, after all. I’m hoping mine will get big enough to divide as I definitely need more!

  2. patientgardener says:

    It is looking good and as you say it is the first year and I know from experience that it takes a couple of years for the plants to fill out – its not Love Your Garden after all

    1. kate says:

      Well quite – though I do have to keep reminding myself of that!

  3. paulinemulligan says:

    Your border is coming on very well indeed, before you know where you are you will be having to split everything! Verbascum have popped up in the garden here from goodness knows where, hope they will decide to stay.

    1. kate says:

      Oh, I do hope so!

      I’ve had random verbascums too, but just the Big Yellow Brute which I’m afraid I rip out. Nonetheless, it’s evidently a sign that verbascums like it here – now for more experimentation!

  4. Dobby says:

    I also tend to concentrate on one plant, then notice another one. The bed is coming on wonderfully. The Echinops ritro looks stunning. I don’t really ‘do’ blue, but that one could sway me!

    1. kate says:

      E. ritro – you need this plant! Love the colour, love the height, love the general spikiness!

  5. hillwards says:

    Totally with you on overlooking the spaces in new borders.

    Looking really good, and glad that the Verbascums are doing so well (love those furry purple legs in the centres). Everything went incredibly pear shaped here the week after I sent them to you, it was months before ours went into the ground, but they are starting to send up stems from the basal rosettes now, so hopefully we’ll see flowers this year too!
    Ooh, I’ve grown Pennisetum thunbergii from the RHS seed scheme too, they are rather beautiful aren’t they, I’m looking forward to watching them develop further.
    I have one surviving Echinops ritro ruthenicus from a pack of seeds too, though it was another one late into the ground, so no sign of flowers yet. I love yours, fingers crossed ours catches up!

    1. kate says:

      Thank you soooo much for those verbascums – they’re fab, and I’m sure yours will do their thing, and if not maybe next year (you have had a rough year, you don’t need pressure from plants too) – worth waiting for!

      Hah, on the snap Pennisetums. Mine haven’t done their ‘red buttons’ thing yet, but they will. I’m ashamed to admit that most of the rest of my RHS seed is still waiting for planting!

  6. wellywoman says:

    Gorgeous. I love verbascums and have yet to grow any intentionally. Had a native one self sow in front garden. I’m certainly planning on having some next year. I love salvias too but they just get mauled in my garden by slugs so I’ve given up on them.

    1. kate says:

      For some reason the slugs haven’t had a go at the salvias… maybe it’s the sacrificial nicotiana? They have been chewed – literally, in many cases – to death.

      I really, really, really hate slugs.

  7. easygardener says:

    I do like your Verbascum, especially the furry centres. I love Echinops and grow bannaticus ‘Taplow Blue’ myself. A magnet for insects.

    1. kate says:

      Aren’t they cute?

      Unfortunately my echinops was a magnet for blackfly as much as anything else, but my treatment worked. I want to try some others – I love the way the flowers open around the ball of the flowerhead!

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