Red confessions


It is strange, the way our gardens change almost without us realising it. Or maybe it’s just me? I know I’ve put in the work, and yet I’m still surprised by the results – and sometimes they can be really astonishing. My garden used to be largely green at this time of year, and I set out to deliberately change that. I filled a large new bed with early plants, often in burgundy, which were succeeded by others in pinks, purples, whites. I then revived another bed and filled it with ‘hot’ colours. Quite deliberate. A lot of thought has gone into it; I know it’s there, I know what I wanted to acheive and I’ve got roughly what I wanted. And I’m still surprised by it.

Oh, and along the way I fell in love with heleniums.


It’s the sheer amount of red I’ve got.

Don’t get me wrong: I love it; but there is a lot of it, and in an extraordinary range of shades. What has surprised me most – apart from the wild madness of Monarda Cambridge Scarlet which I nominate for the punkiest plant of 2013,


and possibly ever – is how well they all work together, and how well they work in combination with other plants.

It’s probably a bit facile to say that there are no clashes in nature, as I heard one garden commentator assert; I think there are some, and some combinations just don’t work. But all the colour theory in the world didn’t quite prepare me for Dahlia Arabian Nights in front of my euphorbia:


I love it!

Traditionally pink and red don’t go together. So much for tradition:


I think the mystery packet of poppy seeds I scattered must have had a colour theme, because I haven’t had one that wasn’t a variation on red or saturated pink. It’s such I shame I didn’t save the packet so I could deliberately buy another, though I’m hoping they’ll seed themselves like mad. Knowing my luck, though, this may be the one year they decide not to behave in their usual undisciplined way.

Dahlias are new to my garden – well, to this garden under my tenure, I bet they’ve been grown in the past – and I’ve been very, very pleased with them. Apart from the two Arabian Nights (the third seems to have decided it’s not dead, just very very late), I have a glorious Karma Lagoon in my purple bed, and – but of course – a Bishop of Llandaff with the ‘hot’ colours. Someone I was talking to had actually had to shift the Bishop because he was so assertive, but he’s just fine where I’ve dug him in (though there is almost a clash with the Monarda).


(I must stop giving this dahlia a gender and calling it ‘The Bishop’ in tones of doom, as all that does is remind me of Blackadder and the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells, which this lovely bronze-leaved beauty does not deserve.)

Oh dear, I suppose it’s time for Helenium Confessions. It started at Crug. Well, to be honest, it probably started a couple of years ago when I visited The Artist’s Garden for the first time; Karen has heavenly heleniums. Or maybe it started when I was a child, as I’m sure I remember them growing in my parents’ garden. Whatever, I’ve now got enough. Really.


I have two Moerheim Beauties, a Mahogany (just coming into flower after I gave it a Chelsea chop to delay it a little), a Windley – yellow, but I don’t care – and my new addition, a Red Jewel.


I mean, how could I possibly have resisted this? For some reason there were quite a few at Fron Goch garden centre, all tucked away behind some Sahin’s Early Flowerer which were doing just that – flowering their socks off and attracting a lot of attention. It’s worth ferretting about sometimes, it really is. Now what I need is something to tie this gem in with the Windley. I know – Helenium Potter’s Wheel, red with a yellow edge… help!

And, as a final note, and to distract me from searching online for Hel anything, ahem, I went a bit mad and bought a tray of mesembryanthemums. A real plant of my childhood, and one with a lot of acid tones, some of which – I have to say – don’t quite work where I’ve put them: at the foot of the cedar trunk, in an area which until last year was in deep shade until the cedar was cut down. Its removal has brought massive changes, not least to the house which is no longer in danger of becoming part of the tree. The sheer increase in light is wonderful, and the destruction of the wind tunnel created by the huge tree and the gable end of the house was almost completely unexpected. But the light is the most obvious benefit, and boy are the plants loving it. Not least my mesembryanthemums. Gorgeous.


Wonder if there’s a helenium in this colour?

(No end of the month view post this time. Yesterday was considering finding timber to build ark. All plants closed up tight, and I can’t blame them. Now basking once again. This is summer, yipee….)


16 Comments Add yours

  1. hillwards says:

    Cambridge scarlet is a real star. Sadly my pink and white monardas seem to have vanished somewhere between spring and now, but the scarlet and purple are doing well hurrah. I have fallen for heleniums too, after initially thinking I would never have orange in the garden. 🙂 Sahin’s early flowerer has been blazing for weeks, and Moerheim beauty is just coming out to play here. The yellow one ‘The Bishop’, amusingly enough, I planted as a bareroot does not appear to have made it through the winter alas.
    Ah and the Dahlias. It’s our second year of dahlias here (they made it through storage, huzzah, and this year I even took cuttings which are now about to join in the flowering too, whoop). Gorgeous things.

    1. kate says:

      Isn’t it sensational?! Completely mad – reminds me of some of the hats in Godfather 2, the ones from the Cuban part. Insane. I have got some ordinary pink ones and, like you, I thought they’d gone – but no, they’ve just started flowering. I must move them for next year.

      Glad I’m not the only Helenium addict! I did originally want S’s EF, but in the end went the Moerheim route. No more, no more…

      I’m so hoping I can keep my dahlias going. I’ve just been out deadheading (work, what’s that?), and they are wonderful. I want more, more, MORE!

      1. hillwards says:

        I always think jester’s hats. Mad indeed. I moved one of my pink monardas in the spring as it was shorter than I’d anticipated. No sign of it now – or the one that I didn’t touch, though I’m sure I saw them both coming through in the spring before the border filled out – obviously I found the one I moved! Either they will surprise me later by suddenly appearing, or more likely they just didn’t make it, sigh. But the purple one I moved is looking happy, and I split and moved one of the red ones and that has come back almost as strong as the one I didn’t. Inconsistent things, bah. Still, I have the two scarlets and a purple one, which I preferred to the pinks, so mustn’t grumble. Shame about the white one though…

        1. kate says:

          You’re making me nervous about moving my Cambridge Scarlet – perhaps I’d better leave it where it is (it’s suckering like a mad thing anyway) and move other things instead!

          I’m not quite sure what to do with my pinks which are a bit wimpy by comparison, but they’re flowering well. Hm…

        2. hillwards says:

          I found my Cambridge Scarlet was the most robust of my monardas, and split and moved it quite happily in the spring. I gave a bit to my Mum too, and it seems to be settling in well, so you should be safe moving that one. The purple one I have took the move okay too, it’s just the pink I moved that disappeared since – and a pink and a white that I didn’t touch!

        3. kate says:

          Oh, that’s really good to know – it just needs shifting a bit, but it does need shifting. It is completely fabulous, even in the rather battered state its got into since the end of the world (aka yesterday).

          Maybe your pink and white psychically detected that it might be next in line! (Fungi communicate underground; I don’t see why monardas shouldn’t…)

  2. Christina says:

    Love your Hot, Hot colours; they look fabulous!

    1. kate says:

      I can’t think why I didn’t try them earlier – they’d really have cheered me in our series of disappointing summers. Still, better late than never!

  3. Cathy says:

    Those helenium are truly stunning – I had a Sahin EF last year but it flowered neither early nor late, in fact did not flower at all and must have turned up its toes. Sigh… do I try again? Do I try monardas again too, as like Sarah’s mine have declined to do anything this year?

    1. kate says:

      I am completely bowled over by the heleniums – and what a shame about your EF. I didn’t think they were picky plants, so maybe you just had a duff one and should try again… (enabler, moi?)

      It’s a strange old year, sure enough. Why should some gardens have amazing monardas and others have ones that just don’t materialise at all? Most odd – spring weather?

  4. Pauline says:

    Strangely parts of my garden are becoming more red, it’s not a deliberate decision, it’s just happening. Like you Heleniums have started arriving, I’ll have to see how they do here before I buy more. Dahlias too are creeping in, lovely dark red ones, I love yours with your Euphorbia – stunning!

    1. kate says:

      Isn’t it odd the way it happens? I am reassured that it’s not just me! I’m tempted to go for more dahlias but I’m going to see how they go through the winter first, and yesterday I managed to resist another helenium. Mine look good, but I think it’s wise to wait and see. Also they get bigger….

  5. croftgarden says:

    I was horrified when I saw some of the colour combinations that I’d managed to create (accident and not design) but now I’ve grown to enjoy the quirky combinations of orange and blue and let the punks rule in the garden. I really like the Monarda and must see if I can get it to thrive but the jury is still out on the dahlias.

    1. kate says:

      I do agree about enjoying these things – if I’d actually thought about that dahlia and the euphorbia, I’d never have planted the dahlias where I did; not so much accident as not thinking things through. And I’d have missed out. Orange and blue – now there’s a thought. Hmm…

      I was very resistant to dahlias and then the local gardening guru persuaded me to buy Karma Lagoon, and I was hooked. I think it may be sort-of genetic, because my step-grandad was completely addicted. Mind you, he preferred the wildly insane ones…

  6. Plantaliscious says:

    What a fabulous does of colour, I miss my hot colours, but they just wouldn’t work in my front garden and I have yet to carve out room for a hot border in the back. Love the punk monarda, and if you are going to gain an addiction, heleniums are a pretty good one to pick. As for dahlias in general and partnered with euphorbias in particular, what’s not to love! I still remember the revelation of partnering shocking pink and deep purple dahlias with euphorbia in a vase. Makes me smile to remember it. Maybe next year, in the mean time, thank you for sharing your vivid combos. And yes, orange and blue, go for it!

    1. kate says:

      I didn’t have a hot border until this year, and I’m so glad I did (the weather has really helped for once, I’m sure). I’d no idea the monarda was going to do that but I’m so glad it did – amazing, though it does need shifting. At least I now know that’s not likely to be a problem…

      Orange and blue – woooooo, agapanthus and crocosmia…

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