Six on Saturday – 31/7/2021

We went midweek to visit Wildside garden at Buckland Monochorum. This garden, created by Keith Wiley with a great deal of inspiration from his late wife Ros, is as close as any garden I know to my idea of a perfect garden. It is packed full of good plants, all planted in a naturalistic way in a landscape heavily sculpted to create a range of different conditions. At three acres, it is on a different scale from my garden and my head has been full of thoughts about how such an approach could be scaled down.

Back in my own garden, by friday evening the wind had died down and an appraisal of the very minor damage made. We had a useful amount of rain, provided it doesn’t immediately turn hot again; I don’t think it’s due to. I have a hunch that the “a” word may make an appearance in the odd blog this week, meaning autumnal. There is a sense of a corner turned, of the beginning of a long downward slide. I’m cutting the odd thing down, collecting seeds here and there, thinking about bulb and seed orders.

Here then are half a dozen things that caught my eye this weekend:

Muehlenbeckia astonii. This has been one of the most asked about oddities in the garden when we’ve had visitors. I have been waiting for it to flower so that I can point out to people what are likely to be the most underwhelming blooms they have ever seen. They’re greenish white and less than 4mm across. The bush is now about six feet tall and growing vigorously, I keep chopping it back so I can use the path.

Roscoea x beesiana ‘Monique’. This is the furthest on of the several Roscoeas I have, and the only pale one. I have quite a few seedlings that need planting out; that’d be a good job for today. They don’t like to be too dry but don’t want to be in full shade either, which narrows my options.

I have a lot of ferns but don’t mention them very often. Paesia scaberula has had a very good year, meaning it has spread enthusiastically and is looking green and lush. It is somewhat like a very fine textured bracken, putting up its fronds on stiffly upright stems that arise from thin, wiry surface rhizomes that can fairly motor when they’ve a mind to. There was a time when I didn’t regard it as wholly hardy but for better or worse, that seems to no longer be a concern.

Dahlia ‘Jim’s Best Red’. This is another of my seedlings, grown from open pollinated seed that I think came from ‘Orange Cushion’. It is semi-double, though it takes several days to reveal its centre and it is as good a red as any I’ve seen. The dark stems add a little extra too. The yellow to its left is the seedling I put in last week, producing a very good display. The others are things I paid money for.

Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’. I wasn’t expecting much of this bamboo by way of growth this year because it seemed to be too dry. There must have been adequate moisture when it was needed as the new shoots are the tallest it has ever produced by around three feet. I reckon it’s about 17 feet tall now. Several people have asked me how I keep it under control and I’ve been able to tell them that for the most part I haven’t had to. The conditions it is growing in have kept the brakes on adequately, though I am planning to remove some of it this year. That’ll be fun.

When our garden visitors arrive, they go round the side of the house to reach the back garden. It is something of a utilitarian area, housing the dustbin, shredder, wheelbarrow, ladders, water storage barrels, hoses and so on. The water barrels have a wooden shelf on top of them and a woven willow panel concealing them, mostly. The idea is to distract people until they’ve passed through the messy bit.

It’s sunny this morning so I shall have a coffee and go up to my allotment for a bit. When it was too dark to take pictures yesterday evening I went out to check on something and found a Clematis flowering that I wanted to put in, so I went out this morning and it looked less impressive; next week maybe. I see that The Prop is still on his hols but has dutifully done a post anyway. Unstoppable.

30 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 31/7/2021

  1. The fuchsias are very comfortable on top of the water butts and would certainly attract visitors’ eyes both on the way in and out.


    1. So far this clump of Paesia hasn’t spread into anything that can’t hold its own. Another plant of it I removed altogether because it was choking other things but at least it runs on the surface, unlike Adiantum venusta, which is impossible to get out of the roots of anything it overruns.

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  2. When we visited you, I was impressed by your bamboo which I thought I should avoid in my smallish garden. You suggested I bought a good quality one. I don’t think I mentioned that my son and daughter-in-law bought me a black bamboo plus a very large pot for my recent birthday. I shall show it in its position next week. I have cut out one of its long stems already – it is at least 2 metres long.


    1. 2m vertical isn’t the problem, it’s when it does 2m sideways in all directions in a season that you need to panic. The pot will need to be big for Phyllostachys nigra; it can grow the same height as mine, 5m or so. It gets very hard to stop them blowing over in a pot.

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    1. The hidden water butts are as much about utilising every square inch and finding somewhere to put the fuchsias out for summer as hiding the water butts. The Dahlia was pure serendipity, I was lucky to have space on my allotment to be able to grow twenty random seedlings to flowering size.

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    1. It’s hard to create a garden that looks like it just happened naturally and even harder to keep it looking like that. He has three acres that look like they’d descend into total chaos if he took a fortnight off.

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      1. I saw it early on when he was digging it all out and thought the man was crazy but results speak for themselves.


      2. I should post some of the pictures I took when I was there; it really is inspirational in the sense that I’m left with a bunch of ideas in my head that I want to try to adapt to my own scale of doing things.

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    1. I get both earwigs and ants but not to the point of considering them a problem. Long may that remain the case. On plants ants are always after honeydew from aphids, so spraying the aphids solves both problems, here at least.

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  3. Your garden looks amazing! I wish my ferns looked at luscious as yours. I’m looking forward to reading more of your previous posts. We have some bamboo too, but the gophers and dry summers help keep ours from getting too overzealous. When I need to prune their roots, I use a reciprocating saw with a metal blade. Seems to work well. I’m so impressed with your “messy” section of the garden…I would never have known. It’s so beautiful I would linger there and muse over those fuchsias!


    1. The great thing about photos is you can usually choose what gets in and what stays out. I will be cutting the bamboo back in the autumn but I’m hoping to be able to give a couple of clumps to other people so I will need a fairly non-destructive method of cutting it. I’m very glad no one thought it was a good idea to introduce Gophers to the UK. Grey squirrels are bad enough.

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  4. Muehlenbeckia astonii gets quite tall if it gets the chance. It is naturalized in some of the undeveloped parks at the beach in Santa Cruz, where it climbs high into Monterey cypress trees. I find it interesting, but intimidating. I would not want to plant it here. Phyllostachys is worse! Is Phyllostachys aureosulcata the same as Phyllostachys aurea?


    1. The two bamboos are different and P. aurea is probably more of a spreader. In my experience the growth rate of bamboo, height and especially spread, are affected by available moisture far more than for most other plants. I don’t know how temperature affects them. Mine is OK where it is but I wouldn’t tell anybody that it would behave the same somewhere else.
      I haven’t noticed any tendency for Muehlenbeckia astonii to climb and it is brushing against the lower branches of a pittosporum so the opportunity is there. Its growth is divaricate and shrubby, indeed its common name is shrubby tororaro. M. complexa is a very different beast and does climb, though mostly I’ve seen it sprawling over the ground and other plants. It’s become quite a problem on the Isles of Scilly, off the south west coast here, where the climate is very mild, it not being very frost hardy. In a fight between it and Monterey cypress my money would be on the Muehlenbeckia; intimidating is the perfect description.

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      1. Oh gee, that’s it. I recognize the name Muehlenbeckia complexa now. It does exactly as you describe, by climbing into Monterey cypress, and then sprawling over the top of whatever it climbs to the top of. The growth that I can see from the ground does not look like that of an aggressively climbing vine, but it obviously gets around in the trees!
        Of the few problematic bamboos here, the common golden bamboo, Phyllostachys aurea, is the most aggressively invasive. It is what gives all other bamboos a bad reputation, although many of the others are rather bad also. Golden bamboo appeared at work a few years ago, and we allow a big of it to stay, where it creeps along the top of a retaining wall. I remove any bits that creep uphill from the wall, although there are not many. I gave several away, and about six remain canned here. I am hesitant about giving them away, since I am concerned about it getting away somewhere else.


      2. Interesting. That species is the only of the genus that I am aware of. I have never seen it to be a problem, although it never seems to die either. It lives in atriums in which it was planted in the 1950s, but does not get too dispersed. It just sort of lingers . . . forever. It may prefer more humidity or moisture.

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  5. The roscoea caught my eye in a gardening mag recently so your showing has nudged me again. It looks so delicate. The water butt area is a triumph, so much prettier than my side alleyway. Is the orange dahlia with the dark leaves ‘Orange Cushion’ ? I am really not growing them again but then again….


    1. The single orange Dahlia with dark foliage is ‘Bishop of Oxford’. Roscoeas are not as delicate as they look but ideally they want pretty good light and fairly evenly moist soil, which I find a problem; my shady areas are too shady and my open areas too dry.


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