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Clematis

Clematis-you can never have enough of them! This one is Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’. One of the first I planted in my garden and I love it for its random green markings on the petals.

Originally growing right next to a tree, this plant barely used to flower, but as soon as the tree was removed, it sped away. It especially likes my neighbours’ lovely new trellis to cling onto.

Viticella indicates a late flowering (group 3) Clematis, so every spring, I just lop the whole thing down to about 18 inches, give it a good mulch with manure and it flowers profusely from July until September/October.

I think this one (above) is C. viticella ‘Venosa Violacea’ (huge thanks Nick and Jo -in comments below. Definitely not ‘The President’).  Again, flowering from July to September.

I may have mentioned (just a few times) that I’ve only got a small London garden, and having run out of wall space, I was looking for other means of getting more of these gorgeous blooms into my plot. A lovely old stick, wrapped in chicken wire seems to work well and sveltely adds a bit of height and drama into the border. Half of this Clematis did die back earlier in the year and presuming this was ‘clematis wilt’, I chopped the whole plant back to about a foot. Since then it’s recovered well,  put on lots of healthy new growth, and is still pumping out loads of colour in October. Hoorah!

By no means am I a Clematis expert, but many growers have advised me over the years to plant these climbers about 15cm deeper than they were originally grown in the pot, and this will hep them survive clematis wilt.

I’ve still got a fair amount of colour in the garden at the moment, but mostly pinks and purples, so I’ve decided to plant another Clematis, Bill Mackenzie this time, which will give me wonderful yellow nodding lanterns from August until November.

Now is a great time to plant perennials and climbers, as the ground is still warm and we should have plenty of rain for keeping plants well watered.

Following my own advice to plant good and deep, seventeen years later I’m still being surprised with concrete (reinforced this time-GRrr) in my borders.

However, I did manage to dig a big deep hole and plant my new purchase about 15cms lower than it was growing in its pot.

I’ve also given it a lovely stick to climb up, with lots of chicken wire to grab onto,

and mixed loads of rich compost into the planting hole. Again, I’ll cut this back in spring to about a foot, 18 inches. This is quite a vigorous Clematis though, so I think I may have to add another stick to make an arch as the climber really gets into its stride.

I’ve found Clematis do take at least a couple of years to really get going, but once you start looking at all the exciting varieties our there (try Thorncroft, a great Clematis specialist for ordering online, or Great Dixter have a great selection too if you’re passing near Rye), you can find varieties that will give you flowers for most of the year, and you’ll want to squeeze in more and more.

I bought this lovely metal frame from Plant Belles in spring to weave a Clematis Columbine (early flowering group 1) around. But many objects will give a clematis the support it needs to romp away.

Last summer I visited Bryan’s Ground, a superlative garden near Hay-on-Wye, and marvelled at this clematis growing up old bed springs, supplying a stunning backdrop to these triumphant Veronicastrum.

And this Clematis montana ‘Tetrarose’ (group 1) flowering in May in Lucy Mackenzie’s ‘Lip na Cloiche’ garden on Mull had a lovely gentle scent as well as entwining itself around a length of hefty old rope.

 Clematis armandii also delicately perfumes the air in March and April.  It doesn’t necessarily need pruning, but this evergreen is so vigorous, that you may need to hack this right back to a foot or two if it gets overgrown. Do it just after it’s flowered and you should still have some blooms the following year.

And I have very fond memories of these whopping ‘Nelly Moser’ blooms scrambling up my in-laws’ shed in Belfast. Perfect for a less-than-sunny spot by the way.

There’s still one more clematis , H.F. Young, to find a space for in my garden. It’s looks like a rather charming variety, with large ‘Wedgwood Blue’ flowers in May and June and again in August and September. Just need to come up with the right support. Thinking it may be a teepee this time.

 

 

 

 

I love an edible window box. Gorgeous to look at, with tasty bites.

These delicate violas are from viola specialist Wildegoose Nursery  (Viola cornuta ‘Winona Cawthorne’ I think) and as well as being edible, they have a delicious honey scent. And planted alongside are some wonderfully textured mustard leaves. Red Frills, Golden Streaks, Green in Snow and Giant Red are all in the mix. Dead-heading keeps the violas constantly flowering, although I might have to replace some of the mustard leaves soonish, which are just about going to seed.

And talking about edibles,  I went to see the new Tord Boontje’s ‘Dawn to Dusk’ swivelling chairs on the Thames at the weekend as part of the Chelsea Fringe. They’re right next to Vauxhall Bridge, so easy to get to (Vauxhall tube is the nearest).

They’re handsome benches (modelled here by the gorgeous Gianna),

beautifully planted up with drought tolerant plants which look great against the rusted steel.

I particularly liked the Tulbaghia violcea (aka Society Garlic), a stunner of a plant of which both stems and flowers are edible, with quite a garlicy kick. Which almost makes this an edible chair?

Now here’s the turning bit. Below, there’s me giving you a twirl with the London Eye behind.

And here’s the very accommodating Andrew and his parents who let me film them while they were out Chelsea Fringing too. All great fun!

Hurrah! It’s the Chelsea Fringe again. This year it’s running from Sat 20th May until Sunday 4th June. There are tons of great events to see/ take part in, all over London and much further afield (Essex, Cirencester, Hastings, Henley, Poland, Italy and Japan!). If you haven’t heard of the Chelsea Fringe before, it’s a quirky horticultural festival, wrapping itself around the Chelsea Flower Show dates, with loads of pop-up events, horticultural happenings and art installations to visit-mostly for free!

I’m kicking off the weekend by heading west to Paddington to see ‘London’s first floating pocket garden’ (above). (Oops, delayed opening. Now open from May 26th.)

I love it that the Fringe takes me to areas I don’t normally explore in the capital, and while out of my manor, I thought I’d have a look at Tord Boontje’s ‘Dawn to Dusk’ rotating chairs on the Thames (next to St. George’s Wharf in SW8), take in an artist led tour at Battersea Power Station (it’s free, but you need to book to join this) and then top it off by heading down to Vegetable Avenue (SW8), to learn how make my own veg-strument. I can then join in the celebratory musical performance along Thessaly Road with London’s Vegetable Orchestra. What a day!

From Battersea to Brixton to Broadgate (in the City), from Bamboo Gardens to the Bloomin’ Jewels exhibition (at Contemporary Applied Arts in Southwark), you’re spoilt for choice.

You also get the chance to visit Wendy Shillam’s wonderful rooftop garden this Saturday 2oth May (near Oxford Circus) and she’ll be holding great day courses on how to grow veg in just 6 inches of soil, with great nutritional tips, on Sunday 21st May and Sunday 4th June (you’ll need to book these).

In past years, visiting Chelsea Fringe events has always been a treat and I can’t wait to see more happenings this year. Here’s a list of the first week’s events,

And there’s plenty more going on until the 4th June (Inner Temple Dog Show above, taking place on Sunday 21st May). Enjoy!

P.S. If you want to join Michelle’s virtual Chelsea Fringe project, you can Tweet a pic of your own garden (or join in via Facebook, Instagram or a blog) with the hashtag #mygardenrightnow

Couldn’t help sharing this wonderful Ferula communis (ornamental Fennel), given to me by Siew Lee Vorley from Great Dixter.  It’s looking wilder every day!

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