Thursday, 20 June 2013

Learning to love ...

It may be irrational but there are some plants I love, in a fuzzy sort of a way, and some I hate with a passion. I don't know why I hate the ones I hate, as I have no real reason to, in fact sometimes I have never even grown them. Sometimes it's a colour I dislike, maybe an acid yellow, a brick red or an orange - that can bring down the red mist ; sometimes it's the foliage or the habit.

So when an area of the garden began to irritate me every time I walked past it, I decided to replant parts of it ... with some of my worst enemies ! I want to learn to love, to turn the other cheek, to embrace  and to celebrate ... well I want to give it a try, anyway !

The bit of the garden we call the 'Bus Shelter' garden has, frankly, been a bit of a disaster! About two years ago I had a vision of rippling grasses, so I ripped out nearly all the planting, replacing it with grasses I had grown from seed. Four hundred grasses I  had grown from seed, to be precise. I guess it looked as I had pictured it, for about 2 of our 52 weeks ! It quickly went from rippling to flopping, seemingly overnight. After all my work, I was loathe to rip them all out and replant AGAIN, so I have tried to live with it, digging out a few grasses when I had something suitable to replace them with.

So, earlier today, it looked like this :

Messy, floppy, limp, without definition ... need I go on !

I made a decision and headed down to our lovely local nursery ('Appleby Plant Nursery') , where they grow a lot of their own stuff and always have lots of good advice to give, and asked for lots of good advice about perennials which can cope in semi-shade.

And so, this is where I begin to learn to love the plants I really hate, namely Geum and Achillea. Perfectly fine plants I'm sure, and beloved by many, but usually given a wide berth by me. I did grow Achillea once and it spread like a thug through the borders, and then it had the temerity to flop over and need staking. I didn't like the smell of the foliage, and I didn't like the colour. Since outing it, I have read lots of articles and books where it is highly recommended as a border plant, and listed as a real stalwart of the garden. It likes shade, I liked the colour, and it is smaller than my last encounter ( only about 40cm), so hopefully, it can stand up for itself! So, I bought myself, not one, but TWO 'Achillea Desert Rose'. I will learn to love ...

Geums, I have never grown as I don't like the harsh colours I have seen  (acid yellow, brick red and bright orange) and I don't like the foliage, as it has something weed-like about it ! Then I saw a recent 'Gardener's World' where a Geum enthusiast was showing her National Collection, and extolling their virtues. My lip was curling until she said these words ... "Geums are in flower for about 25 weeks a year", at which point I  realised that it is hard NOT to love anything which blooms for so long. 

I left the nursery with Geum Rivale, which is as subtle as any plant can be. It is a delicate little plant, holding its flowers on long stems so that they move very freely. The flowers are fascinating, and a lovely browny, reddy, pinky, orangey colour that doesn't even have a name ! It has lovely little seed heads too, which are equally as attractive as the flowers.

I also got its more robust cousin, Geum Hybrida 'Lady Stratheden', which has an AGM....... bit too yellow for me, but I will learn to love ...

Other purchases included a well grown Anenome and two lovely Heucheras:

'Heuchera Frosted Violet' which has a soft, velvety feel to it, and ...

'Heuchera Obsidian' which is a lovely, glossy, in-your-face sort of a plant.

So, I rooted out yet more of the *** grasses and replaced them with my new love/hate plants. The island bed is still not finished. There is a big obelisk + climbers to go in the centre , and more 'selective weeding' (aka uprooting ) to be done. But, I think it is improved already by the new planting, and the loss of some more grasses.


  1. Isn't that funny, I love the colours you seem not too. But that is what makes gardening fun and wonder if you find you go through fads (of your own) all of a sudden liking plants that you didn't like before. I did that with succulents, now I swimming in them. I love your garden. I have just planted Heuchera and I don't like them. Love your hot pink achillea and haven't got any. They do take over don't they.

  2. Hi Sandi, good job we all like different things ! I was the same with succulents, love 'em now, but didn't like them before ! Auriculas are my new obsession, yet I couldn't see their attraction until 3 months ago !

  3. Your new purchase looks very nice, especially that achillea (spelling wrong, I know). You indeed have the patience to grow 400 seedlings of grass :-)

  4. Thankyou KL. The grasses were really satisfying to grow, as they germinated in the blink of an eye and grew very quickly. I grew Festuca as the edging and a variety of other grasses for the bed itself. Patience was not needed for the growing - just the ripping out and replanting !


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