I am hoping that, as you read this, we have had some meaningful rain. The soil is dry and cracking and it has been a chore keeping all the newly planted bedding alive. But it is amazing that those planted a few weeks ago are coping well – their roots must have grown fast and found some moisture deep down. And some of last year’s plantings are starting to make an impact.
Last year Iris ‘Harlequinesque’ managed to grow but this year has four flower spikes and the first flower has opened. These Japanese (Iris ensata) hybrids are often called clematis-flowered and you can see why. Their flat flowers on tall slim stems are remarkable and they follow on after the bearded iris and Siberian iris. They need acid soil and like moisture. They can tolerate waterlogging in summer but are not truly water iris and will not like being covered in water in winter – unlike Iris laevigata. Mine are in a spot that is wet in winter, but they are not covered in water, and it is currently rather dry. But they seem to be coping well so far and getting bigger. ‘Harlequinesque’ is an American introduction from 1978 and fairly widely available.
Last year I planted a lot of new daylilies too and a few bloomed last year. Others have waited till this summer as the small, bare-root plants established. ‘Wedding Band’ has opened her first bloom and, unlike some others, has made me very happy. Choosing daylilies is tricky: modern varieties are getting more frilly, fancy and extraordinary and, while they are great achievements of breeding, they are not all better garden plants than the old kinds. Some of the very frilly kinds do not open well in cool climates. ‘Wedding Band’ seems to be a good compromise of broad, frilly petals and elegance and the flowers are a good, pale yellow with a slight apricot flush. It was introduced in 1987 and is supposed to be fragrant but I forgot to sniff! Flowers are 12cm across and they should be paler, with a yellow band around the edge. Maybe the flower will be paler in warmer weather – yesterday was dull.
My azaleas did flower last year but some have done better this year. My selection comprised scented varieties that included early and very late kinds. The ‘earlies’ were, inevitably, damaged by frost but this ‘Summer Sunshine’ would be very unlikely to suffer from frost. It seems remarkable to have azaleas in bloom in July. The problem is that it has to compete with so many other summer flowers. Fortunately this one is very showy and it is underplanted with hostas so is very much the star of the show.
I have planted a few dieramas in the garden – they are such a characteristic component of Irish gardens. I have always been rather frightened of them in the past with their reputation for being rather tender and dislike of wet soil. But I took the plunge and have been delighted at how well they have done. This is ‘Guinevere’ growing in the yellow and white garden. The flowers have a slight pink tinge when young but I suspect this may be exaggerated by the hot, dry weather. In any case, although it does not strictly follow the colour scheme I can forgive her a slight blush because dieramas are such beautiful plants.
And forming a background to ‘Guinevere’ is rugosa rose ‘Agnes’. This is a tough, bushy rose with fragrant blooms with a rather unusual colour for a rugosa rose. It should be the easiest of roses to grow and resistant to disease but I have had issues. The foliage never seems to fully expand and seems to be covered in mildew. This affects flowering. So, despite not liking to spray, hence my selection of roses that were chosen for healthy growth, I sprayed with fungicide a week ago. Remarkably it seems to have helped and lots of flowers have opened. I am hoping that the current rain and a good feed will have given it a boost and it will realise it is supposed to be an easy rose now.