Gardening is always surprising. Sometimes things go well and it is uplifting; sometimes it is frustrating and I wonder why I bother. And the fluctuations in emotions can change in an instant as, in turning a corner, your eye lands on some new problem – sorry: challenge. Gardening does not have to be like this, of course. I have just finished judging gardens for a local town’s garden competition and it is clear that there are easy ways to create a garden that looks good and is easy to look after; plant evergreen shrubs through landscape fabric and cover everything in slate chippings. So my periodic despair is of my own making.
But the positives usually win the day and I am delighted that a lily that I dismissed when it bloomed for the first time last year, has exceeded my expectations this summer. ‘Fusion’ is an odd lily, a remarkable hybrid of Asian Lilium longiflorum and American L. pardalinum. Last year the six bulbs produced six stems. This year each bulb has increased dramatically and produced five or six stems. It is only a personal matter but I still don’t love the flowers but I have to admit that it is vigorous and makes a great show. In addition, and it may only be a fluke, it was the last of the lilies in the garden to attract the attention of lily beetles.
I have been planting some impatiens in the garden. I know the very name will raise the hackles of conservationists who can only think of the Himalayan balsam and consider them all as weeds, but there are many interesting perennial species, largely from Asia, that have potential as garden plants. They are not all completely hardy so it is a risky venture but you have to try. One that had a dodgy start but is now settling down is Impatiens stenantha. This Himalayan species (it is NOT Himalayan balsam) is a perennial that reaches 30cm high and forms a dense clump and does not run like the more popular I. omeiana. The red-spotted, yellow flowers have two elongated petals and are rather strange. It is supposed to bloom from May to autumn and my plant seems on track to confirm this. It is supposed to be hardy provided the roots do not freeze so I think a mulch may be in order. It needs light shade and moisture and I planted mine out in flaming June and it struggled at first. But a week of wetter weather and it is much perkier and is growing well. I like it a lot
What I don’t like is my hollyhocks. I was disappointed with them last year when they were not the clear yellow I expected but tinged with pink. Those in the yellow and white garden had to go but some in the long borders were reprieved. But as soon as growth began this spring rust moved in. I am completely unfair and illogical in my treatment of plants and some will be showered with attention and care while I expect others to get on with it on their own. And I am afraid I expect hollyhocks to just grow and flower and I am not prepared to spray them every fortnight to keep them healthy. Unfortunately hollyhock rust does not just make the leaves spotty it kills the leaves and the plants look like gaunt skeletons. Serious rust on hollyhocks is the price I have to pay for living in the country. In urban gardens, with the luxury of diesel pollution preventing the spores from growing, the disease is far less likely. Oh well. They have to go – and good riddance.