Tag Archives: Summer Garden

Agapanthus advice

Colours of the sea and sky

In the Summer Garden right now we have repeats of this deep blue agapanthus in full flower, and every day I hear people talking about it. We’ve placed them amongst grasses and alongside bright yellow achillea, so it stands out a mile. This deep, dark blue is one of the more unusual varieties. Agapanthus are more often a lighter blue or white. They don’t come in anything on the red spectrum.

Agapanthus are summer bulbs from South Africa and they will make a big impact in your borders or in containers. They aren’t cheap; (I saw two bulbs in a 20cm pot for £8 the other day), but they will last for many years so they are good value in the long run.

Agapanthus Navy Blue at The Garden House, Devon in August

I keep seeing them outside snazzy beach-themed holiday properties, and they have come to be an architectural flower of summer; a flowering version of a bay tree in a pot by the door. It makes sense as they are the colour of sea and sky and they work well on their own or companion planted with a variety of colours and forms – whatever takes your fancy.

They like a good soil and don’t like sitting in wet, so whether you plant them out, or in containers, incorporate grit if drainage is poor. Oh, and don’t bother with them if you only have a shaded space – they need full sun. They give interest for a long period as they go from leaves to flower to seed heads over many months. You can get evergreen varieties too for even longer interest, but they are less frost hardy than the decidiuous ones.

If you grow yours in pots, keep the pot snug to the root ball. They give better flowers when their root ball is constricted. Ours are in the ground where they form clumps and generally get on well. They are frost hardy and I don’t worry about lifting them at all. Flowering is decreased the next year if the bulbs dry out completely for a long time in the autumn. But there’s not much chance of that here on Dartmoor!

Happy gardening.

Nick Haworth, Head Gardener

May plant Iris where she don’t belong

Right plant wrong place! Moraea huttonii

Well, as we’ve had one of the best behaved springs I can remember, and we have plants all ahead of themselves, I thought I would keep the optimism going and feature a plant that behaves better for me than all the descriptions suggest.
It’s name doesn’t trip off the tongue too easily; Morraea huttonii is a bit of a mouthful for a plant that most of us would describe as a yellow Iris.

Moraea huttonii a yellow Iris

Moraea huttonii at The Garden House, Devon

It’s a super plant that I use down through the summer garden to lead the eye all along the planting scheme. At 1 metre high it gets your attention and the vivid yellow flowers really stand out amongst some quite lofty grasses and colourful perennials.

If I believed the plant dictionary description I wouldn’t plant it though. It should be in a sunny, south or westerly position, on sand or loam so the corms; (rhizomes if you prefer) bake in heat, stay on the dry side and never sit in water. It should avoid wet winters and frosts and if it’s really cold I should have it in a greenhouse.

Poor Iris – but it does well

Well, I keep it on a slope that faces east and tips north. It’s often sat like an island in the stream in winter as the rain comes in torrents, and as if that wasn’t enough it’s planted in shale. About the only thing that’s working for it is that here on Dartmoor we’re on acid soil.
I never lift it in the winter, so it doesnt get the dry, dormant period its supposed to need. Each year the corms are raised and split after flowers have faded, which is the best way to propagate in the Iris family.

Worth taking a risk for a plant that suits your garden design

This lovely Iris is a perfect example of how sometimes it’s worth taking a risk with a plant that just feels like it’s right for the effect you need. It’s too easy to buy a plant on impulse and then keep it in a pot because you don’t have perfect conditions and you don’t know where to put it. I say get it in the ground and give it a chance. Just like the weather, any plant can surprise you and leave you smiling. Right plant, wrong place can sometimes work. Now I just need to get out in the garden and start doing a sundance!

Enjoy May  – it’s certainly off to a fine start.

Nick Haworth, Head Gardener