It's so long since I've written about my own garden. It has taken a back seat in blog-land while I have been thinking and writing about other exotic places, plants, gardens and people. But how lucky I am to have my own garden to appreciate and write about when all the other excitements are over.
Even though it's May, that most dire of months for gardens in the southern hemisphere - equate it with November if you live on the other side of the world - there is the beauty of decay. Sometimes you have to look hard to see this beauty - but believe me - it is there! Especially in the seedheads of grasses and spent flowers. Mostly they turn a warm beige or corn colour as they dry out in the late summer and autumn sunshine, contrasting so well with that last rose of summer, and other autumn flowers such as Michelmas Daisies, Dahlias and simple Chrysanthemums.
Poppy seedheads, almost as pretty as the flower they come from, are still looking so handsome, dry and golden, as is the annual weed Red Orach - Atriplex hortensia, which pops up all over my garden in spring.
Some may think of it as a weed, but I bless it every day from the time it's burgundy foliage appears in spring until it grows tall, in midsummer waving it's pink seedheads about, right through till autumn when that delicious burgundy pink suddenly changes to beige and gold when lit by sunlight.
Although - in spring when the seedlings appear, I wonder if it might swamp the whole garden because it seeds in great clumps, all over the place, even coming up in cracks in the paving, but thankfully it's also easy to pull out in big tufts.
You can control the amount of Red Orach in your garden by leaving only the seedlings you want to remain. In strategic places of course, where you know it will look good rearing up as it does between other plants in all it's burgundy splendour, creating a wonderful foil for flowers throughout summer!
Who would have thought that other annual, Queen Anne's Lace - Ammi majus could carry on right through into winter so delicately, it's lacy white flowers turning to gold.
The seedheads of the tall elegant grass Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' wave about dramatically above everything else through summer and autumn, even the tall lilys. But now in late autumn the seed-heads of those tall lily's are an event in themselves.
In the garden at the front of the cottage there is no tall Calamagrostis, waving about, but there is that other weedlike plant which I am so partial to - Verbena boniarensis, which arrived in my garden all by itself from I don't know where. But what a bonus - as this is the plant which everyone remarks upon flourishing along the length of my front fence. Another happy accident because I would never have thought of teaming this lilac colour with the oranges and lime greens I had planned and planted so purposefully as the colour scheme for the front garden. But V. boniarensis has appeared uninvited and unthought of and completes the colour scheme perfectly all by itself!
Not only has it introduced just the colour fillip that the garden needed, it has introduced tall form and structure in it's unique zig-zagging way. Even more, it does the seedhead thing. Not turning beautifully gold like the previous seedheads described, but more of a blackish mauve, and though it might lose a bit of colour, it sticks to it's tall unique form doggedly all winter, so it doesn't deserve to be cut down. While other seedheads might have broken up, rotted or faded away by spring V. boniarensis stays, until even I get sick of it and inspired by new spring green popping up everywhere else, I finally cut it down. I also like the bronze fennel in this front garden not only because of it's feathery bronze summer foliage but also because of its form and seedheads in the autumn/winter garden. And did I mention Stipa gigantea? Such a tall plant in such a tiny garden? It's golden seedheads reach as high as the roof of my verandah. Just because my garden is small it doesn't mean to say I have to have tiny neat little plants.
Now that we are well into May and winter is just around the corner even those golden seed-heads which I have been so careful to save and appreciate - even they will fade back, break up and decay, so that soon there will be just the structural evergreen plants and skeletons of deciduous plants to look at. It is only a week till I take off for warmer climes (I hope) to visit my family in the UK and to join old friend Noel Kingsbury and his group in Madrid studying the Flora and Gardens of Central Spain, and then a quick trip with Jimi Blake looking at The Cutting Edge Gardens of Sweden. By the time I come home in mid June, my head and heart filled with the sights and colours of exotic plants and gardens of warmer climes, my garden will have lost all of it's autumn colour as below and there will be just the bones left - the skeletal shapes of bare deciduous trees and shrubs and blessed evergreens left.