1 September 2015 - 12:00am

Summer borders and 'Dark Plum' poppy

In June we had a week’s holiday in the Ashdown Forest. I made my usual pilgrimage to Great Dixter, which was looking fantastic, full of vibrant colour that makes you feel immersed rather than a mere spectator. The meadow was past its colourful best but still very beautiful with soft pink and beige grasses taking over from the early summer wildflowers. Just a few orchids were still evident, and wild blue geranium dotted about . For sheer contrast I visited Nymans. Also very beautiful but very tidy, almost manicured in places, the typical National Trust style of lovely colour themed planting in large blocks of beautifully grown plants, all for maximum impact. There is a magnificent, generously proportioned double sided ‘June border’ 0f mainly herbaceous perennials that looked fantastic at the end of the month. My favourite planting combo was a clear blue, large flowered hardy geranium ‘Orion’ scrambling up to a soft orange alstromeria; both reaching 4 or 5 feet tall. Down the backside (so to speak) of one of the borders are dogwoods. Not the usual multi stemmed variety but big trees full of their simple white flowers. They make a wonderful backdrop in or out of flower. The summer border has tall perennials such as heleniums at the back, and at the front, tender annuals including nicotania, cleome and tagetes. All planted out in carefully colour themed groups looking rather staid and geometric, but clearly that effect will by now have given way to a spectacular show as it all grows up and outwards. Quite, quite different from the organised chaos of Dixter where plants weave in and out of the borders, but still very lovely. In the Nymans walled garden was the most delicious looking dark purple annual poppy planted right next to a bright silver sea holly. I asked the name of it and a kind volunteer gardener found it – Papaver somniferum ‘Dark Plum’. It’s in the Sarah Raven catalogue if you fancy it. It’s a tall, annual poppy so you can just scatter the seed in Autumn or early spring wherever you want them and thin them out when they come through to get better plants free of mildew. They don’t transplant very well, especially if you have Mars Bar fingers like me. I think the sea holly was Miss Willmots Ghost, a biannual that also will seed around. And lastly there is the Nymans rose garden. I’m not usually a great fan of just roses together, but the sheer scale, scent and planting is fabulous, especially this year, which has been such a good one for them. So if you are in the area go to Nymans - and Great Dixter of course! Don’t forget to keep deadheading your plants to keep them flowering. It is especially needed with sweet peas, which will stop flowering if you let them make pods and set seed. Last year I actually got round to sowing my sweet peas in October, and they have made much better, stronger plants. So that is another gardening lesson learned. That’s one great thing about gardening as in life, there is always something new to learn if you are willing to try!