24 July 2016 - 12:02pm

Plants that do it by themselves...

Many years ago I bought a small pot of a pretty little blue plant called Pratia pedunculata. A member of the campanula family, it has that gorgeous soft sky blue you seldom find in flowers. This one is very low growing, only around one or two centimetres (less than an inch in old money). I I bought it to soften the edge of a pond. The aforementioned pond is now well gone, but while I wasn’t paying attention the little monkey of a plant crept slowly but determinedly towards the grass. Incidentally I now longer use the term ‘lawn’ to describe the bits Peter does on the ride on mower. It is full of weeds and moss but it is green and it mows so does the same job without throwing endless chemicals at it. But I digress…. So now the little green patch outside our study window has been transformed into a delightful sprinkling of campanula blue little Pratia stars among the green. I love it. Peter mows it occasionally but it sees him coming and tucks itself low under the mower blades and bounces back beautifully when he has gone. It struck me when thinking about what to write this month that in this garden at any rate, a lot of the decisions as to where and what to plant aren’t actually made by me, or any human come to that. Not that I am against thinning out self seeders ruthlessly, and I do plan a border to some extent to provide a bit of structure. But plants that seed around or those that rampage beyond their allotted space often look much better than a carefully planted out border. Foxgloves, forget me nots, poppies of various types (annual poppy pictured) , that lovely bronze fennel, verbena bonariensis, aquilegias, alchemilla mollis and that lovely little white and pinky erigeron that seeds beautifully into cracks in the paving to name a few, all pop up all over our garden. It is important to make sure they don’t crowd out your treasures, and if you don’t thin them out to give them a bit of space between each seedling you risk them getting congested and full of mildew. But apart from that you can let them get on with it. On a much grander scale I am loving our swamp cypress. Its grown up name is Taxodium Distichum and it is a very tall tree when full grown, but has a fairly slender girth so it would fit in a relatively small space. It needs damp, even soggy soil to thrive. In Spring, the light apple-green leaves appear on twisted stems and by Autumn the foliage turns a deep fox-fur russet before it loses its leaves. If planted on the edge of a pond it will throw up tree roots that buckle up above the surface into knobbly 'knees', known as pneumatophores. No one is quite sure why they do this, one suggestion is that they take oxygen down to the roots to prevent them from drowning by allowing them to breathe. Tiny or huge, aren’t plants marvellous? Gaps in the border where soil can be seen are not allowed at Charnwood. So I’ve planted tobacco plants, snapdragons, fuchsia and dahlias where the early spring flowers have now gone. It’s not too late to do this and it works with most bedding plants. You can be sure of colour until the frosts then with just a little bit of extra work now and remember: bare soil will harbour weeds! Enjoy the summer in your garden, it’s over all too soon!