New leaves for old with a side order of flowers

August feels a long time ago now. Although looking out the window you could be forgiven for thinking it still was August, the weather is so beautiful. The leaves starting to turn, the way it is getting darker earlier and earlier, the wonderfully soft golden light of late afternoon, they are big reminders that we are actually careering towards mid September. I’ve half-written so many posts in the interim, but a combination of a leaking oil tank, a trip away, and a seemingly endless array of boring jobs have monopolized my time. So here I am, *cough* weeks after the fact, finally admitting to another plant culling.

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I’ve surprised myself by how much I grew to love the mophead hydrangeas in the front garden. But note the use of the past tense! TNG dug them out for me. I want a wafty feel to the wall border, and mophead hydrangeas are stolid, resolutely unwafty plants. They barely move in a gale! In the end it was an easy decision, they were preventing me from achieving what I wanted. I no longer have them as an excuse. But the change in feel was instant, long before any further tidying or (re) planting.

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Of course then I needed plants to replace them. Further up towards the house is a shortish run of Escallonia hedging. At least, it will be a hedge, eventually. Down past the hydrangeas is an as yet diminutive Teucrium, which will hopefully provide me with cuttings to create a silvery wave of hedge on down towards what I tend to call the pointy end. Which begged the question, how was I to bridge the gap between small dark green leaves and small silvery ones. Fortunately Kate and Karen took it upon themselves to introduce me to a rather excellent garden centre outside Caernarfon, which just happens to be about midway between us.

I had a brilliant time. There was lots of laughter, tea, cake, and a very enjoyable if somewhat disorganised foray into the plant area. There was much tooing and froing, lots of “I’ve lost my trolley”, even more laughter, and of course lots of plants. We mutually encouraged one another in a quite shameless fashion, and all came away with a goodly number of beautiful things. For me these included a pair of very different silvery leaved shrubs to fill that gap. I had intended to add a creamy green variegated pittosporum to segue from the dark green of the escallonia to silver, but in the end I moved the tamarisk I already had instead.

The new additions were Leptospermum Silver Sheen, which has beautiful pinkish-stems

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And Olearia virgata, with rosemary-like needles for leaves.

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Both will grow to a good height, adding privacy from passers by, and screening the house opposite. It will take time, and I will be sowing annuals to fill the gaps and dissuade weeds for some years, I think, but I am already delighted with the change in feel.

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I was also delighted to discover that some of my Verbena bonariensis have self-seeded this year after all (they must have heard me moaning), so I have been able to continue the line down around the new shrubs. Once I have removed the bronze carex that just didn’t work I will be adding more perovskia and some more of the Agastache rupestris, which will help increase the coherence. But I’ll write about that – and the new grass that will replace the carex – another day.

I bought more than just those two shrubs. No, really!

For a start, two new hydrangeas, which balances out the culling nicely.

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Hydrangea ‘Hot Chocolate’ is a fairly new introduction. It has beautiful, slightly furry leaves tinged purple with a pink underside. Planted in the back garden, it goes perfectly with my Geum rivale ‘Leonard’s Variety’:

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The other has an even more ridiculous name – Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’. Stupid name, stunning plant, it makes me smile every time I see it, which is frequently as I can see it from the kitchen sink!

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The reddish stems of PW pick up the colour of the underside of Hot Chocolate’s leaves, and the flower heads are gorgeous.

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I promised a side order of flowers. TNG cut the best of the hydrangeas flowers for me before he uprooted the plants and put them in a bucket.

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I picked through them, and filled two large and two small vases. Two weeks later most of them are still going strong.

And on Monday, for my sister-in-law’s birthday, I picked more flowers from the garden. Coincidentally, perfectly timed for Cathy’s Monday Vase meme. Except that life got in the way and I didn’t get round to posting about it. So here I am, shoehorning it in to this post. I’m getting desperate…

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An unknown snapdragon that I grew at the allotment years ago and that miraculously still germinated was the starting point.

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The back of Dahlia ‘Summertime’ has pink veining that picked up the colours in the snapdragon.

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Dahlia ‘Bishop of Oxford’ has warm orange tones that work well, and a couple of darker orange – brown rudbekia (the invaluable Rustic Dwarf Mix) plus some yellow flowers from a neglected Pak Choice plant added more warmth.

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I’d fully intended to use bright green foliage, but found myself drawn to myrtle instead, the dark green leaves and pinky-red stems tone perfectly.

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I’m really pleased with the result, but sadly I live too far away from SIL to have popped round with them, so she had to put up with a photo instead. The thought was there. And now I have a little touch of colour in my fireplace.

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45 Comments


  1. There is definitely a wafty thing going on (or as Spellcheck initially made me say … a ‘warty’ thing, which doesn’t sound half as tantalising!
    Janet, you deserve a bravery award for outing the big hydrangea, it takes a decisive mind to do that! I love all your new choices, and can imagine that they will bring a touch of lightness to the border.
    Jane Scorer recently posted Fig-uratively speaking


    1. Hi Jane, yes, I kept getting told my border was warty too!! I’m actually pretty good at being ruthless in the garden, and will move or remove plants at the drop of a hat if I feel its not working as I want. I’m actually more proud of not having dug them up when we first arrived, which I was sorely tempted to do. I’m not big on patience… Most of all I am happy that I begin to feel I know my basic plant palette for that border now, though I still want to get my hands on a salvia ‘Amistad’, I think it might work really well.


  2. Really enjoyed reading through your thought processes on these borders, Janet, and look forward to seeing how your new purchases fill out and come together – I admire how you seem to able to visualise the effect you want, something I am rubbish it! Following your mention of teucrium before I too now have some growing from seed, but only just getting their first true leaves so they have a long way to go. Was it TNG’s idea to save some hydrangea flowers for a vase? They definitely look better like this than in a vase – and what a lovely combo you have in your second vase! You too have raided your veg beds! Thanks for joining in, whatever day of the week it is :)
    Cathy recently posted Wordless Wednesday: Old Dutch Pottery


    1. Hi Cathy, thank you, but I fear I have given the wrong impression! The visualisation thing is a massive challenge, I tend to drastically over estimate the amount of space I have for one thing, but in the case of the wall border there has been a clear vision of the general look and feel for almost as long as we’ve been here, based on some images of a Dane Pearson garden I found on line. Its a case of groping my way towards making it a reality, “interviewing” possible ingredients, and then being patient while I save the money required for the plants I can’t grow from seeds and cuttings. I do agree about TNG’s bucket though, glorious! Sorry I’m not better at consistently joining in on Mondays, but it has been and is a real inspiration.


  3. Beautiful arrangement Janet! And sounds like you had a fabulous time plant shopping with friends :) Hot Chocolate is already on my wishlist after seeing your purchase!
    Mark and Gaz recently posted The Sweet and The Soft


    1. Thank you! And yes, Hot Chocolate would fit beautifully in your garden. Plant shopping in good company was a real joy.


  4. You realise that my mop heads are now quaking in their boots.. They were already getting nervous having observed the azalea being moved.
    rusty duck recently posted Coleton Fishacre


    1. Tee hee, poor mopheads! There was a certain inevitability to the demise of mine, at least your azalea found a new home and didn’t wind up in a bucket!


    1. Thank you Beth, I really enjoyed putting this one together, I don’t often use the yellows in a vase, not sure why!


  5. I’m so glad you bit the bullet and removed the hydrangeas, I knew they were wrong but it is hard to remove something full grown when you’re beginning a new garden and need all the maturity you can get! The border already is saying just what you wanted, so well done! I really like the new hydrangeas (could I just say I think they look a bit close together (that’s pretty rich coming from me I know). Ah! so you’ve met Karen, she and I studied C&G embroidery together many moons ago; she’s a great person.
    Christina recently posted The Slope on Thursday – Green and Gold


    1. Hi Christina, I knew you’d approve, and thank you for understanding why it took me this long to do what I knew I was going to have to do! As for “close together”, *cough* almost certainly, lots of conflicting information out there about “Chocolate” and how large it grows, may have to have another look… Didn’t realize you had studied with Karen! She is definitely “good people”, as is Kate, I had a blast with them, and hopefully will get to repeat it in due course. When we have all saved some more money…


    1. Hi Donna, I knew the Great Hydrangea Removal would split opinion, and honestly, if I didn’t have such a clear feel for where I wanted to go with the border I would have kept them, but I’m afraid I am rather ruthless when it comes to removing plants that don’t quite work for what I needed to do. It was a shame that they were such huge plants, I would have preferred to pass them on to somebody who would have loved them, but they wouldn’t have moved well. I am, however, delighted with my new hydrangeas…


  6. A most enjoyable post, and lovely pictures. I was shaking my head when I read that you’d dug up some hydrangeas but was happy to see that you’d bought two new, and rather different, ones. It’ll be interesting to see what they’re like when they flower next year.
    Happy gardening. xx
    Flighty recently posted Tree following – September 2014


    1. Hello Flighty, yes, sorry, I know you really liked those mopheads, but they just had to go… I am looking forward to seeing ‘Hot Chocolate’ in flower, not least because I may find that the flower colour doesn’t go with the geum, which has a slightly tricky but beautiful colour to it. I just couldn’t resist that foliage though…


  7. I know what you mean about the hydrangeas being solid in the front, your silver plants will fit in a lot better when they have grown. All my mopheads came to me via my Mum who had them in pots, then when she moved in with us for the last 2 yrs of her life, they came with her! I keep looking at them and wondering, but then I feel she’s looking over my shoulder and they get left for another year!
    If you would like a cutting of Salvia Amistad, just let me know and I will do one for you.
    Pauline recently posted Lunch and a garden in Somerset.


    1. Hello Pauline, yes, I just have to be patient with the newcomers! That’s the thing with shrubs, they don’t achieve that almost miraculously quick mature look that so many perennials do. Your own hydrangea story made me smile, I have been somewhat the same with fuchsias! And yes please, I would love a cutting of ‘Amistad’, thank you very much!


  8. Oh yes! A definite improvement in that front border. The hydrangeas were lovely but the difference is amazing and it looks much lighter now. I can imagine more verbena and perovskia in there too. I also like the combination of your new hydrangea with the Geum – lovely foliage. And such a cheerful vase! I’m sure no one minds it being a few days late! :)
    Cathy recently posted Tuesday View (9th September)


    1. Thanks Cathy, that’s it exactly, the hydrangeas were charming in their own way but I much prefer the feel to the garden now. The cheerful vase is sadly now shedding petals all over the hearth, I think the dahlias were more advanced in age than I had realized…


  9. One reason I’m glad to live in the desert is that I never have to make up my mind whether I like hydrangeas. It never occurred to me to think of them in terms of their waftiness (waftihood?), though. I love the feel you’re creating in that area — the olearia looks wonderful. It should make a nice “rhyme” with the Agastache, too.


    1. Hi Stacy, yes, I think we can safely say that hydrangeas would take rather more irrigation than most people would be willing to contemplate! The agastache has become one of my staple plants in that border, I love it. It works beautifully with the soft blues of the echinops and perovskia.


    1. They have both become favourites of mine Sue, though the slugs also seem to like the agastache, I need to keep plenty of spares around, just in case!


  10. Every plant cull is a shopping opportunity and you seem to have made the very best of this one! I love the combination of the Hydrangea and Geum. I may steal that idea!
    Sarah Shoesmith recently posted The Incredible Bulk


    1. So true! Strictly between you and me, I am a little concerned about my hydrangea and geum combo. It is perfect now, but when the purply-white flowers appear on the hydrangea?! Not sure… So perhaps wait a while before stealing…


  11. Janet you just wanted an excuse to buy more plants ;) it’s a shame you couldn’t relocate one of the hydrangeas, I think the plants you bought for the front do look better and it is nice when plants we like self seed, Frances
    Island Threads recently posted wordless Wednesday ~ seeing red


    1. Oh dear, I fear you know me too well Frances! I am delighted with the changes in the front garden so far, and hopefully I will get some re-planting done in time to order some bulbs, which I am disgracefully late in doing.


  12. Hi Janet,

    I’m interested to see whether your Agastache will survive winter; I’ve always been tempted by it, but often read it isn’t fully hardy and don’t want to repeatedly replace it.

    Must say I’m surprised to hear you’re able to move/dig something up so easily, yet struggle with cutting blooms for indoors… Mind, I’m probably the opposite! I hate digging things up and really, really hate throwing anything away. I have to really detest something before I’ll throw it – i.e. laurel.
    Liz recently posted Friday Flowers


    1. Hi Liz, the agastache survived last winter really well, so I grew more from seed to increase the impact. But of course last winter was really mild, so who knows… My free draining soil can only help.

      I am a bit of a contradiction, aren’t I, I have always been happy to move plants around if I am not entirely happy with how they look, or cull plants altogether for that matter. Nobody told me I shouldn’t when I started out, so it comes naturally. I think I was always reluctant to cut flowers from the garden because, having finally placed them somewhere I was happy with, I wanted to enjoy them looking good. Now thanks to Cathy I have learnt that it only takes two or three blooms from each plant to create a lovely piece of indoor magic, and the effect on the parent is completely invisible. So I am a convert. Even to the extent of choosing shrubs at least in part for their potential vase contribution…


  13. With you on the mopheads, Janet. In my last garden it was the first plant to go. I have tried to like them, really I have but ….. And I’m so pleased and relieved that verbena self-seeded for you and a little surprised it hadn’t in the past. And you found your trolley too. Phew. Dave
    David Marsden recently posted Win A Copy Of ‘The English Country House Garden’


    1. Mopheads really split opinion, don’t they! My neighbour’s rather magnificent mophead hedge makes me smile, but I do not miss their unyielding solidity in my own garden. I did a little jig when I started spotting V.b. seedlings. No doubt in time I will be pulling them up and chucking them in the compost bin, but for now, I am happy! We were fortunate that the garden centre was quite quiet. Well, apart from us. Otherwise we might have experienced more trolley-angst. And perhaps had plants nicked from our trolleys whilst we were elsewhere picking up new plants. It happens. It has happened to me. I caught the would-be thief almost red handed, and shamed her into returning it. Can’t remember what it was now, but I had picked up the last one… But that was down south…


    1. I was a southerner myself at the time! And “some of my best friends are southerners”… But yes, hilarious. And a tad unbelievable, I did a literal double take!


  14. Oh what fun you must have had being led astray by Karen and Kate :) Those silvery new introductions already look as if they have been there for aeons Janet and those two new hydrangeas look absolutely delicious. I’m almost lost for words at the thought of somebody nicking plants from your trolley! I’m a southerner too but would never stoop so low even if it was the the last one and it was at the very top of my wish list.
    Anna recently posted Tree Following With Lucy ~ September 2014.


    1. It was great, Anna, couldn’t ask for better company when plant buying! The new plants are still making me smile every time I look at them, which is just as it should be. I can’t really claim to be anything other than a southerner myself, happily I think nicking plants from trolleys is a rare aberration rather than endemic… My fault for having such excellent taste in plants ;-)


  15. I see exactly why you removed the mopheads – lovely plant, wrong place – plonked down like a suet pudding in a souffle! Some exciting new plants there and thank you for introducing me to the aspera family of hydrangeas which I knew nothing of (I had to look up ‘hot chocolate).
    And no matter what the day, your Monday vase is a picture especially when set against the dark fireplace to display the embery tones ;)
    p.s. someone brazenly pilfered a price-reduced sedum from my trolley a while back -and they were northeners!
    Laura Bloomsbury recently posted 3rd blogoversary with bubbles


    1. I do love your analogy Laura, spot on! I am a little perturbed by one description of ‘Hot Chocolate’ reaching 4m x 4m, though, particularly as things around here tend to grow larger than advertised! Certainly I am going to have to follow Christina’s excellent advice and move it to give it more elbow room…

      My apologies for the pilfering northerners…


  16. They were fine hydrangeas, but I can understand the instant relief once they were removed, the border already looks much waftier :). I love your new hydrangeas too, and the silver leaved plants you’re using to bridge the new gaps, it’s all coming together splendidly. And hurrah for self-seeding verbena.
    I’m not at all sure where September is going, over halfway already. I must actually post something at some point, the days seem to run away from me at the minute!
    hillwards recently posted Tweak


    1. Hi Sara, I imagine you are a little distracted by your impending family enlargement right now! I am still in denial that we are closing in on the end of September, and that it is now officially Autumn. But thank you, I much happier without the “Suet Pudding” hydrangeas in the front garden, it is indeed all starting to come together. Just the other half to go now. And the hard landscaping. And the fence… Don’t think I will be bored!


  17. Finally getting round to catching up with blogs and what everyone has been up to. I love your new plants. Hydrangea PW is fab, shame about the ridiculous name ;) And that geum is sooooo pretty. It’s lovely to be able to meet up with fellow plant lovers, so it’s great that you’ve found that garden centre. Hydrangeas last really well when cut and if you leave them so they absorb all the water they should last indefinitely as dried flowers.


    1. Aren’t some plant names utterly ridiculous? I also have thalictrum called “Black Stockings”. If it wasn’t so utterly gorgeous I would boycott it on principle! I love garden centres at the best of times, but wandering round them with like minded plantaholics is wonderful retail therapy, but I think it is just as well that it is far enough away to mean it takes planning, or I’d be there rather too frequently for the bank balance. Not to mention the way my waistline would suffer, because really, the cake is compulsory, one needs fuel for all that plant-gazing…

      I was wondering about drying out the hydrangea flowers, though I am not entirely sure where I would put them, the house is in a fair degree of chaos at the moment as we are getting ready to have our oil fired heating system replaces with an Air Source Heat Pump. Which means clearing space in the garage. Which is, quite frankly, verging on the impossible, and has had knock-on effects on the shed (crammed) and conservatory (likewise).

      Hope you are enjoying a bit of a breather!


  18. I love the new plants, especially the Silver Sheen and those hydrangea. Gorgeous! Garden center outings with friends are always fun and expensive! But who can argue with new plants?
    Casa Mariposa recently posted Mostly Wordless Wednesday


    1. Good company + cake + new plants = near heaven!!

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