Annuals come into their own this month and none more colourful than the Cosmos which was introduced into this country in 1800 from Mexico. These big, bright and beautiful daisy-like flowers come in many colours and heights. The most common variety C. bipinnatus with large yellow-eyed daisy flowers in the burgundy-red-pink-white colour range include the taller ‘Purity’ that will grow to 1.2m and suited to the back of the border. The shorter varieties like ‘Apollo’ are good to grow in containers and new types include ‘Xanthos’ the first yellow-flowered variety. Keep the containers fairly large though as even the shortest plants reach 45cm tall and as much across.
Varieties derived from C. sulphureus have smaller flowers in scarlet, orange and yellow shades set against slightly broader, darker leaves. [unfortunately I do not have any images of this type]
C. atrosanguineus is the Chocolate cosmos which is hugely popular with richly chocolate-coloured, and chocolate-scented, flowers. This is a half-hardy perennial that develops tubers like those of a slimline dahlia and may need to be overwintered indoors. This is also a good candidate for containers.
Cosmos enjoy plenty of sunshine and any reasonable soil, although rich, moist conditions encourage exuberantly leafy growth at the expense of flowers. If you ensure to deadhead throughout summer into early autumn, you’ll continue to get beautiful flowers right through the season.
July in Cornwall = Agapanthus commonly referred to as the Lily-of-the-Nile or the African lily plant. You will see them everywhere. In planters, alongside the footpaths, in gardens. They instantly take me back to South Africa where they are from and provide an exotic look to a place. I bought some new ones at the beginning of the year, but it will take time before they are big enough to flower and for some reason my variegated leaved agapanthus ‘Silver Moon’ has no flower stems at all this year. Apparently that is not unusual for this variety. Fortunately the strap shaped green leaves with creamy variegation are rather beautiful anyway.
Agapanthus create displays of large masses of striking flowers. They come in a huge range of colours and heights from almost-black through to purple, from French navy to royal blue through to subtle lilac, grey and white and even bicolour ones like ‘Twister’ and ‘Fireworks’.
The name, agapanthus, translates as ‘love flower’ and some are evergreen (Agapanthus africanus and Agapanthus praecox) and others deciduous, depending on which side of the Cape they grow on. The western Cape has a Mediterranean climate with moist damp winters, between May and August, followed by a dry summer between November and January. Agapanthus species on the western side grow in winter when moisture and warmth is available so they like to keep their foliage in winter. These are tender and may need taking into a greenhouse over winter.
The eastern Cape has a wet summer season lasting four months, between November and February, when rainfall averages 5 inches per month (125m). The winters, between May and August, are dry and cool however. As a result agapanthus species found on the eastern side of the Cape tend to do their growing in the summer and then die down in winter.
They respond to both water and food and a liquid high-potash tomato food applied every two weeks will pay dividends and don’t forget that agapanthus needs a sunny position that gets maximum daylight. The flowers, which are bee-friendly, last many weeks and they cut well. Don’t allow them to run to seed, always cut the spent flower heads off.
A type of ornamental onion, also known as round-headed leek, drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) is appreciated for the egg-shaped blooms that appear in early summer. These unique flowers open green, then start to turn a purple/crimson colour from the top, creating unusual two-tone drumstick flower heads.
And the bees love them!
Musk Mallow (malva moschata) is the perfect wildflower plant for adding of bright splash of pink or white to a summer flowering meadow. It is well suited to all wide variety of soils, but grows best on well-drained ground in full sun. Musk Mallow has large showy flowers that grow in dense clusters and are often visited by bees. Plants also host the Painted Lady as a breeding butterfly which will lay its eggs on the plant.
Mine were grown from a packet of wildflower seeds two years ago and have come back every summer even though I dug a lot out last year as they are big plants and dominate the small raised bed. I will be cutting them back to the ground in September to make room for the other late flowering plants they share this bed with. Meanwhile I am enjoying the show.
If you are looking for something different to grow on an obelisk, cane teepee or trellis then why not try a Black-eyed Susan. Thunbergia is completely unrelated to Rudbeckia hirta, an herbaceous annual or short-lived perennial in the daisy family.
Above is Thunbergia grandiflora an evergreen vine. The blue to mauve flowers are about 8 cm across with a 4 cm long tube that is pale yellow inside. Common names include Blue Skyflower and Skyvine. It is a houseplant in temperate climates.
Thunbergia alata – Black Eyed Susan is a herbaceous perennial climbing plant species in the Acanthaceae family. An eye-catching day beautiful five petalled flower with a jet black eye. This easy annual used to be regarded as a conservatory climber for growing in tubs, soil borders or from hanging baskets, but in recent years it has become a popular subject for outdoor cultivation, both in baskets, pots and in more protected corners of the garden
T. ‘Salmon Shades’ is a tender, evergreen, twining climber, often grown as an annual, with triangular to ovate, toothed, dark green leaves and, from summer to autumn, flowers in shades of pale yellow, salmon, and pink until the first frosts. A similar variety is T. alata ‘African Sunset’ which has flowers in all the colours of a spectacular sunset and looks lovely with other apricot and purple shades.
June just has to be roses, doesn’t it? Though Cornwall is not known for growing roses. The damp climate reeks havoc on the leaves (black spot) and flowers (balling buds, browning petals) so roses are not that popular. Saying that I have seven of my own (three inherited), two from my previous container garden and two new ones which are supposed to be disease resistant.
However, black spot is the most serious disease of roses. It is caused by a fungus, Diplocarpon rosae, which infects the leaves and greatly reduces plant vigour, the fungus is genetically very diverse and new strains arise rapidly. Unfortunately, this means that the resistance bred into new varieties usually fails to last because new strains of the fungus arise to overcome it. (Source: RHS)
There is something quintessentially English about a rose though. Childhood memories of picking highly scented petals and soaking them in water to produce a rather brown, but fragrant ‘rose perfume’. The beautiful jewel-like colours, the silky blooms and the myriad of scents. There is nothing quite like a rose garden. In summer. In the sun.
All these images were taken at Godolphin Gardens on 19 June 2019.
I just managed to go up the hill to see the last of the foxgloves this week in between all the rain we have been having. I was surprised to also see signs of the Bell Heather in flower which seems a little premature to me. Maybe this cold spell is tricking the wild flowers into thinking that autumn is on its way. It certainly seems like it!
Folklore: Originally the plant was referred to as folksglove, which was a reference to fairies because of the plants grow in woodland. The ‘glove’ part of their name was simply due to the flowers looking like glove fingers.
On a trip down to the Lizard peninsula last Saturday (before the horrid rain and wind re-appeared) I discovered a whole lot of Geranium sanguineum, (common names bloody crane’s-bill or bloody geranium) that I didn’t see last year. These lovely vivid magenta-pink flowers with palmately-lobed leaves are so much nicer than the Herb Robert and Shining Cranesbill that colonise my garden. Though I do have some of these growing in my gravel garden that were bought from a nursery.
“Oh, do not frown,
Upon this crown
Of green pinks and blue geranium”
– Louisa May Alcott, “Dear Grif”
The most eye-catching flower to bloom here in Cornwall during May and June is the ungainly named Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus (Byzantine Gladiolus) or better known here as Whistling Jacks. They are native to the Mediterranean area and have narrow sword-shaped leaves and deep magenta coloured flowers, each one with an iridescent sparkle. Coming back each year this plant will naturalise if grown in favourable conditions – they like moisture and being sheltered from strong winds and may like a warm mulch to get them through the winter months.
A relic of the Scily bulb fields it is extensively naturalised throughout the Scillies, where it is called Whistling Jacks, a name also used in Cornwall. Along the George V walk in Hayle they are grown in profusion amidst contrasting lime green Euphorbia
or toning pink Cistus (rock roses) and daisies.