While walking through olive groves in Tuscany two summers ago, I was excited to see Dianthus carthusianorum, Centaurea nigra and Daucus carota flowering on the grassy banks, where they were able to escape the farmer’s fastidious strimmers. I was so inspired that on our return to London I planted a group of three olive trees in our new empty garden with a similar collection of wildflowers and grasses beneath them. The olive trees screen the overlooking windows and along with the wildflowers transport me back to those dreamy days in the Tuscan countryside.
A large galvanised water-tank adds an industrial edge to the wild-style planting. Photo: Andrew Montgomery
Cultivation and care
This display uses white lacy annual Orlaya grandiflora – Ammi majus would also work. Plus ladybird poppies for a clash of red and pink – it looks fantastic at Great Dixter, seeded among the silver-leaved, shocking magenta-pink-flowered Lychnis coronaria.
For the annual orlaya and poppies to flower so early in the year, the seeds need to be sown September-October. Sow directly where they are to flower or into cell units or individual pots, to avoid disturbing their roots. There is still time to sow the seeds – until the end of May – directly where you want them to flower later this summer. Or the perennial dianthus, centaurea and daucus can also be grown from seed, but won’t flower in their first year – for more instant gratification buy them as plug plants or in pots.
Place the pot in an open sunny site, with free-draining loam-based compost with added hydroleca or grit. Water regularly, because they are at your mercy in a pot. One that is a similar size to this water tank will help to make them feel as if they are growing in the ground
Plants used in this display
These all make great cut flowers.
(Left to right)
Orlaya grandiflora (5-7 plants)
Height 60cm, Season May-Oct.
Papaver commutatum (2-3 plants)
Height 45cm. Season Late spring to early summer. Hardiness rating RHS H4.
Dianthus carthusianorum (3-5 plants)
Height 40-60cm. Season May-Sep. Hardiness rating USDA 5a-9b.
Words Julia Wylie. For more of Julia’s work go to www.juliawylie.com
Photography by Andrew Montgomery