Plantsman Keith Wiley’s column in Gardens Illustrated magazine offers his choice of the best blooms for the month from his astonishing garden Wildside in Yelverton. Subscribe to the magazine to make sure you don’t miss each month.
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Rodgersia pinnata ‘Buckland Beauty’
A dark-pink seedling we raised from R. pinnata ‘Superba’ while at the Garden House. In the wild, rodgersias often grow on stream banks and like a moisture-retentive soil, without being waterlogged. After flowering the flowerheads in this cultivar turn dark red, and are excellent for use in dried flower arrangements. The handsome crinkled foliage appears late in the spring, with the flowering stems pushing up first, so they are vulnerable at this time to late spring frosts. This late leafing means it is possible to grow early spring bulbs among the roots.
AGM. Height 1m. Origin Garden origin, species from China. Conditions Moist but well-drained soil in full sun/part shade. Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 3a-8b. Season of interest All summer.
Oenothera stricta ‘Sulphurea’
This is the pale-yellow version of the Chilean evening primrose, and is a short-lived perennial or biennial that I hope never to be without. It will self-seed so, as long as there is bare ground for the seedlings to colonise, there should really be no reason to lose it.
As its name suggests, the scented flowers open a pale yellow in late afternoon, each one turning by the morning to a wonderful apricot colour for its final few hours before dropping. The whole effect is accentuated by the fact that it has a purple-red flush to the buds and stems.
Height 60-90cm. Origin Garden origin (species from Chile). Conditions Any well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 6a-10b. Season of interest All summer.
Campanula latifolia ‘Buckland’
Another plant we raised while we were at the Garden House. A seedling from the pure-white C. latifolia var. alba, the purple eye and faintest flush of that colour in the white, elevates this into a classy looking perennial. Although upright in growth, I have never needed to stake this plant, and because the clump occupies very little ground space, it can provide very useful vertical accent points among lower-growing perennials.
After flowering the skeletal seedheads are also attractive for a short period before they are best cut back.
Height 1m. Origin Garden origin (species from Europe and western Asia). Conditions Any soil; full sun to part shade. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 4a-9b. Season of interest Summer.
Iris ensata ‘Rose Queen’
Still known by some as Iris kaempferi, the Japanese water iris is one that is happy when in growth under shallow water, but prefers to be drier when dormant. It is much loved in its native Japan, where pond levels are often manipulated through the seasons to specifically suit it.
However, it doesn’t need to be grown in water as long as the soil is moisture retentive, and it is growing close to water, where it is certainly looks at its best. ‘Rose Queen’, with its distinctive flower colour, has smaller, more delicate flowers than many other ensatas.
AGM. Height 75-90cm. Origin Garden origin (species from Japan and the Far East). Conditions Rich, moist soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 5a-8b. Season of interest Early summer.
The distinctive stripy pink spathes of this exotic-looking aroid make it one of the best arisaemas for flowering. It emerges from the ground as late as early June, and quickly produces flowers before the leaves appear. When it is settled these trifoliate leaves can be as much as 45cm across, at which time, it becomes a very handsome foliage plant for late summer.
The first frost of autumn will finish this display, and it will spend the next seven or eight months below ground as rounded and flattened, fleshy tubers, so make sure you mark its position well and protect it with a thick mulch.
AGM. Height 30cm. Origin China. Conditions Warm spot in part shade. Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 5a-7b. Season of interest All summer.
A climbing rose that offers glossy green foliage and clusters of white-centred, red flowers throughout summer and into autumn, which are then followed by attractive orange hips.
For 40 years this rose has unfailingly delivered clean foliage – without any resort to chemicals – and has produced masses of flowers for us in a part of the country that has a very high rainfall, in which most roses refuse to grow in for more than a year or two without regular spraying. It has thorns, so the annual tidy up and tying in tends to be a painful process, but it is so worth it.
AGM. Height 3m. Origin Garden origin. Conditions Moist but well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 4a-10b. Season of interest All summer.
This Kniphofia is very different to most people’s vision of a red hot poker. Instead of having a closely packed spike of flowers, this species looks more like an aloe, with widely spaced, soft-orange flowers, each gracefully curving downwards. Its growth habit is also different as, like the flowers, instead of making a sizeable clump, it runs gently forming a widely spaced colony of rosettes, each with a limited number of decumbent leaves.
Repeat flowering through the summer. If there is one catch, it would have to be that it is not quite as hardy as some.
Height 60-90cm. Origin East Africa. Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun to light shade. Hardiness RHS H3, USDA 7a-10b. Season of interest Summer.
A bindweed that I actually love. It was more than 25 years ago when I first managed to get a tiny root to survive and grow. In Crete, where we first caught sight of it, it carpeted tilled ground among some olive groves, and covered sizeable, steep, sunny roadside verges. It was not until I managed to replicate those conditions did it deign to settle in and spread.
Now it runs underground, spreading its beautiful silver foliage and clean pink flowers through a soft purple-blue catmint, a wonderful combination lasting for many weeks.
Height Scrambling to 60cm. Origin Mediterranean. Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H3-4, USDA 6a-8b. Season of interest All summer.
Eryngium x zabelii
Eryngiums are more commonly known as sea hollies because of their prickly leaves and because the natural habitat of some species is in coastal areas. In a garden setting though, all they ask for is a sunny, well-drained spot, where for many weeks in summer, they will produce their startling, cone-shaped flowerheads surrounded by a ruff of vicious-looking bracts.
There are several cultivars available of this hybrid varying slightly in the intensity of the blue, both in the flowerheads and the flower stems, but all are good. Easily propagated by root cuttings in late winter.
Height 60-90cm. Origin Garden origin. Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 6a-9b. Season of interest Summer.
Wand flowers, or more romantically angel’s fishing rods, are one of my favourite perennials. With their wiry, evergreen, grassy leaves, many visitors ask us what the flowering grasses are. Dieramas are actually bulbs from South Africa, most of the species growing at altitude, which makes them hardy in most of the UK.
This species flowers later than most, usually through July, with pink, purple, white, or in this case pale amethyst, bells hanging beneath wiry flower stems. The silvery seedheads that follow are also attractive, moving in the slightest breeze.
Height 1-2m. Origin South Africa. Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H3-4, USDA 8a-10b. Season of interest Late summer for flowers.