Tag Archives: Euphorbia wulfenii

Beth Chatto – an inspiration


The final assignment for my ‘Plants and planting design‘ course is to design the planting for a dry garden and so, in preparation, on Saturday morning the class converged at Beth Chatto’s garden in Essex.

The area relevant for our assignment is the Gravel Garden, created in 1992 on the site of the original car park, from 0.75 acre of sand and gravel.  Here Beth has created a garden where plants are only watered when they are first planted, after that they’re on their own and, bearing in mind the rainfall here is the lowest in the country at less than 20 inches per annum, they have to be tough.

And what an inspiration!  Not only were there wonderful long views of contrasting form and texture (something I still struggle to achieve)IMG_0302





but endless clever combinations to admire at much closer quarters.  These included many Anemone pavonina – here with spiky yukka and grasses,IMG_0307

here with NepetaIMG_0327

and here, with Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ picking up the colour of the central bosses perfectly.IMG_0310

As well as the Anemones, colour was also provided by dainty bulbs – species tulipsIMG_0306


and Fritillaria pontica (look how the purple sage echoes the colour of the stripe).IMG_0309

I was so taken by this beautiful oxalis, O. obtusa I treated myself to one in the nursery.IMG_0344

Away from the Gravel Garden, the mood is calmer and cooler.

The Water Garden was created by damming a spring fed ditch, and the resulting ponds create the correct environment for numerous water loving plants includingIMG_0361

wonderful Gunnera tinctoria, just emerging,IMG_0355

Lysichiton americanus, right by the water’s edgeIMG_0368

and wonderful ferns.IMG_0378

There were dozens of just emerging Hostas in the shady areas, but this clump was well advanced (and immaculate!)


As in the Gravel Garden, there were yet more close quarters combinations to admire. Here a patchwork of Pulmonaria, Forget me nots, Drumstick Primulas punctuated by emerging Digitalis foliageIMG_0366

Erythronium with (um!) shrub,IMG_0367

Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ picking up on the lovely dark blooms of the TrilliumIMG_0375

Euphorbia wulfenii with Fritillaria imperialis ‘Maxima Lutea.’  (Why have I never seen that combination together before?  And why, when I usually find Crown Imperials rather stiff and waxy, do they look so good here?)IMG_0371

and the identically coloured yet completely contrasting forms of Heuchera and Uncina rubraIMG_0352

And to finish, what’s so special about this?  It’s Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy,’ not yet in flower and now surrounded by an area under redevelopment.  However, it’s special to me as it’s the plant I remember most vividly from my one previous visit to this garden with my lovely mum in the early 1990s.

The memory stuck with me and I planted my own Cercis, chez Duver Diary, 20 years later.IMG_0376

With thanks to Beth Chatto for endless inspiration (I think I’ll remember rather more than just the one plant this time!) but also John, for being our patient and knowledgeable tutor, Helen for the lifts and last but not least, Rosy for bringing cake!

End of month view – June 2014


Well, what a balmy June.  However, partly as a consequence of this balminess, I feel like the garden has got away from me this month.  There has been too much indulging in garden visiting (there have been others, watch this space…) and just not enough proper graft.  One thing I have spent a significant amount of time doing is watering – especially all my pots.


Whilst others around the country have had some significant downpours, we’ve had nothing but the odd shower and as a consequence I’m developing arms like Popeye from carrying endless watering cans around.  Whilst we’re lucky enough to have a well (and associated complicated pump and holding tanks) the water pressure isn’t high enough to use a hose, hence the endless cans – and impressive muscles!


So, having made my excuses, here we go.  The first picture is the grass bed.  I still love the Stipa tenuissima, but the rest of the bed is looking rather a mess.  The hope was that the dark nasturtium (Nasturtium Black Velvet) would pick up on the dark orange of the buds of the fox and cubs, but the latter seem to be going over, and rather than orange I have numerous tiny dandelion type seed heads, which don’t go with anything.

On a more positive note, behind the fox and cubs, but in front of the grasses, I’ve planted a whole row of the Verbascum chaixii album which I grew from seed last year.  These are just starting to flower so hopefully by next month I will have pulled out the spent fox and cubs and have some towering verbascums to admire.


This is the left hand swing bed, which is looking a bit exhausted.  I haven’t pulled up the foxgloves yet in the hope that they’ll self seed, but the combination of them, the brown Nectoscordum heads and my very poorly Euphorbia wulfenii is not good.  However, hopefully some concerted effort in pulling all the above out, cutting back the geraniums (out of shot at the front of the picture), and giving some space, food, time and water to various annuals I’ve planted out recently (Cosmos Rubenza, Malope, Cleomes) as well as the existing Astrantia, Roses and Penstemons, will pull things back from the brink.


The ‘Med Beds’ (ie Mediterranean) either side of the greenhouse door are looking rather better.  The Geranium and Potentilla are flowering well, the Eryngium are preparing themselves and I’ve planted out many of the Agapanthus I grew from seed.  I don’t suppose they’ll flower this year, but fingers crossed for next.  I’m also pleased with the Euphorbia mysinites (at the front), which I also grew from seed and must now be about four years old.


This is the left hand Lavender Bed, the ones described as ‘bonkers’ in last month’s End of month view.   (Both lavender beds are shown in the foreground of the top photo).

Here you can see the old Allium Purple Sensation dead heads in amongst the lavender.  The colour of the lavender is picked up by the Veronicastrum behind, with a yellow flowering Euphorbia for contrast (and the ubiquitous Verbena bonariensis)


The shady bed is continuing to look lush, despite the hot weather, and the inherited rose is flowering well


and the hostas were also looking great, right up until the scaffolders came and planted their scaffold and ladder on them.

IMG_3666A new addition this month is my raised cutting beds which were made out of some repurposed greenhouse staging.  I’m a bit concerned as to how shallow they are, but whenever I pull up annuals at the end of the season the roots never go very deep so I hope with food and water they’ll do ok.  I’ve already cut some Amaranthus viridis, Molucella laevis as well as the Marigold, Calendula Sunset Buff, but the vast majority are still to come.


Meanwhile, in the veg bed, the Diving Lady’s pool runneth over (and is being invaded by courgette leaves), but at least she now has plenty to look at:


As well as three different sort of courgettes (yes, I know, too many altogether), I’ve planted French Beans (Cobra), Runner Beans (Painted Lady and Polestar), Chard Bright Lights, Cavalo Nero, Mange Tout, Sugar Snap peas and Pumpkin Munchkin.

IMG_3671I’ve finally planted out the greenhouse bed with tomatoes, cucumbers and, for the first time, Cucamelons.

IMG_3670And on the staging, second waves of beans and peas (which need to go out), various seedlings (the ones in the foreground are Abutilons) and cuttings, as well as in the grow bags some (rather diminutive) peppers and aubergines.

IMG_3643The wisteria is kindly providing a second flush, and the Oak Bed, which I always find disappointing, is actually looking rather calm in the heat of June.


And to finish, the most exciting development.  After some weeks’ persuasion, the OH has finally agreed that we can lose some lawn to make another bed (see hose line below) as long as ‘he doesn’t have to dig it’.  Wish me luck!

With many thanks, as ever, to Helen at the Patient Gardener,  for hosting everyone’s End of Month views.