15 August 2016
Arranging the borders
There are some times of year in the garden that just feel
bountiful. June is one of those times, where everything feels
generous and lush. There is usually a time in late September that
feels similar, it's like the plants are all rushing to put on the
best show possible before the cold comes and cuts them down. It was
at this 'last gasp' moment in the garden that last year Arne and I
spent a lovely afternoon in the cottage garden picking flowers;
looking at which of the plants worked togetehr and which really
didn't. It was a fun afternoon but also very useful, pulling all of
those flowers together in close quarers really illustrates how the
combinations are working.
I sometimes find August a little disappointing - the weather is
never as good as it feels it should be and actually the garden can
fall into a bit of a lull, especially if it's dry. Foliage can turn
coarse and a little glaucous and flowers looked washed out and
dull. Our afternoon spent picking back in the autumn does not seem
to have been in vain and the colours in the cottage garden feel
much more harmonious. This week, with Arne still away, I thought I
might take stock of what August has to offer and do a little flower
Initially I thought of picking just one bunch from the cottage
garden but as soon as I set off, trug and snips in hand, I was
arrested by a beautiful phlox in the Granary Lattice. Phlox
amplifolia has modest sized purple blooms on a long strong
stem and I couldn't pass by without taking a stem or two. In
stopping to pick them though I similarly couldn't pass by the
soapwort, Saponaria flore plena, which is flowering for
the first time and looking particularly clean and bright. The new
Echinacea 'Swan Wings' soon followed before I was pulled
to the other side of the drive by Crocosmia 'George
Davidson' - surely I must be able to find a place in an arrangement
By the time I reached the cottage garden I already has a trug
full of flowers. Perhaps August wasn't quite so spartan as I had
thought! The cottage garden had plenty of Astrantia major
'Claret', a plant I tend to associate with the early summer. I
tried to leave it behind, I really did, but in the end I couldn't.
The colour looks as if it's been sprayed on, it's so intense and
deep, and it makes such a good foil for other more seasonal flowers
that I convinced myself it would work! Another slightly agonising
decision was whether to take Clematis viticella 'Mary
Rose'. It is so beautiful and so tangled together I risked
destroying the display it's made rambling over the 'Queen of
Denmark' rose dome. Luckily I managed to tease out a little without
making too much of a mess!
My single arrangement was not looking more like three but
frankly, I was having too much fun to let it worry me too much. By
taking a little of each, I managed to leave very little evidence of
my afternoon raid, the only exception perhaps was the Dahlia
merckii. This cultivar is new to us this year and I think I
must have taken most of the longer flowering sections but it was
just too lovely not to have a proper showing of it. I'm generally
not the biggest fan of dahlias - I find them a little coarse and
ungainly - but D. merckii is definitely one for me. It's
much smaller and more delicate than its bigger brasher cousins and
with the light behind the flowers they look like Lalique glass.
Putting the flowers together, with more than a little help from
Britt, was a joy and seeing them photographed in the house was a
real treat. I hope you will agree that the results are rather
beautiful. I've put together lists of the main elements for each of
the arrangements below just in case you might like to grow them for
cutting in your own garden. You can view the full selection of Britt's
images in our gallery here.
Clematis viticella 'Mary Rose'
Origanum laevigatum 'Rosenkuppel'
Lobelia 'Hadspen Purple'
Saponaria flore plena
Veronicastrum virginicum album
Crocosmia 'George Davidson'
Echinacea 'White Swan'
Trapaeolum majus (common nasturtium)
Phlox carolina 'Miss Lingard'
Astrantia major 'Claret'
Words: Steve Lannin, Head Gardener at Allt-y-bela
Photographs: Britt Willoughby Dyer
Full image gallery: click