A freshly planted border of annuals

'Planting for Colour - Annuals' - That was the title of my talk and demonstration last week in the latest RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) event at Abriachan.
Driveway annual border - Summer 2010
We looked at an annual border first.
This is the headland area near to the road and our aim is always to have a blaze of colour from July onwards. I reckon we have succeeded every one of the past 25 years to do that; sometimes the rain has damped the show and sometimes the sun has accelerated it.  All good fun and I wish I wish I wish I had taken a chronological record of things, but it is patchy.
In truth the border is becoming a bit of an annual and perennial mix, as over the years we have gradually planted some plants that have surprised us and become perennial and other edging plants are cheekily encroaching on to the plot.
Here are the principles I use:
* First and always, I plant three Scot’s Thistle, Onopordum acanthemum. This is for drama and the photo opportunities. Onopordum is a biennial, hence they will make a large silver rosette in this first year and then will shoot up to flower with their fabulous purple thistle heads next spring.
  * Then I think about colour and drama and reach for Dahlias. Each year I try a new variety and this year it is a red double called Murdoch. The others I use a lot are
o Arabian Nights - A tall rich red double.
o Moonfire - Apricot yellow single , ted centre; dark foliage
o Bishop of Llandaff - Vivid red double on dark foliage.
* Then height and strength. No staking here. I usually go for Nicotiana, the tobacco plants. My favourite is Nicotiana affinis, but just as good is Nicotiana sylvestris, which has whorls of white flowers. Avoid the dwarfed hybrids like Domino…no bottle.

* Then more tall and filling…and always I reach for Cosmos Sensation. Feathery foliage and substantial pink and purple flowers.  It also shoots away fast, I only like to weed that corner once before the foliage grows over.
* Then the middle height. To contrast and compliment the Dahlias, Rudbeckia bulks up and gives an excellent late show.
* Then at a lower height about 25cm, my favourite is annual barley grass Hordeum jubatum and Opium poppies,  imagine them dancing in the breeze.

* Calendula, ordinary Pot Marigold Orange King is excellent and weather proof. If it looks like yet another cool wet summer, I can guarantee a show with these.
* Covering the edges; White Bacopa , Bidens or Sanvitalia are excellent and I have used trailing Lobelia Sapphire. All good and pretty edge frills .
* Filling spaces …..And there always seems to be a few, Tagetes, Cornflower, Night scented stock. Lovely
I hope everyone walking up from the road will stop and stare, and enjoy that corner as much as I do.

To end, here are my best annuals to plant this summer of uncertain weather. …still time.
Sow in June plant out in July enjoy from late August to November and even Christmas.
1. Tagetes… long season and utterly reliable.
2. Cosmos Sensation…the others don’t cut the mustard
3. Rudbeckia.... I like the tall ones, give a long late seaso, try to find Irish Eyes
4. Pot Marigold... well fed this gives a great show.
5. Parsley…..yes curly leaf parsley, strictly a biennial, but it is the most vivid green you can get and a wonderful contrast to marigold orange.
MD Abriachan June 2012

Azaleas - A memory of colour

My midyear resolution is to look through some of the old photographic slides we took during our first sojourn in New Zealand. Well, that is if I can be bothered schlepping through the attic manage to find the time, It may have to wait until Cat returns here for the next rugby world cup!

What I would be looking for, is a fabulous garden, I don’t even remember exactly where it was/is, but somewhere in the South Island of New Zealand there was a wall of deciduous azaleas in full colour, backing onto a still pond. It took my breath away.
Azalea Luteum (Yellow) and Azalea Persil (White)
I think many gardeners have moments like that and these sights burn themselves onto our retinas and we find ourselves trying to replicate them over and over. Of course there are many gardens in Scotland that have Azaleas, and there are places on the far west, Arisaig and elsewhere that have Azalea lutea naturalising and thriving, but that wall of colour was the moment for me.
Azalea Golden Eagle
It was orange, red and yellow and that is what I have tried to replicate at Abriachan.
We have Azalea Gibraltar and Golden Eagle doing very well , and they are large enough now to make real impact.
Azalea Gibraltar
When I don’t know what varieties to choose to plant, I go to the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs and look for ones with First Class Certificates or the newer Award of Garden Merit. And they have never let me down.
From there I planted Persil, a lovely white with yellow markings and my very favourite - Irene Koster. She is a soft pink with yellow makings, but best of all, her fragrance is wonderful. I have planted several amongst the upper woodland section of garden and she is sublime this year.
Azalea Persil
Azalea Irene Koster
Azaleas are one of those wonderful plants that lift their fragrance into the air, so if you have one or more, visit them in the evening or even in the middle of the day when any warmth will intensify the scented air. 
Just lovely, I must plant many more, and that's a resolution I will definitely keep.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
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