Pastels typify our landscape perhaps because the frequency of cloud or grey skies enables the colours to fully saturate. In keeping with this, the planting in Russell square has morphed latterly from gaudy corporation bedding styles back into disordered tiers of native herbaceous perennials. Behind metal border edging or even better, low-hedged Hawthorn or Buxus, crowds of early summer flowers have pressed together and just about withstood the recent buffeting of tempestuous and prolonged pluvious periods. Rosy-toned Valerian, Lamium and Geranium mingle well with spikes of Phlox, Foxglove and the pale yellow ‘Sisyrinchium striatum’ in an understated vivacity.Aside from May’s brief sea-change in the weather, the sun has hardly shone since April and days without rain, could almost be counted on one hand. Coincidentally temperatures have barely touched the 70s and yet aside from some blemishing and stem breakages, the flowers have drunk their fill and carried on blooming.
Plants need neither a gardener’s nor visitor’s attention to persevere but as it happens, I’ve been doing a lot of garden perusing this last week or so. From London’s Open Squares weekend1 to a walk in the park just to stretch my housebound legs, being out and about in all weathers has shed new light on things, not least as far as the camera is concerned.
Along the ceremonious Avenue Gardens of Regent’s Park, the high Victorian-style bedding schemes with fountains and ornaments take on a heightened drama under heavy skies. Silver-grey foliage, golden privet and acid greens of Japanese Forest Grasses (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) are a harmonious trio and combined with pepperings of purple foliage and Cypress sentinels effect a more relaxed formality
Further down the line, the plant palette evolves into warmer contrasts of yellow Day lilies, Toadflax and coral pink Rock roses (Helianthemum nummularium). Blended with caramel heucheras, bronze-fleshed sedums, tangerine Geums and Tagetes, the burnished borders stay bright on dull days but on summery days will radiate the season to full effect. If I was starting a border from scratch this is one planting scheme I would like to scoop up and take home.2
Crossing the bridgeway to the moated Japanese garden, the waters are as metallic as the dramatically statuesque eagle. Despite the somewhat ominous spread-eagled posturing, invariably there is a Coot’s nest at the base with views that look back on the jubilant Queen Mary’s Rose gardens. Not always accessible to the public, it is a veritable treat to be able to venture in here.
The giant Dogwood, Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ stands at the heart of this garden. At first glance it is not dissimilar to the Japanese Angelica (Aralia elata ‘Aureovariegata’) but the tell-tale horizontal cloud branches mark it out as the indisputable wedding cake tree. Married up with conifers and willow, it glows in the dark like a beacon or shimmers with the filtered rays of sunlight.
Under such dramatic skies, the Salix integra ‘Hakuro-nishiki’ (Japanese variegated willow) is an attention grabber though it melds well-enough with the subtle assortments of flowering shrub and rockery blooms that line the sandy, circular paths. Hebe ellipticas are notable signature plants with lilac-pearl blooms relieving dark corners or tacitly toning in with variegated bamboos and foliage. Their gnarled forms have shaped themselves into classical Bonsai aesthetics, making these New Zealand species sublimely oriental.
A heavy downpour and the uprising of umbrellas washes textures afresh and puts the finishing touches to this Japanese style garden by the water’s edge.
Regardless of the forecast I’m taking a Bridgwater break in Somerset! Combining a Tai Chi masterclass and some ‘glamping’3, coincidentally welcoming in the solstice. Here’s hoping that the official onset on the 20th will set the summer on its rightful course.
Postscript: Even though these are not my blooms, I’m going to link up with others at Donna’s garden blog for a Seasonal Celebration- Promise of Summer