I’m so belated with my ‘Dozen for Diana’ Courtyard garden meme that it’s almost time for 9th plant so I will delve in without further ado with #7 & #8:-
Plant #7: I love Astilbes. Perhaps because they are flowers that pretend otherwise. Instead of blooms they have plumes held aloft over toothed, ferny foliage. First come the pinks and vermillion series, to be succeeded by the brilliant white of A x arendsii ‘Deutschland’. 1 The clay soil here retains moisture but much more humus is needed for their ideal damp conditions. This year has been a wet, wet Summer so the Astilbes took care of themselves and only now require regular watering. Although renowned for being free-flowering, I think they are briefer than their reputation. The seedheads are kept for winter interest but truthfully look quite scruffy unless a deep frost with spider webs decorates them – which is not very likely in a sheltered courtyard.
Given that courtyards tend to be shady, I felt that these dwarf Astilbes were a good plant choice and I was rather pleased with their clumped colour display this year – that is until I saw an image of hundreds in a lakeside setting. Nevertheless it is Autumn now and time to divide them, making more for next year. I had already planned to remove the Sulphur Clover growing here to a container, 2 leaving space for the expansion of Astilbes further along this narrow border. Which reminds me, Astilbes also look magnificent as potted focus plants. It’s the in between bedding I’m not so sure about now.
Growing in dense wide clumps Astilbes are greedy with space but as deciduous plants inevitably leave behind unsightly bare areas of soil. As I lift and divide them, I shall be adding humus and planting masses of Spring bulbs. Something has to fill the gap before the first of the lovely foliage returns. Any other suggestions please?
Courtyard Plant #8: The first plant I featured was the very fragrant Japonica 3 but since courtyards invariably have as much, if not more, vertical than horizontal space, several climbers are de rigueur. This one is Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’ , a Japanese climbing hydrangea with mid-green heart-shaped leaves that are deeply veined. The mature leaves have a silvery sheen to them and I am not sure if this illumination accounts for the ‘Moonlight’ name or whether it is reference to the large white creamy lacecap flowers of summer. The deciduous leaves turn an attractive yellow before falling.
These hydranagea vines are supposed to excel when planted against a North facing wall as I’ve done here although as with other climbing Hydrangeas, it took a while to become established. I ‘d assumed the vine had not flowered again this year when chatting with the neighbouring office workers, I noticed three large flowerheads ornamenting their stairwell, over on the sunny side of the wall. I suspect this vine would prefer its shade more dappled than dense.
As with all walled corners, especially North and East facing, the rain shadow results in very dry soil hence I keep a decorative container filled with water here especially for the benefit of the ferns and the Moonlight vine.