Monday, 11 June 2018

Two Gardens and Many More Roses

Over the years roses have often featured in these blogs, for the good reason that our heavy clay on the whole pleases them, so that at least in the Gers they are bound to be a feature of anybody's garden. I am not sure that I have got much new information to give - the only roses that I have so far acquired this year are Reine des Violettes, a Hybrid Perpetual, which used to be famous, with violet, fragrant flowers that appear on and off throughout the summer, and another with violet/purple flowers, in appearance very like The Bishop but sadly without fragrance and only once flowering. In the latter case it was really the name that I fell for, or rather its history, Rosier Denise, the name given to it by the excellent grower of roses, Yan Surguet, he of Les Roses Anciennes du jardin de Talos, since it came from a garden of a friend and is so far unidentified. Still what I thought might be of interest is to mention one or two roses that seem to me to be trouble free, and so make an impact in a Massif or Mixed Border.

Top of my list as always come the the now ancient Hybrid Musks with for continous flower power Penelope  leading the way. But many others are very good including Cornelia of a slightly apricot hue, Felicia a good pink and Moonlight a very good white, but that is only a short list. What I would like specially to mention is Trier, as I recently read someone being rather sniffy about it. It is one of the parents of the Hybrid Musks. It makes quite quickly a very large bush, two meters by two if not larger,. It is covered with semi-double whitish flower - not as white admittedly as one of its children, the aforementioned Moonlight, - and repeats well, so if you have the space it does make a real impact over a long period.

Of what I shall call the John and Becky Hook roses with their wonderful collection of China and Tea roses at La Roseraie du Desert., the ones that do exceptionally well with us would include the Archiduc Joseph, which I confess I may have referred to wrongly as Archiduc Charles in previous blogs, and General Schablikine. Both are of quite deep red,though both coming from the Nabonnand stable have a slight hint of of copper. And both are exceptionally good doers in flower much of the summer, as indeed of a rather similar colour is the Comtesse du Cayla, though she is a Guillot rose. But Nabonnand could produce purer colours including two that I am delighted to grow here. Alice Hamilton is a good pink and like the ones so far mentioned a good doer. Noëlla Nabonnand is a lovely deep red, if a little on the blowsy side, and should eventually make a large feature, though she is taking some time to get away. Arguably an even better deep red/crimson from La Roseriaie du Desert, but a Hybrid perpetual  and not from Nabonnand, is Souvenir de Alphonse Lavallée.  It is a real winner, with amongst other things a lovely scent. And finally Perle d'Or, with its continous clusters of what Peter Beales calls 'buff-yellow' to which I might add a touch of peach. I think it is a China, and certainly 'Old' but you would never be disappointed to have it.

I am of a generation who had a tendency to consider that any rose bred after the Second World War was bound to to be lacking in 'gout'. Thanks to people such as Graham Stuart Thomas and Vita Sackville 'Old Fashioned' roses - Albas, Bourbons, Galliacas Hybrid Perpetuals, Moss and no doubt others, were what any discerning gardener hankered after and I confess that I still do. Amongst my favourites, and very much in this category of 'good doers' remain for instance Celsiana, in fact a Damask, Fantin Latour, and probably my favourite rose of all, Queen of Denmark/Konigin von Danemark. All these three, and indeed many other wonderful roses that come into this category have the disadvantage of only flowering once. Then along came David Austin who started to breed roses with many of the qualities of the 'Old-Fashioned', including very often wonderful scent, but which repeated well, and not surprisingly, though I gather it took some time, these have really taken off, with the result that some of us rather snobby gardeners can be a little bit dismissive about them, which does not prevent us having two in this garden that I can strongly recommend, Crown Princess Margareta and Jude the Obscure - and I had almost forgotten Pat Austin, with its very strong peachy, coppery colour.

That  I am utterly wrong to be so was demonstrated by a recent visit to an outstanding garden near to St Puy in the Gers, that I have only recently discovered. It is owned by by Ann and James Jowitt, and it is no surprise that it is not the first garden that they have created - a former English garden of theirs made the front cover of 'Country Life. Thus, they have brought the experience of a life time of gardening together to bear on what by any standards is a wonderful achievement. I guess that it is rather in the Sissinghurst mould with amongst other things a number of colour themed borders, but if that suggests over-contrivance that would be quite wrong. What they have managed is very good design with a very sympathetic ambience, helped perhaps by the existence of vestiges of an ancient 'hameau' including old walls, but this feel is not achieved without a great deal of work. But all this by way of saying that they  have very much gone for the Austin rose, and I have to say that they were looking extremely splendid in an early summer, which because of the excessive rainfall, has not been an easy one for roses. I would say that a visit to their garden is a must. They have one or two Open Days a year, and are very happy to allow keen gardeners to look round their garden by appointment - telephone number 05 62 28 97 04

Another garden in the Gers that has taught me the error of my snobbish ways is of course La Coursiana at La Romieu, a garden that has featured in these blogs, so that I will not say very much more about it. Here though it is the eclecticism that is most striking with every kind of rose from very ancient to very modern, from Gallicas to Ground Cover, that is the feature, with I would not dare to guess how many different varieties on show. Of course there are some that I would not choose myself but there are two that I particularly like and grow successfully in this garden. One is Pretty Lady, which until recently I have been calling wrongly Lovely Lady. It is difficult to explain why I like it. The flowers are well-shaped but their colour is not exceptional being of a biscuity/slightly pinkish, may be even peachy hue that are produced in mass through much of the summer. But all I can say is that they immediately caught my eye and made me want to have a plant, and incidentally there are plants for sale at La Coursiana at very reasonable prices including many roses. The other is Bossa Nova with very full pink flowers on a healthy bush that repeat well.

Of course everybody will have their favourite roses. The choice is enormous and ever expanding. I have emphasised 'good doers' but none are trouble free, most requiring at least some pruning, and their look is much improved by dead heading, all of which takes a good deal of time. But in the two very different gardens that I have mentioned, Taillefer of Ann and James Jowitt, and la Coursiana of the Delannoy family, you will see roses grown to perfection, though I should stress that neither is primarily a rose garden. But of both these gardens I can only echo what Vita Sackville West, a great lover of roses herself, once wrote:'It is a truely satisfactory thing to see a garden well schemed and wisely planted'. So visit them both and enjoy!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018


As soon as I had posted my previous blog I realised that I had not mentioned the shrub that I had most wanted to, Viburnum Huron. Having now done so you might well ask why I have bothered. For instance it is not mentioned in either of my two 'bibles', the Hillier and Adeline catalogues, while its flowers are of a very ordinary viburnum type such as the Wayfaring trees (V.lanata) possess, which is to say flat heads of whitish flowers. These should produce berries, but one nurseryman at least warns that they are not up to much. But it has two features which for me makes it attractive. Everybody appears to agree that their autumn colouring is particularly good and moreover lasts for some time. Secondly, and this I can verify this myself, they are for a viburnum, at least particularly elegant. This is difficult to explain without a photo, but because the stems are long and not too heavily foliaged, there is Japanese quality to them, from a distance slightly resembling an Acer palmatum. Whether it will retain this elegance as it matures time will tell, and apparently it could grow to at least 2 meters, but for the moment I am delighted with it.

Another shrub acquired from the excellent Cotes Sud des Landes that I had never come across before is Itea japponica Beppu, or Japanese Sweetspire.  I cannot pretend that it will have much of a 'gosh factor making a rather dumpy but suckering bush/clump of about 1 meter in height. As its name suggests its hanging white flowers have fragrance, but as so often with me it is the fact that it has very good autumn colour on leaves that last well into the winter that has persuaded me to buy it.

As I think that I have mentioned before we have not had great success with the deciduous Euonymus, I guess the most commonly planted being the various E.alatus, even losing E.hamiltonianus Indian Summer. Again what makes me try again, this time with E.planipes, is the prospect of autumn colour, and as with other deciduous euonymus, brightly coloured seed heads or fruits. Moreover apparently it has rather attractive leaf buds this in late winter and early spring. If all goes well this time it should make a big shrub or small tree growing to up to at least 3 meters.

Finally just a reminder that if you have an chance of acquiring Buddleja x bel argent do so. I put it in my top ten of shrubs. It is spring flowering.Its flowers unlike most Buddleja's droop in a most attractive way and are of a quite vivid purple while its grey leaves remain attractive throughout the summer. You can find it on the internet where you will find quite a good picture, but it is difficult to buy, and it may even be that only Le Jardin de Rochevieille can provide it.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

A Buy-up

We have decided to plant up a rather steep bank which runs for about 200meters along side the drive up to the house. Up until now it has been left semi-wild which has meant that it has not been easy to keep under control. Too steep to mow, it has been even difficult, not to say dangerous, to strim. Some areas we have covered with a 'bâche', not the prettiest material in the world, though very effective if left long enough in suppressing grass and weeds. This we are now removing - and the fun begins.

The bank faces more or less west though with a slight incline to the South. This means that in Summer at least it has to endure the full force of the sun from about 2pm onwards, and thus can become very dry. In winter it is put up with North-westerly winds, so can be quite cold. The soil for the most part is bog standard Gersois 'clay', which is to say heavy, and moreover contains its fair share of bricks and tiles. Thus in one way or another it is not an easy project, and certainly not one for what might be called 'exotic' or even 'experimental' planting. Thus there is going to be quite a lot of Abelias, Chaenomeles, Cornus alba and sanguinea with different coloured leaves and stems, Ceanothus repensCotoneaster lacteus, Forsythia, and Philadelphus.

There are going to be one or two smallish trees to give a bit of variety of height - Amelanchier lamarckii, Malus x cochinella and M. x Evereste, and a corkscrew hazel but in a red leaved form, Corylus aveliana Red Majestic. Not yet acquired but on the list are one or two Hawthorns but of the pink/red variety (Crimson Crataegus laevigata Cloud/Paul's Scarlet) and no doubt there will be others.

I am not sure whether the Smoke Tree is a bush or a tree but they will certainly be included. We have already got Cotinus coggygria Grace which if not pruned, and it takes to early Spring pruning happily, can apparently grow to as high as 10 m.It is highly attractive plant, and like all of this family particularly so in the Autumn. We have also also the more commonly found C.cogg. Royal Purple. In the buy-up I have also gone for C.cogg.Aurea with the yellow leaves which I am assured will not burn in sunshine, though I remain a little doubtful. C.cogg. Golden Spirit looks very simlar. I was also tempted by C. Red Spirit but sadly it was not available.

Meanwhile I have rather fallen in love with the Nandina family, or as it is more commonly called the Sacred Bamboo. I am not thinking of the frequently planted N. domestica Fire Power. This makes a quite low lying shrub, which certainly colours well in the autumn but lacks the elegance of many of its siblings.The larger varieties - between one or two meters high - have many attractions including purplish red leaves in both Spring and Autumn, in the case N.dom.Plum Passion, the colour very pronounced. They have upright sprays of white flowers during the summer which are followed by red berries which last into the following year, and in fact it is these berries that really win my heart. We had already got N.dom. Obsessed and Richmond, but for the the new site we have gone for N.domestica Umpqua Chief because apparently it is very generous with its berries. These incidentally are to be found at Pep. Côté Sud des Landes from where many of the above plants have been ordered, and it is a nursery I can strongly recommend.

Lastly I would like to recommend yet again the Jardins de Coursiana at Le Romieu. I guess that I have now been visiting it for over twenty years, which is to say since not long after it was acquired by the current owners, Véronique and Arnaud Delannoy, in 1992. They in turn had bought it from well-known botanist, M. Cours Darne who is largely responsible for the very fine collection of different families of trees but what one might call the garden proper is down to them and what a brilliant job they have made of it. I guess the style is rather English, which is to say it is a mixture of flowers, shrubs and trees put together in a rather informal and eclectic way - the mix of ancient and modern roses is particularly noticeable - but what for me is its hallmark is the use of large blocks of under planting, often provided by annuals such as Forget-me-nots or Sunpatiens, or in late summer dahlias, these in an exciting mixture of colours. It really is a garden to visit, with very good refreshments including home made jam and honey from their own bees, not to mention the plums, for along with the garden they have serious plum orchards. The one thing missing for me is good English cakes, such a feature of garden visits in England but one cannot have everything. And the good news is that it appears that one of their sons has become seriously involved so that all things being equal the garden will continue to flourish.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Our Prairie Garden

For a long time I was resistant to this I guess still very fashionable style of gardening.This is partly no doubt because I am pretty resistant to any fashions,; partly also because my favourite garden correspondent - Robin lane-Fox in the Financial Times - has always been pretty sniffy about them. Prairies are essentially for bison, or at least they were until the poor bison were eliminated, and I saw no very good reason to surround our house with large clumps of miscellaneous grasses; and it needs to be emphasized that grasses are the chief components of a prairie. Nevertheless we have ended up with one for reasons I will try and explain.

Our house is situated at the end of a small ridge for the most part facing South-west and as a result much of the garden is on a slope, in places really quite steep and much of it was covered with a mixture of trees, bushes and brambles and the the dreaded Old Man's beard. To create a long vista from the front of the house facing east with a very large oak as a focal point we hired a digger which removed the aforesaid trees, etc., thereby creating a large flattish area cut into the hillside. The result is that from the front door you pass through our so-called gravel garden, then a mown grass area, then a swimming pool, which we have tried to make look as unlike a swimming pool as possible, then another smaller mown grass area, then the Prairie garden followed more grass and a small orchard, and finally the oak tree. To have created anything more formal - a series of hedged compartments, or even serious terracing, would have been difficult, expensive and would have taken a long time to mature, and time is not really on our side. And anyway would any of these solutions have looked appropriate on Gersois hillside? In the end we went for the easiest and cheapest solution, that is to say the Prairie garden. Ten years down the line the question is did we make the right decision? The answer I think is a qualified yes.

To start with the qualifications. In creating a flat area we only reinforced a problem that much of the garden suffers from: heavy clay soil which in winter becomes waterlogged, especially this winter with its abundant rainfall, while because it faces south it can eventually become too dry. Not surprisingly a lot of plants do not like this. For instance we tried the taller eryngiums without much success. More surprisingly we have failed with most of what I used to call Polygonums but are now more often called Persicarias. This is a big loss since the various varieties - P.amplexicaulis and P.bistorta - are usually an important feature of a Prairie garden. Fortunately P.polymorpha is reasonably happy, this an imposing plant that grow to 2 m. and well worth having if you got the space, though unlike some Persicarias it is not invasive. Veronicastrums, not in fact my favourite plant but seems to be 'in' at the moment, have survived without as yet making much impact.

But what about the successes? Well almost all the many Miscanthus do well, and as they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, though all on the large size, this is very good news. Extremely happy are the Macleayas, both cordata and microcarpa. . These can be quite invasive but for the moment I am happy for them to fill up the space, and they look good over a long period. Other successes would include the larger Achilleas but especially 'Parker's Variety", many different Helianthus and tall Rudbeckias, and amongst the Asters it is the A.novae-angliae, such as Barr's Pink that do best. And finally thank the Lord for Gaura lindheimeri which with us has seeded abundantly and looks good, though better in the mornings, for much of the summer.

It is clear that all the successes are what might be called thugs and from high summer onwards rather too many bright yellows, but sadly all attempts  at more refinement have failed. I have mentioned the difficult soil conditions, but another problem is that there are far too many weeds. What we should have done is heavily weed killed the area before planting, and then have left it fallow for at least a year. Not having done this we are never going to be weed free but thanks to the 'thugs' the result from at least July onwards is not too bad, and as Autumn approaches and the grasses change colour it can actually look rather wonderful. At this time of year when everything needs to be cut down it is not work free, but then no gardening is, but by and large we are happy with it.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017


As soon as I had written my last blog I went out into the garden and immediately saw plants that I might have included amongst my Autumn marvels. I do not intend to list them all but there is one that is worth mentioning if only because I suspect that it is not very well known. Pseudocydonia sinensis may not get into one's 'Top Ten' but it is certainly worth a place in a Gascon garden. In our garden at least more shrub like than tree it has various pluses including when it reaches any size  flaking bark similar to that of a Plane tree. Its leaves which according to Hilliers are semi-persistent, though not with us, are a quite shiny green. In April it has solitary pink flowers which I have to say do not make a huge impact but are attractive enough, these then followed by large fruits not unlike grapefruit to look at, though I do not think that one can make anything of them. But for me it is in the autumn that it becomes a real star as its leave turn a lovely mixture of reds and oranges with also some green remaining and this over quite a long period.  Hilliers does not mention this feature and if you read the entry you would not be tempted to buy the plant. Many reference books and catalogues do not include it. On the other hand the marvellous Adeline catalogue - mine for 2008/9 and I think no longer produced - calls it a "Plante splendide", and I agree.

Another plant that caught my eye was a Cotoneaster  franchetii if only because it usually does not! Readers of these blogs will know that I am quite a fan of C. lacteus especially at this time of year, this not because of 'autumn colour' but because the combination of rich dark green leaves and red berries is very striking. Its 'cousin' is for me something and nothing; neither its leaves nor its berries being especially striking. But just at the moment that I saw it the mix of leaf and berry when caught in sunlight was attractive, this largely because there was a combination of red, orange but also green leaves. So I am going to be a bit kinder about C. franchetii in future. Moreover it is also a reminder that in the garden it is the 'moment' that is all important, since there are so many variables - light and shade, wind and rain, changes in the plant itself - that will effect the look.

Meanwhile a plant that did not catch the eye but arguably should have was Euonymus alatus, famous for its brilliant autumn colour, this because mine is struggling to survive. Moreover having been seduced by descriptions of E.hamiltonianus Indian Summer with its 'reliable,crimson to purple autumn foliage' I acquired one only for it promptly to die. This is all the more surprising since the wild euonymus or Spindle tree pops up all over the garden, and where it is not in the way I am very happy for it to do so.

There has been rather a long gap in the writing, perhaps permissible in a 'scrapbook', but what I was going to mention was that there were quite a lot of roses in flower, despite the frosts, many of them the China and Tea roses favoured by John and Becky Hook at La Roseraie du Désert (, and this gives me a chance to note that though they are still anxious to move to sunnier climes they are still in business. Over the years they have managed to build up an outstanding collection of roses that many of us have never heard of. It will be a tragedy if this collection has to disappear, so let us hope that in the end someone will be found to take it over. In the mean time do visit their website, or even better visit them though December is perhaps not the best time to do so,  so that you might buy one or two roses that you would have difficulty finding anywhere else.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Late Autumn Marvels

At this moment the views from our house could hardly be more beautiful, especially in the early evening light. There exist more stunning views of the Pyrenees, though we do have a long vista towards the Pic du Midi, but it is with the middle ground that we gain. The house is situated at the end of a small ridge enabling us to look up and down a valley through which snakes a small but persistent stream.On either side of the stream has grown up a variety of our most common trees and shrubs. These include a number of large oaks, alders, hazels, Lombardy poplars, and Field maples. In fact the alders do not colour at all well but come into their own in the Spring. Our local oaks will late on - here they have only just begun to turn -take on a rather rusty gold, and cannot compete with the North American cousins for  Autumn splendour. But the stars of our Autumn are the Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra Italica) which early on and sometimes rather briefly go a lovely yellow, and equally yellow, but over a longer period the Field maples (Acer campestre).

If your garden is of any size, and probably even if it is not since it can often be found as a bush, you will almost certainly possess at least one,Field Maple so no need to go out and buy, but it is a attractive tree/bush at all times of the year, so well worth having. I keep looking out for any that colour red, or at least have a reddish tinge to them. and I have finally acquired one or two seedlings, though I am not quite sure whether this colouring is inherent or derives from what in human terms one would call nurture, by which I mean the conditions in which it is growing. The most recent Hilliers does list one Field maple with orange/red colour in Autumn, A.campestre William Caldwell, but I suspect that it would not be easy to find. What does have orange/red colouring and which can be very easily confused with a Field maple is Sorbus torminalis, otherwise known as the Wild Service Tree. In the countryside it does not make quite such an impact as the maple, but it is certainly attractive enough to have in ones garden for, along with the autumn colouring, in Spring it has bunches of whitish flowers followed by fruits of an admittedly rather dullish red.

To get strong reds in a Gascon garden is a bit more difficult since a lot of the trees and shrubs which provide this are not too happy here - too hot and dry in the summer and our soil often too heavy and not acidic enough. The Japanese maples (A.palmatum) with outstanding Autumn colour come into this category,as indeed do some of the 'Red Oaks'. As mentioned in previous blogs, I have found that Acer oliverianum, which much resembles a Japanese maple, copes pretty well;- admittedly mine are in shade but on a dryish southern slope. On the other hand two acers that are often recommended -_ A.saccharum and A.tataricum - have failed with me. Not so A.truncatum and Acer discolor. But undoubtedly the star of our garden at this moment is A.Pacific Sunset, a blaze of red over quite a long period, and, acquired over five years ago from the excellent tree and shrub nursery, Ets Spahl near Jegun,it seems extremely happy in I guess not altogether ideal conditions.

Other ''Reds' would include my much mentioned favourites Prunus Autumnalis Rosea and Pyrus calleryana Bradford and Chanticler, both the 'pears' incidentally colouring late in the season, and being perhaps rather more maroon than red. Less known, at least as far as I am concerned is Pistacia chinensis. With its quite large pinnate leaves it resembles an ash, a family which I increasingly feel we should have more of, since they seem to cope well with sécheresse. Hilliers says that the Pistacia is often found as a shrub, but our two are definitely trees, and just beginning to turn as I write this.  We also have one Parrotia persica or Persian ironwood, often rightly strongly recommended for its autumn colour. It has taken a long time to get established, for reasons I am not sure of, and ours is more golden than red, but for the first time this autumn it has begun to make an impact.

As for shrubs the stars of the Gascon countryside in Autumn are the common dogwoods (cornus sanguinea) and the so-called Wayfarer Tree (Viburnum lanata). Both have good autumn colour, but especially the former since its leaves go a very rich maroon, almost purple, but their many 'cousins' are even more spectacular.  Both Cornus mas and Cornus officinalis, very similar in Spring with their little pom pom yellow flowers, have good reddish, purple autumn colour, perhaps especially the latter, a shrub I increasingly think is a 'must' for a Gascon garden. As for the many viburnums - I am thinking especially of the various V. carlesii and burkwoodii types, amongst the latter Mohawk, a great favourite of mine - all are good. Moreover their leaves appear to stay on for a longer period than for instance many of the Acer palmatums, which is a great advantage, even if they lack the elegance of the latter.

No doubt I have left out various other 'stars', and for instance I have not mentioned the Liquidambers, quite spectacular but in my view welcoming a little more moisture than in this garden we can readily provide. But I hope I have mentioned enough to convince you, if that is you needed convincing, that a Gascon garden, even if it has to make do without the moisture and the acid soil of the more famous Woodland gardens of the West coast of England, is in a different way a 'Marvel'.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Unsung Heroes

I am not sure that the Gaura is entirely 'unsung', since it has become quite a popular plant, but what I have in mind is the fact that one gaura on its own is not going to make much of an impact, in fact you might not even see it - it is rather spindly plant with smallish white, pink and now even red flowers. However en masse or as a background to other more glamorous plants it is attractive. Moreover it seems to like our climate, enjoying our hot, often dry summers, and perhaps more surprisingly our wet springs. You can now buy them in all sorts of shapes and sizes with such names as Cherry Brandy, Siskiyou Pink and Whirling Butterflies,but actually I prefer the bog standard G. lindheimeri: I am not against the pink or red but what I am not so keen on is what I think the catalogues call 'compact', not to say squat, since for me the whole point of the plant is its airiness.

One disadvantage of the gaura is that, like say the cistus, by the end of its day it loses its petals, so what in the morning was a haze of white or pink, is no longer. This is not the case with the plant I have, as mentioned in these blogs, fallen in love with, Erigeron annuus, or Eastern daisy fleabane. Like the gaura, this is not a 'gosh factor' plant,indeed in the USA where it hails from,it is often considered a weed, but it performs the same role as the gaura in providing a lovely in its case, only white background to other plants, but with the great advantage that it does not lose its petals on a daily basis. After a long dry spell it can look a little tatty, but a bit of deadheading will soon get them going again, so that one has flowers really from June to November, which cannot be bad news.

Both the above plants perform the same role as the now more famous Verbena bonariensis in providing an attractive background to other plants over a long season. My only problem is that I cannot grow it, or rather it will not stay the course with me. In fact it is never a long lived plant, but when happy will self-seed in some quantity, which is what one wants. I guess the reason for my failure is our wet Springs and lack of drainage, but where you can grow it it is a very useful plant, and famously much enjoyed by butterflies and other insects.

A modest plant family that I used to rather look down on is Amsonia. There are various varieties on the market all I think hailing from North America. They are of medium height with some might say rather wishy-washy light blue flowers, but for me there are three good reasons for having them in one's garden. They do not require staking. Their foliage remains attractive after flowering. In the Autumn this foliage goes a very attractive yellow. Incidentally Rhazya orientalis is very similar and  I see that Piet Oudulf calls it Amsonia orientalis, as indeed does my now very out-of-date RHS Plant Finder, though I should perhaps add that it does not hail from across the Atlantic..

Finally the Sedums which I believe are in the process of having a name change, since some of them should now be called hylotelephium. Here I will stick to sedum and will not consider the low growing varieties, of which there are very many. These could certainly be called 'unsung heroes' but the reason I am leaving them out is that to my shame I have had very little success with them, even with an old favourite, S.sieboldi, yet again the problem, or perhaps the excuse, being winter wet and poor drainage. The taller varieties - 40-60cms - flourish, with the exception of S.Mr.Goodbud . This is a  recent variety that I bought from Le Jardin de Taurignan which incidentally has a very good selection, and allowed it to die, on this occasion the fault being entirely mine. I will certainly try it again for it has all the qualities that I admire in this family. It comes into its own in the second half the year when other plants may begin to look tired, and puts up well with our secheresse. It does not need staking, and en principe looks after itself. Bees and butterflies enjoy it. Above all it has a certain presence which shows up well amongst the grasses and rather frothy perennials such as asters which also come into the own in the Autumn. Some of you may have already got S. Matrona, which it is similar to,  though the flower heads are more impressive, one catalogue suggesting that they resemble a cauliflower, which may or may not warm them to you.

When I started gardening in England, now many years ago, the common varieties were S.Autumn Joy/Herbsfreude and S. spectabile Brilliant and both are still readily available and worth having. In recent years there has been a spate of varieties with purple leaves and flowers with names such as S. Chocolate Drop and S. Purple Emperor, but in this range the one that I like most is S. Jose Aubergine, whose name says it all both as regards its colour and the slightly shiny, almost florescent, appearance of its foliage. This  I bought from my favourite nurseryman, Bernard Lacrouts, though it seems sadly that he no longer supplies it. But all these sedums are worth considering. They may not get into one's 'Top Ten' but they provide a lot of pleasure over a long period.