Country Cottage Garden Meets the Coast
I try to have a theme in mind when I pick my Posy of the Month. This month I have had a dilemma. My front garden is full of coastal plants which remind me of the seaside and I love them. The back garden is full of quintessentially English cottage garden flowers and I love them just as much! So for my July images I have chosen two themes – coastal and cottage garden.
Coastal Posy for July
At the front of our bungalow we had an area of practical, but unimaginative stones. This part of the garden is a challenge. In the Winter it gets water logged and grass just turns to moss. In the Summer it catches the sun and bakes dry. Mr Smiles had decided sensible stones was the answer to the problem. I thought this area was a bit boring, but didn’t want to undo the hard work already put in by laying a waterproof membrane and then putting the stones down. So I have experimented with seaside alpines. It was suggested they wouldn’t grow as there was no dirt. I have been collecting pebbles, shells and driftwood whenever we go on holiday to the coast. I simply made holes amongst the pebbles with a trowel and shoved the alpines in. They grew magnificently! Along side the alpines I have large pots in seaside colours of cobalt blue, grey and white which contain plants which remind me of holidays. I have a tree fern, eucalyptus, various grasses and an olive tree in these pots. I overwinter them in the greenhouse with horticultural fleece.This month it has been my brilliant blue Agapanthus and white Hydrangea which have been the highlight of the front garden. I love these plants. They remind me of happy holidays in Cornwall. For my July Posy I decided to take photos outside amongst the seaside pebbles and shells. I used blue and cream MDF backing boards and even bought an ornamental boat to add to the sea-side effect. The neighbours must have been amused! As a vase I used a glass water bottle which reminded me of nautical life buoys. I must admit the neck was a bit narrow to display the blooms to their full advantage.
Another favourite flower is the Hydrangea. You either love them or hate them! One of my friends described Hydrangeas as `old lady blooms in either garrish overly-bright colours or rather dusky faded hues!’ I love them! I love their big, blowsy, look-at-me blooms. I also associate them with happy holidays by the coast.
I have five different varieties of Hydrangea. My white Hydrangea macrophylla is called The Bride. The Bride has pure white flowers which gradually take a pale pink blush. It differs from most other Hydrangeas as it is from the Endless Summer Collection which produce flowers on old and new wood. I have made the mistake of pruning my others in the Autumn and then they do not bloom the following year!
Macrophylla Hydrangeas can be either mopheads or lacecaps and are invaluable for poor soils, exposed positions and by the sea.. Mopheads are often blue, pink or purple and have big, puffy balls of flowers.
Some hydrangeas have the ability to change the colour of the flowers. This colour change is due to the soil PH and aluminium availability. Those with blue or pink flowers tend to be blue in acid soil conditions (high available aluminium levels), mauve in acid to neutral soil conditions, and pink in alkaline conditions. To get the best flower colour, choose cultivars that give the best colours for the pH in question. White flowers remain white regardless of soil pH.
It is a good idea to water hydrangeas with rainwater, since mains hard water can affect the flower colour, turning blue flowers mauve or pink. Cultivars with blue flowers can be kept blue by growing the plants in acidic soil (pH 4.5-5). To keep hydrangeas reliably blue you can use ‘hydrangea blueing compounds’. These compounds contain aluminium sulphate. If the soil is very alkaline or if there is any obvious chalk in the soil, this treatment will not work, but can be used for container-grown plants. If you want to enhance red or pink flowers, apply a dressing of ground limestone or chalk in winter. Ok that’s the theory covered! In practice I just plonk mine in and wait and see what happens! I actually like the kaleidoscope colours of blue, lilac and pink on the same bush, so have given up worrying about fancy compounds and I go with the flow…
Lacecaps are similar to Mopheads.The shape of the blooms are flatter and more refined. The little buds in the centre are the fertile flowers and the large showy blossoms around the outer edge are sterile.
I also have a plant called Pinky-Winky which is a Hydrangea paniculata. Paniculata blooms are panicle or cone shaped rather than ball-like.
The other type of Hydrangea I have is a climber – Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris. It will climb like a vine along a wall or fence clinging by aerial roots. The white lace-cap like flower-heads appear in Spring and Early Summer.
Country Cottage Posy for July
The back-garden has been full of traditional country cottage flowers in July. I am very proud of my Sweet Peas which I grew from seed and which smell heavenly. Hence why I needed to create a different Posy to the Coastal one. Somehow Sweet Peas, Agapanthus and Hydrangeas don’t work together in a Posy! The Sweet Peas are too dainty to go with the big, boisterous mophead Hydrangea flowers. The Agapanthus blooms are too tall and architectural to work with them in an arrangement.
The Sweet Peas are from Sarah Raven’s Highly Scented Sweet Pea Collection and include Matucana and Lord Nelson. Matucana has lovely bi-colour flowers in crimson and purple with spectacular scent. Lord Nelson has wonderful, highly-scented, old-fashioned, purple-navy flowers.
I also have a magenta pink perennial Sweet Pea plant which grows rampantly over an obelisk when the flowers are continually picked. The blooms don’t really smell of much, but I use them to bulk up arrangements of the annual variety. The silver vases are a family heirloom dating from the early 19th Century. I imagine they may have been a wedding present given to my Great, Grandparents. I recently got one of the vases repaired and was looking for an opportunity to use them in my Posy of the Month Challenge.
Apart from the Sweet Peas the back garden is full of stately Hollyhocks and other cottage garden favourites.
So here we have July’s Mosaic.
I hope you have enjoyed a trip to my Country Cottage style garden with inspiration from the sea-side!