The shade garden plants

cistus shadeI’m indoors gently resting my lacerated arms.  Raspberry picking is always fun. But not so fun in the part of the garden where all the tall raspberry canes are flopping over the paths and scratching me as I go past.

I must, must, must sort out the structure this autumn so that they can be contained.  This is something that has been on my list all year and I’m paying for my prevarication.

I think I want to hire the services of a problem solving carpenter when I get around to it.  The plants need to be contained in three different heights. So if I build a grid structure as I usually do, then they need to start out low; but over the growing season I can raise the height of the whole grid to keep them controlled.santolina shade

I can see it in my mind’s eye. All I need to do is get into the soft fruit orchard and retrieve all the spare parts of the old grids which have been stacked up.  Weeds are growing through them. Small animals have probably set up nesting sites in the long grass underneath.  Brambles are snaking all about.

I need a cool day, thick gloves, long trousers and a powerful pair of arms to get started.

The cool day is the trthyme plants shadeicky bit. We are back in heatwave mode after one cool day and a bit of rain last week.  In fact I’m writing this with a fan beside me on full blast while watching the cricket. Anything to keep me happy and quietly working away indoors.

I did go out super early this morning.  And the photo essay today is about natural selection.  What plants are not coping in this vile summer of relentless heat.  Californian readers will be well ahead of me here.

I planted up these thyme plants a few years back when they came out of thonestyshadeaughe wall that fell down in the flood of 2013.  So they are recycled plants. It is possible their roots system was not as well anchored as they could have been.

And you might know that these are the sort of plants you pick up in supermarkets, plant nurseries and even DIY stores because they are absurdly cheap plants that need rescuing. Their roots are often a thick mat in the pot.

Never mind. Cheap and cheerful you say. Ours rarely cost more than three euros a large thyme plant. And they are evergreen and have a great scent. What more could you want?

And for a quick ground cover on a slope I thought they would work well.

They don’t.

artur heatThe poor plants are dying.  And it feels cruel to have put them in this heat stress situation. Slopes in dry shade are always tricky places.  Moisture is at a premium and the huge chestnut tree in this part of the garden is such a thuggish competitor.

Cistus often lose their leaves in the heat and then come back from the dead.  But my two cistus plants here are so large they look like stricken hummocks and draw the eye.

I did hard prune one of the cistus (right beside the chestnut) and it is faring a bit better. It is too late for me to hard prune the other one. But I will try and do it next year. robbburnt

Some santolinas look ghastly.  Others are okay, but not happy.

shade garden augBut I don’t want it to be a roll call of all doom and gloom. The purple sage plants are a bit crispy but are holding their shape. And only one of the euphorbia Mrs Robb’s Bonnet (euphorbia amygdaloies var. robbiae) is burning up. It is unfortunately right beside the path so your eyes are drawn to it as you plod to the potting shed in search of secateurs and cat.

The stalwart shrubs – portuguese laurel (prunus lusitanica) and viburnum tinus – are mostly great. They make me almost weep with relief to see them growing so well without a drop of water.  succulent detail

A few osmanthus shrubs are in direct sunshine and are a bit crispy. And the hemerocallis are not dead. But they have more dead strappy leaves than green.

I have a lot of self sown honesty plants in between the shrubs. And as they are dying not so prettily, the effect of a cool green shade garden is mostly ruined. One day I will get in there and haul them out.

To finish I offer you the solution to my thyme plants on the dry bank. Succulents.

succulents augustUnlike most gardeners I am ignorant of this group osucculent detail 1f drought tolerant plants.  These were a gift from Caroline in June. And despite being plonked into terracotta pots and placed in the potting shed where they have been watered about twice in two months they are thriving.

Flowering. Growing well.  So I can see the future, and it is succulent.

But can they take the cold winter and snow? Funny, when you are in the middle of the heat wave of summer the last thing on your mind is bone chilling winter.  Back to the drawing board.