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Gardener's Notebook: Fascinated by English gardens

I especially love looking at “The English Garden” magazine, a wonderful treat from Britain.
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A bush clematis can be a delightful and beautiful addition to any garden. (File Photo)

YORKTON - Do you ever look at the pictures in gardening magazines or books, or maybe scroll through gardening sites online looking for ideas? 

Have you seen a picturesque perennial border, in a blaze of bloom, and wish it was growing in your backyard?  I especially love looking at “The English Garden” magazine, a wonderful treat from Britain, which shows those dreamy garden landscapes that are full of roses and lupins and cleomes and so many beautiful flowers.

I have read the word “stately” to describe the beautiful manors featured in the magazines, but sometimes the word is used to describe the particular plants in the gardens as well.  What does it mean when a plant is described as “stately”?  Webster’s dictionary defines the word as “ imposing, dignified and majestic”, and as gardeners, stately flowers might be the ones we notice first in a border, most probably the tall plants: elegant flowers like delphiniums, veronica, foxglove, bush clematis or ligularia.  These lovely specimens can become the anchors of a perennial bed because they are the tallest and don’t have as much competition for our glances as shorter specimens.

At this moment, are you back-tracking and saying, wait, what’s a bush clematis?  If this is new to you, it’s a delightful and beautiful addition to any garden.

A kind and generous gardening friend gave us a bush clematis years ago, and it is one of our favourites in the perennial collection.  A bush clematis is not like a trailing clematis.  It stands on its own, although to keep it looking its best it is good to stake it or use a tomato cage to keep it in its best form.

This perennial grows about three feet high, and has the loveliest blue blooms, I can describe them to you as comparable in shape to large, downward facing columbine or a ‘ballerina skirt’ at the beginning, and then they open slightly, showing off a pale yellow-white centre.

If you decide to add this plant to your garden, you will receive it as a root, and, perfect for our climate, it is perfectly happy to be planted in the spring when it is cool.  This planting condition makes it easier for the plants to get settled and establish roots.  They are very pretty when they are growing, even before the blooms arrive, with straight stems of oval shaped leaves. 

They like full sun  to part sun, and are not that fussy about the soil.  They do not like wet feet so a well-drained area is best.  (By the way, when we read about sun requirements on planting instructions, “full sun” usually means a minimum of six hours of sun; “partial sun” means four to six hours of sun).

They will bloom over the summer, and when they are done blooming, the blooms turn into the most unique and beautiful delicate spiral swirls. 

At the end of the season, we just leave them alone, and in the spring we can cut them back to about four inches, because the exciting new growth comes from the bottom.

The blooms attract bees and butterflies, always a plus.  If you like unusual additions to your perennial bed, this one fits the bill because of its unique bush shape, stunning purple-blue flowers, and swirl seed-heads.  Maybe next spring you’ll give it a try!

It fits the fill of “stately” not only because of height, but color!    

Visit the hort society at www.yorktonhort. ca.  Thank you to our friends at YTW for their fine work!  Happy long weekend!