I love December! It always seems like quite a short month really. The days are short. The festivities of Christmas seem to remove at least a week from the month itself and no sooner is Xmas over with, than the celebrations of New Year commence. Also, my birthday is in December. So, whilst the month itself launches us deep into winter 'proper' I never mind it too much.
|Marina Christopher at home on her nursery|
The day itself was hosted by Marina Christopher, nursery owner of Phoenix Perennials and author of Late Summer Flowers - a fantastic book that has never left my bedside table. Interestingly enough, she mentioned how her publishers dissuaded her from having a yellow-flowered cover to her book, citing that a yellow jacket on a gardening book would never sell in the U.K, due to our national dislike of yellow flowers. I, like Marina, can never understand the aversion British gardeners have towards bright yellow. I think it's a gift from the gods, given at a time of year when we desperately need a bit of brightness to our borders. Anyway!
|Where all the magic happens|
So, in the beauty of one of Dixter's wooden-beamed rooms, with a log fire burning, Marina gave an impressive display of her knowledge of all things asteraceae. A comprehensive variety of specimens was run through, together with a wealth of facts and information on this huge genus. As she grappled - quite literally - with the Eupatoriums, perennial Sunflowers, tall Rudbeckias, Achilleas, Cornflowers, Echinops, Dahlias etc... she also seamlessly ran through various facts, tips and anecdotes about all these plants.
|Towering Verbena hastata|
|Fergus - always willing to illustrate his knowledge|
After a superb lunch was given in the barn, it was off and into the garden for an asteraceae tour of the grounds with both Fergus & Marina. Of course, Dixter being Dixter, there were countless specimens to be discovered there. Fergus would have us stop and look closely at various Asters, Inulas - including the majestic 'Magnifica', loads of Rudbeckias, Dahlias, perennial Sunflowers, Liatris, Vernonias...... and so many more! Seeing how they worked in the borders, in combinations with other plants is probably the best way to appreciate the usefulness of these late-season favourites. I tend to use them almost exclusively with grasses or with taller dot plants, such as Verbenas, Ricinus and Cleomes. But I get the feeling that at Dixter they are used in a more traditional way, planted into traditionally mixed borders, backed by shrubs, and therefore, not so tied to the more contemporary, naturalistic way of planting.
|Aster heaven at Great Dixter|
|'Dahlia heads as big as this!'|
|A gorgeous carrot would you believe ??|
Until next time! Thanks for reading.
All the best