Goodbye thug and hello stunners!

Warning – some of the links in this post are going to be VERY time limited! So be quick!

Some 20-odd years ago when I was first turning a large “virgin-lawned” rear patch into something approximating to a garden, whilst still paying off all the house purchase and kit-out bills, I succumbed to the temptation of one of those comparatively cheap large packs of perennial plants you see advertised everywhere. Amongst the little babies I received were a few “white phlox.” That’s what they were called; no more details supplied.

Now, after 20 years, I’m praying that my efforts to eradicate it have, at last, succeeded. It’s big, invasive and it has a scent reminiscent of the changing rooms in my old school – stale sweat and feet! Its (probably distant) coloured paniculata relatives are a bit smaller, less invasive and have a much more pleasant scent. Around five square metres-worth of the stuff has been dug up and consigned to the local tip as I don’t want it colonising my compost heap!

In place of it I’m planting some carefully selected and cultivated coloured Phlox paniculata mixed with Helenium cultivars in a range of colours and “under planted” with tree lilies (which might manage to flower this year and provide a bit of earlier colour). Although both Phlox and Heleniums flower late, the border is on one side of a path and against a boundary fence. Between the path and the lawn on the other side is another border full of earlier flowering plants so viewed from where it’ll usually be viewed from, a late-flowering border won’t look too bad (I hope).

One of the star plants in this second border will be a new variety of foxglove – Digitalis illumination – which gained the Plant of the Year Award for Thompson and Morgan at Chelsea last year. I ordered a selection soon after Chelsea but had to wait until this spring for delivery. Impressed by the strength of their growth, I’ve bought more so will have just over 20 to pop into their allocated space in a few weeks’ time. T&M say they are sterile so will flower for up to six months when established and, unlike most foxgloves, they are truly perennial and semi-evergreen to boot.

I’ve taken another “buy now, wait till next year” approach with not one but two plant varieties from T&M. The first is a new type of poppy but the second is the one that excites me. It was shortlisted for this year’s Plant of the Year Award and managed a respectable third place. Is it some really exotic plant? No! It’s a nasturtium called “Fruit Salad.” But it’s a stunner. (The photo’s courtesy of Michael Perry, T&M’s New Product Development Manager; click to enlarge and click outside it to reduce again.) It’s also sterile so should flower better and longer. The unusual flower and leaf shapes are what grabbed my attention.

Growing about a foot high and two across, it’s better behaved than ordinary nasturtiums. I’ll have to wait until next April to get my pack of ten. If you fancy some, you’ll need to get in quickly as stocks are limited. Nip along to the cunningly hidden page on T&M’s web site.

If you fancy the foxgloves, at the time of writing they’re easier to find. Or, at least, you’ll find two colours there: pink and gold.

There is actually a third colour – Apricot – but that’s only available via the TV shopping channel QVC. Again, if you’re not quick it’ll probably be gone.