We are lucky enough to have a small garden at our London home, as well as by the seaside in Kent. On rare weekends when we stay put in the capital, the garden gets some much needed attention. The plot is shady, with woefully heavy, wet soil and poor drainage. This is in marked contrast to our seaside chalk, which drains like a dream. These conditions present their challenges, but they also give us opportunities to work with a completely different palette of plants.
I have always enjoyed growing Hostas, which are much tougher and more adaptable than many people assume. They flourish in pots, which is where we choose to grow most of ours, out of the way of marauding snails and slugs. One of my favourites is Hosta “Krossa Regal”, which was introduced from Japan in 1974. It has a very upright, vase-shaped habit, with frosty blue-green wavy leaves. Later in the year we can look forward to lovely orchid coloured flowers on long stems. Unfortunately our specimen is desperately in need of dividing and repotting this year. Consequently the leaves are much smaller than they should be. I will divide it in August, to give the plants time to re-establish again before the winter.
Top of my list is Hosta “Patriot” (above), which is regarded as one of the best cream/white margined Hostas. The beautiful leaf colour combines well with the crinkled texture and, again, the plants perform well in large pots. It looks very striking alongside the slightly more delicate Hosta fortunei “Aurea” (on the left in the top photograph), which is at its most vivid if kept out of too much direct sunlight. I like to grow deep purple violas nearby, as the coloured Hosta foliage really sets off the dark, velvety flowers. This year has been great for violas, which seem to revel in the cooler temperatures. Although they have become a little leggy, they have avoided any unsightly mildew. Provided they are dead-headed regularly, they should stay in good shape until the end of the summer.
Whilst Hostas are very at home in London, neither of our gardens is well suited to roses. On a walk around Greenwich yesterday, I was reminded of what a wonderful time of year this is for those who can grow them well, and what a treat it is to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers on a warm, sunny day.
These two, names unknown, caught my eye in the front gardens of a row of elegant Georgian townhouses. Both ramblers, they were in their first flush and looked as fresh and vigorous as one could hope for. Pure delight!