Sandy soil is ideal for warm climate specimens intended for culinary purposes. As well as encouraging tanned, oiled, muscular Mediterranean chefs with a perfect amount of glossy chest hair, you can grow herbs with comparative ease. Where other gardeners have to plant thyme sage or rosemary in a hole lined with grit, I just stuff mine into the soil and start cropping shortly thereafter. I don’t keep a dedicated kitchen bed; the oregano acts as ground cover around the lilies, while they pull on their summer frocks. The bronze fennel rollicks around the roses, coriander keeps company with the Dahlias and the green umbellifers of lovage make a tall statement amongst the acanthus and white foxgloves. This is a hymn to the concept of right plant, right place and I might add, right price. As long as they have roughly the same requirements, attain approximately the same stature and don’t clash in colour, then I’ll give it a go.
Hosta and Hypericum
I have a north facing wall which, while not damp in any way, shape or form, is my best bet for growing plants which prefer more moist conditions. Thus I grow ferns with reasonable success. I’ve also put in a Kirengeshoma but this is an ask too far and the delicate, unusual, elegant plant is failing to thrive in slow motion, a bit more every year. I plan to dig it up for pot cherishing, which will cure or kill it, since I’m tired of trusting to hope. I find that ferns are remarkably forgiving with regard to dry soil. Although I ladle homemade compost around them in spring, they perform handsomely in, let’s not mince words, dust. Some of my favourites came from Morrison’s supermarket, a happy hunting ground for some unexpected bargains. If you bung in half a dozen different species of any other plants, they will look bitty; do it with ferns and it seems to work.
Polystichum setiferum divisilobum densum (soft shield fern)
An added advantage is the otherworldly names; when my children were small, I taught them each a party piece. In the manner of “supercallifragalistic”, you are never at a loss for conversation if you can say Polystichum setiferum divisilobum densum. The soft shield fern in question is actually smaller than its scientific name. When he was very young I taught my son to recite Acer palmatum dissectum atropurpureum, which in his maturity so impressed his Latin loving girlfriend that she married him. I call that a great result. I’m hoping that my grandson will learn to say Eriobotrya Japonica, since cat or car seems slightly tame. He’s just turned one, so it’s early yet. Maybe next year.
Attila is always looking for an area of horticulture where I haven’t stuck my grubby paws. Thus he announced that he was going to grow carnivorous plants. Sinister green tubes full of digestive juices were acquired, sited and killed in short order. This despite their being cosseted like queens, bathed in rainwater and formal introductions to beasts with wings for cosy suppers a deux.
Nepenthes (pitcher plant)
In the kitchen I don’t use insecticides; I keep a Nepenthes (pitcher plant) which I feed with dried meal worms, until the bluebottle flies turn up. I promise you that I don’t leave the back door open on purpose; that would make me feel like Hannibal Lecter. Should an uninvited insect be so rude as to gatecrash when I’m cooking, I must confess that I follow its progress. I track the lazy circling of the cat food bowl and the flirtation with the fridge. I register the insouciant paddle around the pitcher’s open maw, the hysterical buzz once caught and the plop when it falls to its doom. As I hack at the vegetables for tonight’s tea, I’m tittering on the inside. Not as satisfying as laughing on the outside but still fun. I’m twisted that way.