Back bed progress in July

For most of July nothing much happened with the back bed.

Nothing good, anyway. I found vine weevils, which explained the annoying eating of my tiarella/heucherella leaves, and also prompted something of a panic upon reading that each one lays 1000s of eggs every night, and in autumn those grubs will utterly destroy root systems leading to spontaneous unrecoverable plant death. I have bookmarked the relevant nematode product and made a mental note for late August to mercilessly unleash this biological warfare...

Between the weevils and the drought, I have been dragging my heels on new plants here. I thought I had it all planned out to have a lovely carpet of tiarellas and heucheras, but they've been struggling so much with this "heatwave" (more the lack of rain than the heat, per se), I've been questioning my choices.

I don't like having to use as much water as I have found myself doing this past month. If you look at Bristol's historic climate, June and July are meant to deliver roughly the same amount of rain, and rainy days, as February or April. We're not meant to have dry months here. Even the driest month should still have two-thirds the rainfall of the wettest. Even in the height of summer it should be raining every 3 or 4 days on average, frequently enough and/or substantially enough such that my flowerbeds never really dry out.

As such, I chose plants that aren't drought-tolerant, or even ones that "like it moist", confident that they would be happy in my garden with little to no human irrigation.

In reality this year, there has been literally one day with meaningful rain in all of July. Had I not been out there with watering can every day, I'm pretty sure most of these plants would be dead.

Is this the new normal? Do I need to be choosing drought-tolerant plants? Or, might these plants be sustainable once they're properly rooted, only struggling with a summer like this because it's coincided with them being newly planted?

Anyway, mid-way through the month, I did snap out of this fretting sufficiently to add a Persicaria affinis 'Darjeeling red' to the spot vacated by the poor doomed acanthus.

Persicaria affinis 'Darjeeling red'

It must be said, my initial reaction to this chap on the garden centre shelves was to somewhat scornfully dismiss it as an extremely poor man's tiarella. Same sort of circular clump of fairly low ground cover, similar size, roughly 18-24 inches diameter, and with similar vertical spars of pink and white flowers. But whereas the tiarellas have completely amazing foliage, both in shape and hue, this one has pretty basic looking leaves. Where the tiarellas have a nice dome like form (at least when they're new -- only one of mine has managed to keep it through recent weather), this thing naturally sprawls in an asymmetrical, tangled mat which explains the common name of (Himalayan) knotweed. And where the tiarellas have incredibly delicate foam flowers, this thing's spires are chunky; it's almost like comparing 1980s computer graphics with today's.

However, this thing has one giant ace up its sleeve, which is that it flowers in summer and autumn. All the tiarellas flowers have long since gone, and the dicentras are spring flowers too, I thought to myself - so this selection, although a little less glamorous a plant in itself, will allow me to maintain the flowering colour scheme throughout most of the year. Without it, the whole bed will be bereft of flowers once June is out.

My plants proceeded to make a minor mockery of this logic, however.

Firstly, it turns out my white 'Aurora' dicentra has got more sticking power than I gave it credit for. Not only was it still hanging on when I planted the knotweed:

Dicentra 'Aurora'

But it's still looking much the same two weeks later, at the very end of July. Great news, per se, but being an incurable pessimist, I can't help but see the negative flipside of it, and think: why didn't I seek out such a long-flowering variety for my pink dicentras, too? The 'Luxuriant' plants are nothing but some shabby stalks at the moment...

(On the subject of dicentras, I have added a spectabilis, or Asian bleeding heart, in between the existing formosa, or Pacific ones. But rather than a full size, currently flowering plant as most of my additions here have been, this is just a wee discount baby, for which I'll have to wait until next year (at best) to see what it can do. So no photos.)

Secondly, my tiarella 'Pink skyrocket' has come up with a second wave of flowers. I had assumed it was done for the year, but it's back!

Unexpected second wave of tiarella flowers at the end of July

(You can also see the leaf damage by weevils and/or gastropods in this shot. Grrrrrrr. I want to be the kind of gardener who doesn't mind the odd chewed leaf, because it's an ecosystem, and all species are valuable in the chain, and all that stuff..... but this tiarella's leaves are works of art, damnit! It's such a shame for them to not have their proper shape.)

However, despite this, I'm not regretting adding the knotweed.

The only other change worth photographing came right at the end of the month, with the addition of a Fuchsia 'Snowcap'.

Fuchsia 'snowcap'

It's gone in between the tiarella 'Tiger stripe' and the rockery, which is ever growing - digging the hole for the fuchsia, I found yet more chunks of stone and plant pot, which I merely added to the pile. A spider has already set up home in phase 1 of the rockery, so hopefully this expansion can home a few more things. Also, since the fuchsia fills the gap between woodpile/rockery and the prior plantings, there is now a solid corridor of cover that beetles or hedgehogs or whatever else could use to get around and hopefully eat all those bloody slugs and weevils.

Sun-dappled fuchsia

Colour-scheme wise, it fairly self-evidently combines white and red, and timing wise, summer/autumn, so that the knotweed isn't the only thing holding the fort for that period. In terms of height, it will supposedly get a couple of feet (60cm) tall, providing a nice step up from the tiarellas to the taller hedging in front of the fence (which obviously doesn't quite exist yet - you can see above the Japanese quince has just made it to the second plank of fence up from the ground).

So a perfect fit in most regards, happy with the shade too - my one concern when choosing it was reading that it hates to dry out, so it hardly ties in with my desire not to be using large amounts of water for irrigation. But at this point, I'm kind of already committed to watering in case of drought to keep the tiarellas alive, and/or hoping Bristol reverts to its rainy norm, anyway. So, *sigh*, go on then...

Here's an overall look at the back bed:

Back bed with fuchsia

Not too bad considering less than two months ago it was this:

Back bed - before