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GRATEFUL FOR GATE CRASHERS; Brought to you by the breeze or on the beak of a bird, give a big welcome to winning plants that didn't have an invite to the party...

Byline: CAROL KLEIN

A few years ago at Great Dixter, the late Christopher Lloyd's exciting garden near Hastings, East Sussex, I came across a plant I'd never seen before.

Perhaps that doesn't really express the excitement I felt at seeing Patrinia scabiosifolia in all its glory.

It is a tall, wiry plant and nothing to look at until now, when it opens heads of tiny, almost luminous, lime–yellow flowers. It is startling that it can be as brilliant and vibrant as it was at the peak of summer – a wake–up call, insisting the garden hasn't gone to sleep.

It is always exciting to discover new plants or find new ways of using plants you're familiar with. Pots of Verbena bonariensis mixed with patrinia are being carried out and placed among the tall perennials that make up the bulk of the interest in the garden right now. This is deliberate planting and inspired by the same combination at Dixter.

Both these plants, though, are capable of doing their own thing and are among a gang that add pazazz to the garden without any intervention by human hands.

There are some plants at the garden party who were never asked. Many are weeds deposited by birds or parachuted in on the breeze, which we spend hours removing. But not all gatecrashers are unwelcome guests.

By definition, they are selfseeders. Many are annuals or biennials. Others are perennials, brought by seed wiped from a blackbird's beak, caught in fur or feather or jettisoned from a flowerbed yards away and now appearing in the crook of a wall or between flags.

However they arrive, nobody asks to see their invitation. Purists can easily remove them if they have the temerity to interfere with grand designs.

The rest of us think ourselves lucky and make the most of the gatecrashers' spontaneity. Time and again, when asked about a winning combination, gardeners have to admit they had nothing to do with it. "It just put itself there," they marvel. Verbena bonariensis has become an essential ingredient in naturalistic planting. But its greatest value in wild schemes is its ability to self–seed prolifically.

As it wends its merry way it helps integrate even quite disparate plants into a cohesive whole. Should its colonising get out of hand and the look become too samey, it can easily be pulled up. These casualties of overcrowding can be transplanted, cutting back long stems before replanting. They do not transplant well, though, and growing from seed is a better option.

Patrinia scabiosifolia shares the same habit of growth with Verbena bonariensis, although it is unrelated, belonging to the valerian family. Their similarity can be exploited to dramatic effect by planting them side by side, preferably in swathes, to mingle with each other.

Although their form is almost identical, their colour is opposite, though harmonious. The soft lavender of the verbena mixes perfectly with the sharp, citric yellow of the patrinia.

When the two get going there is nothing to beat them.

scabiosifolia, too, will self–seed but in a cold, wet summer, seed may not set.

Patrinia scabiosifolia, too, will self–seed but in a cold, wet summer, seed may not set.

There is one plant particularly famous for its ability to crop up in unexpected places.

Eryngium giganteum, more often known as Miss Willmott's biennial sea holly and in its second year throws up 3ft stems with great silvery bracted flowers. The bracts have some of the most malicious spikes around.

Eryngium giganteum, more often known as Miss Willmott's Ghost, is a big biennial sea holly and in its second year throws up 3ft stems with great silvery bracted flowers. The bracts have some of the most malicious spikes around.

Ellen Willmott was a wealthy and influential gardener, from time to time prevailed upon to look at other people's gardens. If she suspected they might be a bit dull she would pack her pockets with seed from E. giganteum and broadcast it in the boring bits.

Ellen Willmott was a wealthy and influential gardener, from time to time prevailed upon to look at other people's gardens. If she suspected they might be a bit dull she would pack her pockets with seed from E. giganteum and broadcast it in the boring bits.

The next year up would come large green rosettes and, the year astonished gardeners would be greeted by a jungle of sharp, The next year up would come large green rosettes and, the year after, astonished gardeners would be greeted by a jungle of sharp, silvery flowers.

Once Miss Willmott's Ghost has seeded, it is impossible to eradicate – it continues to haunt the place.

Once Miss Willmott's Ghost has seeded, it is impossible to eradicate – it continues to haunt the place.

TIME AND AND T AGAIN YOU WILL HEAR GARDENERS SAY: I DIDN'T DO IT, IT JUST PUT ITSELF THERE MAKE THE MOST OF MSELF–SEEDERS, THE SURPRISE GUESTS YOU CAN'T IGNORE

CAPTION(S):

ON A ROLL Carol takes a pot of Patrinia scabiosifolia, known for its lime–yellow flowers its lime–yellow flowers

FLAP HAPPY: LAP HAPPY Gorgeous Verbena bonariensis effortlessly adds pazazz
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 7, 2014
Words:870
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