GINA PARKINSON welcomes plants that introduce themselves to her garden, including the evening primrose

ONE OF the joys of having a mature garden are the seedlings that pop up around the beds.

Some, of course, will be weeds. How does bindweed get so large before it is even noticed?

But others are welcome additions to the flowering plants already there.

The vegetable patch at the sunny bottom of our garden has been a good source of self-seeded plants over the past few years, from the inevitable ladies mantle and scores of heartsease, to pale lemon and bright pink potentilla, foxgloves, hollyhock and a magnificently tall mullein which could be Verbascum olympicum or V.bombyciferum.

These have been lifted and put elsewhere in the garden to grow on and stop them taking over the area designated for fruit and veg.

A plant that has made itself at home by gently self-seeding around the garden as well as the vegetable plot is evening primrose or Oenothera.

There are a number of species in this family of plants, but I think ours is Oenothera biennis which, as its name suggests, is a biennial member of this group.

Left to itself the seeds fall or are carried from the parent plant as they ripen from the faded flowers from June through to October and germinate where they land.

A rosette of leaves grows on the surface of the soil under which the root system is quickly developing.

The young plant is winter hardy at this point.

It will come through even the coldest of months intact to start growing again the following spring.

Tall flowering stems appear the following spring and summer, growing a metre or more high and topped with fragrant clear yellow blooms.

In the wild, Oenothera biennis grows in open wasteland with poor soil where this sunny aspect suits it well.

In the garden well drained or sandy soil in a south or west-facing position will offer a similar home and it is here it will do best.

I have tried moving small plants around the garden to less sunny or moister spots but without doubt they are happier in a hot, dry place.

As is often the way the plants that do best are the self-seeded ones that find their own perfect place, even if this is perhaps not the one in which the gardener would choose to grow them.

The common name Evening Primrose is a little misleading.

Although this plant does flower in the evening when the beautiful scent attracts pollinating moths, it will also be open in the day.

Bees and especially hoverflies will arrive regularly to feed, the wide flowers offering easy access to the pollen inside.


Weekend catch up

Dahlias and sweet peas grown for picking will be growing and flowering well this month. Sweet peas in particular need to be picked once or week or more depending how any are being grown to stop them gong to seed.

Once this happens the plants fail quickly as they have done their work and produced the seed for a next generation.

Dahlias are more forgiving and once they are in their stride will produce blooms for weeks until the first frosts blacken their stems.

I grow a couple of groups of dahlias in the vegetable garden specifically for picking so, as soon as the buds show signs of opening, they are snipped off and brought into the house.

This encourages more and more flowering stems so that by the time we get to mid-August there will be flowers in the house every day. Border dahlias can be left to flower but remember to cut off spent blooms as soon as they fade. This will prolong the flowering season and if the weather is kind there will still be blooms in the beds in October.


Garden Art

Wire sculptor Chris Moss will be returning to Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens this month.

She will be joined for the first time by willow sculptor Carole Beavis and Taylors of Ulleskelf with a selection their wicker work baskets.

The Wire and Willow Exhibition will be the lovely gardens at Stillingfleet Lodge, while in the café Rachel McNaughton will be holding an exhibition of her garden-inspired water colours.

Following this art theme local artist Phil Reynolds will be running a full day course at Stillingfleet Lodge looking at adding colour to charcoal drawings.

The course will be held on Monday, August 18, and places need to be booked by visiting


In the vegetable garden

Although some of our vegetables, broad beans and French beans in particular, haven’t done as well as last year, there are still plenty that have.

Beetroot is fattening up and the parsnips which were replanted a few weeks ago are producing plenty of new leaves.

I haven’t grown this vegetable before and was initially disappointed with the poor germination.

Talking to other gardeners suggests this is common with the best advice being patience, germination is very slow, and to use fresh seeds from a reputable supplier.

Sweetcorn is flowering and loving the recent hot, dry weather and the runner beans are, of course, growing tall and reaching the top of their canes.

These will be snipped this weekend to stop them getting too big and to reduce the crop a little.

Experience has shown that there are only so many runner beans that can be eaten and they tend to get unpleasantly stringy very quickly.