The garden builds quietly over the first half of the growing season, mustering energy and readying for the point when the meadows that lie beyond begin to go to seed. It is planned this way so that, as the oxeye daisies dim, the garden comes into its own and we circle back in to look more deeply at the cultivated garden, happy in this hand-over.
The colour comes in waves. First the electric green euphorbia and then, as foliage gives way to flower, the gradual eruptions of colour. One of the first pools of concentration is around the Rosa glauca, which I have used mid-way in the garden. They mark a ripple which moves you from the stronger colours that hold your attention closer to the house to the smokier tones that sit well against far distance. The rose is an old favourite, with its plum-grey foliage and gentle arching growth. There are three straddling the intersection of paths and their structure provides an anchor point to the perennials which move amongst them. A place to work up a combination that drives the area immediately around it.
The Nepeta nuda ‘Romany Dusk’ is the plant that provides the undercurrent to the first of the roses that anchors a blue moment. At first you might not think it was related, but it works in much the same way as the better known catmint to wash colour into a planting with a myriad of tiny flowers that eclipse the foliage entirely, but never register in any way heavily. It is hard to put your finger on the colour exactly, but the grey-pink is changeable and in a way that is not unlike the tone of the bloom on the Rosa glauca. Not so quiet that it goes unnoticed, but quiet enough to make good company for a wide range of companion plants.
A neat, clump-forming perennial, ‘Romany Dusk’ can grow at least a metre tall here on our hearty ground. Tall enough to lean later in the season, but not if it is sheared by half with a Chelsea chop in the middle of May to make it branch and be self-supporting. Disturb the foliage and it liberates the most delicious camphor mint perfume, which is why it is good to grow it near enough to brush against from a path. It also proves its worth by teeming with frenzied honeybees and hoverflies from early morning until the sun sets.
‘Romany Dusk’ sits well with the smokiness of Rosa glauca and as a foil it works well with colours in the blue, pink and mauve ends of the spectrum. The Caucasian germander, Teucrium hircanicum, has jumped about and steps through the planting down to ground level. It is an easy plant, maybe a little too easy as I keep it for winter skeletons and it has seeded about accordingly, being happy in sun or shadow. I like the soft plum-purple and the fade in the flower as they run up their spires to echo the shape and colour shift in the nearby veronicastrum.
‘Romany Dusk’ has a mutable quality that sees it hover like a mist in the softer light of morning and evening. It needs the company of other colours around it and the subtlety of soft pink Leonurus sibiricus is almost lost alongside it, if it were not for your eye being drawn to the spearing Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’ and the clear pale mauve of nearby Dahlia australis. The contrast of the deep pink and the clarity of the mauve keep energy in the mix. Not too much, because you want your eye to rest on the cool of the nepeta and the calm it brings to a garden that all around is burgeoning.
Words: Dan Pearson | Photographs: Huw Morgan
Published 8 July 2023