As I stroll down along the herbaceous border in the Hilltop Garden, I notice how the tender perennials and annuals that we planted out at the start of June have really begun to make a show for us.
Now a distant memory, those late-spring gaps that were once a reminder of work to come have been filled successfully and the plants spread, scramble about, tower above or generally acquaint themselves with the existing perennial plantings. All have a specific place though, and are carefully planned and carefully placed. They are grown each year from seeds and cuttings: this year our nursery department grew 2,500 separate plants for the Hilltop alone - ranging from annuals and tender perennials to biennials - all to enhance our informal plantings.
Hot and fiery
To name but a few, starting at the top we can find the hot colour of Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’ (left) that never fails to draw the attention of the visitor. As we meander on down we can see the Ricinus communis ‘New Zealand Black’, magnificently tall and statuesque, the palm-shaped rich purple foliage will add structure and height to the back of a border, but they do best if well watered.
At the front of the hot bay you cannot help but notice the intense orange stars of Gazania ‘Kiss Orange’: sown from seed in February this annual will shine all summer, but will need deadheading regularly. Further back, ‘Orange Punch’ - a new canna for Hyde Hall this year, which grows only 1m (3ft) tall - has just started to reveal its fresh orange flowers that have yellow-speckled throats.
Further down at the white, lemon and green bay, the tall, airy and finely-divided foliage of Cosmos ‘Purity’ with its beautiful fresh white flowers looks as good as it sounds; it brings a delicate grace to the mixed plantings of the border. The cosmos have grown quickly, eager to get their roots down and their heads up, they will flower all summer.
Down beyond the greens and whites, at the pink bay, the soft and delicate Argyranthemum ‘Petite Pink’ grows no taller than around 30cm (1ft) and will mingle happily among low-growing perennials.
Right at the bottom, the purple bay delights us with the intense rich purple foliage of Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’: the slugs tend to gorge themselves on it in my own back garden, but here they leave it alone. It spreads out, low to the ground and produces subtle pink flowers that sit discreetly at the tips of the growth - but it works best on the border for its foliage colour.
Elsewhere in the Hilltop you might stumble across the Salvia ‘Clotted Cream’ that I planted in a group of nine last year. They survived the winter and were flowering very early in May. Also Fuchsia ‘Lottie Hobby’ survived the winter and were flowering in May too. You can see them in and around the base of Phormium ‘Black Adder’, offering a little splash of bright pink against the black strappy leaves.
Find out more about the Hilltop Garden at Hyde Hall
See supplier details for the plants mentioned in our Find a plant page