Local wild species

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PLANTING IN AQUITAINE * = particularly well-adapted/robust species

Local wild species

Cultivated species

Acer monspessulanum/platanoides

Acer monspessulanum*/campestre*/griseum

Allium sphaerocephalon

Alliums in general

Amelanchier ovalis

Amelanchier canadensis/ laevis/ lamarkii

Anemone nemorosa

Anemone blanda/nemorosa/ sylvestris/fulgens

Anthericum liliago

Anthericum liliago

Arabis alpina

Arabis caucasica/procurrens

Bupleurum falcatum

Bupleurum fruticosum

Calluna vulgaris

Calluna in variety

Campanula glomerata

Campanulas, but mainly for light shade

Cornus mas

Cornus in variety, but mainly in light shade

Cornus sanguinea

Cornus sanguinea/ stolonifera

Corylus avellana

Corylus avellana/maxima

Crepis albida

Crepis incana

Cytisus scoparius

Cytisus albus/battandieri/ praecox/scoparius

Digitalis lutea

Digitalis ferruginea/grandiflora/lutea/purpurea

Erica cinerea

Erica arborea/ciliaris/cinerea/erigena/terminalis

Eryngium campestre/maritimum

Eryngium agaviifolium//bourgatii/alpinum/giganteum/ x oliveranum/planum/tripartitum /variifolium

Euphorbia amygdaloides/cyparrissias

Euphorbia characias wulfenii/ myrsinites/polychroma/seguiriana/niciciana

Genista anglica/pilosa

Genista aetnensis/hispanica/ lydia/tinctoria

Geranium sanguineum

Geranium ‘Claridge Druce’*/’A.T.Johnson’/ Johnson’s Blue*/endressii*/macrorrhizum*/ x magnificum/ psilostemon/renardii/ ‘Russell Preitchard’/sanguineum*

Helianthemum apenninum

Helianthemum nummularium

Helichrysum stoechas

Helichrysum angustifolium*; H. plicatum* ; H. splendidum

Helleborus foetidus

Helleborus argutifolius/corsicus: the only hellebore that will grow in Aquitaine in full sun (even then, I find it grows better where it does not get full sun for the whole day).

H. foetidus prefers the edge of woodland or shaded roadside verges.

Hieracium auranticum

H. auranticum has daisy flowers of dark burnt orange. Not for a refined border, but good for the wild garden and trouble-free.

Hypericum androsaemum/montanum

H. calycinum or Rose of Sharon is useful low evergreen ground cover but can be invasive. H. ’Hidcote’ will take dryish shade and is smothered with large yellow flowers in late summer.

Ilex aquifolium

IIex x altaclarensis/aquifolium – both good hollies

Iris pseudacorus

I. foetidissima ‘Citrina’ has soft ochre yellow flowers, evergreen leaves and huge decorative seedpods. I. graminea makes dense clumps of narrow dark-green leaves which shelter purple-violet flowers which smell of greengages. I.pallida is the variety found throughout this region, with its sheaf of greyish leaves and soft blue flowers in late spring. The form I.p.‘Variegata’ is a long-lasting accent plant.

I. pumila/chamaeiris hybrids are tough, small plants flowering in late spring in many colours. They are good for the edge of the border or rock garden, being only 15-20cm tall. I.reticulata flowers early – perhaps February – and has small, scented violet-purple flowers amid grassy leaves. I. sibirica grows well in Aquitaine with a little help – moisture and food – so don’t plant it in your driest spot.

As rule-of-thumb I would only plant the tall hybrid iris in an enclosed part of the garden, as they are too ornamental (and often too tall) for the local landscape. In the open garden forms that are closer to the I pallida that is grown everywhere look more in keeping.

Juniperus communis

Juniperus chinensis/communis /horizontalis/x media/sabina /scopulorum/virginiana

Lamium galeobdolon

L. galeobdolon ‘Variegatum’ is a wonderful, if invasive, plant for ground cover in shade, the silvery markings on the dark green leaves and the soft yellow flowers gleaming out as it romps around in the shadows at about 30cm height. L. maculatum will take full sun and has mauve-pink flowers in early summer and dark green leaves with a central stripe of silver. It can make effective ground cover about 15cm high under shrubs. There is a white form.

Lathyrus pratensis

L. latifolius is a perennial pea with bright pink or white, unscented, flowers. It is a scrambler to about 1.5m and can be used on pergolas and fences.

Ligustrum vulgare

Ligustrum japonicum/lucidum/ovalifolium/sinense/vulgare

Linaria repens

L. purpurea, or toadflax, has delicate branching stems to about 1m, covered in summer with tiny flowers like antirrhinums. L. dalmatica (grandiflora) has waxy blue-green leaves and branching spires of bright yellow and orange flowers. L. triorniopthera has scaly grey leaves and purple or pink flowers that, before they open, resemble a flight of tiny birds.

Lonicera etrusca/periclymenum

Many climbing honeysuckles suffer from aphid attack if grown in full sun; they prefer shade and reasonable soil. The following should stand summer heat/drought: L.x americana is scented and vigorous, flowering late June/July. L. x brownii ‘Fuchsoides’ has striking red flowers but is unscented. L. japonica ‘Halliana’ has shiny leaves, small cream flowers and is sweetly scented. L. periclymenum ‘Belgica’ flowers May/June, while L. p. ‘Serotina’ starts to flowers as ‘Belgica’ finishes. L.caprifolium, etrusca and sempervirens can also be tried.

L.fragrantissima is an unassuming shrub grown for its sweetly scented winter flowers – plant it near the house. L. nitida is the well-known hedging plant, fast growing but requiring frequent trimming to keep it in good shape.

Ornithogallum pyrenaicum

O. pyrenaicum is an attractive plant, flowering in early summer in slender spires of pale greenish-white stars in dry-stony places. O nutans is less refined but still attractive, with larger, drooping flowers of a silvery grey-white, rather like open hyacinth flowers. Probably best encouraged to naturalise, as it can be a nuisance in the border.

Populus tremula

Populus serotina ‘Aurea’/tremula

Potentilla erecta

The potentillas are good ‘fillers’, with neat foliage, and flowering for months in many colours. Several hybrids [especially crossed with P. fruticosa] will cope with low rainfall, especially on heavier soils, but not prolonged drought. Select when in flower - the richer coloured forms, such as ‘Red Ace’ and ‘Tangerine’, will fade in strong sunlight.

Primula elatior. P. veris

Both cowslips (P. elatior) and primroses (P. veris) can be found on roadsides and in meadows in spring, but many of the other forms of primula require more shade and moisture than is easily supplied here.

Prunus mahaleb

Prunus dulcis/laurocerasus/ lusitanica/mahaleb/mume/padus/persica and Japanese cherries

Pulmonaria officinalis

Lungwort grows here on the edge of open woodland, its small silvered leaves appearing in spring through the debris of last year’s dead leaves. They are followed by small sprays of blue or pink flowers. They can cope with dry conditions if planted in shade.


Quercus castaneifolia/cerris/ /frainetto/ x hispanica/ilex/pubescens*/pyrenaica/suber

Salvia pratensis

S. pratensis, found locally in the wild, has sprays of blue (occasionally white or pink) flowers over rosettes of slightly leathery leaves. It is good in a border but perhaps best in a ‘wild’ meadow planting. S. argentea is grown for its large leaves, covered when young with silvery wool. It has a spike of white hooded flowers about 1m tall. S. haematodes has very flat leaf rosettes and a haze of lilac-blue flowers at 1.2m. S. nemorosa grows to 75cm and is a fine border plant, with stiff stems topped with spikes of blue-purple flowers. The culinary sage, S. officinalis, is available in several forms: S. o. ‘Icterina’ has very attractive foliage marbled gold, grey and green; S. o.’Purpurascens’ has dark velvety purple leaves (but unfortunately has a death wish, and not only in my garden); S.o. ‘Tricolor’ has leaves splashed with white, pink and purple. S. sclarea turkestanica, has an aromatic smell and stout branching stems of blue/white flowers. S. verticillata ‘Purple Rain’ is a very popular dark-coloured variety and it is worth trying forms of S.greggii, jamesii and microphylla, with small flowers in a variety of colours, which appear to be hardy here.

Sambucus racemosa

Sambucus nigra/racemosa: there is an attractive cut-leaved form available, as well as one with red berries and a dark-leaved form

Saponaria ocymoides

This plant, known as soapwort, sprawls around with semi-evergreen leaves and bright pink flowers – a good ‘filler’ for the wilder garden and pleasing tumbling over a low wall.



There are many sedums to choose from, divided into two main groups: ground cover, mainly with yellow flowers, and herbaceous, often with pink flowers. For ground cover, select from S. album ‘Murale’,S. altissimum, S. floriferum ‘Wiehenstephanum Gold’, kamschaticum ‘Variegatum’, S. rosea and S. spathuifolium ‘Capablanca’. For the border, choose from S. maximum/S. m. atopurpureum [45-60cm], S. ‘Ruby Glow’ [50cm], S. spectabile x ‘Autumn Joy’ [60cm], S. telephium ‘Munstead Red’ [35cm] or S. ‘Vera Jameson’ [20cm].

Sorbus torminalis

Sorbus aria/aucuparia/cashmiriana/domestica/hupehensis/ latifolia/torminalis/


Comfrey appears in mid spring with its furled crosiers of pink, white or blue flowers. S. grandiflorum has creamy-yellow flowers. All are good shade plants for the wild garden, and comfrey leaves make a good plant food when soaked in water.

Teucrium chamaedryas/


Teucrium chamaedryas is a small [30cm] plant with small silvery green leaves and many small hooded flowers in summer, in various shades. It is a good front-of-border plant. T. fruticans is larger [1.2 x 1.2m] and fairly tough for such a delicate looking plant, especially if planted in a sheltered spot. Clear blue hooded flowers appear before the end of winter and intermittently throughout the spring/early summer, among the small grey leaves. T. hyrcanicum is a tough, drought-resistant plant with sage-like leaves and a dense spike of slender mauve flowers for many weeks in summer.

Veronica montana/officinalis

V. exaltata is a lovely plant with plumes of tiny light-blue flowers in late summer [1.2m x 30cm].V. incana [30 x 30cm] is much smaller, a good ground cover with silvery leaves and small spikes of deep blue flowers in late spring. V. spicata [45 x 45cm] forms a compact tussock with blue flower spikes in summer.

Viburnum lantana/opulus

Viburnum x bodnantense/x burkwoodii/ x carlcephalum/ carlesii/ davidii/ lantana/opulus/plicatum/tinus*. Laurustinus is a stalwart of any garden, with small evergreen leaves, white flowers in early spring and an easily clipped form. Most viburnums do well here and some are exceptionally fragrant.

mnu Other species suitable for planting in Aquitaine

Ailanthus altissima

Cercis siliquastrum

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Ellwoodii’

Cupressus arizonica/sempervirens – very fat growing

Taxus baccata


Abelia ‘Edward Goucher’/x grandiflora: delicate arching boughs covered in late summer with tiny red-tinged white flowers. It is much tougher than it looks.

Arbutus x andrachnoides/unedo: although slow growing, the strawberry tree lends an air of maturity to a garden.

Buddleia fallowiana/globosa/’Lochinch’/x weyeriana: the butterfly plant – especially B davidii. Other species seem to be less attractive although most have a similar fragrance. Dead head all buddleias before seed fall to avoid possible invasion – and because the dead flower heads are unattractive.

Caryopteris x clandonensis: a good late summer flowering shrub, about 75 x 75 cm, with small grey leaves and small bunches of blue flowers – a colour that’s quite sparse at this time of year. Don’t plant it on a windy north corner, though.

Cistus x corbariensis/crispus/ladanifer*/x purpureus/x skanbergii : the cistuses are Mediterranean plants, so demand perfect drainage. They are evergreen, with variously sized leaves and simple flowers in white, pink or crimson. Several varieties have a sticky resin which gives off an attractive fragrance. Most are relatively short-lived.

Cytisus battandieri: a tall shrub with dark green leaves and cones of soft yellow flowers that smell of pineapple. Rather lax unless grown hard, but responds well to pruning.

Genista aetnensis: the Mount Etna broom makes a large shrub up to 3m tall and wide, covered in summer with bright yellow, fragrant pea-flowers. It has an airy character, as its leaves are so small.

Lavandula angustifolia* is a stalwart of the English garden but the plant seen most frequently here is L intermedia ‘Grosso* , rightly praised as a tough, floriferous plant. If you want more variety in size and leaf or flower colour, or a more refined fragrance, you will have to search for it. Leaf colour varies from silver to dark green and flower colour from white to darkest purple. It is also worth looking out for L stoechas*[B], the ‘butterfly’ lavender with its little tuft on top of the flower spike. This is a hardy plant which prefers an acid soil (L angustifolia and L x intermedia prefer an alkaline soil) and flowers earlier than them.

Phlomis fruticosa, or Jerusalem sage, is a garrigue shrub with greyish-white felted leaves and curious whorls of flowers gathered around the stem of a bright yellow. 1.2m x 1m. P. purpurea is similar, with pale pinkish flowers; P. russeliana has soft heart-shaped leaves and flowers of a soft buttery yellow.

Romneya x hybrida is the hybrid that, although classed as a perennial, behaves like a shrub. It deserves a sheltered spot, preferably away from the house, as its roots can travel….. Its glory is the mass of gorgeous white poppy flowers with a yellow central boss of stamens and a sweet fragrance. The background to the flowers is a mass of stout stems with rounded, deeply divided gray leaves. It is often recommended to cut these back to the ground in spring, but I have grown it as a persistent shrub.

Santolina chamaecyparissus, another garrigue shrub, seems ubiquitous in Aquitaine gardens. It is used around the foot of fruit trees in the orchard at the Manoir d’Eyrignac, cut into neat, flat-topped circles, or more loosely as a ‘filler’ or ground cover. In summer it appears almost white rather than grey until it is covered with its bright yellow flowers. S. neapolitana [rosmarinifolia] has more feathery grey leaves and pale yellow flowers; S. virens, by contrast, has small dark green leaves and buttons of bright or pale yellow flowers in summer. All three forms are indispensable in the garden but need fairly hard pruning to keep them in shape – be tough!

Vitex agnus-castus merits a sheltered spot: although drought resistant it resents extreme winter cold. Over time it makes a fine large shrub, with delicate grey-green fingered leaves and horse-chestnut-like spikes of soft mauve flowers in late summer.

Yucca. The yuccas, from the south-eastern United States, are imposing plants, whichever variety you choose. In general they make a large cluster of spiky evergreen leaves, so have presence throughout the year. In early summer they produce a tall, stout stem laden with waxy, sweetly scented white bells. Y. filamentosa has fine curling wisps along the edge of each 45cm-long leaf, and flowers readily here even when young, with a spike up to 2m tall. Y.gloriosa is the most imposing, reaching nearly 2.5m and with a matching rosette of leaves, each with a wicked spike at the tip. Y. recurvifolia has leaves that curve downwards as they age, that can be peeled away to reveal the trunk. The flower spike may be 1.5 m long and has greenish-white bells. These plants can provide a Mediterranean feel on their own but survived last winter (2011/12) without incident.

Acanthus spinosus: supposedly tough as anything, with me these Mediterranean plants revert to habit and wilt completely during a hot summer, although they do recover as soon as it rains. The flower spikes are rather sinister, with spines hidden beneath the hoods covering the white/purple flowers. They would probably thrive in dry shade, or with a little more water in full sun. In good conditions the leaf spray is very architectural.

Achillea millefolium/’Coronation Gold’/’Moonshine’: the yarrows are reliable, tough plants with a ‘plate’ flower over finely divided foliage. Most have quite a strong odour, rather than fragrance, and are now available in a wide range of colours. They are a good foil to the shape of many spikey plants and are a near essential component of a well structured border.

Anemone x hybrida dislikes drought, direct sun (here) and waterlogging, so needs careful placing, but is well worth growing as it flowers for months in late summer/autumn. ‘September Charm’ (pink) and ‘Honorine Jobert’ (white) are most reliable varieties. I would suggest light shade in reasonable soil.

Anthemis cupaniana/tinctoria – well drained soil needed but enjoys drought. A carpet of grey leaves and tiny white daisies in late spring.

Aquilegia – short-lived but self-seeding, ‘grannies bonnets’ are a mainstay of the spring border and come in almost every colour. Keep different varieties widely separated to prevent cross-hybridization, or they will all end up beige!

Armeria corsica/maritime/plantaginea: the thrifts make small green cushions, covered in late spring with little pompons of white, pink or red flowers on short stout stalks – a good front-of-border plant.

Artemisia abrotanum/absinthium/lactiflora/ludoviciana/’Powys Castle’: all the artemisias seems to thrive in this climate, but some are thugs, so beware. All have grey, usually finely-divided leaves, insignificant soft yellow or white flowers and strongly scented foliage. Good background or filler plants if you select non-invasive species.

Asphodeline lutea: bright yellow stars shine from the spire of this imposing, drought-tolerant plant with its rather untidy mass of spiky leaves – a plant for the wild garden, perhaps.

Asphodelus albus/cerasiferus: grows wild along ditch lines, so needs some moisture. Produces tall candles of white stars in May, each star with a pale brown line along its petals.

Aster novi-belgii/novae-angliae: some of the asters seem to do very well here – A. amellus flowers from June and seems reliable. The later-flowering varieties are stalwarts of the autumn border – just watch out for mildew.

Baptisia australis – slow to establish but drought tolerant and low maintenance. Good for ‘wild’ garden

Beschcorneria yucciodes is exotic, especially when flowering – a great arching spike of coral-pink bracts around green flowers – with evergreen sword-like leaves, less fierce than those of the yucca. Give it a sheltered spot and plenty of room.

Catananche coerulea – short-lived but worth growing for its beautiful blue flowers and delicate dried flower heads.

Centranthus ruber: a good plant for filling a new garden or for giving it an air of maturity. These plants tend to flop but flower for ages in either white or shades of pink/red, weaving their way around other more robust plants.

Cheiranthus ‘Bowles’ Mauve’/ ‘Harpur Crewe’]- short lived but flower their socks off. Cuttings are easy.

Cynara cardunculus – why not grow artichokes in your garden and either eat them or allow them to flower – the centre is electric blue.

Dianthus carthusianorum/deltoides/gratianopolitanus – all the pinks and carnations are short-lived but easy to keep going with cuttings; and many of them smell wonderful.

Echinacea purpurea: these very popular, daisy-like flowers need reasonable moisture at the root. They are now available in a wide range of colours, but some are hardier or flower better than others – you’ll have to experiment.

Echinops ritro*: the common name of globe thistle is exact – a tennis ball of blue-grey atop shiny, prickly leathery leaves. 1.2m x 50cm.

Erigeron karvinskianus*: indispensable front-of-border plant, with a mass of tiny white-pink daisy flowers throughout the summer, over a mat of tiny green leaves, weaving their way through other plants without harming or subduing them [10cm].

Ferula communis: wild fennel makes a large plant [60cm x 60cm] of dark green ferny foliage from which arises a very strong, tall flower stalk [up to 4m] supporting umbels of soft yellow. Cut flower stem before seeding, or you will be invaded with deep-rooted seedlings.

Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpurea’*: fennel. Similar to above but not as tall [1.5m] and a wonderful stormy colour that makes a good accent plant and background to all flowering plants. Smells of aniseed, is edible and is the host plant of the caterpillar of the Swallowtail butterfly. Just remember to remove seedheads unless you want a jungle.

Gaura lindheimeri*: a star of the garden from spring to autumn, this plant starts with a low mound of red-tinged foliage from which arise a mass of branching stems carrying a myriad of small white flowers – the whole plant looks like a host of butterflies. It flowers non-stop but can get top-heavy and flop over other plants, so it is a good idea to cut back by half in late May/early June. Then the plant reaches about 1m, although it will still flop a little, because the stems elongate as they flower. The soft, delicate appearance of this plant is a good foil for other plants, can help blend plantings and is useful throughout the garden.

X Halimiocistus sahucii: a hybrid of cistus and halimium, this plant makes a low, wiry, spreading bush with a daily show, in summer, of small white cistus flowers. 1m x 1m.

Hemerocallis*: so many to choose from! [But only the pale yellow and some white flowers are scented] On the edge of the garden I prefer the simpler daylilies, but near the house I love the old-fashioned orangey-brown Kwanse Flore Pleno, a favourite in Aquitaine.

Hesperis matronalis: this looks like a large stock with its spike of spicy-scented white to lilac flowers over greyish leaves. It is a useful filler plant and doesn’t mind poor conditions. 1m x 1m.

Iberis sempervirens: candytuft makes low hummocks of dark, evergreen leaves, smothered in summer with Persil-white flowers. 1m wide x 30cm high.

Kniphofia hybrids: known familiarly as Red Hot Pokers, much recent hybridisation has resulted in more refined plants in a range of subtle yellows and soft oranges, much easier to accommodate in the garden. They are striking accent plants, ranging in size from about 45cm to 2m, and appreciate some moisture or a slightly retentive, rich soil, albeit with good drainage. May not be reliably hardy.

Linum perenne: a short-lived plant that we forgive for its flower-power – the delicate, silky, sky-blue flowers are such a delight, and it does seed quite freely. About 35cm tall and best grown en masse.

Liriope spicata/muscari is a shade-preferring plant but doesn’t mind drought. It makes a small [35cm x 35cm] clump of robust evergreen leaves and doesn’t flower until autumn – a useful edging or light ground cover plant.

Lupinus arboreus is a useful plant for the new garden, making a large sprawling shrub with dainty silvery foliage and spikes of yellow or white flowers. Short lived and fairly wild-looking.

Lychnis coronaria has very woolly, sticky stems and small carmine flowers. Although short-lived its pale silvery leaf colour and attractive flowers makes it useful in the early years of a garden or in the wild garden. 75cm x 50cm. L. flos-jovis is similar but shorter [25cm], and pink rather than red in flower.

Nepeta x faassenii or catmint is a valuable ground cover/edging plant. Its tiny grey-green leaves form a weed-suppressing tuffet that is smothered I soft bluey-lavender flowers in late spring/summer [30cm high x 45 cm wide]. L. sibirica ‘Andre Chaudron’ and ‘Six Hills Giant’ are larger plants [1mx1m] with dark green leaves and handsome blue-lipped flowers in midsummer. All are tough, useful ‘filler’ plants.

Oenothera fruticosa/missouriensis/speciosa/tetragona: buy these plants in flower, so you can select your preferred colour, from palest yellow to deepest reddy-orange, and form – some are more upright but many are sprawlers, so perhaps best for the top of walls or the wild garden. Some are deliciously scented, hence their name of ‘evening primrose’.

Origanum is our common marjoram and is found growing wild, often with thyme, along roadsides and in sloping pasture. The ordinary form is attractive when flowering in July but there are also several other forms which have much larger flowers.

Papaver orientale: the oriental poppy is a splendid sight in flower, and doesn’t appear to suffer if its foliage is then tidied away. However, I have found it reluctant to remain with me, probably due to poor drainage rather than impoverished soil. The flowers are so flamboyant that it needs careful placing, perhaps best among grey and silver foliage. P. ruprifragum is a smaller form, with tissue-paper flowers of soft orange in summer, over grey-green slightly hairy leaves. Good in the wild garden and also attractive enough for the border.

Penstemon are not all reliably hardy, but there are some good plants among this family: P. campanulatus has some very attractive hardy hybrids, such as ‘Evelyn’ [rose pink], ‘Apple Blossom’ and ‘Garnet’, all at about 45cm tall. ‘Sour Grapes’ is a well-known but not always correctly named cultivar which, in its correct form, is very hardy and attractive, with grape-sized opal-amethyst flowers.

Perovskia atriplicifolia* is one of the joys of the late summer garden, providing blue at a time when there is little else of this colour. Known as Russian sage, it has almost white stems and with small grey leaves, clothed in small blue flowers from August to October.

Phlox douglasii and subulata are both dwarf plants flowering in April/May in white, pink or blue. They are useful ground cover, forming almost flat carpets of small evergreen or semi-evergreen leaves.

Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Mariesii’ has attractive balloon-shaped flowers in blue or white.

Phygelius aequalis has soft coral-red flowers with a yellow throat, while P. capensis has bright red flowers. While both are usually about 1m tall, P. capensis can be trained to about 2m on a warm wall.

Scabiosa columbaria/caucasica: there are both annual and perennial varieties in this family, and all are worth growing. They produce dainty flat flowers of blue or white on delicate stems, so that they seem to float above their rosette of leaves. None are long-lived.

Sempervivum: although all the plants in this very variable genus consist of a rosette of fleshy leaves, resistant to drought and cold, they range in size from 5-20cm across and in colour from softest grey to deepest red, sometimes with a fine spider web of hairs across them, sometimes smooth and waxy. Many flower, but this is an unnecessary bonus. They are the easiest plants possible for pots and sinks, and can be used as a ground cover under larger plants in pots.

Sisyrinchium angustifolium produces small tufts of iris-like leaves topped with small blue stars. S. striatum is a larger plant, with flat sheaves of grey-green leaves and spikes of small but numerous creamy flowers followed by decorative seed pods. Although fairly short lived it self seeds freely; it dies unattractively, with whole sheaves turning black, so is perhaps better in the wild garden although I like it too much to relegate it.

Stachys olympica/byzantina is the indispensable ground cover known as lamb’s lugs, with softly furry silver leaves. The form ‘Silver Carpet’ does not flower, but both I and the bees like the soft pink flower spires in mid summer, which are easily removed after flowering.

Tanacetum densum ‘Amanum’ (syn. Chrysanthemum haradjani) forms an attractive silvery carpet [8cm] of finely cut rosettes.

Thalictrum speciosissimum is the one species that may succeed here, requiring ordinary soil and sun. The greyish leaves are the giveaway to its tolerance, while the fluffy lemon yellow flowers are attractive and unusual, floating above the leaves at 1.5m.

Thymus* can be divided into three groups: very flat carpeters; edging plants; and small bushes. The first group is best used in paving, as it is often smothered by other plants in the border. Among the bushy group is T. vulgaris, the culinary herb, with very aromatic leaves and attractive tiny flowers in summer. It is a good ‘filler’ plant, contributing its aroma to the garden.

Verbascum chaixii is reliably perennial and medium sized [75cm] with a neat rosette of grey-green leaves and a spike of yellow or white flowers with a purple eye. V. olympicum is much larger [2m] and not perennial. It produces a huge silver rosette of felted leaves and a candelabrum of stems with soft yellow flowers. It is definitely a star plant, despite being short-lived, and will self-seed lightly. V. phoeniceum is less dramatic but is a good group plant, when the mass of flowers – white, pink or purple – float on their spires at about 50cm high, over the dark green leaf rosette.

Verbena bonariensis* is another indispensable plant for Aquitaine. From a small basal rosette of dark green leaves arise many stout square bristly stems which carry branching sub-stems supporting small heads of soft mauve flowers with a reddish base. They have a see-through quality which means they can be placed anywhere in the garden. They tend to self–seed readily but seldom put themselves in the wrong place and flower throughout the summer and autumn.

Viola corsica*, a small viola with an attractive purple flower, is surprisingly robust and drought tolerant, flowering from spring into summer at the front of the border and self–seeding gently. I have found that the viola known as ‘Freckles’, with a dusting of blue over a white background, giving an overall pale effect, is persistent and seeds itself about gently.

Zauschneria californica is known as the California fuchsia and has scarlet-flower in early autumn over soft grey leaves [45cm].

Festuca glauca is a small grey-leaved tufted grass, good as an edging or as small-scale ground cover. The form ‘Elijah Blue’ is larger and bluer. Both need careful placing and grouping to avoid looking as if they have strayed in from the wider landscape.

Miscanthus is a large family of imposing grasses with variable, often striped, foliage and large tufts of attractive flower heads in mid to late summer, variously white, straw, pink or red in colour. Height varies from 1.2-2.5m, so choose carefully according to the space you have available and the colour you require – select when in flower if possible, as there are many inferior varieties currently available.

Pennisetum is generally held to be not reliably hardy, but I have grown them here for several years. It has made fine grassy clumps 75cm tall, covered in early summer with delicate pale pink bottle brushes that fade to cream and persist into winter. The form I have has delicate pink caterpillars on slender stems and is only 45cm tall. These clumps become difficult to divide but does transplant well.

Stipa calamagrostis has a cloud of creamy-buff feathery flowers over soft fountains of light green leaves [1.2m] and is a good ‘filler’ plant for an open border. Stipa gigantea is more imposing, with very long [2m] stems carrying enormous yet delicate heads of gold and bronze, which dry well, over a neat clump of narrow green leaves.

Many bulbs come from summer-hot climates and don’t mind a baking and most are tough enough, if planted deeply, to withstand winter cold – in fact need it to flower well. The sun-lovers are:

Crocosmia: usually treated as a perennial and available in colours from yellow through orange to fiery red. Good drainage essential.

Galtonia candicans: like a giant lily-of the-valley in late summer – magnificent. Can make over 1m if well-fed but and here likely to half that height. Requires very good drainage. There is a green form also, G viridiflora.

Gladiolus byzantinus/communis: striking deep pink flowers, found here in unfertilised hay meadows but attractive in the garden.

Ornithogalum nutans is great for naturalizing.

Tulipa. Species tulips can be left to naturalise. Other tulips may also be left in the ground if planted at a depth of 6-8”, which is deep enough to protect them from frost (which they don’t mind) and disturbance when weeding. But don’t try them in heavy clay soils – they do need good drainage to stop them rotting.

© Patricia Shears 2012. Plantes et Paysages, Mas Baronet, Campagnac-les-Quercy 24550.

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