DINING BOOTH FOR HOME

Tall delphiniums such as â˜Faust’ are masculine plants that lord it over the border, but their flowers have â˜eyes’ like gigantic false eyelashes (especially if black) and the surrounding petals look as if someone from Madame Jo Jo’s has come along and smeared on the eye-shadow. Rosemary Langdon, who helps run the family firm of Blackmore and Langdon, established in 1901 (it unveiled â˜Faust’ in 1960), says that when the delphinium stock and display fields are flowering in midsummer, â˜Faust’ pulls the rug from under all the others. So you’ve been warned: this is not a plant to mix up with the shrinking violets. In our garden â˜Faust’ has been moved about in a quest to find the right companions (luckily, I have only just read, in Colin Edwards’ book Delphiniums, published by Dent in 1981, that delphinium clumps should never be moved). It was a success with Salvia x superba, a disaster amongst pretty pink roses, and sensational with the acid yellow of Centaurea macrocephala and scarlet Lychnis chalcedonica. But â˜Faust’ has found its best home yet with mallow â˜Bibor Felho’ and the twining, bicolour sweet pea Lathyrus odoratus â˜Matucana’. â˜Bibor Felho’ is related to our native common mallow, Malva sylvestris, which was probably introduced to these isles on the hooves of Roman legions’ horses. As a species, Malva sylvestris is widely distributed throughout Europe, North Africa and south-west Asia; it wavers in habit from prostrate to bushy, and varies in flower colour from palest pink to dark purple, going through the blues. In The Englishman ‘s Flora, Geoffrey Grigson lists twenty-four regional common names for Malva sylvestris, including â˜Chucky Cheese’ and â˜Fairy Cheeses’ from Somerset, â˜Custard Cheeses’ from Lincolnshire, and â˜Butter and Cheeses’ from Devon. These refer to the disc of seeds, said to resemble cheeses; we’d now say they’re more like spaceships.

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