The show began earlier in the year with the foxtail lilies, Eremurus stenophyllus, native to the dry mountainous regions of central Asia. A profuse display of large bright yellow flower spikes contrasting with the yew hedge was spectacular in June and July. This species was one of the few planted as rootstocks (sprawling starfish-shaped and tuberous) through the sand rather than sown from seed. The huge spikes were cut down after flowering so that the plant’s energy resource was deviated from seed production to tuber bulking.
The large yellow flowers of bigfruit evening primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa subsp. incana, native to south and central North America, have also been prolific this year, and still look fabulous contrasting with the silver foliage. Wholeleaf Indian paint-brush, Castilleja integra, germinated beautifully and the striking orange bracts of the flower heads make this plant a standout. This genus comes predominantly from the Americas and is sometimes semi-parasitic on other plants but here is growing on its own roots. Another of the later species to flower has been the spectacular South African daisy, Berkheya purpurea, producing large mauve to purple flowers against very spiny foliage and stems.
The drought-tolerant perennial meadow mix has been developed by Professor James Hitchmough of Sheffield University and Olympic Park fame. You can play the YouTube film below to see James scattering the seed into the snowy ground in January this year - many species need a period of intense cold to break dormancy, known as stratification. It is incredible to see the seasonal change of seven months from snowbound seed to early autumn colour, and the display will strengthen in colour and form over the years to come as the mix knits together.