Friday, 25 September 2015

The jewel colours of late summer

It is always sad to realise that summer is coming to a close, but the plants that flower in August and September tend to have a richness and intensity to their colour that makes it a special time in the garden.
Climbing Aconitum austroyunnanse

The blue side of the colour spectrum can be found in the sapphire-like shades of aconites and asters. Aconites don't seem to be very popular, but they are very easy to grow and require little maintenance. They have a reputation for being poisonous, but so do many other much-loved plants such as foxgloves. Just wear gloves and don't eat them!

Asters, some of which now have the unpronounceable new name symphyotrichum, are classic cottage garden favourites, but they work equally well in a mixed border with shrubs. Many of them tend to fall over when covered in flower, so placing them between supporting shrubs makes less work having to stake them.
An aster (or is it a symphyotrichum?)
I have discovered that lobelias are invaluable in the late summer garden. Their foliage ranges from grey-green to deep burgundy, and they have flowers in incredibly rich shades of purple, pink and red that reflect the precious stones of amethyst and garnet. They take up very little room in the border, slowly growing up through the earlier-flowering plants until it is their turn to grab attention.
Lobelia Tania

We have them in the pond, the bog, the sunny but moist bed by the arch and in the shadier bed along the garage. They do seem to enjoy a bit of moisture, but I haven't tried them in the hot, dry area - yet!
The red flowers and burgundy foliage of Lobelia Queen Victoria in the pond, with a dark purple lobelia

There are lots of late-summer flowers to cover the red, orange and yellow side of the colour spectrum that we see in the precious stones of ruby, fire opal and citrine.
A two-tone crocosmia

We grow this fuschia in a pot as it needs overwintering somewhere frost-free

Rosa Warm Welcome has been flowering for weeks

Annual sunflower

Begonia Glowing Embers
Canna lilies add real drama at this time of year. They are not hardy, but they are easy to overwinter in a frost-free place. We grow ours in large plastic pots that we drop into the terracotta pots that contained tulips earlier in the year. I have just discovered that some cannas can be grown in water, so I shall be eagerly placing an order next year.
A canna lily with deep burgundy leaves
I have always avoided dahlias because they have to be lifted and stored in a specific way, but having been given some by a friend I think their amazing colours might have won me over. The proof of the pudding will be whether I can successfully bring them back to life next year.

Also of interest in the garden at the moment -
A lovely red-stemmed Roscoea with Imperata cylindrica Red Baron (Japanese blood grass) in the background

A Ricinus grown from seed in Spring with stunning bronze leaves and red fruit. It will be cut down by the first frost but is well-worth growing every year

Our to-do list

Apply vine weevil nematodes - We apply nematodes twice a year to all the pots, any new plants in the garden and those that are particularly targeted by vine weevil such as heuchera.

Collect apples - the cooking apples from our tree are starting to drop. We can't collect them because the tree is too tall. We collect any undamaged ones and store them in cardboard trays in the garage. I will be baking lots of apple cake and later making apple and plum chutney and apple and mango chutney.

Move and divide - we are starting to lift, divide and move some of the earlier flowering plants that have got too large or are in the wrong place. We are potting up all the spare plants to sell at our May 2016 open garden and we are already running out of space to store them!

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