Say goodbye, wave hello

Tulbaghia Hazel

Tulbaghia Hazel

It was 14C today with rain on and off and still. The garden is pervaded by the scent from the green but gradually dying foliage of Tulbaghia Hazel. The leaves have a not entirely pleasant foxy garlicky scent but I can’t complain about the show all summer and its made a huge clump which may succumb in a harsh winter but dominated the front of the border for the second year.

Bred by the UK Tulbaghia National Collection holders and named in 2004. They say the flowers have a lovely evening scent, there must be a lot of moths in South Africa, at least two pelargoniums and Zaluzianskya are evening scented as well.

Final blaze of glory
Cornus Midwinter Fire is lighting up the tawny bed with pinky golden leaves echoed on the boundary of the garden by the richer yellow of the Hazels which have still to drop the majority of their leaves, the theme in turn picked up by the oaks in the field beyond. The Ash however is bare, its blackened leaves litter the path to the stream, and the Stag’s Horn Sumach went fiery red and dropped to bony winter hornage within a week.

I couldn’t help myself
This has been an autumn of bulbs, some have still to go in. In the summer I ordered quite a lot especially of tulips from Jacques Amand at full price and then some autumn crocus and other bits and bobs from Broadleigh Bulbs and then Crocus had 50% off and Avon Bulbs had 25% off – Yikes! But this is about lots of different types of bulb not quantity, allium, Iris reticulata, scilla, muscari, hyacinths Delft Blue, Miss Saigon, Roman White and Sky Jacket, Anemone blanda, Anemone coronaria, tulips Don Pedro, Queen of Night, Montreux, Monte Carlo, Prinses Irene, Apricot Beauty and Spring Green, more autumn crocus, narcissus, Silver Chimes, Thalia, Topolino WP Milner and Elka, Snake’s Head Fritillary, Wood Anemones and so the list goes on.

Now most are in I’ve forgotten where I put them so hopefully I’ll be surprised and delighted come spring!

When planting up one large terracotta pot a couple of weeks ago I found wood mice had made a nest in the polystyrene at the bottom of the pot under the summer bedding having made an access hole in the compost down the side of the pot hidden by the then still burgeoning white heliotrope.

Arum creticum is pushing through and pats of the rounded leaves of spring flowering Cyclamen coum appear amongst those of C hederifolium. There are flower buds on Melianthus major.

Galvezia speciosa

Galvezia speciosa

And finally…
Grown from seed sown this year and now resident in the conservatory, a Californian native, Galvezia speciosa, loved by hummingbirds apparently. The seed was from Derry Watkins Special Plants, also from SP this year, Dolichos lab lab, the first time I’ve got it to germinate, it whizzed up the Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate but failed to flower. The jury is still out on Dahlia australis, it looked better in a bed that received full sun than those in partial shade.

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As I was saying ….

Thunbergia fragrans

Thunbergia fragrans

Part of the late, late show, Thunbergia fragrans from Crug Farm Plants. The headline refers to the fact it looks like the trumpet is ‘chatting’  especially when viewed at a larger size. Apparently it was collected at 2150m in Northern India and for the last two years this potted specimen has gone into the just above frost free conservatory as it’s said not to be reliably hardy in the UK, big dilemma there’s not going to be permanent room over winter for it in the conservatory this year.

So far it’s only ever flowered on one twining stem, the flowers running in pairs either side of the stem. It grows very vigorously through spring and early summer so maybe the bits I have to hack back then to contain it are the flowers I’m losing. I can’t detect any fragrance, perhaps it needs more warmth to give of itself?

Aster White Climax

Red Admiral Butterflies on Aster White Climax

The Red Admiral butterflies in particular are enjoying the Aster White Climax in this ‘unseasonably’ warm weather. Peacock Butterflies are trying to take up winter quarters in the house, inevitably some will succeed to reappear come March / April. Also spotted a Small Copper Butterfly out and about on the aster as well. White Climax is a bit of a thug growing to over 2M tall and now flopping in great swathes with the rain but certainly an insect magnet.


Iris unguicularis has started flowering, unfortunately the lovely crystalline petals are pushed in by the rain.

We cleared the stream of foliage and Yellow Flag this weekend which has it running lower and faster now, will this affect the habits of the Signal Crayfish whose burrows in the banks are now more obvious?

We stopped feeding the small birds in mid summer and have now put out the feeders again – absolutely nothing not a tit or a bullfinch to be seen.

Iris foetidissima

Iris foetidissima

Pretty but not to be eaten Iris foetidissima seeds, apparently they ‘purge’ the body somewhat. Sources often refer to the dull purple and yellow flowers and one of its common names, Stinking Iris, doesn’t help. Dull is unfair, the mauve and yellow finely petalled flowers are appreciated by me murmuring in summer from the dry shady corners it puts itself in. The strong upright foliage is a good shade of green and then the seeds go ‘pow’, what’s not to appreciate? Geoffrey Grigson in The Englishman’s Flora is also a little kinder, apparently in some counties it’s known as Roast Beef as the crushed leaves smell of beef – OK, just done a bit of field research, the crushed leaves just smell ‘leafy’  to me not particularly distinctive in the way that say Meadow Sweet and Salad Burnet foliage are when crushed. I do remember pressing Walnut leaves once, they had a very distinctive spicy peppery smell.

We’ve been told to expect the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo to pass through tonight and early Tuesday morning so I expect the garden will be a complete flopped mess by tomorrow evening. Apparently they’ve got much better at predictive forecasting since The Great Storm of 15 – 16 October 1987 as we’ve still got lots of leaves on the trees as we had then! Reading Wikipedia it suggests that Meteo France also ‘got it wrong’ initially too and the severity was much more than expected.

“Blow the wind southerly, southerly, southerly,
Blow the wind south o’er the bonny blue sea;
Blow the wind southerly, southerly, southerly,
Blow bonnie breeze,  softly  (orig: my lover) to me.”

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all fall down

Colchicum autumnale The Giant

Colchicum autumnale The Giant

It’s definitely that time of year now, autumn is decidedly upon us. This is a bit of insto gardening, these bulbs were only recently bought from Broadleigh Bulbs but within a few weeks we have instant gratification!

The needed rain has yet to really penetrate the soil in some parts of the garden and today after some horrible buffeting SW winds it is a relatively docile day. I’ve been bargain hunting, the nursery trade reckons no-one plants in the autumn any more – I certainly do.

The plants started with the last day of Cally Gardens 2014 at the end of September. We pretty much had the walled gardens with its apothecary style beds and old greenhouses to ourselves. The sound of birdsong echoed around the valley and the candyfloss scent of Cercidiphyllum wafted in the air (a theme returned to at both the Alnwick gardens and Scampston Hall an early Oudolfian design in N Yorkshire which had a lovely grove of them, the heart shaped leaves all autumnal pink and yellow). Continue reading

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Oo, er, missus

Actaea Japonica ex Crug Farm Plants

Actaea japonica and Polygonum amplexicaule Alba (background)

Stipa brachytricha

Stipa brachytricha on a misty morning

I’ve drafted a couple of posts in my head which didn’t make it into written action and now their time has passed, the season has moved on from summer most definitely into autumn. As Google has reminded us, today is the Autumn Equinox. A misty start to an otherwise (I hope) slow, gentle sunny autumn day.

The Actaea came from Crug Farm Plants I think it’s A japonica as I also bought A dahurica but appear to have lost one or the other! There is a slight brown tinge to the opening buds, the individual flowers are much tighter than A simplex Brunette which is also in flower now (scented) and more fluffily showy, but both work for me. Some of the newly planted grasses are also just coming into full plume and look lovely bedecked with spangles of mist.

More mole woes
After little rain for weeks we got back from Devon last Thursday and I watered (typical, hadn’t factored in the imminent thunderstorms), not a sign of a mole. That night thunderstorms rumbled and crashed around and after the downpours the very next morning mole damage in the new raised beds. The earth moved in front of my eyes around a Kniphofia and then one lunchtime when there wasn’t a whisker of wind,
me Snapdragons started waving and lifting. Unfortunately I’m not adept enough to flick the culprit out of the ground. It’s still happily whizzing around in the nice mixed soil / compost uprooting plug plants – if I lose the dianthus recently bought from Allwoods I will be cross, they were settling in fine, not now!

Out with the old in with the new

Rosa Reine des Violettes

The end of the season for Reine des Violettes slowly fading and browning

We’ve gone over the tipping point, summer’s stars are waning or gone. Bye, bye summer.

All is not lost, we still have Asters waiting in the wings, various recently planted Colchicum from Broadleigh Bulbs are showing their colours, fat white fingers poking up through the soil.  The silken dark coral petals of Schizostylis coccinea Major are making a big statement at the moment although the stems are flopping all over the place.

I’ve just realised that most plants I’ve mentioned so far have all had their names changed, Cimicifuga=Actaea, Schizostylis=Hesperantha, Polygonum=Persicaria and some Asters= Symphyotrichum – oh well. See RHS article

Kniphofia rooperi

Kniphofia rooperi with blue Salvia uliginosa in the background.

Some of the Kniphofia such a K rooperi from Trecanna Nursery and John Benary have kicked in with much needed flower power. The K rooperi seems more subtly coloured (which I like) than some images suggest on the web. Sadly the huge torches of K Painted Lady which stood so proud on Thursday evening were felled by the torrential rain overnight. K Grimshaw is malingering or will he be part of the late, late show? Dahlias are picking up the baton too, Le Vonne Splinter is now a mass of huge great sunny blooms, smaller flowered dark red-purple Chee has flowered for ages in a pot, and bright lemon pom pommed Sisa is smaller in stature than expected but cheerful nonetheless. The two Japanese dahlias Tohsouikyou and Zakuro Fubiki are a little wan and unforthcoming so far.

Aster Ringdove

Aster Ringdove

A bit of a cutie, Ringdove, sprays of small palest lilac flowers just coming into full flower now.






Happy September bee on Symphoricarpos


At least this early foraging bee was happy this misty morning on a shrub I love to malign, Symphoricarpos orbiculatus.

The sun has broken through at nearly midday and I must get on with and finish my article for LandScape magazine.

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A leggy brunette

European Hornet

European Hornet Vespa crabro

Hornets are eating large holes in the hanging fruit on one of the apple trees, a Cox’s probably, sweeter by far than the cooking apples. We had quite a few hornet queens buzzing round in spring and were hoping they wouldn’t stick around or set up somewhere ‘inconvenient’ there are plenty of woods and trees to choose from. It appears we do have a nest in one of the hazel’s in the garden, every so often the low buzz of a hornet proceeds past at chest height and into the tree. Hornet activity so far seems more relaxed than the incessant comings and goings of a wasp nest. More about hornets on the BBC website

As far as I can tell we’ve no wasp nests close to home unlike last year although there were lots of queens on the wing in April.

Today a Humming Bird Hawk Moth was favouring the Verbena bonariensis, I think the first I’ve seen this year.

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Blue, blue, electric blue

Morning Glory (Ipomea tricolor)

Morning Glory (Ipomea tricolor)

Actually not as intense a blue as I remember from some I’ve grown in the past, soil or seed? (I think perhaps the blue got better as the flower matured over the day) Nevertheless a lovely thing. I enjoy reading Trad’s Diary, one of his recent posts is on the theme of blue flowers … Trad’s Diary

As I’ve followed more boards on Pinterest so I’m getting more invitation emails. It’s interesting across a number of boards some of the same images pop up regularly, the pinners come from different countries but the appeal of certain images/gardens spans certainly Europe and the US. I know the repinning business is part of the point of Pinterest but.

Designers like Piet Oudolf andTom Stuart Smith seem to dominate with a sprinkling of Dan Pearson, Oehme van Sweden and Sarah Price. Grasses are everywhere in many of the planting combos especially as the provider of a good background for feature plants although formal hedging and box also make a strong showing.

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Kiss, kiss

Antirrhinum Black Prince

Antirrhinum Black Prince

Pucker up! Mwa! Antirrhinum Black Prince grown from seed this year, I’ve had some plants previously overwinter for a couple of years. This Snapdragon isn’t particularly tall growing and has darker leaves which set the sumptuous crimson flowers off.

As the Crocus email commented this morning, many plants now have a ‘second wind’, refreshed after the recent rainfall and revived by the lowering light levels. The Schizostylis have started to put out flower heads although one of the white one’s has been in flower already for a while.

Yesterday on a mellow sunny afternoon I planted autumn bulbs from Broadleigh Bulbs and am trying some old pinks again from Allwoods including Rose du Mai, Lady Granville and Bridal Veil (a very old favourite I first grew in a windowbox in Central London). The first batch of pinks last year weren’t happy in the main border in heavyish clay overhung by more vigorous plants and mostly disappeared (I know, it wasn’t ever going to work but I had nowhere else to put them at the time). Although cuttings I had taken from a previous garden of Ursula le Grove and (I think) Unique are still ensconced in said border.

The autumn bulbs include more Colchicum, The Giant and C autumnale, Crocus speciosus Albus and the yellow cupped Sternbergia lutea. I’ve also added a couple of Madonna Lilies to one bed where they can hopefully hold their own and won’t be completely swamped (which they wouldn’t like), unlike most lilies they need to be planted nearer to the soil surface which also makes them more vulnerable to being dug up as I fiddle around in the flower beds.

Two dead juvenile Blackbirds and a live Sparrowhawk (not necessarily connected)
Within 4 days of each other last week I found two dead blackbirds, one theory was that they had flown into windows. Last weekend I walked round to my squash dung pile, there was a sudden shrieking, a bird or birds crashed through a hedge in front of me at shoulder height into the main border and then something crashed back to land on the ground about two feet away from me breathing hard, a Sparrowhawk, I looked at it, it looked at me, and then it flew off.

Persicaria orientalis one season's growth.

Persicaria orientalis one season’s growth.

And Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate (Persicaria orientalis) has excelled itself again. This annual grows to monstrous proportions in just a season. I’ve got Morning Glory and Dolichos Lab Lab using the stems as a climbing frame, they are temporarily lushing up the pergola, next year the wisteria should have taken over.

Today the blustery wind is still stirring a few flecks of birch seed around, the amount of seed deposited everywhere over the last few weeks blowing in drifts into the house, blocking gutters, carpeting plant pots etc is huge, there’s going to be a birch seedling boom next year.

What’s in flower now

Selinum wallichianum flowering in late August

Selinum wallichianum flowering in late August

Selinum wallichianum, Sanguisorba canadensis, Helianthus Vanilla Ice and Velvet Queen. Crocosmia are on their final run including Star of the East and Buttercup. Salvia Hot Lips and La Luna, Cyclamen hederifolium. The Oenothera pallida Innocence grown from seed sown this spring is sprawling everywhere to the point of untidiness, but unlike O stricta the white cupped flowers which have just started to open have a positive nice scent. The Solanum rantonetti and laciniatum are flowering their socks off. Crinum trumpets are opening, not sure what to do with these over winter. Fuchsia species and Hawkshead and Lady Bacon.

Fuchsia Lady Bacon

Fuchsia Lady Bacon said to be hardy. I overwintered it in the conservatory.

There’s a second lower growing flush of delphinium flowers and I’ve just noticed a new purchase Helianthus Monarch which will be somewhat taller next year has a couple of buds. The dahlias are picking up although I think White Honka is not as delicate as Yellow Honka. Le Vonne Splinter is like a big beaming sun, sadly my more is more purchase this year Akita didn’t make it. I’m quite liking Ike a ruby red. The gingers have only just started, joining the apricot orange flowers of Canna Chocolate Sunrise.

Cirsium canum

Cirsium canum

An amethyst coloured cirsium I bought as Spp from Pan Global Plants a few years ago turns out to be Cirsium canum as I also grew it from Special Plants seed this year. I now have 5 plants, the original one is at least 7 foot in full flower which are just finishing now. I’ll be wading into the border this weekend to hack it down and give the aster Alma Potschke some flowering space. The main aster show has yet to commence.

Non flowering phlox
I had a phlox in the previous garden which stubbornly refused to flower, it moved here, it still hasn’t flowered, eelworm? Two I bought last year from Elizabeth MacGregor Nursery have been in flower for weeks, palest cream pink Monica Lynden Bell and mauvey/white Violet Flame, Monica is growing under the same conditions as the non flowering phlox.

I’ve started taking cuttings of plants I want to overwinter in the conservatory and sown a number of pots of wild flower seeds including Betony, Greater Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Sanguisorba and Pepper Saxifrage as many need a period of cold then warmth to kick start germination (Emorsgate Seeds). Yellow Rattle seeds were scrabbled directly into the soil of the mini meadow, let’s hope next year’s grass weakening exercise is more successful and I can get a better range of meadow plants to establish, bit of a washout so far due to poor prep. I’m told that direct sowing the annual Yellow Rattle like this is more effective than plugs.

My tomatoes are still absolutely lousy with whitefly despite various sprays organic and otherwise – Yuk. Not such a good year, Large Barred Boar definitely wins for taste and unusual dark red flesh with green flecking (from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds). I think I’ll clear the greenhouse and burn all the tomato plants this weekend.

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Manky old Victora Plum

Manky old Victora Plum

Hawthorn berries are starting to blush in the hedgerows, hanks of shiny khaki blackberries and sloes softly blooming purple tell of promise to come. Swathes of bindweed green up the tired hedgerows it festoons and Hemp Agrimony and Loosestrife add colour to damper places.

The unwanted fat green and pale maroon translucent skinned fruit of the manky Victoria Plum are dropping to the ground, Speckled Wood butterflies making a meal of them with birds and other beasties. The flavour I find is generally disappointing. Had the first damson from the Merryweather planted last year, the fact it’s smaller and has that slight Grrrr of tartness makes it more attractive as a plum.


What’s hot?

The Agapanthus have been generally good this year and have lasted for weeks. I’ve got various named cultivars and seedlings. The last in flower now are Tornado and an unnamed white in pots, and a pale blue in the border.

I’m still liking sunflower Vanilla Ice, it continues to flower merrily on. Garden Statement a real disappointment, lovely lemon yellow but stumpy in stature (I really must read descriptions properly rather than assume things!). Each plant put on one large flower and a couple of very small side flowers, that was it. Dahlia australis grown from seed a bit disappointing as well, lots of growth but the flowers infrequent and sporadic at the moment. I bought some new grasses from Knoll Gardens recently, I like Pennisetum Fairy Tails, the thin fuzzy heads are more delicate than some of the other pennisetum and have a lovely rippley movement in a breeze.

Amongst the huge purpled snail bitten leaves of a seedling from Ligularia Britt Marie Crawford are great knobbed stems which open to flowers of a fabulous golden orange, less blarey orange than some of the crocosmias currently in flower, although I’m liking the tone in Cornish Copper from Trecanna Nursery.

Glaucium flavum

Glaucium flavum

Wild flowers given a bit of soft growing often bulk up more. This Horned Poppy was grown from seed taken from a Norfolk shingle beach where the silver leaves and sprawling stems grew skinny and hard, here the plants are altogether more lush and juicy, the flowers sitting plumply amongst the foliage.

Harvested the hay meadow bit, we’ll sow a lot more Yellow Rattle in the next few weeks as the wild flower plugs have struggled and given up for the most part, the creeping buttercup and over juicy grass having swamped them.

Today we’ve had much rain, the tail end of Hurricane Bertha. Rain over the last week has encouraged the mole to go bonkers reclaiming deserted runs as the digging gets easier and the clay based soil softens again.

The courgettes have really only just started to kick in, I thought the cow muck heap would have had enough moisture in it to sustain the plants,  not so, I’ve had to water copiously to get them going. It’s a critical time for the winter squash to set as they also have been a bit slow. The watermelon I think is unlikely to set, never mind, the neat cut foliage and leaves sprinkled with yellow dots (Moon and Stars) is pretty. The Large Barred Boar tomatoes (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (US)) have so far generally performed better than my old favourites Costoluto Fiorentino, Gardener’s Delight took a while but are now cropping. Whitefly have taken hold in the greenhouse despite spraying, and the spider mites seem undeterred by the predatory mites on the brugmanisa.

The Seeds of Italy update email mentioned that people were saying their French Beans had not set this year, I’ve had no set on pole beans or runners, I partly put this down to allowing them to grow up into an old apple tree, they’d rather keep on growing over fruiting. The dwarf bean Marvel of Piedmont has cropped, a good tasty bean with purple striping (from Seeds of Italy).

The first Morning Glory flower opened yesterday – special!

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Glow stars

Another creature of the night - Oenothera stricta or Evening Primrose

Another creature of the night – Oenothera stricta or Evening Primrose

On Monday night around 10 – 11:00PM by the canal near Seend, the ladies turned their pale green lamps on. Spangling banks and hedgerows, at times their light reflected in the canal too, terrestrial stars echoing the night sky above.

I wonder what canalsiders must have thought as we tripped along in the dark looking for glow worms (and bats)? Most are probably well aware of the special little creatures they live alongside as canal boat windows are around bank level.

The ladies look a bit like very large ladybird larvae, and much as i’d like to bring some home to colonise my garden, it won’t work, I’ll admire them, then leave them exactly where they are to do their thing –  glow, mate, die. They’re too rare and special to mess with!  If you see any locally log the number and location with the UK  glow worm survey.  More about glow worms and log sightings  (UK Glow Worm Survey)

I’ve grown three types of oenothera from seed this year for the south facing garden for scent and evening effect. Despite mole burrowings, Oenothera stricta has been first into flower. Sources say it’s biennial, these have flowered in year one. The pale lemon flowers open in later evening really quite fast, the cups shimmering as the light fades and lasting until around midday the next day (the picture was taken around 7:30AM).

Zaluzianskya capensis - a battered veteran from last year

Zaluzianskya capensis – a battered veteran from last year

Supposedly deliciously and heavily scented I can discern scent but not strong or particularly appealing (maybe they’re sulking as the Nicotiana alata are really excelling themselves at the moment with heady evening scent).

The Zaluzianskya capensis grown from seed survived from last year outside by the front door and this sorry specimen has been replanted in the hope that she’ll produce cutting material. This year’s sowing netted me nada, zip, zilch seedlings. Another evening opener, nothing much to look at during the day and then these purple backed startlingly white, cut petalled flowers open. The perfume is strong and slightly artificial like Autoglym car products,  not unpleasant, just unusual.

Each pod contains an egg / larvae

Each pod contains an egg / larvae

Today I’ve been trying to tidy seedlings and pots up, throwing away gone overs, no shows and left too long in pots with no home to go to etc. etc. I tipped out a dierama seedling for planting out and nestled round the base under the soil was a figure of eight of these fresh bee pods (pyracantha leaves I think, although sources note roses are a favourite). Inside each pod I understand is a single bee egg / larvae. The parent bee is a Megachile or Leaf Cutter Bee. Another pot also yielded pods, some blackened so presumably older. The pods have been reburied hopefully somewhere I won’t disturb them again as they’ll now develop ready to hibernate over winter.

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It’s autumn already

Cyclamen hederifolium

The first Cyclamen hederifolium of the 2014 autumn season

The first tentative Cyclamen hederifolium flowers are showing with many more gawky necked beaked buds starting to unravel from the corm.

And its hot, like you know real summer – what’s that all about?

Light and shade play across the drowsing afternoon garden, sharpening the curves and focusing individual trees in the woodland along the edges of nearby Salisbury Plain. High white clouds glide across a blue sky, it’s only raining on Ireland today according to the rain radar. Continue reading

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