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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Robin, I thought we were friends until …

Kniphofia Tawny King

The tawny bed after rain, Kniphofia Tawny King and Digitalis laevigata

… you ate all my fruit.

OK, so the fruit is not in full production but in holding pots awaiting a proper home this autumn. So far you’ve had the Gloire de Sablon pink currants, the one ripening All Gold raspberry, and between yesterday and today all 6 red not quite ripe Whinham Industry gooseberries. Plus I found you had been into the living room and pooped on the sofa – not nice. It’s all very cute looking at me with your limpid round black eye, all speckley feathered, teetering on the edge of a plant pot with those dainty little feet. And I saw you this morning cheekily taking a bath sitting on a waterlily pad, but this take, take, take, will have to stop! Well actually apart from the blackberries you’ve already taken the lot!

We’re surrounded by young birds various at the moment trying to make their way in the world it seems. A young Carrion Crow tells the young Magpies where to get off when it comes to first dibs on the bird table, although the cheeky Magpies were teasing (not mobbing) the crow just now in one of the trees,  the crow eventually flapped off in a huff. We’ve got a plethora of robins, and at least 1 wren still feeding fledged young, Bullfinches various hold court on the sunflower seeds. Gangs of Long Tailed Tits can be heard and sometimes spotted, the Starlings and Jackdaws though appear to have taken themselves off into the wider countryside. Saw a Barn Owl swoop low over the field in the dimming light last night and the Tawny Owl babes are still calling loudly and testily for food.

We’ve had rain today, and hail and thunder and everything. The rain has been missing us for days but today a welcome downpour,  the temperature has dropped somewhat.

The picture above shows Kniphofia Tawny King which in the last garden didn’t support itself terribly well, but standing to attention here. The Digitalis ferruginea is now in flower, the bees busily clambering aboard each lipped landing platform. (22/7/14 Actually I think I must correct myself, D laevigata was first in flower and shown above although I do have D ferruginea but he is brown lipped, D laevigata has a pale lip).

Brugmansia Grand Marnier

Brugmansia Grand Marnier

The Brugmansia is doing it’s thing, the scent is just starting to ramp up for the evening, vying with Lonicera halliana and Nicotiana alata. It’s unattractively festooned with Bioline packs to try to combat spider mites.

Beware fried toads in empty ceramic pots. Sadly a few weeks ago I found a desiccated toad which had somehow climbed into an empty plant pot and then couldn’t get out. On Sunday morning, drowning not waving a toad was seen stretching up trying to get out of another empty pot as the sun warmed up, needless to say it was released.

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Where have all the flowers gone?

gone for hayThe village green was a waving sea of grass last week and then poof! It’s all gone. The Meadow Brown butterflies could be seen flopping disconsolately around in the shortened grass, their habitat somewhat curtailed. Grasshoppers have just started to emerge and zizz, now under somewhat reduced circumstances.

There’s something gorgeously glossy about a meadow at it’s peak, flowering grasses moving sinuously in the breeze. And I do understand that it needs to be cut otherwise it will just become a tussocky sodden mess. Most of the Green has been cut for haylage which is better than merely mowing it which I don’t think is particularly beneficial. I hope that they keep to this sort of regime rather than trying to enforce a prim and proper boring all the time sort of village green.

Marston’s clay land isn’t as floristically diverse as neighbouring Salisbury Plain chalk downland  but nonetheless is home to bugs, butterflies and other scuttlers which in turn provide food for swallows, bats and the local owls. A lot of the grassland around here has been “improved” so the Green offers a more diverse area of grass and flowers. The margin in the picture above contains amongst other things, Geranium pratense, Meadowsweet and Meadow Vetchling.

My parents have just returned from SW France and were bowled over by the flowers in bloom both wild and in gardens. They went particularly WOW! on seeing the roadsides on the way to Minerve awash with wildflowers which they decided to revisit a couple of days later, only to find that the margins had been mown in the interim – no more flowers!

The diversity of butterflies is increasing as summer rolls on, Large Skippers are abroad in the garden and feasting on Meadow Vetchling in field and by way margins and I’ve seen a few Scarlet Tiger moths. A Marbled White butterfly passed through the garden to somewhere more interesting.

Fourteen gardeners and more allotmenteers were brave enough to open their gardens / allotments to public scrutiny in Marston and Worton on Sunday. Thank you! We visited most, and all were clearly loved and tended, nearly everyone had a veg plot of some description tucked somewhere, I was most envious of new potatoes, ripening strawberries and plumptious currants.

And we had rain hurrah! Although it was a bit odd to be confined indoors in the gloom after weeks of sun.

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