Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Who needs flowers?

Our amazing year continues, very low rainfall this month coupled with temperatures which are higher than normal. How many times after our usual poor Summer have we looked forward to September being a good month, all those promised Indian Summers, only to be let down as Winter closed in early. This year not only have we had a good Summer it is still going strong into October which has encouraged second flushes of flower from some hardy perennials but more importantly has remained dry enough for me to rip my overcrowded borders apart, a job which I have been wanting to do for ages, the great thing is that the soil is still warm enough for any plants which are disturbed to re-establish themselves.

Given that my garden is not exactly blessed with flowering plants at this time of the year I must look to all the trees and shrubs which are now providing colour especially as the dry weather has encouraged a good show......Flowers, who needs them?

Cotoneaster 'Chinese Hybrid'
 The nomenclature of the genus Cotoneaster was so confused by the numerous hybrids raise from crossing the many species that were introduced to cultivation that back in the 1970's this plant, which was widely used by landscapers, was known simply as a 'Chinese Hybrid'. The leaves will yellow shortly making the plant even more attractive. 

Sorbus 'Joseph Rock'

This Mountain Ash or Rowan is coming in to its own now, the yellow berries contrast beautifully with the reddening leaves, this small tree is one of my favourites. Notice the colour changes in the leaves of the Witch-hazel (Hamamelis mollis) bottom left, it won't be too long before this is in flower. The variegated foliage bottom right belongs to Pieris 'Forest Flame', which is now well over 2 meters tall.  

Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'
 One of my favourite Acers, the pink stems contrast really well with the pale summer foliage and really complement the glowing Autumn colours which are just coming through. For some reason one branch is turning earlier than the rest of the tree.

Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Veitchii')
  Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Veitchii') adheres to the wall by the use of small pads so does not damage the masonry. Frequently sold as 'Virginia Creeper' although the true plant is P.quinqefolia.
 A bit short of fruits this year because of major re-shaping, the berries of this unknown variety tone well with the bright green of the leaves and the Victorian brick.

Spirea japonica 'Golden Princess'
 Although always striking because of its light golden foliage it is now turning red. This Spirea did not flower this year for the first time I can remember, whether it has been affected by the increasing canopy of the Acer next to it or it is reacting to the fact it didn't get its usual trim I don't know. There is another specimen just up the road in the local park which after a poor showing in the Spring is now coming into full bloom? Not to be confused with Astilbe of course!

Azalea 'Exbury Hybrid'
Grown from seed this Exbury Hybrid Azalea flowered for the first time this year and is now treating us to a brief autumn show.

Betula pendula 'Youngii'
 To the best of my knowledge this is Young's Weeping Birch, the seeds from all the surrounding birch trees have produced a mini snowstorm over the last month getting everywhere. The leaves on the long slender stems are just turning yellow before they drop.

This exotic looking giant with its yellowing leaves is of course Aesculus hippocastanum or the Horse-chestnut. The squirrels are now busily burying conkers everywhere particularly where the ground is loose. Any plants or bulbs that have been recently put in are unceremoniously uprooted in the process, I hate them!
Cotinus coggygria 'Grace'
This Smoke-bush produces so many different shades during the year it is difficult to keep track, the growth rate is phenomenal. Unfortunately no sun on it this morning to show it at its best, if I can get a better shot in the next few days I will add it. 

And here it is, much better with a bit of sun.
  Hope you enjoyed a trip round the garden with not a flower in sight!


  1. You certainly don't need flower Rick - what a wonderful array of autumnal shades. Good to read you were able to get some work done. Weather is just right for getting things done I think.
    What a wonderful year it has been hasn't it? I'd love to say long may it continue, but I can't help feeling this winter may be a bad one.

    1. Thanks Angie, next to Spring, Autumn is definitely my favourite particularly when we get a mellow one.

  2. Hmmm, I could not do without flowers! Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate plants with interesting leaves, especially autumn colours, but I have to have flowers too :-)
    That said, your rowan looks spectacular already, I have heard that the dry summer is going to give us some amazing autumn colours – they haven’t started yet down here in London but eventually autumn will creep up on us too.
    The smoke-bush is absolutely gorgeous, one of my favourites for a wish-list if I ever get a bigger garden.

    1. Well you know Helene, when your fuchsias are just about in flower and everything else is finishing you have to take what you can:). The smoke-bush is one of my absolute favourites but it is virtually uncontrollable which now suits me as it helps to block out the dreaded extension!

  3. Rick, I can see where you are coming from with all that structural plants. Joseph Rock was our favourite Rowan in our Aberdeen garden. We have room in the front for one, because we got information that said Joseph Rock in Cheshire was prone to fire blight we decided to plant Vilmorinii, must find another spot for one.

    1. Hi Alistair, Joseph Rock is definitely my number one favourite small tree that I actually grow, and it would be difficult to think of many better. It is being blown apart today in the high winds which is a pity as it is just past its prime all the leaves having turned and just starting to drop, without the weather it would have held out a little longer. In a few weeks time there will be a couple of days when it will be inundated by thrushes and blackbirds and the berries will be gone.

  4. Hi Rick, I don't mind gardens without flowers, establishing trees and shrubs are more important and they flower too. The garden looks great. I took a few, too many, years to realize my spectacular spring garden full of flowers didn't provide the year long structure the garden needed.

    1. Hi Sue, the title is very tongue in cheek but the shrubs and trees which make up the backbone of the garden certainly earn their keep when it comes to the Autumn and Winter periods.