Monday, 28 September 2015

Autumn up close and personal.

We seem to be having quite reasonable weather at the moment, not too wet! As the garden fades from late summer and everything changes from a lush green to the yellows, reds and browns of autumn I thought it might not be a bad idea to do some close-ups. Autumn is a time, after the summer colour displays, that, as in spring, we now turn to the individual beauty and form of flowers as they become less of a feature. Some which would be hardly inspiring during a summer of bright colours suddenly become subtly beautiful when not pushed into the sidelines by some of their more colourful cousins.

Eupatorium purpureum subsp. maculatum 'Atropurpureum'
Easy to grow preferring a damp position Joe Pye Weed is a beautiful late flowering six foot butterfly and bee magnet which does benefit from the "Chelsea Chop" if one remembers.

Actaea simplex (Atropurpurea Group) 'Brunette'
Coming in at around five feet with me the beautiful delicate white flowers of this Cohosh really stand out against the almost black foliage and are also insect magnets. 

Angelica archengelica cultivar.
Angelica archengelica
Two stages of ripeness of my favourite Umbellifer, the seeds of some of my plants with Angelica 'Ebony' in their parentage have a more purple hue before fully ripening.

Buddleja weyeriana 'Sungold'
Still in full bloom, this late-flowering Buddleja has the beautiful yellow colour along with the vigour of the more familiar types.  

Chelone obliqua
Easy to spot why this very hardy perennial is know as the 'turtle head', seems to thrive in the most hostile of dry conditions.

This is not the "common" montbretia but a named variety whose name I have forgotten, none of these orange/yellow types have the vigour of Crocosmia 'Lucifer' but tend to flower later.

Cyclamen hederifolium
Here is a Cyclamen mini-jungle, perhaps a mouse-eyed view?  

This nasturtium is a real beauty!

Lovely variation in what is a staple of summer in any garden, still flowering away and will last until the first frosts. Easily propagated, the seed can be found lying on the soil beneath the plants or even taken green from the plant as long as they are swollen enough. Dried and stored in the fridge will give plenty of plants for next year.

Gentiana asclepiadea
The Willow Gentian, yet another example of the genus Gentiana producing some of the best blues in the plant kingdom.

Kirengeshoma palmata
I have absolutely no idea why this plant has an AGM although funnily enough it is not listed on the RHS site as such. I have a large specimen of this Japanese rhizomatous perennial which sits at the base of a silver birch. I find the flowers are generally spasmodic and in a year with early frosts they don't make it to full flower. Although not shown all the lower leaves have been eaten away, I assume by slugs, but the damage does vary year on year.

You can't beat the knot-weeds for good late summer colour although they can be a bit invasive.

Sedum 'Jose Aubergine'
Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy'
For autumn read Sedum, glaucous foliage, preferring a sunny position but will tolerate some shade where they may flop, so another good candidate for the "Chelsea Chop"

Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) on Persicaria
If I ever doubted that I have dappled shade here is a native who just loves these conditions. 

Tricyrtis formosana 'Dark Beauty'
This plant was located at the bottom of a birch tree originally but has now "walked" about six feet from the base to get to more light.

Anemone tomentosa Robustissima
Big and bold, this "thug" is still one of the best for good for autumn colour in the most hostile of conditions.

Geranium 'Rozanne'
Leycesteria formosa
The Himalayan honeysuckle, seeds itself around a bit and its rather fragile hollow stems mean that it needs to be away from an area where it gets brushed against, which I haven't done! but still a neat shrub to have. 

Stylophorum lasiocarpum
Stylophorum lasiocarpum seed-pods
Now here is a thing, these plants are grown from seed sown in January of this year obtained from the SRGC as Hylomecon japonica which it ain't. I have grown this plant before and immediately recognised the leaf shape and to confirm my suspicions you only have to look at the rather extraordinary seed pods of this Japanese woodlander to confirm this. An interesting post regarding the question of the misidentification of Hylomecon is to be found here.
Lysimachia ephemerum
Not the thug of its relatives, the cool stately spires of white flowers add to the autumn garden however the weaker outer stems are prone to collapse.

I have several species and cultivars of Penstemon all in containers as they just won't "do" in the borders, this one just happens to still be in flower due to the fact it was damaged earlier in the year.

The Cardoon in bud.

The Cardoon
These two pictures are not from this year but are two of my favourite close-ups or macros as they now seem to be known now. There is something about this plant, it may be its Scottishness but I can only refer to it as THE Cardoon, it seems such a stately icon and what exquisite shades and textures.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Summer's end.

For a variety of reasons I have been unable to keep up with my blogging duties for the last six weeks so please excuse me if some of the material is not current. We started off August with the main lily display, although at one time I wouldn't have given you time of day for what I considered to be overblown artificial flowers I have been converted although I am still unsure of the non-scented ones no matter how beautiful the flowers.

Lilium 'Anastasia'
Liliums 'Casablanca' and 'Salmon Star'
Lilium 'Josephine'
Lilium 'Lavon'
Now naturalizing under an acer Lilium 'Night Flyer'. Not scented but in a position where it doesn't actually matter. Beautiful Clematis 'Betty Corning' in the foreground.

Viticella Hybrid, Clematis 'Betty Corning', the stems are so thin that the flowers seem to float in mid-air.
Lilium 'Honeymoon'
 Like 'Lavon', 'Honeymoon' is a "giant lily", this is the only time I have experienced lily bulbs not even emerging in the year of planting, to the extent that I thought the bulbs had gone for whatever reason. I always mark lilies with a cane and label attached, not for the "naturalists"? I know but at least most of the canes I use are home-grown, emerging this year, although not growing to a great height, it has produced some very large, very beautiful blooms so I look forward to next year's results.  

 So often I read that people despair with and treat angelica as a weed, myself I have introduced the basic Angelica archengelica and Angelica 'Ebony' (once the "darling" of Chelsea a few years ago) resulting in many self sown seedlings with tremendous variation in height, flower and stem colour. I gave a few seedlings to my friend and fellow gardener Dave (a "cut and blow" operator who is actually a proper gardener) and he agrees that although they do seed around the young plants are easy to uproot and the odd specimens left in appropriate places make good architectural specimens. You also have the benefit of having plenty of time to make your mind up as they are biennial. Despite success with these I find Angelica gigas a disappointment although this can probably be put down to the fact that the plants I have are raised from seed. 

Angelica hybrid, these plants are covered in beneficial insects such as hover flies.
An angelica in the foreground and one further down the bed adding architectural interest.

Some more "commoners":

Although I grow some fairly rare and sometimes difficult plants, not having the ideal conditions for massive summer flower displays I do use some plants which are sometimes not appreciated because of the fact they have become ubiquitous, but nevertheless this wouldn't happen unless they were relatively easy to grow, reliable and also good to look at.
Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima'
Grows virtually anywhere Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima'  is the easiest, most adaptable and earliest of the Japanese anemones, flowering from early July, can be a bit of a 'thug' but is worth it for the beautiful colour, large blooms and long flowering season. 

Geranium pyrenaica
 I have both the white and purple/blue forms of Geranium pyrenaica, they disappear, re-seed and pop up everywhere always intertwined with other plants, their beautiful little flowers are always welcome. This is what informal gardening is all about, notice NOT "natural gardening". 

Brought this one back from Roger's open day, can't remember the exact species, what can you say very reliable and more importantly flowers for ages.

Persicaria 'Red Dragon'
Another Persicaria, only this time the flowers are insignificant but the foliage is very striking, this one is down to Angie who costs me a lot of money for one who rarely buys plants but grows from seed. It is always worth remembering that Persicarias are members of the Polygonaceae (Knot-weeds) which includes the likes of what was Polygonum baldschuanicum (Mile-a-minute vine) now Fallopia baldschuanicum and the notorious Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica).

This year I have re-introduced some bedding plants for a display, major mistake, as I have said earlier this year the bad weather is down to me, however I have used yet another "commoner" the nasturtium, to be honest for sheer flower power, ease of cultivation, coverage and brightness you just can't beat nasturtiums, I have hedged my bets on the weather and used them in containers and hanging baskets which as the summer has been so bad has actually worked. 

I keep running over the stems with the car and have cut these back, you wouldn't believe that there is a Camellia in that tub would you? Neither would I!
This is my "bedding plant area" this year but, below the lilies, along with the fuchsias, begonias and dahlias the nasturtiums are providing the bulk of the colour.  

Yet again nasturtiums are providing long lasting colour for this trough.
More up to date:

Current view from the back door.
Agastache 'Blue Fortune'.
These plants are grown from an early cold sowing and are actually not in a sunny position due to having allowed Cotinus 'Grace' to go unchecked however it will be interesting to see how they go on this winter as Agastaches do sometimes reappear in this area of the garden.

Chelone obliqua
This turtlehead is as tough as old boots and has a very strong invasive root mat which can literally be chopped up into chunks, however for colour in late summer it is totally reliable even in poor conditions.

Clematis tangutica 'Lampton Park'
To me this is the best of all clematis, it flowers continually for up to five months of the year and not only that carries beautiful silvery mop-heads of seed. Cut it back to the sturdy framework every year and it takes off like a rocket in the spring.

A couple of oddities:

Codonopsis pilosula var.modesta
I am not quite sure why I acquired seeds for this member of the Campanula family, it is very rarely grown other than as a herbal plant for the Chinese where it is known as Dang Shen or poor man's ginseng although I only found this out after the seed had germinated, interestingly it was the first of the winter cold sown seed to germinate by a long way.

Corydalis ophiocarpa
The parents of this self sown plant are in the back garden, here we are in the front at the base of a large Cedrus atlantica glauca, the flowers may be insignificant but the fresh feathery light green foliage is quite striking. Sometimes when you get a plant which is prepared to seed and thrive in hostile territory you can but thank your lucky stars. 

Eupatorium purpureum or Joe Pye Weed with the seed cases of  Cardiocrinum rising just above.
Gentiana tibetica
The Tibetan gentian was grown from seed and only one plant survives, last year when it was much smaller there was a half-hearted attempt at flowering but I expected big things from it this year after much stronger upright growth and plump flower heads however about six weeks ago it seemed to go into some sort of stasis, on further investigation on the S.R.G.C. forum it would appear that this is quite common if the plant does not get enough sun so with my shaded garden plus the sunless summer I can understand this, although I am still keeping my fingers crossed.

Geranium 'Rozanne'
Having such awkward conditions I love my geraniums and the much acclaimed 'Rozanne' lives up to its reputation, this sterile hybrid just flowers and flowers and flowers ad infinitum. The cute one at the front is Geranium 'Orkney Cherry' one of a series bred in the Orkneys by Alan Bremner, if you are a plant raised in the Orkneys you must be tough. The slightly different leaves in the middle belong to Geranium pyrenaicum, although this seedling has not flowered yet it will be there poking its tiny flowers through the foliage of the much more robust 'Rozanne' next year.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Vanille Fraisse'
This is one of two specimens of Hydrangea paniculata 'Vanille Fraisse' I have in the garden, the trick with these is to produce plants which have stems strong enough to carry the heavy flower heads. The other one is growing up through my large Cotinus and looks quite well against the dark foliage but more importantly the blooms are supported by the shrub it is growing through. Generally speaking older specimens are able to support the blooms more efficiently.
Lilium 'Salinas' last of my lilies to come into flower.
Lysimachia ephemerum
Growing several species of Lysimachia as I do including the beautiful but deadly thug Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker',  I really appreciate the cool spires of Lysimachia ephemerum. This easy to grow perennial adds height and colour to any border at this time of the year. Due to heavy rain and wind some of the newer spikes have been flattened but nevertheless it still takes a worthy place in the late summer garden.

Primula seedlings.
Remember the seedlings of a farinaceous primula that had self-seeded onto the glasshouse bench, well I stuck some in a tray and here they are ready to be planted out next week and chance it.

Rudbekia hirta
Every photographer's nightmare catching your reflection in the window glass. My Neighbourhood Watch sticker didn't stop them kicking the back door in a few months ago despite the alarm being on.

Strobilanthes wallichii
I rather like Strobilanthes wallichii or the Kashmir Acanthus, it is very hardy, as you would expect,  and gives a display of  snapdragon style flowers late in the season in even relatively dry poor soil.

This is my new mini poly-tunnel, how wonderful it is to have over 6' of clearance and not having to crouch down to be able to work on the benches. Many of this year's sowings are already planted out, I find there is no substitute to a plant's development than getting it established in the open ground as soon as possible. The greater majority of the plants are from sowings made in January, on the bottom of the staging are some pots which have still not germinated but the rest are bulbs which have germinated but will not be dealt with until next year.


Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon'
Beautiful as it may be Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon' is the biggest thug for my conditions I have ever encountered, at the front of one of my beds there is a particularly wet patch and I needed something which was not too high to fill the space up, not to try to take over the world. It has taken me three years of hand weeding to eliminate it, what makes it worse is that the roots have a particularly nasty sweet smell which seems to stay with you for hours. Although I eliminated it I still had the problem area to fill.

Solution? Little and large:

Gunnera manicata
The giant rhubarb from S.America, mainly Brazil, now to be seen growing in many roadside ditches in Eire. This plant was removed several years ago basically because it was too big and achieved about 8' in my garden.

Gunnera magellanica
Gunnera magellanica is from Patagonia and the Falklands and loves wet conditions, although not necessarily evergreen I am hoping it will fit the bill. Six inches high and reputedly a strong grower although the creeping stolons are easily removed from the surface. Little spires of red flowers are followed by red berries, I hope.

Better stop now as this is turning into a magnum opus, with luck this brings me back up to date and despite one fair week the weather is still RUBBISH!