October 28th and maybe the last flowers of the summer

This weekend saw the first forecast frosts of the winter months and so we took the opportunity to pick a selection of the remaining summer flowers to arrange and enjoy in the house.

Included in the top arrangement are a selection of apricot and burgundy dahlias, white Chincherinchee ((Ornithogalum thyrsoides), achillea and the delightfully transparent seed heads of honesty.

In the vase arrangement below are pink, white and apricot dahlias, the deep red rose ‘Ingrid Bergman’ and the fragrant rose ‘Boscabel’, purple Verbena bonariensis, Chincherinchee and blue grey eucalyptus foliage.

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The final table centre piece for this evening’s Sunday dinner with family contains rose ‘Ingrid Berman’, white and pink waterlily type dahlias, honesty seed heads, the blue of Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’, pink Schizostylis, blue-grey eucalyptus and Cotoneaster foliage.

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The clocks may have changed and the nights are drawing in but we will still be able to enjoy the colour and fragrance of summer for a few days yet!

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Beyond the autumn equinox

As we move beyond the autumn equinox the hours of darkness now exceed the day light hours.  However, there still seems to be plenty of sunshine on offer and it has been very pleasant this week outside in the fresh air.  We still haven’t had our first frost of the winter and there is a remarkable amount of colour around the garden.

Here are my six for this weekend.


One:  Saxifraga fortunei

Earlier in the year we wrote about the patio at the back of the house to demonstrate the wide range of foliage and textures that make this area such an attractive shady location.  The fleshy leaves of Saxifraga fortunei with their dark green top surface and reddish bronze under surface look good all year.  However, it is only in September and October that they start to flower producing a haze of tiny white flowers which shine out as the evenings close in.

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This week we were fortunate to be able to attend the RHS lecture by Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers at Pershore College.  As always at these events there is a nice selection of things to spend your money on and we could not resist this pink flowered Saxifraga fortunei ‘Sibyll Trelawney JP’.  It sits beautifully along side the white ones and I am sure will give us a lot of pleasure for years to come.

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Two:  Nerine

A couple of years ago we bought a number of Nerine bulbs which we originally grew on in pots to look after them and then planted out into a hot sunny, well drained border at the front of the house.  Although they have produced leaves each year they seem to have taken a very long time to settle in.  This year for the first time they have flowered but are not yet the spectacular display I have been hoping for.  Perhaps they are now beginning to take off!

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Three: Rudbeckia

Every year without fail the annual and perennial Rudbeckia perform for us.  This year is no exception and they will carry on flowering until the first frosts.  Because they are such successful garden plants they perhaps do not get celebrated as much as they should and so here they are.  This variety is ‘Autumn Forest’.

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Four:  Rosemary

One of our more unlikely flowering plants for this week is the prostrate Rosemary.  Although growing to less than 12 inches in height it is currently in full bloom amongst the gravel herb borders at the side of the house.

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Five:  Schizostylis (Kaffir Lily)

Performing at their best at this time of year are the various Schizostylis clumps that we have around the garden.  Ranging from delicate pink to full on scarlet they provide a welcome shot of new colour at this time of year.

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A new purchase of the variety ‘Princess Pink’ (below) has survived its first year and is showing real promise.

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Six:  Michaelmas daisies

Last but not least this week are the Michaelmas daisies.  Ranging from tall 5 feet plants to small neat clumps these plants really do bring the garden to life at this time of year (and the butterflies love them).

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More information at Michaelmas daisies in the autumn sunshine


 

The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

Mid-October in the flower garden

Autumn is very much with us.  We have been busy harvesting the excess apples in the orchard and having fun making cider to last us most of the year, cutting and chopping the quinces and making quince crumble tarts for the freezer and the neighbours have been busy sawing and chopping wood for the winter fires.

Despite the trees turning we have not yet had a real frost here in Warwickshire and there is still plenty of colour in the garden.  In fact some things that have struggled with the heat and lack of water during the summer have burst into flower.  The roses have a new flush of fresh flowers and many of the perennials are showing a second flush of bloom.

Here are six things for this week that have particularly caught my eye:


One:  Begonia ‘Angelique’

As soon as we get any sign of frost I am sure that these tuberous begonias will curl up and die back but as we come to the end of the season I think they are worth celebrating.  Planted out in large patio tubs in the spring they often seem slow to get going but by early August they are in full bloom.  These have been blooming consistently ever since and are very low maintenance – they even dead head themselves.  I always try and lift the tubers and keep them alive if possible.  Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail but I will certainly look to keep this variety going and plant them again next year.

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Two:  Cobaea scandens (cup-and-saucer vine)

Cobaea is not something we have grown before but we wanted something to quickly cover the new rose trellis in this first year whilst the new climbing roses get established.   It is certainly one of the fastest growing annuals that I have seen.  It has interesting but not spectacular bell shaped flowers and certainly did the job of covering the new bare trellis.

One added benefit at this time of year is that it produces these charming fairy lights hanging from a curvy, kinked stem once the flowers have dropped.  You almost feel that you should collect them, dry them and spray them silver for winter decorations.

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Three:  Hardy Fushia

One of the shrubs that come into their own at this time of year are the hardy fushias.  They are so easy to grow and also to propagate.  Many of ours have been grown from cuttings that we have been given by friends or relatives.

The first of these is a very delicate white/pink fushia with tiny ballerina flowers.  We have moved it around the garden because it did not thrive initially.  It is now in the part of the garden we describe as the woodland walk and is in part shade and on a woodland edge.  It seems to love it here and produces masses of these tiny white flowers that shine out in the darker semi-shade.

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Another hardy fushia taken from a cutting a couple of years ago and grown on in a terracotta pot, was planted out last autumn.  It is now establishing well with a couple of Eupatorium plants (also taken from cuttings from a garden in Cornwall – thank you Auntie Wendy!).

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Four:  Autumn Crocus

I think of spring as the time for crocus around the garden but I am always pleasantly surprised to see the autumn crocus emerge (although we must have planted them at some point).  Planted at the foot of some of our mature trees they avoid the mower and emerge as the leaves fall.

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Five:  Roses

The warmer, moister weather in September and early October has really brought on the repeat flowering roses.  Many of these are now flowering profusely.   Two that are looking particularly good are the apricot variety ‘Simply the Best’ and pink/orange ‘Fragrant Delight’.  As the name describes ‘Fragrant Delight’ has a wonderful and powerful perfume that hangs in the evening air at this time of year.

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Rose ‘Simply the Best’
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Rose ‘Fragrant Delight’

Six: Astrantia (Granny’s pincushion)

Perhaps rather surprisingly the rose/lilac tinted Astrantia is flowering again.  This is something we often use in our flower arrangements earlier in the season.  It has strong stems and holds very well if conditioned correctly.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

 

 

Late summer butterflies in the garden

As the year progresses we see a notable change in the butterflies that visit the garden.  Early in the year I posted a selection of pictures from July but whilst the ‘whites’ continue to flutter around the flowers there are a number of others that I have captured with the camera during September.   Here are my ‘Six on Saturday’ for this week


One:  Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

Normally the Small Tortoiseshell is very common in the garden always gracing the buddleja.  This year however we have seen very few and only in the last few weeks have we seen a couple enjoying the pink Phuopsis stylosa blooming for a second time this year.

The Small Tortoiseshell can spend the winter hibernating as an adult.²  Hibernating with their jagged wings closed shut they are well camouflaged looking just like a dead leaf.

The caterpillars feed on nettle (Urtica dioica).

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Two:  Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui)

The painted lady is a migrant species to the British Isles coming from North Africa and southern europe each year. It is reported to have a worldwide distribution existing almost everywhere accept South America. ¹  In his charming book, “The Butterfly Isles”, Patrick Barkham reported seeing swarming of these migrating butterflies in 2009. ²

The caterpillar feeds on thistles (Cardus), burdock (Arctium) and other plants. ¹

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Three:  Small White (possible – rather than Large White!) (Pieris rapae

The ‘whites’ have to be included here simply because they enjoy the garden throughout the summer and are still present into the late summer.  Although clearly a bit of a pest in the vegetable garden I do love to watch them on a still summer day working their way around the flower beds.

I am certainly not an expert at distinguishing between the various white butterflies but there is a very helpful guide on the Butterfly Conservation website  ³.  The caterpillars feed on Brassica species along with the wonderfully fragrant mignonette (Reseda) and nasturtium (Tropaeolum). ¹  This adult is soaking up the late evening sunshine on the hornbeam hedge.

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Four:  Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

As with the Small Tortoiseshell this is usually a common butterfly in the garden but this year we have seen very few.  Possibly the long cold winter took its toll on the overwintering butterflies and hopefully they will get a chance to recover their numbers this year.

The Red Admiral’s are interesting to watch when you sit out with a glass of wine on a summer evening.  If you sit in their perching spot they will continually pester you until you move.

According to David Carter ¹ the Red Admiral is a migrant species with the first butterflies arriving in Britain during the spring but does not normally survive the winter.  However Patrick Barkham ² indicates that the Red Admiral is one species that is already a beneficiary of climate change as it can now increasingly survive the winter in southern England where it once perished.

The caterpillar feeds on nettles (Urtica).

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Five:  Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)

I have written a longer piece on these but they have increased in number over the last few weeks and have emerged from the woodland edge into the rest of the garden.  They seem to particularly like sunning themselves on the large leaves of the grape vines.

The caterpillars feed on various grasses such as couch grass (Agropyron repens) and cock’s foot (Dactylis glomerata). ¹

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Six:  Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

This is such a small but beautifully formed butterfly.  It seems to particularly like the bed with the late summer asters and perennial rudbeckias.

The Small Copper is a species of meadows, hedgerows, roadsides and downlands and enjoys a similar habitat to the Meadow Brown, Hedge Brown (Gatekeeper), Orange-Tip and various blues.  The Small Copper caterpillar feeds on various species of dock and sorrel (Rumex) and also knotgrass (Polygonum). ¹

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For the record we have also seen a smallish blue butterfly around the garden but I have not yet had a chance to capture it on camera and identify it precisely.

The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

Further reading

¹ “Butterflies and Moths of Britain and Europe” by David Carter (ISBN:  0 330 26642 X)

² “The Butterfly Isles” by Patrick Barkham (ISBN 978-1-84708-127-8)

³ https://butterfly-conservation.org/news-and-blog/how-to-identify-white-butterflies

 

 

Full of late summer colour – Aston Pottery and Gardens, Oxfordshire

Last week we had the great pleasure of visiting the flower gardens at Aston Pottery in Oxfordshire.  At a time of year when many gardens are beginning to decline and look rather tired, the garden here at Aston Pottery was bursting with colour and intensity.

The sheer range of flowers and the quality of the blooms was extremely impressive.  Many people have reported that the Dahlias this year have been poor in their gardens but there was no sign of a bad year here at Aston Pottery.  I was particularly struck by the way the borders had been laid out in triangles giving them both structure and allowing the complementary colours and forms to work well together.

There was no doubt that a huge amount of effort had gone into the planning, planting and subsequent plant husbandry to create a wonderful effect.

Well worth a visit if you get the chance at this time of year.

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Location:  Aston Pottery, The Stables, Kingsway Farm, Aston, Oxfordshire OX18 2BT

Website: http://astonpottery.co.uk/

 

Six on Saturday: The fruits of our labours

Harvest time is certainly upon us and this week’s ‘Six on Saturday’ highlights some of the autumn produce coming out of the garden.  It has been a rather strange year with some plants and trees setting really well and other producing absolutely no fruit at all.


One:  Grapes

Last autumn we described the process of pruning the red and white outdoor grape vines ( Pruning time for the outdoor grape vines ).  They have both really enjoyed the hot weather this year and produced (after thinning) large juicy bunches of sweet grapes.  When we planted these a few years back I was rather sceptical as to whether we would get anything worth eating here in the UK Midlands but they have both exceeded all my expectations.

You can eat them fresh but they also make a lovely grape juice.  This is simply done by putting them in the food processor for a very quick pulse to mash the fruits and then straining.  Absolutely delicious.

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Two:  Apples

It is not quite apple picking time but the Golden Noble, Bramley seedling, Lord Lambourne and Egremont Russet (pictured) have all done very well.  The Tydemans Late Orange, however, has no fruit on it this year and we have no pears at all (see:  The Orchard – beautiful in spring, productive in autumn for further details of the varieties we grow in the orchard).

Next month (October) will be peak harvest time for the apples and on a warmish, sunny day I will get out my cider making equipment for the annual cider making bonanza. ( see:  How to make cider from all those spare apples  ).  With so little water this year it may well take some time to get a decent yield of juice out of the apples.

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Three:  Greenhouse and polytunnel fruits

At the peak of the heatwave the greenhouse fruits were certainly struggling a bit and we suffered a lot from bottom end rot on the early tomatoes.  This is supposed to be caused by irregular watering but I seemed to be watering all the time.  I think the plants were just unable to cope with the temperatures and were in a semi-wilted state for a number of weeks.

However, as the temperatures cooled the tomatoes have recovered and are now producing a regular crop of large red, tasty fruit.  I have grown the variety ‘Shirley’ for the last few years and found it very reliable and full of flavour.

The cucumbers did not seem to mind the heat and produced a huge crop.  The variety I have most success with is the variety ‘Euphya’ from Marshalls. You only get 5 seeds but your get five plants from them and they produce far more high quality cucumbers than we could ever eat.  Most of the hamlet here receive free cucumbers at some point in the summer.

The final fruit crop in the polytunnels has been the Sweet Peppers.  The variety I have most success with in both hot and cold summers is the ox-horn type pepper Diablo.  They produce huge sweet peppers (pictured) and are currently ripening to red in the polytunnel.

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Four:  Plums

Our plum tree is now over 25 years old and beginning to show its age.  When we saw this variety (Warwickshire Drooper) in the catalogue when we were first planting the orchard we just had to include it.  We live in Warwickshire after all.

This year it has had a huge crop despite an increasing number of dead looking branches.  It is a lovely plum to just eat fresh off the tree with a slightly plum wine flavour. Yum!

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Five:  Quince

Another tree that has had a bumper crop this year has been the Quince.  You could grow it purely as an ornamental tree as it has a mass of large pink flowers in the spring.  When ripe, the fruit has a delicate and beautiful fragrance.

They are a lovely fruit to eat if prepared well (see:  Quinces ).

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Six:  Enjoying the harvest throughout the winter

Although it is lovely to eat all this seasonal produce at this time of year now is the time to preserve the harvest for those long cold winter months.  This is probably the topic of a separate blog still to be written but we do make a lot of use of a wonderful little kitchen gadget – our Tefal jam maker.

Home grown fruit jam on hot buttered toast on a cold winter morning.  I will leave you with that thought!

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

Six on Saturday: The early September flower garden

As we move into September the evenings are drawing in and are already beginning to seem a little cooler although during the day there is still plenty of sunshine and warmth to enjoy.

This new month has seen the beginning of a transition.  Some of the summer perennials, shrubs and roses are beginning to put on a new flush of colour whilst others are now beginning to emerge for the first time giving new form, colour and texture to the garden borders.


One:  Kniphofia ‘Lord Roberts’

This particular Kniphofia comes into flower in early September and brings a dramatic spark to the yellows, blues and purples of the late summer border close to the house.  I am not a fan of all the red-hot poker family but there are some interesting varieties that I feel are worthy garden plants.  ‘Lord Roberts’ is certainly one of these although it does need supporting to stop the large heads flopping forward as they come into full bloom.

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Two:  Gaura  lindheimeri

This group of Gaura plants were something that I successfully grew from seed a few years back.  They are growing in the cut flower garden and have established into large clumps that create a tremendous show for a long period.  They have been in flower now for quite a few weeks but are still going strong in early September.  They add a light, airy movement to the flower garden and sit very well with Verbena hastata ‘Blue spires’.

An excellent plant but certainly one that needs support to avoid it flopping over the grass and potentially getting damaged by the mower as I wizz past.

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Three:  Dahlia

The Dahlias certainly seem to have been late flowering here in the UK Midlands this year and only now at the beginning of September are they beginning to come into full flower.  They are usually one of our main cutting flowers at this time of year.

Choosing just one from the many varieties in the garden is difficult but this picture of the variety ‘Dark Spirit’ has come out rather well I think.  Of the tubers we dug up last winter ‘Dark Spirit’ proved to be the most resilient and survived the long cold winter much better than many of the other varieties.  The Dahlia tubers that survived best were in fact those that were left in the ground and covered with straw.

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Four:  Hydrangea ‘Lime Light’

Despite the hot dry conditions during mid summer, the hydrangeas seem to have performed surprising well and continue to produce large clean flower heads.  This one is ‘Lime Light’ which lives in an area shaded from the midday sun in relatively moist conditions.

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Five:  Abelia

We have a number of different Abelia plants around the garden and they really come into their own at this time of year.  Unfortunately we have lost the name tags on most.

The Abelia in the garden are all small, tidy and very well behaved shrubs.  They take very little looking after and at this time of year are covered in either small pink or white flowers.  The bees just love them.

The picture here shows them partnered with Penstemon ‘Garnet’.

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Six:  Cosmos ‘Lemonade’

The final selection this week is the delicate lemon yellow Cosmos variety ‘Lemonade’.  They are much smaller and more delicate than the full-on show created by the pinks and whites of Cosmos ‘Sensation Mix’ but they are so charming and certainly deserve to be grown and appreciated.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.