Early October in the Garden

To my mind, October is really when the first stirrings of spring start to become that all-out marathon as most shrubs and trees get in on the act to peak between now and November.

At this time of year in the mountains, the weather is incredibly variable: for the last two weeks we had really cold, wet and blustery conditions (including frost, sleet and even hail) which damaged a lot of flowers – this weekend we are forecast to have a nation-wide El-Niño five day heat wave….yuck 😦

So I do apologise in advance that the pictured flowers aren’t ‘perfect’, but no garden should be perfect anyway…

The cold period has helped prolong the winter and early spring flowering plants:

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In the shadier areas of the garden, it is still winter. L:R Primula vulgaris ‘High Tea Drumcliff’, Cyclamen & Pulmonaria

Daffodils and early tulips are still giving a nice display, but the petals of the poppy took a beating with the sleet/hail:

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L:R Narcissus; Tulipa sp. & Papaver nudicaule; first spot flowers of Rosa banksiae in the hedgerow.

Azaleas and more Narcissus:

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L:R Osteospermum & Tulipa bokassa ‘Baby Doll’ ; Nepeta and Hyacinthoides hispanica; Anemone nemorosa

But the foul weather has made a lot of the azalea flowers rather tatty:

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The flowers of the red and cerise azaleas look a bit bedraggled with the sleet and frost; a De Caen anemone contrasts with the saturated cerise of the Kurume azalea

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More battered flowers – but the pale pink of Azalea ‘Inga’ seem to do just fine

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Rhododendron ‘Robyn’ is still putting on a great display – this is now its sixth week. Primulas against the flowers of Rhododendron ‘President Roosevelt’ and the beautiful new foliage of Heuchera ‘Purple Palace’


Still, there’s warm colours:

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L:R Erysimum; Eschscholzia californica hybrid; Indica Azalea ‘Goyet’

And cool:

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L:R Dutch Iris; Anemone coronaria ‘De Caen Hollandia’; Viola labradorica

And of course, the big jumble of colours thanks to the ever-popular ‘mixed’ collections that are always offered:

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Lastly, now that parts of the garden are a year old, it has finally started to fill out…don’t get me wrong, because I am using cuttings and tube-stock (plant plugs) there are still plenty of itty-bitty plants everywhere, but for the first time, I can start to appreciate more of what the garden will start to look like as it matures:

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Front Garden looking east this fence will eventually be removed as it isn’t the actual property boundary; Part of the newly-laid terraces in the back garden…this represents only a tiny portion of the garden – there is still much to do!!!!

Happy Gardening 🙂

Late Summer Starts – Flowers Galore

As late summer starts, for many gardens the ‘dog days’ often spell an end to much of the colour in the garden. But in a mild climate with no real heat knocking plants about, the flowering season is long.

Case in point: the nodding Hellebore flowers perfectly complement the Fuchsia. (Now there’s two plants not often in a sentence, let alone a photo together!)

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Hellebore and Fuchsia…together at last.

And, given the recent rain and weeks-long low temperatures (nights of about 6°C/42°F and days of about 14°C/57°F) mismatched seasonal flowers are not an isolated event.

Here, flowers associated with late winter and late summer sit side by side:

Or a red maple, already wearing its autumn colours despite summer….

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Sorry about the quality – taken with a camera phone

But at least the flowers typically associated with summer are in bloom.

The Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is a charming harbinger of late summer:

Astilbe chinensis ‘Vision in Pink’ is blooming. Even though I took these from the same division, I like the subtle differences between the two:

More of my mixed bag lilies have flowered, I have a pale pink, a spotty pink and a white to add to the hot pink that opened at the start of summer

The Violet-Blue of the Campanula has come in for another flush of flowers. It makes a good companion to the Nepeta cataria ‘Walkers Low’:

Brachyscome multifida, a pretty little ground cover from Victoria & New South Wales, puts on a great display for much of the year, but is especially cheery in the height of summer. I’ve quite a number dotted around the garden:

They can be a little short lived, starting to fail after about 7 years, but propagate very easily from layering (which they do naturally, much like strawberries) division or tip-cuttings in summer. It is hardy to -15°C/5°F (USDA zone 7), but demands good drainage to shake the cold.

Continuing with Australian natives, the Grevillea banksii x bipinnatifida ‘Ned Kelly’ is also giving a nice summer display:

This one flowers continuously throughout the year. It is a little more tender than the Brachyscome, but it survives at least -10°C/14°F in my garden, although it starts to show some damage below -5°C/23°F. To keep these flowering and compact, remove all spent blooms and give it a light all-over trim with hedging shears in mid-late spring.

Despite being from opposite ends of the globe, its colours and form remind me of the fading the Oak-leaf Hydrangea:

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Hydrangea quercifolia

The cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) continue to charm, as do the California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and the little Violas. These have been powering along since the first warm days of spring and show no signs of fading:

That packet of seeds certainly has been value for money, with such a long, long flowering season.

Alyssum is always a great flowerer, somewhat weedy, but the bees adore it:

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Sweet Alice

It’s in the same family as Wallflowers, and like them, keeps flowering in my climate as long as it doesn’t get too hot.

But another packet of seeds isn’t quite living up to expectations.

I’m not complaining as the seed packets – ridiculously cheap to begin with – were given to me free as they were two years out-of-date. The germination rate was fine (about 75%), but the picture vs. reality doesn’t quite match:

It would take a lot of photoshopping to even come close!

Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ is blooming. However, I think this one has a little too much summer shade and it will need to moved in a few months to ensure it’s golden foliage stays true…

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Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’

And of course, in summer, the expectation is for hot, bold, brash colours:

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Nasturtium and Thuja Smaragd conifer

Few plants better capture the feeling of heat than Nasturtiums. Especially in a terracotta pot…(even though I forgot to bring the pot under cover during the winter so the frost cracked large chunks off it.) Oh well…

The Pelargonium has been belting out flowers since October.

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Pelargonium domesticum ‘Solstice Lilac Star’

I know these are sold has tender bedding geraniums in the UK, but they are much cold-hardier than credited (the caveat is that the drainage must be perfect; if they have wet feet, even light frost will kill them).

This one has survived plenty of hard frosts and snow storms without even the slightest damage. After each flush of flowers, just give them a light prune, some comfrey or seaweed solution, and it will be covered in flowers again in two weeks. Best of all, the cuttings root ridiculously easily to make new plants.

Here are Pelargonium cuttings that I put in a few weeks ago, straight in the ground next to the plant. As you can see by the dead bits, I didn’t follow any of the traditional rules associated with cuttings (Eg: no flowering parts, remove lower leaves, make sure the cutting isn’t too large, etc, etc). Most of them have taken root, and it really is that easy:

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Pelargonium cuttings starting to take

I usually pot these on into little tubes and give them away to neighbours and nice clients.

I do exactly the same for boxwood, but here I have at least used a pot. In truth, any pot-plant I ever have ends up being over-taken with garden cuttings, or larger seed that I am germinating. These two pots have Quercus robur and Camellia sasanqua seedlings in amongst the Buxus, Osteospermum and Erysimum cuttings….

Happy Gardening 🙂