The last day of August arrives, heralding Summer’s decline; yet the garden is not giving up without a fight.
I am still thrilled by the display put on by the long border; viewed from the house as above there is a dazzling sea of colours, shapes and textures which pleases me. Some of the strongest colours in the garden are threaded through this border; the crocosmia, a rudbeckia and several heleniums in shades of yellow and orange. More japanese anemones have sprung into bloom in gentler pinks and white; Pamina and Prinz Heinrich have joined the paler September Charm and Robustissima, with Honorine Jobert’s white lacy petals just unfurling and Queen Charlotte’s buds about to burst.
Towards the far end of the border, the colours become calmer and there are more gaps, particularly as we reach the bench at the foot of the horse chestnut tree. This area is sparsely planted so far, and many of the plants that have been added here flower early in the year, so that as summer wanes the interest is dominated more by foliage than flowers, with plenty of spaces still to fill especially around the bench.
At the front of the swell of this border, the Acidanthera whose corms I planted in the spring have sported fists of rapier leaves all summer, their strong simple shapes especially striking when backlit by the sun. A few weeks ago the first inquisitive buds arched their necks out from these clumps of foliage, and are now beginning to burst into flower. I love their elegant white blooms, with dark purple splashes etched deep in their throats, and they have a wonderful sweet scent. I’m not sure whether they will overwinter well in our heavy clay, though I did add grit to their planting holes, but even if this is their only season of glory I shall enjoy it.
The field border is still looking glorious, in a more muted palette of blues, pinks, purples and whites, with the odd splash of pale yellow from the rose and a potentilla, and the deeper yellow of rudbeckia against Sambucus nigra’s dark foliage hiding towards the back. I love this strong contrast, only glimpsed as you walk towards the shed; a heatspot in an otherwise unified patchwork of cooler colours.
The newest border is, inevitably, the least densely planted – only dug out three months ago. This year it is home to a high number of transients: annual Salvia patens, Nicotiana alata, Ammi Majus, Daucus carota ‘Black Knight’ among others. The Dahlias, too, are ephemeral: Twynings After Eight, Chat Noir and David Howard (we think) will be lifted at the first frosts, until they are replanted here again next year. A more permanent fixture, Acer dissectum ‘Garnet’, has pride of place in the middle, though its leaves are looking rather ragged after a barrage of assaults by high winds through the summer. Small clumps of hardy geraniums, penstemons, aquilegias, knautia, echinacea and various young grasses should be more established next year and knit the border together better, along with several of the Verbascum chaixii album that I raised from seed, only one of which has flowered this year after being planted out rather late.
In the kitchen garden, August has seen us harvesting a good crop of garlic and potatoes, a step ahead of threatening rust and blight, while the latter has seen off our greenhouse tomatoes sadly rather early. But the runner beans are cropping heavily, while courgettes have settled into a respectable rhythm, and we seem to have some good winter squashes forming beneath their canopy.
Our supply of lettuce leaves has finally began to falter; the last sowings still small and many of the remaining plants now bolting. We’ve enjoyed the first fennel bulbs, thin raw slices macerated in lemon juice and enjoyed in salads: with braised lentils, goats cheese and sun-warm tomatoes, once with cubes of squash roasted in garlic and thyme from the remaining fruit, only just beginning to wizen, of last year’s harvest.
The mornings are suddenly noticeably cooler and darker here: September and the headlong descent into autumn begin tomorrow.
For more end of August reviews, visit the Patient Gardener.