August crept in while my back was turned; and although the garden still brims with summer, there is a definite sense of change approaching.

Long border in early August

This week we have been surprised by darkness once more; no longer are we waking and drifting off beneath what seem to be eternally light skies, but once more we see dusk fall and turn to night; we reluctantly shut the windows and turn on lights. While there are these first faint traces of autumn approaching (more cobwebs glistening with dew to catch your face or ankles), it is a glorious time in the garden, which is full of colour and movement.

Dahlia Chat Noir

The dahlias look fantastic this year: only Twynings After Eight has yet to begin flowering, after a very late regrowth which made me fear for its survival. The cuttings I took in the spring from our other existing varieties have grown into small but happy plants, with their first buds breaking this week, trying to catch up with their parents.

Pennisetum villosum

Even before the flowers arrive, the dark foliage of Twynings After Eight makes a lovely foil for the soft fluffy heads of Pennisetum villosum glowing in the sun, amid a tangle of dianthus foliage and stems of gaura, calendula and nicotiana. I raised all these from seed, planting most out earlier in the year, although it is the third year for the Gaura lindheimeri and its white whirling butterflies which are just beginning to cascade.

Pennisetum villosum flowerI find it impossible to walk past the Pennisetum without bending down to stroke their glorious plumes.

Lythrum virgatum and Clematis Ernest Markham

Several plants of Lythrum virgatum that I also raised from seed somehow managed to escape my over-rigorous weeding sessions earlier in the year (I suspect that I mistook some for willowherbs). This one by the terrace is particularly strong and tall, its spires of vivid purple flowers striking against the dark pink clematis on the fence behind.

Japanese anemone and dark blue agapanthusThe first Japanese anemones have been blooming for some weeks now too; I like the contrast of these pale pink flowers with the dark blue Agapanthus and paler campanulas behind.

Eryngium giganteum

Echinops ritro ruthenicusAlmost two years after my autumn sowing of Echinops ritro ssp. ruthenicus, I am rewarded this year with these beautiful blue globes.  The bees love them too; the open flowers are rarely unaccompanied for long.

Cardoon flower

While the cardoon leans as always at a rakish angle, and its leaves are rather ragged and unlovely, its newly opened flowerhead is stunning, and again seldom to be found without several bees feasting upon it. This week I am also watching the bottlebrush flowers beginning to open as well as enjoying the long-flowering phlox and anemones, rudbeckia and helenium, crocosmias and campanulas and the dark spires of agastache ‘Black Adder’.

August skies

These weeks are flying past furiously; fortunately it is that time of the year when for the most part the garden looks after itself, rewarding us for our hard work earlier in the year. We potter outside when time allows, pulling out the odd weed, cutting back and deadheading where required; spending most of our time harvesting salads, courgettes, beans, potatoes, beetroot, carrots and more – while the greenhouse crops have been plentiful for weeks now, with a steady supply of tomatoes, and more cucumbers than we can keep up with.

Cucumber harvest: crystal apple and  la divaWe’re growing two new varieties this year alongside our usual ‘Burpless Tasty Green’; ‘Crystal Apple’ and ‘La Diva’. We’re very impressed with both; the ‘crystal apples’ yield a crisp, delicious slice beneath their firm peel, and the small ‘la diva’ fruits are a perfect size to share in a salad, without leaving cut portions hanging around in cupboards for days. Both taste so much more ‘cucumbery’ than anything we can buy here, a real flavour of summer.

Sweetcorn flowersWe have some sizeable winter squashes hiding in the vegetable garden already, and above the canopy of their leaves the sweetcorn are flowering madly, so we can look forward to harvesting these soon. The shallots are ready to lift too: I’ve been waiting for their plump green leaves to yellow and fade for some weeks. Suddenly this week they have no leaves left at all – it appears that the slugs have had a mad feast on the foliage, leaving just green stumps around the split clumps. Definitely time to harvest them before the ghastly gastropods tuck into the bulbs too!

Papaver somniferum in purpleAs we enjoy the summer garden, I am making notes in my head of spaces to fill, seeds to collect, things to move or adjust in the autumn. I did not sow any cosmos this year, and the self-sown ones are sadly late, still no more than feathery foliage pushing up: I miss their presence in the borders at this time of year.


16 thoughts on “Ebb

  1. Your crops are doing well, you have reminded me I should post about mine before the summer is over. All my sweetcorn has been harvested, we ate lots fresh and then I froze the rest. The colour of the poppy is beautiful. I just bought some cardoons, so next year I hope mine looks like yours.

    • I suspect your cardoons will look far better than ours – they cry out for the kind of space we just don’t have here, and every year ours are battered by spring winds that leave them looking sorry for themselves long before they think of flowering. I look forward to seeing yours flourishing!

  2. Yes! I have two paltry pink cosmos plants – all my Purity seedlings didn’t make it and I do miss them (despite the amount of deadheading they need). And Twynings After Eight is a plant I’ve long wanted. You’re always great for reminding me of things I must buy, Sara. Dave

  3. You have still got lots of colour in your garden – I was just saying that my dahlias which I am growing for the first time are not in flower yet, and I have no ripe tomatoes either although I started them off fairly promptly. Your salad and other veg sound wonderful – well done! Definitely a time to take stock – and to write down thoughts before we forget!

    • Thanks Cathy – I’m sure your Dahlias will be glorious when they open up.
      It’s so easy to forget all the plans you formulate as you walk around if you don’t write them down soon after!

  4. Ebb is a most apt word Sarah but still a great time of the year. The pennisetum villosum heads look like lit candles in your border. We have gone for the same cucumbers this year and they are indeed both most tasty. Have you ever tried taking cuttings from your gauras?

    • Yes, still summer really, but the asters and anemones have begun to flower, and the evenings are noticeably shortening and cooling once more.
      Great taste in cucumbers! 🙂
      I grow the gaura from seed, but haven’t tried cuttings. Perhaps I should! They started flowering later this year as I gave them a brutal haircut in the winter – the old stems were terribly bent in all the wrong directions by the wind.

  5. I love the poppy. What a fabulous drowning in colour. I made a mistake with cosmos this year and grew (I think) Antiquity. Beautiful flower colours which fade as they grow but the plant itself is squat and uninspiring and doesn’t give you any of that glorious cosmos feathering foliage. Very impressed by the cucumbers too!

    • The first Cosmos I grew here, from seed, were the mixed Tall Sensation and Candystripe – and I don’t think I’ve found any better than those in the garden. I definitely prefer them tall and lush with that feathery foliage.
      The cucumbers are even outcropping the courgettes this year! I picked 2kg one evening, and the next day there were more again…

  6. I love your images on this post and so glad to discover your blog. The pennisetum would look great blown up and framed over a mantle. And I particularly like the pink anemone and companions. Well done, me thinks.

  7. I really like Pennisetum, I have the same impulse to stroke the seedheads. I just planted a compact variety called ‘Piglet’. Japanese anemone are one of my fall favorites, although I prefer the white ‘Honorine Jobert’.

    • Thanks, Jason. I’ll have to investigate Piglet. Honorine Jobert is possibly my favourite of the late summer anemones too: ours has just begun flowering this last week. So pure and simple.

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