After several rather disappointing damp summers, and a long cold winter, we have at last enjoyed a fine summer here, with surprising heat still in the sun now as the season begins to wane.
Like many people, we have been embracing the long run of fair weather, with far more time spent outside than at the computer – so apologies for a rather sporadic online presence through the summer. Now September has slipped in; the days are drawing discernibly shorter, and the sun has to burn through the overnight mists that have begun to roll in. The garden, meanwhile, seems to be drawing in its breath to put on its final blazing show.
Anemone ‘September Charm’ threads through the blue Spires of Campanula pyramidalis; just out of shot Aster frikartii Monch echoes this blue in its finely rayed flowers as do the last Agapanthus flowers. Anemones ‘Robustissima’ and ‘Honorine Jobert’ are also in full bloom nearby.
Echinacea purpurea stands in front of the Agapanthus, along with a lovely golden yellow Crocosmia that sprang up here last year; a fine change from the usual rampant orange flowers that arch out through the blues nearby. Butterflies and bees abound through the borders still.
In the spring, I moved several of my monardas about the garden, as some had been rather swallowed by other planting. Sadly three have disappeared; one pale pink one that I moved, and another pink and a white that I left in place. The vivid red M. Cambridge Scarlet, and the lovely purple M. Blaustrumpf have continued to put on a fine show though: I particularly like the contrast of purple M. Blaustrumpf against the dark foliage and magenta blooms of Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’ behind.
There have been other losses in the garden too; the dark leaved Dahlia ‘Twynings After Eight’, which was late back into growth this year, was then rather overwhelmed by a canopy of surging Gaura lindheimeri and Pennisetum villosum. Under this cover, the slugs tucked in with abandon and in a matter of days the Dahlia was competely defoliated. Its skeleton stands forlorn beneath the tangle of stems alongside the crocosmia above.
Aster turbinellus is another unexpected casualty; and the greatest loss is that of our young Euonymus alatus, whose fiery autumn foliage is such a stunning sight. I was looking forward to it really having found its feet in its third autumn here, yet when I hopped into the border to pull up a few weeds, I found it standing utterly lifeless and leafless in the border, with no visible cause for its demise.
Despite these small sorrows, there is plenty in the garden to savour: among this year’s newest additions, Agastache Black Adder is proving just as beautiful as I hoped; fingers crossed my three plants overwinter well.
Stealing the show for much of the past month has been Helenium ‘Ruby Tuesday’.
Yellow Verbascum and purple Verbena bonariensis complete a rather striking trio with this beautiful daisy. Sahin’s Early Flowerer continues to bloom nearby, and the shining faces of Rudbeckia bring sunshine to the garden on the gloomiest day.
Amid all this finery, the first signs of decay are creeping in: the scarlet monarda heads have now wizened; Eryngium giganteum, so stunning in pale silver, looms unpleasantly as bracts and stems turn brown, and Ammi majus does not die gracefully at all.
In a few months’ time, when the vivid greenery and bright colours have faded and the garden is garbed in its winter colours, these structures will add substance and form, particularly sparkling with the first frosts. It is a strange transition at this time of year, when autumn seems to reach into the brightly coloured scenery of high summer and paint sepia brushstrokes upon parts of the garden’s canvas, leaving a rather jarring impression. I must confess I have now pulled out one of the sea hollies (scattering its seeds about the border and collecting others) where it stood rather awkwardly in the long border.
Sheaths of swordlike foliage catch the afternoon sun in the long border, revealing at least two of the Acidanthera are returning for a third autumn: how splendid! The late-flowering grasses around the garden, such as Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ are in flower, and the first traces of red beginning to show in some.
The shallots and onions are drying in the greenhouse; a few squashes ripen in the kitchen garden, and the greenhouse continues to overflow with tomatoes and cucumbers, though these latter have begun to slow now, red spider mites sadly sucking the sap from the plants as once again we were unable to keep the greenhouse humid enough to deter them.
A few days leave from work towards the end of August saw several hundred miles travelled for some garden adventures further afield. It was a lovely interlude, but we have come back to find plenty of work to keep us busy in our own garden; weeding, harvesting, preserving, sowing green manures, collecting seeds, moving plants or marking them to move in the spring…
I’ll post a little more on the visits glimpsed above as soon as I find the opportunity.