When did we say goodbye to summer?

Tricyrtis formosana Taiwan Adbane

It seems a few days ago I was tripping about in August waiting for some sunshine to ripen tomatoes and set squashes and then suddenly here we are in mid October.

It was getting very dry again but now the rain is tipping it down outside; the dahlia flowers mushing into rotting brown balls, asters bending to swamp their neighbours and any late roses now look sad.

The normally cheery, rich yellow daisies of Rudbeckia triloba at over 2M high are rendered dreary by the rain. (I met a lady last night at a garden talk who absolutely hates yellow flowers..)

I’m not really in a gardening place at the moment but know I have to continue to take the tenders I want, in, because who knows when frost will arrive?

Luckily despite the eerie portents of darkening skies and pink muted sun we had on Monday morning caused by Storm Ophelia, the winds largely passed us by. Poor old Brians everywhere, he’s waiting in the wings to caress us with storm force winds on Saturday – hold on to yer hats!

Late cuttings

Dahlia Magenta Star with Persicaria Dikke Floskes
Dahlia Magenta Star with Persicaria Dikke Floskes

Is it worth taking some late dahlia cuttings and overwintering? Sources say you need to boost light levels over the winter to succeed.

Any which way, Dahlia campanulata and yet again D imperialis have failed to flower. The tuber on imperialis is getting huge after 4 years (one autumn cutting did take root last year). I had her in a big pot this summer having run out of places to plant her, at over 2M tall she was taking up over 1.5 gallons of water a day.

The jury seems to be out on whether dahlias root easily in water, maybe I’ll have a go with some. I may try a few singles like Magenta Star and the dark red Bishop of Auckland. Magenta Star seems to be a bit in vogue at the moment, a larger more open version of D australis and with dark purple foliage. It has added a lightness to the planting. Being single the bees appreciate it.

Wot I have learnt recently

Gunnera can’t grow in totally waterlogged conditions. The Gunnera pot filled with rainwater and with no drainage at that point, sat in water. It didn’t like it and the leaves started to collapse one by one. Drainage holes duly made in pot, small amount of new leaf growth made again means much winter protection. It was bought from Heligan as G manicata (not tinctoria which is said to be more sensitive to waterlogging).

At a talk by Bob Brown from Cotswold Garden Flowers last night, that Kniphofia Atlanta (the quintessential yellow and red poker hated by many) was named after a Cornish seaside hotel in the UK in the 1930’s nothing to do with the US city. We can’t blame the Americans. (NB: or 1962 by Treseder’s Nursery – typo? )

Don’t grow courgettes in the shade of your runner bean poles, (makes a 3 bed rotation a bit tricky). Far too much shade and lots of powdery mildew = 2 courgettes from 5 plants.

Sweet potatoes don’t like my conditions – nary a tuber, not even an attempt at one when dug up at the beginning of October. The courgettes will get this sunnier spot back next year.

Let’s end this on a cheery note…. over to you Crocus speciosus (even if you don’t last very long in wild autumn weather!)