Not so quiet

Dahlia Karma Choc
Karma Choc

And unseasonably warm. I was going to post in October about the becalmed weather we were having interspersed with cruel north easterlies – it didn’t happen.

Today we’re getting a pummelling from the first ‘proper’ South Westerly winds and splattery rain of the autumn season, this’ll bring leaves down and scatter the pools of dead leaves which have been quietly accruing under the apple and hazel trees.


What fabulous autumn colour this year! Some trees in particular lit the landscape with vibrant rich butter yellows including a large Quaking Aspen up the road. Cherries including the wild cherries of the roadside provided rich emberglowing highlights.

The ‘fall’ hasn’t all happened at once, the Horse Chestnuts went early (the leaves not so moth eaten this year), the ash dropped very quickly, then apples, hazels and birches started, now the oaks are finally letting go too. The Bramley apple trees have been unburdening for weeks it seems, the thud of falling apples startling me on still days, crossing fingers none were too close to the greenhouse.

Love me tender

We had a couple of frosts in October but nothing to dampen the spirits of still rampant nasturtiums, I’ve had to start pulling them up as they’re swamping other plants stem rooting as they go. The Dahlia flowers have started to moulder on the stem but again have not yet been felled. Karma Choc from Sarah Raven has been a favourite.

This warm descent towards the shortest day does mean that I’ve had longer to take cuttings of tender plants and am stilling moving tenders into various winter hideaways. The trumpets of a brugmansia still outside are being blown horizontal by the wind as I write.

Salvia concolor
Salvia concolor

Salvias picked up as autumn advanced and cooler moister conditions prevailed. Salvia concolor looks healthier than it did all summer, the furry purple tails of S leucantha add vibrant colour still but the shrub is slowly falling apart under its own weight section by section. I’ve had to curb Hot Lips which was romping over Iris Gingerbread Man and other lower growers. The orange spiked S confertifolia will probably be downed by this wind.

Dahlia imperialis is at least 10 feet tall now but no flowers again this year, maybe if we’d had a less gloomy August it would have been different. Lovely fluffy grass Pennisetum Red Head is already shutting its leaves down, the flowers are there but not coming out, again maybe because of August?

Winter prep

The first Iris sextylosa flowered last week the violet flushed white flowers pristinely beautiful until bruised by rain. The winter flowering jasmine appears to be early this year? I’ve seen a number in full flower already.

Recently planted Anenome coronaria are putting up fresh leaves and Arum creticum is unfurling leathery leaves. Crocus speciosus is doing its collapsy all over the place thing, but I think I shall add more. Nascent catkins are already showing on the hazels.

I guess I shall have to continue the slow soggy retreat of plants into the greenhouse (which I should have tidied better before starting to put the plants in). I’ve enjoyed Thunbergia gregorii this year with bronzed fluffy flower buds and seed pods and really zesty orange flowers which are still appearing intermittently – I’d like to try and keep it going. Picked two of the last white gladioli Bangladesh to go with the tail end of the dahlias last week.

I had such a lovely show from Digitalis trojana earlier in the year but all the plants are now flowered and dead so have departed to the compost heap which’ll leave space for the lavender to breathe. I must sow seed and start again but where to put them?

Another plant I really enjoy is grass Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea tall growing airy arching fronds weighed at the tips by long lasting flowerheads all summer. It will soon die back now but has put on autumn colours of tawny yellow.

This spring we put a bat box up which as far as we know has no residents, in late summer we finished the new timber clad extension and 2 bats moved into the gaps between boards and cladding within weeks of the roof going on (winter or summer roost? Only time will tell). The moles have found all our newly created flower beds and the lawn is like a water bed to walk on we’re so riddled with tunnelings – hey ho!

And on a final note: hats off to Dobies seeds for their re-think on how to present seeds in their recent catalogue – I may not have bought but enjoyed the read!

That’s it! Show’s over

Le Vonne is gone
Le Vonne is gone

Along came the frost and wiped the tenders out. To be fair the dahlias have not been looking their best in the past few weeks anyway. There was a hard frost on Tuesday followed by less severe frosts over the last couple of days.

A  pale peach light is suffusing the fog as the sun rises, the skeletons of the trees standing dark against their misty backdrop, the underlying structures emerging from the depleting leaf cover. The huge elegantly sinuous bird cherry has been good value, its red leaves have added drama to the gardenscape. Now the last leaves hang browned and sullen, one by one letting go and drifting to the ground.

Listening to Mary Anne Hobbs on 6 Music and strangely The Doors Break on Through has just come on although not quite “You know the day destroys the night. Night divides the day” it’s slightly apposite, even though the day has already gone over the cusp.

The sun is now higher, washing the pony field with corridors of light. The shaggy tribe have just squelched past in single file to seek out the sun where they’ll stand facing east, wisps of steam rising from their coats.

Kari’s garden in late August

Le Vonne Splinter Giant Semi Cactus Dahlia (and I mean big!)
Le Vonne Splinter Giant Semi Cactus Dahlia (and I mean big!)

It was my birthday so I thought I’d look at what’s hot now,  some plants are a bit tired others are just ramping up (if I continue to feed them!).

Meet dahlia Le Vonne Splinter. This great big semi cactus was introduced in 1978. The internet can be a wonderful thing, there is a suggestion that this is named after Ruby Splinter, a hobby dahlia grower who died aged 90 in California, but I have got no further. Not being an assiduous sort of grower I would think that this first flower will be the largest, it’s been opening out steadily for a week so far. It took last Saturday’s blasting winds and rain in its stride. I have it growing in a pot although there are some in the garden all flowering too, including Soulman, Dark Desire and Fidalgo Blacky (all from the National Dahlia Collection).

Dahlia not Black Monarch
Dahlia not Black Monarch

I also have this one in a pot, it’s supposed to be Black Monarch but isn’t …

A selection of Crocosmias are cycling through their season. I ordered a number from Trecanna in the spring, Buttercup was the first to open some weeks ago. I think at the moment my firm favourite for sheer flower size is Star of the East. I neglected it in a dry corner of my previous garden, it got overgrown and the area steadily shadier,  it stopped flowering and moped (quite justifiably) for a number of years.

Crocosmia Star of the East
Crocosmia Star of the East

I hoicked it out and potted it on last year in readiness for the move and it has come back to life in this garden, hoorah! Seen here with Lilium sargentiae (from which looks like L regale but flowers considerably later and produces bulbils up its stem which can be grown on

Gladdy Hastings with wayward Verbena bonariensis
Gladdy Hastings with wayward Verbena bonariensis



Gladdies can be hard to accommodate in a mixed planting but these G primulinus are much easier I think.  This is Hastings. I bought these some years ago now from Cotswold Garden Flowers, I also have Mrs M Rowley which is a rich ruby red but she has already gone over.

Last Hurrah of scent late summer Nicotiana sylvestris
Last Hurrah of scent, late summer Nicotiana sylvestris

I’m always amazed at how some plants grow from the tiniest spec of seed, make little wispy seedlings and then grow on to be such thumping great plants in a season, these are nearly 6ft.  They’re richly scented in the evening. I planted one end of the cream/yellow/blue (now it’s got mauve and pink as well by mistake) border for scent, and so far this year starting in early summer, we’ve had Hesperis matronalis, Zaluzianskya, Mirabilis longiflora, Sweet Peas, Nemesia Wisley Vanilla, roses and Lilies various (the final lilies, L speciosum are just finishing). The nicotiana are providing the final scent alongside heliotrope before we slide into autumn proper.

I’ve been putting off potting on for weeks, so much to do so little enthusiasm for tasks that must be done!

And another conundrum, I love spring fruit blossom but the trees are now laden with plums, damsons and apples, far too many to process or eat! Off to Compost Corner I guess.


Futile search for glow worms

Eschscholzia Butter Bush
Eschscholzia Butter Bush

Well there’s no reason why there wouldn’t be any glow worms in the garden, or any reason why there would be.  They prefer chalk, we are near chalk,  and last year there were sightings along the canal a mile or so away at Seend and also on 6th July this year (UK Glow Worm sightings website). Last night I paced the weedy bits by the stream and poked into the nettley thickets as it grew dark, faithful cat plodding 10 paces behind – nothing. I did see a toad who was nearly stepped on,  once identified she rustled on her way in the dark. I heard the owls and odd plops in the stream.

Yesterday on my way to work just out of the village before Norney Bridge a little shape was dancing in the middle of the road, I slowed down, it zig-zagged back and forth in front of me then was off with a whisk of its black tipped tail, back into the hedgerow. A feisty Stoat. Which prompted me to look up some of the stories about the gangs of Stoats that can have the unaware traveller. So if you ever hear a mass chittering and a scrattling of tiny paws,  it’s the Stoats – run for your life. Fortean Times report

I had forgotten what summer could be like, hot, clammy and sunny – odd that. The flowers are blowing at an alarming rate, set seed, set seed is the clarion call. I’m inside until it cools down a bit. The windows are wide open and the heady scent of Honeysuckle (Lonicera Japonica Halliana) is wafting in on the warm air.

Courgette Lungo Bianco (pale green not quite white)
Courgette Lungo Bianco (pale green not quite white)

The tomatoes in one of the grow bag brands continue to sulk horribly. Outside in the old horse dung / turf bed the first courgettes are coming to fruition, Lungo Bianco from Seeds of Italy.

Today flower wise I am liking the Eschscholzia californica Butter Bush. Lower growing with more glaucous foliage than the Mission Bells I also grew from seed (which are flopping) and they’re a rich Jersey Cream colour (the picture at the top doesn’t really capture the colour).

I’m also liking the penstemons today,  Andenken an Frieidrich Hahn,  fine foliage and thin ruby bells, it’s not too overblown. The dahlias have also started into flower, the first was dwarf reddy purple Purpinca, a little cutie. The second was Tsuki Yorine Shisha (I think), I bought it last year from The National Dahlia Collection. The tubers were left over winter in an unheated greenhouse. It is a white cactus dahlia, the petal ends are split so it looks extra frilly and rather pleased with itself.

mullein-moth-caterpillarWho’s been eating my buddleja? A fine Mullein Moth caterpillar, so far it hasn’t caused much damage so I’ll leave it and any brethren alone for now. The butterflies at the moment are mainly brown one’s, I guess Meadow Browns, also a smattering of Tortoiseshells, Whites and a Skipper which moved way too fast to identify.

Have returned to this after an interruption, the chickens were ripping apart the woodbed AGAIN! They’re now confined to the back garden until I go out again – very bad chicky girls! (they actually produce a fine tilth with their rakings however the damage to plants somewhat outweighs this benefit).


The trees that decided to put on a magnificent golden show are dropping their leaves with abandon. The nasty foggy weather of the last few days meant the drop went straight to the ground around, now a wind is mixing the leaves up and sending them scurrying into piles and lining the edges of the pavements. The lime trees must be glad to shed their black sooty burden – the legacy of summer aphids.

The summer bedding in the park has gone, the cushion beds are plumped up with rich brown earth waiting for the spring plants to go in.

I also went into a temporary frenzy of cutting back at the weekend to let more light in from the ever lowering sun. The prunings are now lying in soggy heaps waiting for me to purchase some council green refuse sacks – let the snails feast I say!

Last week a frost took the dahlias in the garden, that’s the end of that show. D coccinea didn’t open one flower this year, not one, The Bishop of Llandaff did his usual show. A species Dahlia,  possibly D spectabilis sputtered through our moody summer.  Unfortunately having moved PCs I can’t remember what the other one’s were. Apart from a large pale yellow, I probably wouldn’t bother again with this year’s random selection.

Saxifraga fortunei is putting on this late late show in the town garden whilst all around it sulks into the ground slowly.