Oops… there went the summer

Spangle Grass just coming into flower in the woodbed
Spangle Grass just coming into flower in the woodbed

There’s a most definite nip in the air.

Some of the more tender plants including salvias are starting to look past their best never having really got going in this relatively dull summer. I was hoping to finally propel Dahlia imperialis up to a giddy height and into flower this year, don’t think so somehow although she’s a good 8 foot at least in height now.

A late capsid bug attack is very evident, Fuchsia Lady Bacon is only flowering at the very bottom where the bugs don’t appear to have had a go.  The heliotrope flowers have soldiered on although the top leaves appear a little chewed such are the attentions of capsids.

The epiphyllum produced another smaller flower this week which matured and opened much faster than the earlier one, I presume something to do with day length? I’ve started to bring some of the sundews back into the conservatory, D regia a South African, was looking decidedly battered after the last few weeks of rain and lowering light levels.

Saw my first and probably last Humming Bird Hawk Moth on Tuesday when cutting back the late flowering buddleja Beijing to release some plants into the light that they were benignly swamping .

This morning I think it may have been our odd starling which has been lurking under the eaves all summer was by itself sitting on the TV aerial, glossy breast feathers burnished by the sun, 4 starlings flew over,  jinked when they saw me watching but then landed on the aerial briefly before all 5 flew away – a gathering of the clans, our local murmuration building?

True colours

The primary colours in the garden this morning looking down the main border are yellows and purples. Rudbeckia triloba and R laciniata to the left and on the right the last of the lily Black Beauty, empurpled angelica (seedlings from A sylvestris Vicar’s Mead which people say is perennial, I would say on-balance A sylvestris is biennial). And an unknown big pompom dahlia which survived in the ground from last year. In another bed the large strongly yellow rayed flowers of Helianthus Gullick’s Variety (coarse foliage and a terrible runner) soar into the air way above my head.

The asters (they now have a new horribly complicated name I’m not attempting this morning) have yet to kick-in, all are still tightly budded.

The flick of a squirrel tail disappearing into the main border just now means we’ll be awash with hazel seedlings next year. This year horse chestnuts came up everywhere, presumably they like them less than hazel nuts but conkers were plentiful last autumn so they felt duty bound to bury them.

Lying in bed one morning half asleep it occurred to me that I didn’t know where i’d put the Bessera, these tender mexican orange bulbs add a late flash of colour – yesterday when looking for a terracotta pot I found the small mouldy bulbs in the bottom of one pot – obviously I forgot to get round to potting them up this spring – oh dear.

More neglect. The top growth of white Thunbergia fragrans from Crug Farm Plants collapsed completely with the first whiff of frost last year. I took it into the dark but above freezing lean-to last autumn, dragged the pot out again this spring and stuffed it in an out of the way corner and forgot to do anything further with it.  It’s now engulfed a camellia and is a mass of flowerbuds all of which are yet to open.

This glamourpuss is Phymosia umbellata from Pan Global Plants.
This glamourpuss is Phymosia umbellata from Pan Global Plants.

As ever I’m way behind, so many cuttings yet to be taken including this tenderish mexican shrub from Pan Global Plants – Phymosia umbellata – it’s getting late, it’s getting late!

Last regular Dan Pearson article for the Observer today – that’s my gentle sunday morning reading gone.

As I was saying ….

Thunbergia fragrans
Thunbergia fragrans

Part of the late, late show, Thunbergia fragrans from Crug Farm Plants. The headline refers to the fact it looks like the trumpet is ‘chatting’  especially when viewed at a larger size. Apparently it was collected at 2150m in Northern India and for the last two years this potted specimen has gone into the just above frost free conservatory as it’s said not to be reliably hardy in the UK, big dilemma there’s not going to be permanent room over winter for it in the conservatory this year.

So far it’s only ever flowered on one twining stem, the flowers running in pairs either side of the stem. It grows very vigorously through spring and early summer so maybe the bits I have to hack back then to contain it are the flowers I’m losing. I can’t detect any fragrance, perhaps it needs more warmth to give of itself?

Aster White Climax
Red Admiral Butterflies on Aster White Climax

The Red Admiral butterflies in particular are enjoying the Aster White Climax in this ‘unseasonably’ warm weather. Peacock Butterflies are trying to take up winter quarters in the house, inevitably some will succeed to reappear come March / April. Also spotted a Small Copper Butterfly out and about on the aster as well. White Climax is a bit of a thug growing to over 2M tall and now flopping in great swathes with the rain but certainly an insect magnet.


Iris unguicularis has started flowering, unfortunately the lovely crystalline petals are pushed in by the rain.

We cleared the stream of foliage and Yellow Flag this weekend which has it running lower and faster now, will this affect the habits of the Signal Crayfish whose burrows in the banks are now more obvious?

We stopped feeding the small birds in mid summer and have now put out the feeders again – absolutely nothing not a tit or a bullfinch to be seen.

Iris foetidissima
Iris foetidissima

Pretty but not to be eaten Iris foetidissima seeds, apparently they ‘purge’ the body somewhat. Sources often refer to the dull purple and yellow flowers and one of its common names, Stinking Iris, doesn’t help. Dull is unfair, the mauve and yellow finely petalled flowers are appreciated by me murmuring in summer from the dry shady corners it puts itself in. The strong upright foliage is a good shade of green and then the seeds go ‘pow’, what’s not to appreciate? Geoffrey Grigson in The Englishman’s Flora is also a little kinder, apparently in some counties it’s known as Roast Beef as the crushed leaves smell of beef – OK, just done a bit of field research, the crushed leaves just smell ‘leafy’  to me not particularly distinctive in the way that say Meadow Sweet and Salad Burnet foliage are when crushed. I do remember pressing Walnut leaves once, they had a very distinctive spicy peppery smell.

We’ve been told to expect the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo to pass through tonight and early Tuesday morning so I expect the garden will be a complete flopped mess by tomorrow evening. Apparently they’ve got much better at predictive forecasting since The Great Storm of 15 – 16 October 1987 as we’ve still got lots of leaves on the trees as we had then! Reading Wikipedia it suggests that Meteo France also ‘got it wrong’ initially too and the severity was much more than expected.

“Blow the wind southerly, southerly, southerly,
Blow the wind south o’er the bonny blue sea;
Blow the wind southerly, southerly, southerly,
Blow bonnie breeze,  softly  (orig: my lover) to me.”