Growbag Blog

How Autumnal are your bloomers?

Laura Warren

Do you remember waiting to be picked up from school?  Most parents would be there at the normal time, then all the ‘late parents’ would sweep in, leaving you still standing there until finally, finally, just as you were contemplating walking the eight miles home, yours would nonchalantly roll up wondering what all the fuss was about.

Clematis tubulosa

There are plants like this, that keep you hanging on until almost all hope has gone. And I am not talking here about those that have started flowering in mid summer and are still desperately clinging on trying to prove they still have something to give the world, but rather those that have kept their powder dry and then burst onto the scene fresh, classy and intriguing; think Jacob Rees-Mogg rather than Vince Cable.

Nerine ‘Susan Grant’

Clematis rhederiana for instance, a robust bastion of healthy foliage all summer which suddenly erupts all over with charming cream, cowslip scented bells, or the herbaceous Clematis tubulosa ‘Wyevale‘  gorgeous slate blue bells, also scented.

Nerines too, fall into this category, and there are now some more subtle alternatives to the once ubiquitous bubble gum pink varieties; I am growing’Susan Grant’, ‘Ostera’ and ‘Mister John’ this year in pots, together with the incomparable Amaryllis belladonna – our top of the blog photoBright yellow crocus like Sternbergias are another delightful surprise and I remember pointing these out to E in the Edinburgh Botanics last autumn, shame that C and I had such a struggle to get the poor old girl back on her feet afterwards – she tells us she is attending a Rod Stewart tribute evening this week – its going to cost a bomb at the osteopaths afterwards……

I don’t remember being picked up from school at any hour, but then of course I was the fourth child. As I recall I was expected to get the bus or walk to the hospital and get a lift from our radiographer mother. Worse, she made me go and talk to the patients to pass the time – a one-sided dialogue as those waiting for a barium enema generally had things on their minds other than ponies or boys.

Yes E and L, suitably dressed for Shackleton’s attempt at the Pole, joined me in Scotland last autumn for a smashing tour of Edinburgh Botanics where the tulbaghia and salvias were still in full flow – although no sign of Louise’s Great Plant this Month or in any other month on this side of the Border I suspect!
My gorgeous Calendula ‘Indian Prince’ this week

Now, and as usual I might be lowering the tone here, why hasn’t Laura mentioned to obvious candidates for autumn colour? What is the matter with marigolds? (can you hear E & L inhaling?), the Calendula ‘Indian Prince’ I grew from seed this spring are literally the talk of the neighbourhood. And why has L ignored the fantastic Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’; Helenium ‘Moorheim Beauty’; and the fabulous blue and mauve Asters. Obviously I grow the most common type, Aamellus ‘King George’ but if, like Rod Stewart, it was to ask ‘Do Ya think I’m sexy?”  a million bumble bees and I would shout ‘Yes’!

Oh dear I can feel E starting to come round from her post-gig nap at the mention of a plant that has a new Latin name – yes Asters have become Symphyotrichum – not an improvement obviously, but our disco-dancing Classics scholar no doubt disagrees…

So we’re talking late bloomers, are we? Well, let me tell you, at the concert I was leaping around the dance floor laying it down yelling ‘You wear it well’ in a way that would simply render my younger sisters open-mouthed in admiration. Maggie May but I definitely did. Girls, jealousy is a terrible thing.

Hyelotelephium herbstfraude

As for pleasures in a September garden, like Caroline I am not in need of anything terribly fancy at this time of year.  A plant I am hugely enjoying is something I bought as Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’, and now glories in the name of Hylotelephium spectabile ‘Herbstfreude’ (even a Classics teacher feels a touch of despair, sometimes, Caroline). I cut down one in three of the stems to half their height in May, which makes them less top-heavy and apt to flower later (see the short 3Growbags video on Chelsea Chopping). Their fat crimson flowers are glowing in the sunshine.

Cyclamen hederifolium – lovely in a shadier spot

Laura mentioned Sternbergias, which reminds me of the enchanting Cyclamen hederifolium – a Persian carpet of pink and white in the garden’s quiet shady spots. What wonderful things these are, with their dramatic marbled foliage in spring, and then all these delicate nodding blooms in autumn.  It’s so unexpected that these little butterflies come from a corm so outrageously ugly (unlike my Rod Stewart strut). Don’t plant them upside down – their tops are all hairy and bumpy, their bottoms are round and smooth (I dare say there are people who go for that sort of thing). This round turd-like ‘stone’ gets bigger and bigger each year until it’s the size of dinner-plate, and bears hundreds of flowers!

My third and final choice would be Leycesteria Formosa – the Himalayan Honeysuckle (or Pheasant Berry), a shrub whose prettily-leaved branches are hung with glamorous ruby pendant  earrings slowly opening into white flowers from the bottom.  They will be followed by impressive purple-black berries, beloved by the birds,  as we slide into winter.
Nothing wrong with arriving late, as long you make a big splash when you do.
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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

6 replies on “How Autumnal are your bloomers?”

Yes I totally agree Susan but Laura is at that funny age – there’s no reasoning with her. I think she is pinning her whole opinion on that one funny put down JR-M achieved on Questiontime with David Dimbleby. Don’t judge her, she’ll come out of it, let’s hope C xx

Elaine here -I have to concur with Caroline on this one -Laura’s a great gal, but she does reveal some very peculiar tastes at times. We always find that it’s better to nod sagely, and then pull terrible faces behind her back…….E xx

I think this is the best time – so much colour and bling. Those staggering salvias – Uliginosa and Involucrata – waving their cornflower blue and dark pink heads up high above all the summer whiskers. Whilst on the subject of marigolds (love them) do you know Tagetes Cinnabar? I sowed a packet of seed in the spring and they have flowered their orange socks off for months.

Oh, quite agree about the salvias, Jane – a fantastic species all round, actually. No, I haven’t caught up with Tagetes Cinnabar, but it sounds great – thanks for the tip, I am definitely going to look it up for next year. Elaine.

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