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September 2012

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Hydrangeas, fulsome fuchsia and rampant flame creeper

Hydrangeas are the shrubs that produce the most impact at this time of the year. They are experiencing a revival in popularity that is more than justified. They are particularly useful in a large garden and are both wind- and rain-tolerant. In early spring, when I am removing the spent blooms from the previous year, I wonder why I have planted so many, but at this time of year I realise that they justify the effort. They flower from July until November and are tolerant about aspect .This year Hydrangea petiolaris, the white climbing variety, flowered early and particularly well. It is often slow to start to climb, but worth the wait.

Other shrubs that have a similar flowering period are fuchsias, which are invaluable garden plants. They are better seen up close and therefore I tend to plant them near the house. Many varieties are ideal for containers, window boxes and hanging baskets, which ensure that their beautiful pendulous flowers do not trail on the ground and are shown off to their best advantage. There are more than 100 species and over 8,000 hybrids and cultivars. There a few hardy varieties, a number that are borderline, but most are half-hardy in our climate. Fuchsia magellanica, the small-flowered species that has naturalised in Connemara and Kerry, survived the severe winter of 2010 but was cut back in some areas. 'Genii', a variety of this with gold leaves survived -17° Celsius, but had the protection of a south-facing wall. I risk leaving most of my fuchsias outside. Because they are not fully hardy it is advisable to take cuttings during the summer months and over-winter these inside to insure against losses. It is still not too late to take cuttings, and these will root either in soil or water.

Thanks to our particularly mild winter in the west, the fuchsias are flowering really well this year and I have added several new ones to my collection, while ‘Annabel', white with pink markings and ‘Jean Taylor', lavender and scarlet, are both old favourites. ‘Orange King' with large double flowers and ‘Nicola James' are in the newer range of orange fuchsias. Last year, I was given a present of a fuchsia with small leathery dark green leaves. It was over-wintered inside and at the moment it is covered with beautiful small orange trumpets. Unfortunately, I have mislaid the label.

I have had to remove the perennial climbing nasturtium or flame creeper, Tropaeolum speciosum, from the azaleas, as its exuberant growth can smother them. However, there is still plenty of late summer colour from the dahlias, rudbeckias, crocosmias, kniphofia caulescens, and the long-flowering blue Geranium ‘Rozanne'.

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