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September 2011

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Spellbinder, Chilean fire bush and late hydrangeas

In September I usually start to make plans for the following year. It is an ideal time to do this as there is not much maintenance work to be done. Most herbaceous plants can be divided up now and used to fill gaps, or potted up for sale, or for use as gifts. The bulb catalogues are out and a good selection of bulbs are on sale in the garden centres and supermarkets. There is always space for a few extra spring bulbs, even if only in containers or window boxes. Last year I bought a quantity of narcissus ‘Spellbinder' and ‘St Patrick's Day', both varieties with primrose to green colouring. Unfortunately when they flowered this spring they all turned out deep yellow, and they were certainly not what I wanted, or had ordered. When the replacement bulbs arrive, I shall most probably have to plant them in a different area, as it would be almost impossible to remove the others which were planted in drifts with an earlier flowering daffodil, the dainty white, yellow-trumpeted ‘Topolino'.East

A number of hazel trees were removed last autumn to bring light in to a small area by the stream and to show off my beautiful embothrium, the Chilean fire bush, which was gradually, year after year, disappearing from view. Unfortunately, the prized embothrium promptly died during the severe winter so it was a wasted effort from that point of view. However, it did achieve more light and space and I shall be planting this section with a specimen of the lovely white-blossomed Hoheria lyallii and some hydrangeas, which will give colour and interest in summer. Hoheria is related to mallow and has masses of small white mallow-type flowers. The embothrium that died was about thirty years old, but there are suckers coming up from its base and it will regenerate from these. The hazel trees have all sprouted from their stumps and I shall pollard them regularly. By next spring the area should look presentable again.


The shrubs that are most colourful at the moment are the hydrangeas. Because I have acid soil it is possible to grow blue, mauve pink and white varieties without having to feed with additional iron. One of my favourites is Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight', which starts lime-coloured, then changes to white, edged with pink, as the flowers age. The flower heads are panicles of small flowers, more elongated than the usual mop-head hydrangeas. And they flower on the current year's growth, so they contribute quite late in the season.
The hardy, diminutive Cyclamen hederifolium plants are still providing a carpet of pink and white under the trees in the front garden. The most colourful plants in the borders now are dahlias, with their rich colourings, rudbeckias with large yellow daisy flowers, and the elegant Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Atropurpurea', which has slender bottlebrush racemes of white flowers and attractive purple leaves. Later this month, the pink nerine lilies will be a welcome addition to the garden and are excellent cut flowers.

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