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September 2008

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Late season flowers, scattering seeds and rampant climbers

My favourite season is in full swing - fuchsias edge the paths dripping with red and purple flowers, and we still have time to take more cuttings for 2009. A new variety called Fuchsia ‘Purple Knight' has been in flower all summer, behind it is Phormium ‘Platt's Black' and my favourite autumn-flowering herbaceous plant Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Atropurpurea'.

Cannas in a mixture of both leaf and flower colour abound contrasting against tall wavy grasses, including panicums and miscanthus. Verbena bonarensis is seeding in my ‘river' of gravel, a good contrast is Phormium ‘Cream Delight', white cimicifuga and a late Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians' scrambling through it. Last spring we planted many dahlias in pots, how valuable these are now. I plunge the pots underground where dull patches appear in the borders and, of course, as they are in flower now the colour contrast or harmony is much easier to get some way right.

Soon I will be planting dwarf spring bulbs in the Beech walk, it's already packed but I noticed last spring a few gaps. I leave tulips to my wife, so my choice will include pale purple-pink Crocus tommasinianus, light blue Scilla mischtschenkoana and dwarf narcissi all planted in drifts.

For the past four months a simple planting has given me great pleasure, even without a flower. For height Acer palmatum ‘Trompenburg' creates an elegant dome or purple foliage. For a vertical accent, the erect golden yew, Taxus ‘Fastigiata Aurea' is healthy and loving this dry site. Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Viridis' is falling into the small pond with a mature cycad surrounded with the grass hakonechloa and blue pulmonaria - easy and little-maintenance planting.

My hard pruning last year of fifty-year old hydrangea bushes has had its toll - no flowers as expected but more room for new plantings of low rhododendrons. The meadow grass needs its second cut now, and more multi-headed narcissi will be planted to add to their success last spring. The golden-rayed lily, Lilium auratum has been flowering with large white, yellow-marked flowers, and it is full of scent. Look out for the bulbs in the garden centres soon. Staking autumn-flowering herbaceous plants will pay dividends in the next few weeks,

Link stakes surround aconitums which will flower till November. Malva moschata ‘Alba' gets floppy so I stake it and it looks good behind nerines. To guarantee future supply of oriental poppies, I shake plenty of this year's seeds in the beds, as space becomes available in borders. I move in drifts of forget-me-nots treated in the same manner for flower next year. Silybum marinarum, the variegated thistle is also in need of its seed spread to guarantee plants for next year.

Abutilons are some of the easiest shrubs for colour now, whether grown as freestanding or wall plants. I prune Abutilon vitifolium which has finished flowering, but all my other varieties should flower till December. The flame creeper, Tropaeolum speciosum, has succeeded in strangling a mature conifer to the point of no return, the dense foliage denying light. The crimson glory vine, Vitis coignetiae, and Rosa ‘Rambling Rector' are also very vigorous, so need a very tall wall or tree. Climbing Hydrangea petiolaris succeeded in getting under a lead roof, while Clematis ‘Marjorie' had to be cut to the ground last year. I did get flowers this year and, more importantly, the tree which it covered is still alive!



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