mad March and awful April

Ah, March…

Late March, sun beating down, I surveyed my garden in the 23 degree heat and decided a barbecue was in order.  It would be to celebrate my birthday, the decking and newly completed steps (well I know how to live).

Invitations were written.  We wandered the neighbourhood enjoying beers in the sun with friendly folk.  Gardens shone everywhere.  It was summer.

That was March….. In like a lamb, out like a lamb.

Then came April in a mad fury.

Then they were flattened

In the space of a single month I lost two greenhouse covers, shredded by wind.  The neighbour’s Eucalyptus deposited a large branch on my daffodils, squashing them flat.

Oh, and the day of my barbecue it snowed and hailed and snowed and hailed – but half an hour before guests arrived the sun came out and the fire could be lit.  It was far too cold to be outside for long, but hey – it stopped snowing and we used hailstones as ice cubes.

The effect on the garden has been strange – outside has coped better than all my tiny seedlings inside.  Apart from wind and falling tree damage, the outside is blooming on and is still ahead of England (bizarrely).  Rhododendrons have been and gone, lillies are over a foot tall, late tulips are out, lettuce and spinach are romping away.  It’s looking extremely splendid, though I say so myself.

snow in aprilInside is a different story. I know seeds can’t grow backwards (though if they did, mine have) but they have been definitely checked.  Chillies have obviously been chilly and they have stopped in their tracks.  Generally there was less growth in all April than probably a single week in March.  Some little guys look so spindly and sad I’m thinking of writing them off and doing some resowing at the weekend.

Weather hey?   Lets hope that March wasn’t the only summer we’ll get and that the rapidly lengthening days will resume a temperature in which seeds will again start growing!  Otherwise a serious shopping trip to the garden centre and nurseries will be in order!

But the fact its currently snowing in May isn’t a good sign!

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Five plants I really regret

I wish I’d never allowed these five plants a home

Sure, weeds are a pain. But weeds are something inflicted upon us, through no fault of our own. They are nothing compared to those spectacular great planting mistakes that you have no one to blame for but yourself.

Oh yes, weeds may get you down with their persistence, but they don’t make you feel like a clueless, naive fool every time you go into battle with them. Nor did you spend good money acquiring them.

No, the biggest planting follies in my garden are entirely of my own doing – with more than a little help from the cheery plant catalogues. For their relentless optimistic euphemisms definitely played a role. By time I learned that for ground cover, you must read rampant weed, for fast growing you must read thug and for robust you must read completely indestructible, ever – the damage was long done.

So just as I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self that dying my hair black was a really really bad idea (the bath will be ruined and your eyebrows will look weird), these are the tips I would give my less experienced gardening self, should time travel ever allow it.

Younger me, whatever you do, don’t be tempted to plant…

Crocosmia Lucifer

Crocosmia Lucifer and bee

Crocosmia Lucifer - a beautiful thug with world domination on its mind

Oh crocosmia, how deceptive your apparently fragile charms. How splendid your red flowers. No wonder my early visions of the garden featured bold rifts of sparkling scarlet. And yet how soon you abused my generous hospitality. Like a particularly socio-pathic house guest from hell, once I realised just how comfortable you were going to make yourself, the battle was already lost.

My fight with this plant is well documented in this blog (and has already resumed for 2012). Yet despite repeated weekends on my hands and knees, several broken spades, bleeding hands and bucket after bucket of rock hard giant corms, these thugs are going nowhere.

And the things they never tell you about this plant – yes the flowers are pretty for about a week. Then the leaves turn to brown scrappy strings – and the corms get so huge and dense so quickly you can forget about planting anything else in the same space.

“Don’t plant it at all, ever” says my time travelling self!

Quickthorn

Sigh, no one at all to blame but myself on this one. Afterall, the clue was clearly in the name. Quick – oh yes. Thorn – too bloody right! This plant does make a good hedge, so it is not completely evil like Crocosmia. It keeps out predators, and although I haven’t tested it, I’m sure if you have a problem with roaming grizzly bears, elk or maybe even elephants, this will surely keep them at bay.

Unfortunately it doesn’t just prick you with its thorns, it violently stabs you. And because it is so quick (yes, I know, its in the name…) it needs regular pruning so chances of being stabbed are high and its alleged flowers and berries never appear. I’ve had to give up composting the prunings and now burn them in situ for my own physical safety.

It is far too thorny to even think about removing – but boy I wish I’d picked the beech or hornbeam for my hedge!

Time travelling Vicky says “it’s cheap for a reason!”

Pyracantha – yellow berries

pyracantha

The flowers and berries don't offset the serious thorn power

It has never lived up to its promise of appealing to the birds – they refuse to touch its yellow berries – and even the bees are snooty about it, much preferring the horribly stinky cotoneaster which flows around the same time.

All this plant is good for is growing quickly, some pretty berries and savage thorns – not a particularly unique niche, and one filled by other more agreeable shrubs in my view.

At least so far it hasn’t been that hard to remove (at least if you exclude all the bleeding).

“The birds avoid these and so should you!” is the back through time advice on this one.

Polemonium

polemonium

Lovely in isolation - shame they don't stay that way

These blue and white flowering plants are like those hapless teenagers who advertise their party on Facebook. You love them in isolation but that feeling is hard to maintain when 200 thuggish friends are rampaging through the garden. You wish they’d just learn to behave responsibly.

Vigorous, self seeding, shady loving, hardy, prone to flopping over in wind and rain (which we have on the odd occasion here in Scotland) – they also have the annoying habit of going straggly after flowering and seem to deliberately harbour colonies of couch grass in their roots.

I don’t remove all of them – the bees love them and they are pretty – but I do regularly have to purge great swathes from the borders as they soon choke everything else. But at least they don’t have thorns, poison or rock hard corms…

“If you must use these (really wouldn’t delphiniums be so much nicer?) keep them at the back of the border and don’t let them get out of control. Good luck with that!” says my wiser time travelling self.

Bamboo

I can only apologise unreservedly to my entire neighbourhood for introducing this one. Especially as it prefers my neighbours’ gardens to its own and is making a full on invasion along the street.

A fine yellow stemmed plant – and a real bargain at that! Poor innocent me! I now know that I did everything wrong when planting this (I didn’t contain the roots, I planted it far too close to the fence). Unfortunately it’s way too late. Sorry about that… The canes are useful though, right?

My time travelling self says “seriously, don’t plant this – you may have to move, in shame.”

So there’s my top five! Periwinkle, lily of the valley, marjoram, epimedium, red dogwood, achillea – count yourself lucky you didn’t make the list too. Only your usefulness and charms make the pain of keeping you at bay worthwhile!

And if by chance you’re still thinking of planting Crocosmia Lucifer – I beg you, don’t do it ;-)

Bees, bud break and other signs of spring

crocus and snowdropsThe first bee appeared in the garden today (5th March) – a great fat bumble bee, probably woken by a few warm sunny days in succession.   The nights have been very cold though, so I hope it has a warm retreat somewhere, tucked away from the frost.

I saw Camellia bushes full of honey bees while down in the far south of England last weekend, but it was lovely to spot one here in the Highlands so soon afterwards.  (There were also lambs down south, but I’ll be rather surprised if I see one of those gambolling through the borders here).

The signs of the garden transitioning into spring are now everywhere.  Snowdrops are starting to go over and the miniature irises in pots are completely finished.  They’ve been swiftly replaced by primroses, Tete a Tete daffodils, anenome blanda, crocus, primula and masses of hellebores.  The full size daffodils don’t look to be too far behind.

primroseMany of the shrubs and early trees are starting to break their buds too.  The crab apple, shardy fushia, clematis alpina, sambuscus nigra, blackthorn and spirea are all opening.

Birds are definitely starting to have lurve on their tiny minds and the midges and biting bugs have woken up.  Even the wretched grass needs cutting (which doesn’t, never has, never will, count as gardening in any way shape or form).

I know it is only the first week in March, but the temptation to rush outside and plant things that can’t possibly cope with the night time temperatures is pretty strong!  I should probably focus my attention on those winter tasks I still haven’t finished yet (like pretty much everything structural and most things to do with cleaning, tidying and organising).

tete a tete daffodilsMy windowsills will have to overflow with cuttings and seedlings for a fair while yet!

Tell me if you’ve seen bees and other signs of spring in your garden yet!

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Seedlings and snowdrops romping ahead

It may be snowing today, but the previous mild weather has made the garden romp ahead. The show of snowdrops is weeks ahead of last year. Although I don’t know much about the varieties I grow – a mix of singles and doubles, tall ones and short ones – they thrive here and each year I have many more of them.  Last year I divided the clumps and redistributed them and it has really paid off.  It is looking so pretty, I must indulge in a snowdrop montage:

Or maybe two snowdrop montages!

snowdrop montageAll these shots were taken today (18th Feb) – the alternating heavy snow and brilliant sun was more mad March than February!

Until today – isn’t always winter at the weekend? – it has been beautiful gardening weather. Shame I’ve been deskbound and not able to partake.

I’ve gone seed sowing crazy!

The one indoor job that is easy to fit round the day job is seed sowing.  Lulled by the mild weather, every window sill is already a propagation production line. Space is going to be tight be late April!

The usual over-ordering of seed is complete.  For the first time I have bought a lot of my seed from Nickys Nursery.  I haven;t used them before, but I was particularly keen to grow Stevia and they were on of the few suppliers.  As it turned out they have a really interesting range of stuff and I bought a lot of herbs and pretty things.  The seed and instructions are nice and clear and I’ve been impressed so far.

I’m probably unlikely to succeed with Stevia – even Basil finds my windowsills too chilly – but a sugar substitute herb with no calories….  You have to try, right?  I shall indulge it with heat like a rare orchid!

I have refined quite an efficient little system of seed germination. The hot progator gets things started.  Then they move to the cool propagator, which helps them onwards gently so they don’t die of shock in my freezing house.  Then they move onto the windowsills.

I find that on the hot propagator, plastic bags (especially sandwich bags) – rather than the tray lids that came with the propagator – are ideal for keeping the humidity and temperature right.  The seed tray lids seem to result in the germinated seeds cooking to a crisp, whereas there is rarely a loss with in the sandwich bags!

No doubt I have over ordered the seed and have probably started sowing too early (the first batches started last week in January) but it makes me happy!  And right now the all seedlings are looking pretty happy too.   Growing nicely so far:

  • Sweet peas (loads of varieties, especially scented ones)
  • Chillies
  • Diasca
  • Training pansy
  • Stevia
  • Geranium
  • Salvia
  • Basil  (goodness knows why, it never thrives & I end up buying plants from the supermarket)
  • Perennial cornflowers

And as soon as one lot move off the hot propagator, that makes space for something else!  My challenge is never at the seedling stage, it is in the finding space where they get enough light during the hardening off process.  Any tips?

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When neighbours invade

I have a thorny problem.

One which requires diplomatic skills. And whilst I do have experience of what to do when a neighbouring country invades (I was interning at the UN when Kuwait was invaded by Iraq), going to war with the neighbours really isn’t an option here.

My invading foe is brambles. And they’re invading vigorously from two out of three of the neighbouring gardens that adjoin my floral borders.

Big snaky triffidy evil prickly nasty brambles. On a quest for territory.  My territory.  Sure, there are other foes encroaching into my patch (nettles, ground elder, bindweed – even a jaunty jasmine) but none of these threaten to poke my eyes out when I’m not paying attention. And for the most part they can be kept at bay easily enough, by remedial actions that take place solely within my territorial borders.

But not brambles. A little chopping back from my side of the fence is the equivalent of a testosterone overload to a drunken thug. “Bring it on” they cry, whilst sending out four more invading arms.

No. It seems to me that this bramble battle can’t simply play out within my own patch.

At this point, I should add that all my neighbours are very nice. (If you’re reading, I really really like you). But it is probably fair to say that with one exception, they are really not gardeners.  One actively hates gardening. And I’m sure they have no idea of the invading power of a hormone crazed bramble on the rampage.

So these brambles really do require a UN Security Council intervention and coalition attack forces.

brambles invade

Brambles coming in from all sides and trying to root themselves in my borders

My conundrum is this:

1. Do I take the mature, correct, morally responsible (but embarrassing, awkward and potentially time consuming) option of discussing this with the brambles’ hosts in the hope we can reach mutual agreement?

If so, is there a win-win that doesn’t involve me doing their weeding?  Forever?

2. Do I take the easier and not-entirely-unprecedented approach of nipping round when they’re out and removing the offending thugs?

This could be the outcome of option one anyway….

But, this approach would involve extensive convincing of myself that my actions would be those of a benevolent helpful fairy, as opposed to a nosey trespassing neighbour from hell.  And I’d have to remove all those brambles myself.

3. Do I take a lesson from the Gulf War and use sneaky chemical warfare?  Is a strong systemic weed killer, applied from my side, enough to take out – or at least set-back – this invading foe, without me having to cross my borders?

This could kill the plant back and I could just prune off the stuff on my side.  But is it morally wrong? And would it even work?  These brambles are tough and I don’t know if anything this side of Jupiter will take them out!

Any advice?

Seriously, the UN are lightweights compared to the moral dilemmas we gardeners face!  Any thoughts, precedents and alternative tactics welcome!  Otherwise I’ll just have to end up doing the right thing ;-)

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Rays of hope in the winter garden

Through the gloom of the miserly 6 hours of gardening daylight (not to mention the never ending rain) there shines hope!  Just enough, I think, to propel me damply into February.  first snowdropFor the first snowdrop is here, spotted on the 6th January – a full month ahead of last year.

This is always a major moment in my gardening year – like the first Swift returning.  It signals to me that whatever the extent of my incompetence or neglect, or however much it feels the elements have all unfairly conspired against me, it is going to be OK.  Things are still growing.  My mistakes are of minuscule significance on the scale of things. And, heck, it takes more than a few feet of rain to deter these tough little Galanthus guys.  The flowers aren’t open yet, most are still just pushing their way through – but who cares?  It means life goes on!

There are actually abundant signs of life all over the garden, so it is probably silly to burden the little snowdrop with so much sentimental symbolism.  cyclamenThe cyclamen hederifolium, for example, has been glowing in its slowly expanding clump for many weeks.  As hardy as anything, I would have more by now, had I not managed to plant all my expensive new coums upside down a few years back.  Fortunately, this particular specimen was bought already in flower, so it was somewhat easier to figure out which way was up!

I’ve been far too ashamed to buy any more coums since my debacle. Happily plenty of the seed I have collected over the last few years has germinated, so there are lots of baby cyclamen bulking up in pots.  But I’ll only plant them out once they look big enough to stand up to the thuggish blackbirds and vine weevil they will have to contend with.

Another plant putting on a heroic show is the Christmas box, Sarcococca Confusa. Sarcococca ConfusaI have propagated loads of little plants from this parent shrub and it just takes it all in its stride, smelling heavenly and glowing away.  It is perhaps a little too glowing (a touch of yellow compared to previous years?), which makes me think it will need a good feed come Spring.  I may even plant it into the garden (it lives in a pot at present) and create a little area of shady hedging.

So with spirits soaring after a relatively not-that-wet-or-cold-compared-to-usual Sunday in the garden, I felt justified, nay, compelled to drink wine and order seeds.  Unfortunately in that order.  I now have a LOT of seeds en route to Inverness – but that is another post entirely!

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10 best gardening reads

Reading about other people’s gardens and gardening experiences is almost as much of a pleasure as playing in my own. Maybe even more so in the cold and wet of this time of year. Here are my top 10 gardening books. They’ve kept my brain in the garden all year, even when my feet haven’t been:

  • The Morville HoursMorville Hours, by Katherine Swift This intelligent, elegiac book is less the story of a garden and more a personal taste of a pastoral idyll and the strong feeling of connection that gardening brings to the deep past.  It is also a moving deconstruction of the authors relationship with her aged parents, again connected by a lifetime of gardens and gardening.  I reread this for the third time just a few days ago and it lifted my spirits to the level necessary to get back outside into the rain.
  • The LaskettThe Laskett, by Roy Strong Another book that moved me to tears. (Do non-gardeners realise there are gardening tear-jerkers?) This is the story of the garden that the author built with his late wife. It is beyond the scale of anything I can image ever owning, but that is part of its charm. I felt able to visualize every detail of the garden – and most importantly understand the thinking behind it.  If only I could visit it!
  • The brother gardenersThe Brother Gardeners, by Andrea Wulf  Subtitled “Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession” – this is wonderfully written and really entertaining history of the early plant collectors and the species they introduced.  It is by far the most enjoyably written of the books I have read on this topic – the author is really engaging and it roars along at a cracking pace.
  • What Plant WhereWhat Plant Where, by Roy Lancaster Simply indispensable!  I don’t dip into it quite as much as I did when I was first building the garden – most of my spaces now have plants in already! But whenever I need to find out the perfect plant for a tricky place, this book is the first place I turn.  One book I will never, ever part with.
  • Propagating PlantsRHS Propagating Plants, by Alan Toogood  Follow the step by step propagation tips in this book and you can make anything grow.  Seeds, cuttings, root cuttings, even grafting (though I haven’t tried that yet).  If you know the plant type then this books provides all the details of how and when to propagate, with various methods to try according to the season and stock.   This is the book that started my love of propagation and I still use it often.
  • Succession plantingSuccession Planting For Adventurous Gardeners, by Christopher Lloyd  Give me a feast of the photos in this book over any cake any day.  It’s probably a dim thing to admit, but at least half the time I pick this book up, I barely read a word – the pictures are enough for me.  But that would be to do Christopher Lloyd a disservice.  The concepts and advice in this book really can be applied to achieve a continuity of colour and interest in the “normal-sized” garden.  I’ve tried some of the ideas in the sunnier parts of the garden and have been really pleased with the results. I look forward to experimenting more.
  • The impossible gardenThe Impossible Garden, by Rosa Steppanova  This book was a gift from Shetland and I later visited Rosa’s garden, The Lea at Tresta, Shetland  I found this story of building a garden particularly interesting and inspiring, because Rosa also gardens on an exposed coastal slope and the winds in Shetland are even fiercer than they are here on the mainland of the Highlands.
  • Botany for gardenersBotany For Gardeners, by Brian Capon  This is a reasonably accessible book about the science of plants and how they work.  I found that once I understood the mechanics of what plants need (why, for example, seedlings get leggy in poor light) it suddenly became a lot easier to more accurately care for them.  A really useful book that covers a lot of valuable information, from plant and soil care to propagation. It also helps take the “accident” out of successes and failures.
  • garden structuresRHS Garden Structures, Richard Wiles I can hardly believe I’m recommending a DIY book – it must be all that digging I’ve been doing.  But this one is a cracker.  Need to cut steps in to a hill? Want to build a pergola? This book shows you how in really clear steps and diagrams.  My copy is starting to curl slightly from being rained on, which must be a compliment to the author.
  • garden in winterThe Garden In Winter, Rosemary Verey The winters are long and dark here.  From the very beginning it was critically important to me that the garden I created here had shape, texture and colour in winter.  This book was not just an inspiration (the photos are serious eye candy) but also a very practical guide to planning and planting a winter garden.  In fact, I’m going to start to read it all over again right now.

These are my top ten garden books – I’d love to hear about some of your favourites!


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Still no real gardening but some progress

For months I have not been able to do any real gardening (at least not in any satisfying quantity).  Ever since the broken-wall-saga began, my muddy horticultural endeavours have mostly involved shifting tonnes of soil down a very slippery hill.

BUT – the end is sort of in sight.

The wall has been fixed and at virtually no extra cost, the builder added some decking that significantly extended the size of the patio area.  It is one big blank canvas waiting to be festooned with flowers and plants.  The Highland weather has conspired to foil my attempts to seal the deck and paint the wall, but viewed from the top, it seems at first glance that my work is done and I can at last return to real gardening.  (Which means planting things, of course).

new patio

Shiny new patio and non-broken wall

Ah, if only that were true.  My devotion to frugality and desire to recycle the materials into the garden meant I did not waste money shifting stone into skips and dumping it.  Afterall, lots of stone is super-useful, especially if you garden on an unterraced slope.  Think of all the things I could do with a few tonnes of rubble.  From the warmth of my bed I’ve dreamt of the charming steps I will build, the delightful stone terraces hewn from the hill and the little nook with a sunny bench.  Hooray!

And now those dreams are just a few more tonnes-of-soil-shifting-in-the-freezing-rain-while-humping-huge-great-breezeblocks-around-and-falling-in-the-mud away.  I’ve been on an erratic cycle veering between excitement and despair, blind optimism and defeated exhaustion, denial and fantasy.  But I haven’t actually done that much work yet.  The task that would most cheer me up, painting the wall, is not yet possible due to the wet weather and the concrete still settling.  And building steps and cutting terraces isn’t something you can pull off in an afternoon.  (Note to self – it ISN’T something you can pull off in an afternoon, not even on Boxing Day).

So, I’ve been trying to rationalise the task into manageable steps.  This involves a lot of standing and thinking and a fair amount of comedic slipping over.  Clear the walkway by shifting mud.  Move the rubble.  Collect hardcore for the base of steps.  Cry.  Be fiercely cheery.  Dig randomly.  Drink a lot of tea.  Move some stones.  Rush out to buy trellis and plants (NO! Not yet!)  Drink tea.  Move some mud.  Fall over.

under the patio

So there must be a way to break this task down into manageable chunks

It looks like hell and everything I do just now makes it look worse, not better.  It’s winter, it’s dark, it’s raining and blowing a gale – but, ever the optimist, I’m sure things will be fine by Spring.  I might even get to garden again (eventually).

The fact the ground isn’t frozen is a big bonus. So in the meantime, I’ll just keep shifting one stone at a time and bucket after bucket of mud.  And of course, I’ll keep drinking lots of tea (well it helps me resist the planting temptation).

Some semblance of normality still seems very far away. But oh, what potential ;-)

The destruction and reconstruction begins

Over the last 7 or 8 weeks my gardening activity has largely consisted on shifting top soil and lugging heavy pots around. My shoulders and arms are looking pretty buff.  All this has been in preparation for getting the cracked retaining wall fixed.

broken wall

one smash of the hammer

Top soil has been lifted, compost bins and plastic greenhouses shifted and the patio completely cleared of benches, pots and plants.

And now the work is under way!

It was quite disconcerting that a single blow of the builder’s mallet had this effect!  Makes me shudder to think of the hours spent directly in the firing line of those bricks.

In just two days of work, the guys have largely removed the old wall, dug out a large part of the patio – and have wisely come up with a proposal that should gain me a few more feet of flat space by adding a small deck extension to the patio level.  Room for more plants!

View with the wall removed

It’s surprising how much view has opened up with the top of the wall having been removed, so it will excellent to replace it with open decking rather than a solid wall.  And hopefully it will mean more sunlight too!

The builders have kindly indulged my rabid recycling tendencies and have put all the old bricks aside so I can level out parts of the garden at a later point. But, in the short term, its mud, rocks, bricks and general chaos!

Mud, stones and chaos

Surprise flowers welcome in October

autumn auricula

Autumn Auriculas Back In Flower

England may have spent the 1st October on the beach enjoying the record breaking Mediterranean temperatures, but here in Highlands of Scotland there was drizzle, rain and more rain. I had to give up gardening mid-afternoon after the ground got so slippery, I went down the slope on my backside while carrying two buckets of dirt and got a thorough coating in cold mud.

Fortunately, one the skills gardening on an extreme slope has taught me is how to fall over well!

Despite the washout today, the temperatures have been reasonable, with no frost yet.  The past week was surprisingly warm and sunny given the miserable summer we’ve had.  The plants seem to agree – in fact I fear some have them got confused and think it is Spring already.

Surprise October flowers

The Auriculas I bought from Arbriachian Nursery back in May are back in flower and looking absolutely lovely.  My primulas, too, are flowering as well as they did in Spring.  I’m not sure what I should do with the Auricula next. I rather expected they’d be going dormant now, rather than coming back to life – if anyone knows whether I should feed them or doing anything to them after flowering, I’d appreciate the tips!

anenome wild swan

Anenome Wild Swan going strong

Also back in flower is the Anenome Wild Swan which I bought at Gardening Scotland in June.  This has really bulked up and is flowering better now than it was when I bought it.  I collected seed from this and my white anenomes earlier in the year – and loads have germinated – so hopefully I’ll get something interesting in about three years time!  I also need to investigate how to propagate it by division or cuttings, as it is so lovely.

Other surprising successes right now are the Godetia.  I originally sowed them March/April, but the seedlings all got eaten as I was hardening them off.  So I made a second sowing in later May and these are in full bloom now.  The bold pinks really give the garden a vibrancy more fitting to late summer and despite the drizzle, they make the pots look really cheerful.

Fuschia Thalia

Fuschia Thalia

The Fuschia Thalias that I used in pots barely flowered at all during summer, despite the strong cuttings having a healthy start and getting away nicely in late spring.  The cold weather, rain and lack of sun really held them back.  But they’ve finally come into flower.  So hopefully the frost will stay away so they can get a chance to shine, as they are really attractive and healthy looking plants.  I must also strike a few more cuttings before it is too late as they won’t overwinter outside.

These late treats are combining nicely with the autumn planting to keep both the front and back gardens looking bright.  The blueberries, viburnum, geraniums and acers are providing rich autumn foliage colours.  While the asters, colchium, late lillies, sweet peas, clematis and sweet williams are providing softly contrasting blues, whites, lilacs, pinks and whites.  If the frosts and winds stay at bay for a few more weeks, there will be plenty of colour into late autumn.

Some other highlights from the autumn garden