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

Godetia all gobbled by mystery monster

Some vile pest has systematically sought out every single one of my Godetia seedlings and bitten their heads off.  Every last one!

And this was not just a case of a single seed tray being flattened – I potted them all up  last Sunday.  The despicable creature in question picked its way through maybe 60 -70 pots of various young plants, zoned in on the Godetia and ate the tops of every single one.  A few other things got nibbled, with assorted losses here and there – but I have never seen such targeting of a specific plant.

It’s really maddening as I love Godetia.  This hardy annual always provides welcome colour in pots and because last year’s show was so nice, I bought two different types this year – dwarf and azalea flowered.  They germinated and grew really well.  And – sob – now they’re all gone.

Last year's Godetia put on a show for months

They were planted in trays outside back in March and April and this was their last potting up before going into their final places.  I spent ages on Sunday planting them up – and in the rain, too.  Damn, I’m hopping mad!

In theory it is probably too late to plant more, but I shall try anyway as I still have some seed left.  I have put some seed straight into the ground, some into pots with the remnants of the eaten plants and some into seed trays.

What pest could have done this dastardly deed?  I have four suspects:

1) Baby rabbit.  This deceptively cute monster was spotted Monday morning on the patio/plant nursery.  I chased it away with my best angry dog impression, which scared it for all of 5 minutes before it was back hopping around like it owned the place.  But, it didn’t show much interest in the seedlings, going instead for a patch of weed grass near the back door.  And, I doubt it could have picked its way specifically through the various pots without knocking some over.  I think the culprit was smaller.

2) Wood mouse.  I’ve seen several of these hopping from pot to pot in the last few weeks, plus they are certainly small enough to get away with savaging the pots, without knocking them over.  But – do mice even eat Godetia seedlings?  And would they really prefer them over the beans and peas that were in the adjoining pots?  I doubt it, though I don’t know for sure.

3) Slugs. There are loads of slugs at the moment – I keep finding them under pots and trays and the big ones make me squeal like a baby.  I currently have 3 beer traps out (filled with the dregs from Stephen’s homebrew) and the slugs have been happily drowning themselves in the beer.  They definitely could have done this, but there is no tell tale slime.

4) Snails.  I have only seen one snail around and this soon became bird food, but I know they come out at night, so I may simply have missed them.  Again, there is no slime train, but having read up on their habits (know your enemy and all that) I think they may be my prime suspect.

This very useful pest fact sheet about slugs and snails from the University of Guelph (where I have visited on a couple of occasions for work) makes me realise I have to do some fast acting control.  To quote:

Sanitation can be highly beneficial in controlling populations of slugs and snails. It involves the removal of all materials that could provide daytime hiding places and ideal egg laying sites, such as plant debris, dense plant growth, rocks, boards, and logs. This is especially important in shaded areas near trees and buildings. The use of mulches should be avoided in any of these sites. Tall or densely growing plants may need to be thinned to allow for more air movement and light penetration and therefore, drier environmental conditions.

I think the damp weather, combined with the fact I moved the seedlings to a shady spot near the house so they didn’t bake in the sun created the perfect conditions for a slug and snail “all you can eat” buffet.   Now I’m fretting about what else they might have taken out by morning.  But, the University of Guelph fact sheet gives the following advice:

Slugs and snails avoid crawling over any dry abrasive material such as gravel, sharp sand, wood ashes, diatomaceous earth, or lime. The increased production of mucus required to free themselves of these materials exhausts them and soon causes death.

I shall have to find myself some dry abrasive material – probably in the form of wood ash, I have a hearth full – and bring on some large scale mollusc discomfort.  And ideally death.

Sorry, but after losing all my Godetia I am not about to start taking prisoners…