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

Loch Ness Plant Buying Spree

There are several terrific nurseries near Inverness, but my absolute favourite is Abriachan Nursery on Loch Ness.  Not only does it have an interesting selection of Auriculas, primula and other herbaceous perennials that thrive here in the Highlands, it also has a beautiful garden that shows many of the plants in situ.

Abriachan nursery

Abriachan nursery faces on to Loch Ness

Like my back garden, Abriachan is a steeply sloping woodland garden, with both dry,  sunny and cool, shady areas.  It faces South (unlike my East facing slope). And whereas I am exposed to winds straight off the North Sea, Abriachan faces Loch Ness, benefiting from a remarkably mild & stable microclimate, given the latitude.  So, while Abriachan may be a week or two ahead of my garden and probably doesn’t get quite such heavy frost, I can be near certain that if grows there, it will grow 10 miles away on my slope (provided I plant it right!)

Blue Himalayan Poppy (Meconopsis) looking surreally stunning

Saturday I popped over to the nursery with my camera and spent a hot, sunny hour pottering around their garden. I had the place pretty much to myself and was lucky enough to see one of the most delightful botanical sights I can recall.

I emerged from a shaded path into a more open, sunny border and there was a single Himalayan Blue Poppy, backlit in the bright morning light.  There was no distracting planting competing with it.  As a result this single plant had a far more dramatic impact than the drifts I have seen (for example at Aberdeen Botanic Garden).  Not only was it absolute star of the garden yesterday – it looked like it had just arrived pristine from another planet.

Naturally I had to buy one!  I already have one establishing in the back, but at just £3 for a young plant, I decided to give one a go in the front as well.  They need to be kept well fed in order to really establish, apparently.  Heck, mine can have sirloin steak if it wants it.

To accompany it I bought a lovely maroon and yellow Euphorbia for a newly created sunny spot in the front – and happily this divided naturally  into four plants when I unpotted it.  I found a lovely spotted leaved Pulmonaria for a shady spot in the back and a dark leaved creeping violet to set it off.  All these plants are welcome to spread to their roots’ content!

Given it was the lure of a fine display of Auricula that drew me to the nursery in the first place (courtesy of their blog and Flickr group), I couldn’t leave with a choice new addition of my own.  I picked up three new Auricula, including two in shades of blues.  I already have a lovely red and yellow one for the same nursery, which I have divided into three over the years, so now I am well on my way to having a collection!

Auricula theatre showing specimens to their prime

Arbriachan had a fine, shelved display of potted Auriculas, with a simple black cloth showing off the blooms to full effect – a traditional “Auricula Threatre.”  I can see why people used to part with a week’s salary for a choice variety, though £4 per specimen was my limit (clearly I’m not a real addict).

So a definite shopping spree (I blame the fabulous summer-like weather) – but there is definitely enough choice plants to keep my coming back to Abriachan for a long while yet.  Just as well give that the front garden has now been totally overhauled and has lots of tempting gaps that need filling!