Six on Saturday, 17.11.18. Getting Ready for Winter.

Winter is definitely coming but still we have lovely autumn colour just about hanging on. So number one is Autumn Colour.

Cotinus coggyria

Liquidamber, Acer and Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sun’


These lovely leaves will soon be gone but the fruit of Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ hang on into the depths of winter so this tree sits in my winter garden.

Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

Tree Removal.
I have been preparing for next year’s improved landscape by having George, the tree surgeon here to remove a line of ancient and massive laurel and hollies. He is coming back soon to get rid of the stumps and this hazel which totally defeated him last time he came. It is obviously very, very old and goodness knows what we will find at the centre of it, maybe a lost civilisation.

Ancient hazel


Autumn is a good time to thin the bamboo stands. It’s a tedious job,  but they look better for it . The upside is we have loads of bamboo canes which will come in handy next year.


Vegetable Boxes.
At last I have cleared the veggie boxes ready for their blanket of manure which comes courtesy of my friend, Francesca’s beloved Pickle. I just have to persuade the Pianist to collect it for me. I think this is a blue job although the Pianist is a Feminist and refuses to acknowledge that there are such things as blue and pink jobs. Still I might be able to bribe him with mince pies. In  the centre is a standard gooseberry with a frill of chamomile rounds its foot.

You might notice that Chloris, the scarecrow is no longer with us. Here she is a couple of years ago; even with the blonde wig and a stuffed bra, she still looks terrible. She had to go, she was an embarrassment. She looked so disreputable that I was ashamed of her and put her on the bonfire. It was like having a picture of Dorian Grey in the garden which was deteriorating even faster than yourself.

Wrapping up for Winter.
I have the ghostly forms all over the garden of tender plants wrapped in a fleece overcoat. Here are my tree ferns.They have a scarf of straw and I hope they will be happy.

Bringing things in for Winter
The most tedious job of preparing for winter is bringing all my tender plants in.  No mean feat now I have a tropical area full of tender plants.

My lovely greenhouse which I acquired last year to display plants in winter is now totally stuffed.


Window sills and spare bedrooms are fully occupied with plants. The dining room looks like a forest. But what can you do? A girl needs her plants.



And that’s my six, but I haven’t mentioned bulb planting. Another tedious job and I still have a box full of tulips waiting.  But if I start on all the autumn jobs still to be done, I’ll on end up with 36 on Saturday, and that’s breaking the rules  so we’ll leave it there.

Thanks to The Propagator for hosting the meme of Six on Saturday.

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( Not) in a Vase on Monday. Armistice Day.

Today is the anniversary of Cathy’s meme, In a Vase on Monday. To celebrate she invites us to bring flowers into the house and display them in a different sort of container, so it is actually Not in a Vase on Monday’. Last year I chose a Victorian potty. Somebody else went a step further and arranged their flowers in the lavatory.

But yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day so I thought something more sombre is called for. I used my grandmother’s gas mask tin. Although this tin is from the Second World War, mustard gas was first used in the First World War and this is a grim reminder.

My grandmother used this tin for storing a muddle of needles, pins, thimbles, threads, knicker elastic and goodness knows what else. Like all her generation she always sewed; I suppose living through the war made everyone make do and mend. But she hated sewing and whenever you saw the gas mask tin brought out you knew that grandmother would be in a really bad mood. Eventually I inherited the tin and its jumble of contents along with my grandmother’s distaste for anything to do with sewing.  A couple of years ago I discarded the contents and decided to use the tin to store seeds in. Today, it seems a fitting receptacle for flowers to pay tribute to the millions of men who were maimed or who died horribly in an obscenely pointless war.

Chrysanthemums have traditionally been associated with death. Christina at My Hesperides Garden says no one has them in the house in Italy. But I love them and I am always glad to have a cheery vase full of them on a gloomy November day. I am not too keen on the mopheads which look like over-lacquered hair styles and need to be fussed over with hairnets and disbudding. But I love the bright daisy or pompom types. Many of them start blooming in October but as the garden is full of so much else at this time I don’t take any notice of them until November. It’s one of my rules, like doing the garden tour in a certain order after a holiday, instead of rushing straight over to look at something eagerly awaited, or refusing to notice plump spring bulbs appearing until after Christmas.

Blooms are getting scarce in November so we need chrysanthemums not as memento mori, but as little patches of sunshine in the garden. My collection is growing but next year I hope to have even more.

Here are some of the ones I put in my tin. Pretty in pink we have the lovely, old,  double, dusty pink Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’. This blooms late  and its leaves turn red  too.

Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’ centre. ‘Mei Kyo’ right.

Another double pink is the cute little ‘Mei Kyo’ which is a pompom rather than quilled like the Emperor.

Chrysanthemum ”Mei Kyo’

The peachy pompom is ‘Picasso’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Picasso’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mei Kyo’ right corner. ‘Picasso’ centre.

I have several single pinks, this one is called ‘Stratford Pink’, I like it because it has a white halo in the centre.

Chrysanthemum ‘Stratford Pink’

I have to have ‘Suffolk Pink’ of course because it is local and I am also very fond of this shaggy pink which a neighbour gave me.

The most vivid pink is ‘Mrs. Jessie Cooper’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mrs’Jessie Cooper’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mrs Jessie Cooper’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mary Stoker’ is a lovely peachy colour and blooms for ages.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mary Stoker’

Dazzling white ‘Edelweiss’ is quite rare.

Chrysanthemum ‘Edelweiss’

Other rare ones include gorgeous ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ which is late blooming and one of my favourites. It is double and deep orange with bronze on the backs of the petals.

Chrysanthemum‘ Chelsea Physic’ Garden’

‘Chelsea Physic Garden ‘ centre

‘Margery Fish’ is lemony yellow.

Chrysanthemum ‘Margery Fish’

This next one has a red label which means it is on the Plant Heritage Red List for Endangered Plants. I can’t remember its name so I am going to have to do some research. It’s possibly ‘Cottage Lemon’ It has terracotta buds opening to deep yellow flowers, so not really lemony. But it’s gorgeous.

I love this one which is called ‘Cottage Apricot’. It becomes deeper apricot with age and it has a lovely honey scent.

Chrysanthemum ‘Cottage Apricot’

The rest of the ones in the tin are nameless passalongs. Now I have complied with Cathy’s rules I think I will put them into a vase. I don’t want to look at a gas mask tin all week.

The BBC’s Antiques Road Show did a wonderful programme to mark Armistice Day. It was very moving as people brought in artifacts and told heart-breaking stories about family members who had lost their lives and shown great courage and fortitude. A friend of mine was amongst those with a tale to tell.

I don’t have any stories to tell or medals to show, but after my grandparents passed away I inherited a beautiful gold hunter watch and chain. My son has it now. Inside the case, carefully preserved, was a white feather. I know that white feathers were sent to many of the 16,000 Conscientious Objectors who were vilified and treated incredibly harshly during the First World War. Some of them were sentenced to prison or hard labour. People who  refused to be complicit in killing their fellow men were mocked at and ostracised. My ancestor was clearly not ashamed of his white feather and he carefully preserved it so it would tell its own tale today.










I have to admit to getting angry when we are told that millions of young men ‘gave’ their lives for their country. In fact they had their lives cynically stolen; a whole generation died, were maimed, or had their lives blighted. And all because as Wilfred Own said, they were told and believed: ‘… The old lie, ‘Dulce et decorum est
Pro Patria mori

But as well as marking Remembrance Day, this  is a celebration  of the fifth year of Cathy’s enormously popular meme, In a Vase on Monday. So  thank you Cathy for bringing us all together and encouraging us to enjoy flowers in the house all year round. Do pop over to Rambling in the Garden to see how Cathy and all her followers are celebrating the occasion.

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In a Vase on Monday. A Book Club Posy.

I think my friends are probably sick of the dahlias which have been filling my vases since July. They are miraculously still blooming away even after a light frost. (The dahlias, not my friends.) But for my Book Club day I chose a little posy of all the little November survivors to put on the table.

In the next picture you can see a self seeded Scabiosa, bottom right and the Dianthus  which was grown from seed and has bloomed all summer long.

On the top left of the next picture there is the dainty lilac Calamintha grandiflora ‘Elfin Purple ‘ which blooms for ages and seeds around abundantly. The fluffy blue flower in the bottom right corner below Salvia ‘Hot lips’ is the tall growing Ageratum corymbosum which is tender so has to come in for the winter. It is easy from cuttings if you forget.

There are four  different salvias here, the lovely velvety Salvia leucantha which comes into bloom late in the season and is now in the greenhouse for safety.

Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’

Salvia greggi ‘Icing Sugar’ is a lovely two tone pink.

Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ looks good with the dark purple of Salvia jamensis ‘Nachtvlinder’ and Plectranthus.
I have used a few sprigs of Liriope  muscari with purple beads. There are two verbenas , the tall Verbena bonariensis which handily seeds itself everywhere and the shorter Verbena hastata.

To match the purples I have used Solanum laxum ‘Creche au Pape’  which has lilac buds and opens to white and lilac flowers. It has been blooming for ages now and doesn’t show any sign of stopping.

Solanum laxum ‘Creche au Pape’.

What else is there?  A couple of asters, Penstemon ‘King George’ which is a bit too red, a knautia, a cleome,  a campanula, a rose,  some bottle brushes of a Pennisetum villosum .  Once we get a proper frost it will be harder to make a posy, but for now there is plenty to chose from.

As this is for a book club, there has to be cake  so my chef made us an apple cake which was much appreciated. I have to admit  to those who think I am rather grand having my own chef; I am referring to my lovely Pianist. These days he does all the cooking in this house and  I am extremely grateful. I prefer to be grubbing outside.

Apple Cake
225g self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
225g caster sugar
2 large eggs
Half teaspoon almond extract
150g melted butter

250g peeled and cored cooking apples
25g flaked almonds
1 deep 20 cm loose bottomed cake tin.
Preheat oven to 160c or 140c fan or gas 3.

Blend flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, almond essence, melted butter.
Spread half  the mixture in the tin and lay thickly sliced apples on top. Spread the rest of the mixture on top, trying to cover the apples. Sprinkle on the flaked almonds.
Bake for 1 and a quarter to one and a half hours. Serve warm. I reheated it for 1 minute in the microwave.

I’ve never given a recipe before as this is strictly a gardening blog but it is so yummy and goes with my Book Club Posy.

And the book? Meet me at The Museum by Anne Youngson. I read one review which said this is a luminous book about late love which makes it sound like a geriatric chick lit. This is misleading because this is a short book which is multilayered and is about life, death, time, loneliness, friendship, love, children. It makes you question what is the purpose of life and how to lead a meaningful life. It is about the importance of myth, ritual and sacrifice. It is about so much and so beautifully written. We all loved it.

Thanks to Cathy, the queen of the vase for hosting this meme. Do check out Rambling in the Garden to see what Cathy and all  her fellow enthusiasts have been finding to put in their November vases.


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Top Ten October Blooms.

Towards the end of each month I like to post about the flowers which are currently giving me the most pleasure. And I always love it when bloggers join in and share their favourites. I choose ten but even if you only share one special flower it would be lovely.

If you love your garden it is great to have special flowers to look forward to and to cheer you each month no matter the weather.  In October I always look forward to nerines and I love them so much I would like to have a special greenhouse dedicated to them. Of course the bowdenii hybrids bloom outside quite happily but those with sarniensis in their veins need frost protection. These are the ones with the brightest, most  shimmering colours. The first to bloom for me is the bright red, tender  Nerine sarniensis. My other tender ones are still in bud, so they will be amongst my November favourites. These bulbs are summer dormant so need to be kept reasonably dry or they will rot. Watering is increased once the flower spike appears and carried on until the leaves die down.

Nerine sarniensis

Nerines have a long autumn season because different varieties  bloom at different times. Nerine bowdenii starts blooming outside in early October. If it has a sunny position without any competition it soon clumps up.

Nerine bowdenii

Nerine bowdenii ‘Stefani’ is so delicate looking with its shell pink flowers but it is hardy too. Here it is in my sundial bed.

Nerine bowdenii ‘Stefanie’

Equally gorgeous is the hardy Nerine bowdenii ‘Isobel’ which has really dark pink flowers. I keep it in the greenhouse because I love the contrast of dark and pale pink and white when the nerines are all blooming together.

Nerine bowdenii ‘Isabel’

I love this striped one which doesn’t seem to have a name.

Nerine Striped Form’

My favourite is Nerine undulata, it is the most delicate of all. A friend who is a keen plants person gave it to me more than twenty years ago. It is said to be hardy and I grew it outside for several years. But I have had it in a pot for years now and each year I get more blooms, this year there are 43 and they are like curly spiders.

Nerine undulata

Nerines can be grown from seed and then you can get your own gorgeous hybrids. I should have lots by now if I hadn’t been so careless and let the seeds dry out. This happens easily as you sow them on the surface of the compost. I have this one in bloom which I sowed  about 4 years ago. It is a lovely soft colour, a bit like ‘Stefanie’ but prettier I think, but  then I would, as it is my baby.

This is last year’s seedling from a white nerine, ‘Ella K’ . I can’t wait to see what colour the flower will be.

Nerine one year old seedling.

Another October favourite is blooming in the greenhouse right now, or it was until today when I brought the pot into the house to show off when friends come to dinner. Bessera elegans is a very easy to grow, you plant the bulbs in pots in April. The flowers are exquisite,  coral,  jewel- like drops .

Bessera elegans

The October garden is brought to life by colourful asters. I love all daisy flowers and these starry symphyotrichums, as we have to call them now are an absolute joy, even if they do have to put up with a silly new name. A lot of people are put off them because of mildew but if you avoid nova-belgii hybrids this doesn’t seem to be a problem.  Symphyotrichum novae-angliae hybrids are the ones to look out for. Here are a few favourites.

Chrysanthemums are next month’s treat and although I have several in bloom now, I am not going to croon over them until November when floral treats become scarcer. But one Chrysanthemum has been in bloom for a while and so has to be included in the October blooms because its snowy white flowers light up the October border. It is Arctanthemum articum. It used to be a Chrysanthemum but we are not allowed to call it that now. Whatever its name, it is well worth looking out for as it is a beauty.

Arctanthemum articum

October is Schizostylis time, except we have to call them Hesperantha now, but that’s OK, it’s easier to spell. I find them a bit tricky because Suffolk is very dry, specially this year and they need lots of water to do well.

Hesperantha coccinea ‘Sunrise’

I love persicarias and have quite a few different ones, although probably not as many as my Persicaria-enthusiast friend, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. 

But one I am enjoying at the moment is a towering annual. It is Persicaria orientalis and right now it is much taller than me at about 6 foot tall. Its common name is ‘Kiss me Over the Garden Gate’. It is easy from seed but slugs adore it and my first bunch of seedlings was munched clean to the soil. Fortunately three more germinated later and these are now looking wonderful. Next year I would like loads of these and maybe for fun I will have some by the garden gate.

Persicaria orientalis

Another tall growing annual is Leonitis leonurus ‘Staircase’ which grows taller and better as the summer goes on. It looks wonderful in my tropical garden. I have taken some cuttings to see if I can keep it going after the frosts.

Leonitis leonurus ‘Staircase’

Other plants looking better and better as the season goes on are the abutilons which used to live in pots. Given the freedom of the soil they have gone mad and I really don’t have anywhere to accomodate them now that they have become so monstrous. I don’t think they will be hardy. They have such pretty bell-shaped veined flowers.

Abutilon ‘Nabob’

Abutilon ‘Nabob’

Abutilon pictum ‘Thompsonii’

Abutilon pictum ‘Thompsonii’

I also have lovely yellow daisy flowers in the tropical bed which are pot plants here but easy from cuttings. They are hardy in Cornwall but probably not here. One is the simple daisy flower of Euryops pectinatus, the other is Euryops ‘Double Sunshine’. Both of them fell into my hands in a rather unorthodox fashion I’m afraid.

Euryops pectinatus

Euryops ‘Sunshine Double’

Oh dear, here I am at number ten and it is difficult to choose a favourite amongst the rest of the October beauties. I think I will go with a little knapweed type plant which has a quiet charm and is a joy because it blooms so late in the year and insects love it. It is called Serratula seoanei. I can never remember how to spell it as it has rather too many vowels. It looks lovely in my Mediterranean garden.

Serratula seoanei

So that’s my ten, please join me and write about your October favourites. In the meantime, here are a few that I didn’t include in my list even thought they are all beauties.


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A Last Hurrah for the Dahlias.

We have been threatened with frost this weekend and so I suppose my dahlias are probably living on borrowed time. But what an abundance of blooms I have had over several months. I am a total convert now. My grandmother used to grow them in serried ranks and as a child I was revolted by the earwigs they attracted and of course there was always the possibility that the earwigs might crawl into your ears and lay eggs in your brains. Or so my big sister told me. But this year I have been revelling in them and although the earwigs are a bit of a nuisance, so far I have managed to keep them out of my ears. I started off a few years ago growing the black leaved ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ as so many of us did. I then amused myself by growing on seedlings and trying to get really black children like this one.

This year I have enjoyed  bright red children as well as the dark ones  and to my astonishment this pink, stripey one. Goodness knows what the naughty bishop has been up to.

This spring I created a large new tropical bed  so I could indulge my new-found passion for these gaudy beauties. Never mind tasteful dark ones with black leaves,  I bought the brightest coloured pompoms, dinner plates, anemone- flowered ones and the rest; anything which took my fancy.  They needed copious watering throughout the hot dry summer, proper staking and feeding two or three times during the season, but what rewards.

The perfect pompoms of ‘Cornel Bronze’ are still going strong, this photograph was taken today. I love the soft apricot colour.

Dahlia ‘Cornel Bronze’

I grow a lovely anemone -flowered tangerine one called ‘Totally Tangerine’. Both of these two look great with the almost black ones which I still seek out.

Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’

These anemone- flowered ones are sometimes called powder puff dahlias and you can see why. I love them and next year I shall probably grow a few more.
‘Blue Bayou’ is  a vibrant pink with red centres.  The flowers vary and on some of them the ‘powder puff’ is missing.

Dahlia ‘Blue bayou’

Dahlia ‘Mambo’ is pink with such beautifully formed petals it looks as if somebody has cut them out with pinking shears.

Dahlia ‘Mambo’

I am not terribly keen on the dinner plate dahlias or ‘Giant Decorative’ as they should be called, but I grow the popular ‘Cafe au Lait’ simply because it is such a fabulous colour. There is also a ‘Cafe au Lait Rose’ which is a sport of it and  a lovely soft pink.

Dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’

I have another giant decorative which is a gorgeous deep purple. It is called  ‘Thomas A Edison’ It is an American dahlia dating from 1929. It is a perfect foil for ‘Blue Bayou’.

Dahlia ‘Thomas A. Edison’ with Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’

Another favourite is ‘Labyrinth’ which has lovely shaggy petals of a peachy colour mixed with pink.

Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’

Another striking dahlia this time with bright pink and yellow Da-Glo colours is Dahlia ‘Karma Fuschiana’ .

Dahlia ‘Karma Fuchsiana’

Nearby ‘Walzing Mathilda’ has semi-double flowers in lovely sunset shades contrasting with dark leaves.

Dahlia ‘Walzing Mathilda’

For a total contrast I have a delightful dahlia which is the colour of blueberries and cream. It is called ‘Creme de Cassis’.

Dahlia ‘Creme de Cassis’I

Single ones are beloved by the bees and so I had to include a few. ‘Night Butterfly’ is gorgeous with a central ruff of white petals contrasting with the velvety red.

Dahlia ‘Night Butterfly’

There are quite a few in the ‘honka’ series and I have a couple. I am rather underwhelmed by ‘Honka Fragile’. It has white petals delicately edged with pink.

Dahlia ‘Honka Fragile’

I prefer the starry flowers of ‘Honka Red’.

Dahlia ‘Honka Red’

I love  red dahlias and ‘Apache’ is a particularly striking, bright red fimbriated one.

Dahlia ‘Apache’

The best and brightest red dahlia is called ‘Murdoch’ and it has a story attached.
Thirteen years ago a man arrived at Bob Brown’s wonderful nursery, ‘Cotswold Garden Flowers’ with his car full of this dahlia which he had collected and  then grown on for years. He thought Bob was the best person to entrust it with and what a wise choice that was. Now we can all enjoy this fabulous dahlia which Bob believes is the best bright-red ever. I agree and that is why I have it as my header at the moment. I simply love it.

Dahlia ‘Murdoch’

I have several sumptuous nearly black dahlias and I can’t decide which is my favourite. ‘La Recoleta’ is an almost pompom shape of perhaps the deepest colour.

Dahlia ‘La Recoleta’

But then ‘Karma Choc’ has such a delicious velvety dark flowers and stems too.

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’

And ‘Rip City’ is stunning .

Dahlia ‘Rip City’

I have been enjoying these blooms in the garden and in bowls in the house since July. I shall be very sad to see them lying in black heaps after the frost has attacked them. I never dig dahlias up to store them inside. I believe it is winter wet rather than frost which kills them. After I have cut them down I cover the tubers in several layers of newspaper and then a thick mulch of wood chippings.

I am a bit late with my Top Ten October Blooms but I shall be posting it very soon. I really wanted to pay homage to my glorious dahlias before they disappear.

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The Autumn Garden.

Although the weather has been so unseasonably warm and storm Callum completely missed us, autumn has definitely arrived.  There are still plenty of blooms but the general effect is autumnal.

Join me for a stroll round the garden.   On the left looking down from the house  the huge crab apple ‘Golden Hornet ‘ is full of fruit. In front of it the leaves of  Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ are turning red.

Further down the garden the summer house is getting rather swamped by the enormous walnut tree.  The Acer drummondii on the right has lost its leaves.

Behind the little pond the Forest Pansy, Cercis canadensis has put on its autumn frock.

Cercis canadensis

Let’s walk down the garden a bit and look back. Yes, definitely autumnal. 
On the right by the sundial, Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’ has lovely foliage.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’

Looking further down the garden past the she-shed.

The crab apple, Malus hupensis ‘Princeton Cardinal’  has dark leaves which turn red in autumn and glossy red fruit.

Malus hupensis ‘Princeton Cardinal’

The winter garden is starting to colour up.

Prunus serrula.
Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Beauty’

Hamamelis ‘Jelena’


I decided to make it bigger so  I will play around with the hosepipe a bit to get the shape right, then I’m off to buy more weed membrane.

I have just finished enlarging my exotic garden. The Pianist complained that he got scalped trying to mow under the fruit trees here so I am sure he will be glad. At the rate I am going he will run out of lawn to mow entirely sometime in 2200.

I am on a roll at the moment because we have had some trees cut down and I have an enormous pile of chippings to cover up my weed membrane carpets.

One of the trees I was very sorry to see die was this ancient apple tree. We left the lovely mossy trunk even though it is probably a magnet for honey fungus.

The pear trees have been laden this year. Red admirals have been gorging on the fruit lying on the ground. I’m not sure what this is. Maybe a Speckled Wood ?

Medlars are still sitting on the tree waiting for someone to blet them. Nigel Slater says they look like a cat’s bottoms and smell of rancid wine but they make fabulous jelly, once they are rotten, (sorry -bletted.) It is a pretty little tree with lovely blossom but I refuse to mess about with smelly fruit that looks like a bottom. Incidentally our medieval forbears were more robust in their descriptions, but I won’t sully your ears here.

Mespilus germanica

The exotic garden is still looking fabulous, the dahlias keep on and on giving as long as you deadhead them. We are never without a bowl of them in the house.

The Black-eyed Susie has now taken off into the apple tree.

In the secret garden grasses are looking good. Miscanthus nepalensis has plumes that look as if they are made of spun gold. This grass is not totally hardy but it came through last winter alright.

I love all the fluffy bottlebrush pennisetums.

Pennisetum ‘Hameln’

Pennisetum villosum has survived the winter although it is not a very hardy one. I have it flanking the entrance to the Mediterranean garden.

I don’t know whether Bulbine frutescens is hardy, it lived in the greenhouse last winter. It has bloomed all summer long.

Bulbine frutescens

Thank you for accompanying me on my stroll round the garden. I know next month will be dingy and dark but right now the garden seems to be in festive mood and like me enjoying the glorious sunshine and autumn abundance.

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Six on Saturday. 13.10.2018

We have been away in Wales which is beautiful but rather wet.  It is lovely to get home to warm sunshine and new delights in the garden.

My first treat is the eagerly awaited October-blooming snowdrop, Galanthus reginae-olgae subsp. reginae-olgae. Sorry about the tautology, I didn’t name it. In fact when I first grew this snowdrop it was called Galanthus corcyensis. As it comes from sunny Greece, it prefers a sheltered, sunny position although I have it growing quite happily in the shade.

Galanthus reginae-olgae subsp. reginae-olgae

Next I have a tree which doesn’t look very amazing at the moment, although some years the pretty heart-shaped leaves colour up nicely. To appreciate it properly, you need a ‘scratch and sniff’ computer. It is a weeping tree called Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendula’. At this time of the year, I enjoy working near it and I have planted it where I will pass it regularly. The autumn leaves smell of candy floss or toffee apples. Absolutely yummy.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendula’.

This year my quince tree, Cydonia oblonga ‘Vranja’ is so laden with heavy fruit that the branches look as if they might break under the weight.  The quince was supposed to be the ‘ golden apple’  with which Eve tempted Adam  in the Garden of Eden. Presumably they had cooking facilities because I wouldn’t like to eat one raw. The Ancient Greeks believed that a quince tree sprung up wherever Aphrodite stepped so the fruit was associated with love and fertility. I love the quince not just for its classical associations and its golden, furry fruit, but because in spring it has the prettiest blossom.

Cydonia oblonga ‘Vranja

A bowl of fruit will fill a room with a wonderful scent. They are good baked in pies with apples. And of course they make wonderful Quince cheese, Membrillo.

Whilst on the subject of gold, this  jasmine is lighting up my secret garden at the moment. In summer it is more lime- green but in September it turns bright shimmering gold.  It is called Jasminum officinalis ‘Fiona Sunrise’ I don’t know who Fiona is but I would grow this lovely plant even if it didn’t have fragrant flowers in summer.

Jasminum officinalis ‘Fiona Sunrise’

I had the wrought iron bench made to match the spider web gate which you might have seen on other posts. It seems appropriate at the moment as spiders are very much in evidence in the October garden. This one is enjoying a large fly.

Garden Spider. Araneus diadematus

As we have family coming to lunch tomorrow I have picked a bowl of October flowers; dahlias and Michaelmas daisies.

So there are my Six on Saturday. I wish I could make a heading of a neat row of photographs as so many of the Six on Saturday club do. Unfortunately I haven’t mastered the technology for that. I must work on it for next time. Meanwhile many thanks to The Propagator who hosts this meme and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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Top Ten September Blooms.

I showed my top September blooms in a recent post, The Exotic Garden. But September is generous with  an abundance of lovely flowers so I have plenty more giving me pleasure in other parts of the garden.

It is difficult to keep the whole garden looking perfect all year round without a large staff and loads of back up plants which I don’t have. My favourite part of the garden in June underwhelms me from the second half of July into August. But in September there is another wave of colour.


September. Anemone japonica ‘Andrea Atkinson’, Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ and asters.

Anemone japonica is a mainstay of the September garden although it can be invasive. This white one, ‘Andrea Atkinson’ is very similar to the popular ‘Honorine Jobert’, although I was told that it is superior, I cannot see any difference. I think it looks lovely with the airy heads of the asters which are spreading through this bed. I decided that I would prefer this anemone in another part of the garden where it could romp away happily without getting in the way of more choice plants. Although I thought I had dug it all up, as you can see this is not a plant which submits to being evicted. But it is pretty and flowers for ages. I have several anemones in different parts of the garden. I love this next one although I can’t remember its name. It is more compact than many of them.

Another long flowering elegant flower is the ugly-nosed Lobelia or Lobelia uliginosa.
It is not ugly at all and it has beautiful azure flowers. I have been told before that ‘Ugly Nose’ is not the correct name and of course I know it’s not,  but it is a handy way of remembering the real name. Uliginous means damp-loving but mine thrives in part of the garden which is not damp at all. It is also not supposed to be reliably hardy but I have had this for several years.

Salvia uliginosa

Next to my ugly-nosed lobelia I have the gorgeous China rose, Rosa chinensis ‘Bengal Beauty’ which has single flowers like flights of red butterflies. Behind the rose are the dark leaves of Cotinus coggyria.

Rosa chinensis ‘Bengal Beauty’

My other China rose, Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ is blooming away happily and this is one of the reason I love these roses, they are the first to bloom and the last to stop blooming.

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’

Pretty little ivy-leaved Cyclamen hederifolium starts blooming in August and is a star right through September. I give mine bonemeal and a good soaking in August specially after a dry summer like this last one. I have colonies all round the garden and each one is different. These start blooming ahead of the leaves.

These in the shade have large leaves even before the flowers appear.

Cyclamen hederifolium

There are white ones.

Cyclamen hederifolium

And silver- leaved ones.

Silver- leaved Cyclamen hederifolium

In the greenhouse I have some tender cyclamen which bloom at different times of the year. The delicate flowers of Cyclamen cilicium are so pretty. Their petals are larger and more pointed than those of Cyclamen hederifolium. This Cyclamen comes from Turkey so I won’t risk it outside.

Cyclamen cilicium

A late-flowering clematis which I love in September is Clematis rhedriana which has pale primrose bell-shaped flowers and has a delicious, fruity scent of cowslips. I used to grow this with Vitis coignetiae which has large bright red leaves in autumn and they looked beautiful together. Here I have it on the trellis surrounding my secret garden.

Clematis rhedriana

I also enjoy a shrub with fragrant flowers in September. It is a member of the honeysuckle family called Heptacodium miconioides. I think this shrub is better known in America where it is called ‘Seven Son’ or something like that. ‘Hepta’ means seven. It didn’t appear in the UK until the 1980’s and I believe the first plant was grown at Powis Castle. Apparently when this shrub is mature it has pleasantly peeling bark. I love it for the scent and for the butterflies who enjoy it so much. When the flowers finish, it has another trick up its sleeve. Its calyxes turn pink. This shrub is supposed to enjoy moist acid soil, neither of which it gets here. It looked a little unhappy with droopy leaves in the summer but is fine now.

Heptacodium miconioides

I love echinaceas and sadly I have found that so many of the gorgeous new hybrids don’t survive the winter so they have to be treated as expensive annuals. Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers believes that this is because they don’t like winter wet, it cause them to rot. Anyway, good old Echinacea purpurea is very reliable and seeds around too. I love any sort of daisy and echinacea is particularly pleasing with its dark central cones.  I have two different ones, Echinacea purpurea ‘Rubinstern’ and Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’. ‘Magnus’ seems to be a paler colour and has downward pointing petals but this could be because it is in a drier part of the garden. I grow it with Eupatorium purpureum which has fluffy pinky-purple flowers and Vernonia.

Echinacea purpurea

I have several clumps of violet coloured Liriope muscari. It has grassy evergreen leaves and I wish I had more of it so that I could create ribbons of it growing through other September flowering flowers.

Liriope muscari

Of course September is the month for colchicums. In the spring I find their oversized leaves rather a nuisance but then I welcome my ‘Naked Ladies’ at this time of the year when they are blooming without those elephant leaves. Colchicum autumnale is the most common and I particularly like this in its white form.

Colchicum autumnale ‘Album’

Colchicum speciosum has larger more showy flowers. I particularly like Colchicum speciosum ‘Atrorubens’ with its lovely purple stems.

Colchicum speciosum Atrorubens’

I’ll finish with a couple of sedums. These start blooming in August but there are some lovely September bloomers. I grow them in my Mediterranean garden.

Sedum ‘Lost Label’

Sedum ‘Carl’

Sedum ”Desert black’ with white Argemone albiflora’

It may be the end of summer but the weather is still really warm and there are still plenty of blooms to enjoy. The French poet, Charles Baudelaire took rather a jaundiced view of this time of the year in several rather gloomy poems about autumn.

Bientôt nous plongerons dans les froides ténèbres;

Adieu, vive clarté de nos étés trop courts!’

‘Soon we will plunge into the cold darkness;

Farewell, brief light of our too short summers.’

But Baudelaire didn’t garden and he suffered from tertiary syphilis so perhaps he had an excuse to be a tad gloomy. But I  think September is a glorious month; we still have plenty of blooms and next month we will have the gardening year’s glorious finale to look forward to.  Do come back  and see next month’s Top Ten Blooms. In the meantime I would love it if you would share your September favourites. Before I go, here are some more of my September delights.

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Six on Saturday. Lovely leaves.

I seem to post a lot about blooms on this blog but I am also a fan of  foliage so I thought I would join in with Six on Saturday to write about some of my current favourites.

I will start with Nandina domestica, known as ‘The Heavenly Bamboo’. It is not actually a bamboo at all and as to whether it is heavenly, a  heathen like me is not in a position to say. The ordinary Nandina domestica is quite pretty but nothing remarkable.

Nandina domestica

I think  purple- leaved Nandina domestica ‘Plum Passion’  is gorgeous.

Nandina domestica ‘Plum Passion’

My latest love is a new red- leaved one called ‘Blush Pink’. It is a sport of ‘Fire Power’. It starts out pink in spring and then instead of turning green it becomes redder as the season progresses. It is compact, so is handy in the garden or a pot.

Nandina domestica”Blush Pink’

I am a collector of old gardening books and one of my favourite sources for fascinating information about plants is the garden historian, Alice M. Coats (1905-1978)  In her book, Garden Shrubs and Their Histories she tells how Nandina domestica  comes from China and Japan. I loved the story of  this shrub being planted outside the door of every house in Japan so that if anyone has a nightmare they could pop out and tell the plant  so that no harm would come to them. Apparently in Japan it is  also considered  excellent for toothpicks, so a handy plant. Mine are rather a long way down the garden, so not ideally positioned  for discussing my nightmares with them. Or for toothpicks.

Anyway, I digress and you might well think that I have used up three of my Six on Saturday and taken up too much of your time with stories about toothpicks, but with my usual sleight of hand I count these three as one: Nandina domestica.

My next plant is a weird perennial with lovely, fluffy foliage. I am probably pushing my luck showing this as quite a few of you were appalled by my weird green rose, Rosa viridiflora recently and this is another aberration. It is called Tagetes lemmonii ‘Martin’s Mutant’. It appeared as a mutant side shoot in California.

Tagetes lemmonii ‘Martin’s Mutant’

I love it with an airy Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ behind it.

Tagetes lemmonii ‘Martin’s Mutant’

I haven’t tried  yet, but I think it would be great for flower arranging.  It grows up to a metre in a long season and has the spicy Tagetes scent. I don’t know whether it ever blooms, mine hasn’t and if it did I would cut them off, I love it as a foliage plant. It is a tender perennial so I have taken cuttings.

I like plants with black foliage so I am a fan of the neat little Coprosma ‘Karo’s Red’. It is not actually red at all; the shiny, little leaves are green turning nearly black. Apparently Coprosma is related to the coffee plant. It comes from New Zealand and is not very hardy but I like to live dangerously.  To be honest, I have already lost Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’, but you know the old chestnut; don’t believe you can’t grow it until you have killed it three times.

Coprosma ‘Karo’s red’

My other black shrub has filigree jet black leaves and as you can see luscious berries. It is an elder, Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’. I grow it with Persicaria amplexicaulis and behind it are some pink asters which you can’t see in the photograph.

Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’

The large rosettes of a hardy bromeliad, Fascicularia bicolor look great at this time of the year as the inner leaves turn bright red.

Fascicularia bicolor

As if this wasn’t enough of a party trick, sky blue flowers appear in the heart of each rosette.

Fascicularia bicolor

You are supposed to pull off the old brown leaves to keep this plant looking good, which is easier said than done. Each leaf comes equipped with vicious spines, I suppose to deter any passing llamas in its native home, Chile. I once tried to divide an  overgrown plant and I carried the scars for weeks. These plants need to be kept dry so are best in gravelly soil. I recently saw them growing in the trunks of dead tree ferns at the  Henstead Exotic Garden in Norfolk. I think I might give this a try.

I will finish with a gorgeous tree which I don’t believe I have shown before and I can’t think why. It is a small tree,  Koelreuteria paniculata  ‘Coral Sunset’. In spring its leaves emerge a startling corally salmon colour.

Koelreuteria panicula ‘Coral Sunset’ Spring 2017

Now in September the leaves are green but still keep some of their peachy colour and the stems retain their lovely deep coral colour. Next month it will go out in a blaze of colour and I will show it to you again.

Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sunset’

So there we have it, this week I am joining The Propagator with my six leafy delights for his popular meme, Six on Saturday. Why don’t you join the party. Very soon I will post my top ten blooms for September. My posts are like buses, long gaps then they come all at once.


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The Exotic Garden.

In March I started a new project which I had been mulling over for some time. When I created my secret garden three years ago I always planned accessing it through a jungle of lush foliage and vivid blooms so that it would indeed feel like a secret garden.

Secret Garden

Last year I created a Mediterranean garden beyond it and this has been a great success. But the exotic garden has quite a different feel.

Arundo donax‘ Variegata’ Dahlia ‘Cornel Bronze’

I learnt my lesson about removing turf to create a new garden when I dug up the lawns in the front garden and then three years later did the same to create the winter garden although I had help with that. First of all, I am getting too old for that sort of milarkey and secondly it is not a bright idea to remove your fertile top soil.

So no turf removal. I made the shape for the new area with the hosepipe and then covered the lawn with cardboard. When I couldn’t find any more cardboard I used a cheap weed membrane. Our bonfire area has clearly been used for this purpose for many years so when I excavated, I  found enormous quantities of ash which was light to wheelbarrow on to the new garden and quickly covered the cardboard and membrane.  The upside of using ash was the fact that after many bonfires it would be sterile and free from weed seeds, although bizarrely, several squashes have appeared growing in the ash and as I have never grown these, the seeds must have survived years of bonfires. Ash doesn’t look great but I planned on hiding it with plants quite quickly.  I then bought some  paving stones to create a path into one entrance of the secret garden and found a few slabs in the garden to make the other path.  So very quickly I was ready for planting.

Here it is in July when the pathway in to the secret garden was still accessible. You can’t even see it now.

Just as I was ready for planting, my lovely son decided to make some space and thin out the plants in pots on his wonderful jetty garden He appeared with, amongst other things, a black bamboo with a frilly skirt of the fabulous grass, Hakonechloa macra. There was a large olive tree, a Eucalyptus gunnii, a mimosa, Acacia pravissima and a huge variegated Arundo donax.  This was perfect timing and gave me some ready made dramatic foliage.  I added a couple of Tetrapanax papyrifer which has huge leaves, a variegated Castor Oil, Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ a golden bean tree and some grasses.

Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’


Tetrapanax papyrifer with poisonous Ricinus communis

I also bought a banana,  Musa basjoo which I hope will be hardy outside .

Musa basjoo

The red banana is not hardy, I had one before and eventually had to give it away when it grew too tall to fit inside the house.  I kept it for two years and used it for a rather recherché Christmas tree but then had to admit defeat when it reached the ceiling. In the following photo you can see the red banana with the Melia azedarach which I grew from seed collected in Greece four years ago. The silvery leaves of Eucalyptus gunnii are in the background.

Melia azedarach and Ensete venticosum ‘Maurelili’


Arundo donax ‘Variegata’


New to the garden is this unusual yucca, Yucca aloifolia ‘Purpurea’. I have never seen it before.

Yucca aloifolia ‘Purpurea’

In the shade along the paths I planted ferns.

Fern with Japanese grass, Hachenochloa macra

I planted several grasses but the one which has astonished me with its enormous size is this Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’.

Pennisetum rubrum


From seed, I grew climbing Mina lobata, (or  Ipomoea lobata as we have to call it now,) along with and Black-eyed Susie for height. For bright colours I grew orange Tithonia rotundifolia, lots of  colourful zinnias, Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Roulette’, tall Tagetes  linaeus and  sun-loving Gazania ‘Talent Red Shades’, bright orange Marvel of Peru, Mirabilis jalapa ‘Orange’.  Leonitus ‘Staircase’ grows ever taller with orange whirly bits at intervals on its long prickly stems. I love Ricinus communis for bold foliage but as I was worried that Hector might eat it I destroyed all but one plant which I hid away in the middle of everything. I grew various canna lilies but these will not germinate from seed unless you find some way of penetrating the hard skin of the seed. They are like ball bearings and trying to rub them with sand paper takes the skin off your finger tips but leaves the seeds intact. I only have a few plants. Next year I will put the seeds in the coffee grinder for a second.


This garden is going to be quite work intensive because I have planted so many tender plants here including house plants.

The real highlight of the exotic garden is the fact that I got quite carried away when ordering dahlias this year and they have all grown wonderfully big and lush on a diet of chicken pellets and constant watering. I have grown a few dahlias for years, starting with the respectable ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and several lovely seed grown ones from ‘The Bishop’. For years black-leaved dahlias were considered the only acceptable ones in sophisticated gardens, but now we are allowed to be as vulgar as we wish. I still love dark dahlias which are nearly black but I have plenty of big, blowsy ones in clashing colours too. Single ones are quietly pretty and bees love them. I love anemone -flowered ones like ‘Mambo’ and ‘Blue Bayou’ too. So here are a few of my favourites.

I could sit here all day talking about my exotic garden and if you were here I would take you down the garden for a close inspection of every plant. It is my favourite part of the garden at the moment.



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