October’s crescendo of plants

There are some big plant families that flower late in the year and completely change the feel of the garden in October, for instance: chrysanthemums, nerines, rudbeckia and asters. I’ve already featured some of these in recent posts, so although I love them (except chysanths if I am honest), I am going to look elsewhere for my October thrills. I am linking up with Chloris at the Blooming Garden with my selection of 10 favourite flowers for the month.

1 Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ (Peruvian lily)


I am a big fan of these long-flowered beauties, but A. ‘Indian Summer’ takes the ‘wow’ factor to another level. It has attractive dark foliage and fantastic orange/red strongly marked flowers. They make me think of tigers and exotic gardens. This is their first year in the garden (from plugs plants) and they had a bit of a set-back immediately after they were planted out when a frost knocked them back, but they have been flowering since June and are only getting stronger. I should mulch them this winter to help them become established.

2 Mina lobata (Spanish Flag)


Well, I am not currently waving the spanish flag. I think they’ve made a mess of things in fact, but Mina lobata has performed brilliantly this summer. I have it growing primarily over the arches in the vegetable garden and it is definitely the star performer there, especially as the wigwams of climbing beans fade (dry) away.

3 Nicandra physalodes (the Shoo-fly plant)


I’ve not seen this plant around much at all, although it is quite stunning at this time of year. It typically reaches about 4ft. It belongs to the nightshade family and forms Chinese Lanterns like Physalis alkekengi, but in this case the lanterns are a striking dark purple/black. Plenty of powder blue flowers are open on the plant at any one time and, as it branches still further, plenty more buds to come too. The stems are also dark and the leaves have an attractive wavy edge. One drawback is that it can be a little enthusiastic in seeding around, but it is easy to control through hoeing etc.

4 Moluccella leavis (Bells of Ireland)


Bells of Ireland are one of those rare, but useful green ‘flowers’ (OK, bell-shaped calyces). The actual flowers are small, two-lipped, white orchid-like affairs (reminding me of dancing cossacks), nestled deep in the bells:


Over the summer the green spikes grow and lengthen and twist and bend until the plant looks like a nest of snakes. Best of all, as the plant dies, the whole spike skeletonises giving flower arrangers a second chance to make use of it. They are easily grown from seed, although I find that occasionally germination can be a problem (Sarah Raven has a strategy to deal with this here).

5 Salvias

It is no secret that I love salvias of all kinds. They are a tactile, scented pleasure. I can’t pass one without touching the leaves to see which fruit they smell of. My current stars for October are Salvia greggii ‘Lemon Light’ (yes, a lovely lemon-coloured one):


Salvia greggii ‘Lemon Light’

Salvia greggi ‘Emperor’


Salvia greggi ‘Emperor’

and, with baited breath, from cutting this year, Salvia leucantha:


Salvia leucantha

6 Panicum ‘Frosted Explosion’

Next up is an annual ornamental grass, Panicum elegans ‘Frosted Explosion’. It is looking glorious now. It fizzes through the borders with sprays of exploding tiny flowers and when it rains it really comes alive covered in glistening diamonds (it will also look great when the frosts hit). Here it is, covered in rain and interwoven with heuchera flower spikes:


Panicum ‘Frosted Explosion’ and Heuchera

7 Dahlias ‘Purple Haze’, ‘Gallery Art Deco’ and ‘Carolina Moon’

Since we’ve been lucky with the weather, dahlias are still looking fantastic, so I thought that I would share three that caught my eye last week :

8 Cobaea scandens ‘Purple’


I know that I featured this climber a few months ago, but it has gone from strength to strength and is now covered with huge seed pods.


And just look how beautiful the seeds are inside the pod:


9 Cosmos ‘Purity’


The wonderful Cosmos ‘Purity’

I haven’t grown this white cosmos before, even though I have seen it featured elsewhere as a classic. Well, I got free seeds from T&M and I don’t think that I can live without it ever again!

10 Melianthus major


It is early days for my Melianthus major, being its proper first year in the garden. It is looking good in the mixed border though and with a bit of winter protection I am holding out for flowers next year!

Well that is my list of top 10 plants currently. I wonder what yours are??


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Wordless Wednesday – Wimpole Pumpkins





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In a Vase on Monday – Into the gloaming

After working in the sunshine for most of this morning, it was a strange feeling to get back this afternoon to the odd half light that storm Ophelia is causing by whipping up Saharan dust into the skies. It’s been cloudy since lunchtime, so sadly I’ve not seen the red sun that has been widely reported, but the whole sky has been a sickly leaden yellow for hours.


The flowers I’ve gathered from the garden turn out to reflect today’s weather effects. Here in the East of England we are luckily missing the worst of the winds etc, but the jug I’ve used nevertheless managed to blow over at least three times during the photo shoot, so some of the pictures are just of a hand-held bunch of flowers. I wanted to take the pictures outside in the odd light though, “roamin’ in the gloamin'” in other words!


Iris foetidissima, Mina lobata and persicaria reflect those dusty red/yellow tones that we are seeing in the atmosphere today


A temporarily upright vase, showcasing my lovely William Shakespeare rose (front centre)


Yellow-tinged whites provided by feverfew, cosmos ‘Purity’ and an unnamed white bush rose (a reverted garage minature)


Additional foliage from a flowering red chard (dark leaves with red stems) and salad burnett and heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’

Cathy at Rambling in the Garden hosts this fun ‘In a Vase on Monday’ meme. Check out today’s many beautiful contributions though the comment section … and perhaps consider joining in, if you don’t already.


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Wordless Wednesday – Lady in Black


Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ‘Lady in Black’ is a mass of flowers and bees – 11/10/2017


Pre-season ‘Lady in Black’ has lovely dark stems and leaves


Each branch is strung along the entire length with blushing, star-like flowers


My plant of the moment – Symphyotrichum (Aster) lateriflorum ‘Lady in Black’

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September Wildlife Roundup – A chiffchaff amongst the riffraff

So autumn is here and, in case you weren’t convinced, you only have to look at the birds, insects and other wildlife to see their response to shorter days, colder nights and a ripe harvest.


The most common large web weaver is the Garden spider, Araneus diadematus

About a month ago my early morning wander around the garden started to become a sticky affair. Large, taut spiral webs were being strung across every path and doorway. I can’t count the number of times I walked into the greenhouse and straight into a web. Most of these daily (unless I manage to avoid them) constructions are made by the Garden spider, Araneus diadematus. Garden spiders are easily identified by the white cruciform markings on their back. Females are frequently seen suspended in the centre of the webs and can be quite large (up to 13mm cf. 8mm for the male) particularly at this time of year when they are likely full of eggs. Sadly, after laying their eggs the spider will die, leaving an egg sac attached to some sturdy branch, fence or shed to weather the winter.

In the back garden I’ve been watching various fruits fall to the ground in increasing numbers. I use as much as I can, but the crop is heavy and there is definitely a limit to how much jam/jelly/gin I can usefully make. So the damson trees are chock-full of wood pigeons eating as many as they can! My dog, Sadie, is a hoover for the fallen fruit, so her visits outside are strictly monitored. She is a big fan of apples too and being part labrador she has no OFF switch. This can be problematic when I lose her in the set-aside copses for long periods of time.

Apples are the main crop of choice with the birds and insects too. All that lovely sugar I suppose. The blackbirds are especially fond of them, but wasps and butterflies (Red Admirals largely) can often be found sampling them once they’ve been pecked open. Interestingly, the local rooks, who usually hang out in the sheep field behind us, seem to have recently become keen on apples too, which I’ve not seen before.


Rooks enjoying the fallen apples

It wouldn’t be autumn without squirrels bouncing around the gardening eating the nuts (I have walnuts and hazel nuts) and making holes in the lawn as they bury others. The black squirrels are back, but I only managed a photo of a normal grey one. I am not sure whether they partake of the apples too, but there are tooth marks consistent with small mammals (could be rats of course!).


Where did I bury that hazel nut?

Robins are more visible in the garden. Well, they are bright red, so may be I mean more present rather than visible.


Robins are once more obvious, singing at the top of the bare branches in the hedge

As well as felling the fruit, the winds recently have been whipping everyone’s hair/feathers into a mess!

I don’t know whether the winds have been a contributing factor, but there has been a sorry lack of butterflies this autumn. Fortunately, asters can still work their magic on the ones that remain, so it is well worth having these in the borders.


Red Admiral on S. ‘Andenken an Alma Pötschke’

It is always fun to be in the garden when the tit flock swoops in. They are very inclusive and fill the trees and bushes all around you, so that you feel part of their crazy party. Their tribe usually consists of long-tailed tits, great tits, blue tits and coal tits, but you can often see other participants caught up in the frenzy, such as the goldcrests.

Last time they blew in, they had swept up this timid visitor. I couldn’t really make out what it was. I think that last time I saw it I though it was a garden warbler.


This new visitor arrived with the tit flock

Happily, my waiting game with the camera paid off, because I was able to get a clear view when the rock fountain proved too much temptation. I now believe him to be a common chiffchaff. The responses to the ID on the iSpot website have agreed with this assessment so far.


Chiffchaff on the fountain

Welcome chiffchaff!

We are seeing quite a lot of woodpecker activity in the garden again. The Great Spotted woodpeckers are usually to be seen hopping up the damson trees, but this fresh-looking fellow was experimenting with the potted olives and then the water fountain.


Great spotted woodpecker hopping up a young olive tree.

The juvenile green woodpecker is still a regular visitor, but he is usually on the ground, pecking for insects and grubs. He is looking particularly scruffy as his plumage changes.


Our scuffy looking juvenile green woodpecker

I’ve mentioned the ripe harvest of fruit and nuts, but seeds play a big role in attracting wildlife too. Sunflowers are one of the most obvious seed supplies and are especially loved by greenfinches, but I always grow some teasel in the garden for the goldfinches too.


Teasel crop at Wimpole

Gardening at a National Trust property like Wimpole allows planting on a large scale, which is part of the fun of course. Here is their stand of teasel for instance (above).

Last week I was wheeling weeds to the bund passed this large stand when the whole area erupted with squawked alarm calls as birds flew for the surrounding trees. Sure enough the birds were goldfinches. I’d estimate that there were probably 40-50 birds in the stand. This photo show just some of them in the nearest tree.


A charm of Goldfinches

Are you seeing changes in your wildlife visitors as autumn settles in??

I am linking up to Tina’s monthly Wildlife Wednesday. I know that I am bit late, but I am hoping that she won’t mind a tardy entry. 🙂

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Wordless Wednesday – Dissolution of the shaggy ink caps


Shaggy Inkcaps have been popping up in the garden over the last two weeks. At first the fruiting bodies are tall, white (ish), narrow ovoids, with slightly torn surfaces


As the caps open to a more bell-like shape the scales peel away giving them the appearance of cascading hair, hence the other common name: Lawyer’s Wig


Once ripe, the gills and rim of the cap start to turn black


The mushrooms begin to ooze and drip black, spore-laden ‘ink’


Within a matter of hours the cap will almost completely deliquesce (liquify) leaving just a stalk topped with a small disc.

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Wordless Wednesday – 360° Blue Skies


Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’

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