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).
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 greggi ‘Emperor’
and, with baited breath, from cutting this year, 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:
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’
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??