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My Garden Journal – November

The penultimate visit to my garden journal for this year is here already, and I write this as November comes to a close. The strong winds of November howl around the house and roar down our chimneys. The rain has persisted for virtually every day of the month along with the strong winds.

My journal for the dreary month of November began “Our wonderful, heart warming Indian Summer lasts until the very last day of October, so we waited for the first day of November hoping for the continuation of warm, bright days. The eleventh month is usually a time of mists, fog and heavy dews.”

Jenny Joseph wrote of November, “Much of November belies the dread attached to its reputation, the shutting down, the gloom, the fog, the dark wet, the cold and the colds, autumn shrinking into winter.”

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On November 1st we woke to a heavy dew, thick fog and the rest of the day was damp and dreary. The whole first week was the same. Oh dear!

Thank goodness for our garden which on the dreariest of days provided bright, colourful sparks. In every border there is a flower blooming its heart out to please us and of course any brave bees out on the wing in search of pollen and nectar.

All the photos below were taken on the same day in late November.

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I next wrote about a real favourite plant of mine, a shrubby Buddleja rarely grown but oh so beautiful! Buddleja lindleyana.

We grow an unusual Buddleja, which is still flowering this month. Buddleja lindleyana hails from china and boasts beautiful two-tone purple flowers. Racemes arch from the tip of every arching stem. Sadly it is rarely grown. I take cuttings every November to give to friends. They love it too!”

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I enjoyed painting it too!

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I took a couple of photos as well which you may like to see, as they illustrate the colour range found within the flowers.

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On the opposite page from my Buddleja lindleyana painting I have featured another special plant again rarely grown. This one though is a tree, an Acer.

“A young Acer tree is growing in our front garden. At this time of the year its leaves turn into the colours of fire. Its leaf petioles glow red. Acer pectinatum – a very special tree!”

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Turning the journal’s page over we have a mouth watering page about apples! and on the opposite page I look at our Viburnums.

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“By this time of the year we have usually harvested our tree fruit and it is safely in store. This year we are still picking apples, some varieties should have been harvested by early September.” 

I reveled in the chance to get out the watercolours and study two tasty and very colourful apples, Scrumptious and Red Falstaff which grow one either side of the green house door.

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I moved on to consider the Viburnum shrubs putting on performances in our garden this month. “Various Viburnums give Winter interest and start their show now in mid-November. Their show is a profusion of gently coloured flowers, scent and shining red and black berries.”

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More shrubs graced the next few pages too, deciduous Euonymus and a Hydrangea.

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“Our deciduous Euonymus give us so many shades of pink as they metamorphose into their Autumn personas.”

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At the bottom of this page beneath the Euonymus I just found room for a pic of the thistle-like Silybum maritimum.

“The teal-green and silver foliage rosette will give us these colours through the winter. In Spring flowering shoots will creep upwards full of promise.”

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Another all time great of the shrub world is featured on my next page in the journal, A Hydrangea that gives us flowers that change colour, foliage that changes colour and a most unusual shaped leaf for a Hydrangea. It is Hydrangea quercifolia.

I wrote of it, “Hydrangea quercifolia is giving its all in the garden with white flowers turning pink and then finally rust. Autumn turns its leaves from bright apple green through to ruby red.” 

Its name gives a clue to its leaf shape as quercifolia means simply “oak leaved”. Our specimen has an extra attribute in that in Summer on humid days it emits a sweet honeyed scent. As far as I know they are not supposed to be graced with scent of any kind let alone one so special.

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My last double page spread is all about Persicarias, a really useful perennial for any garden with hints of the new perennial movement or a nod towards the Prairie style planting. We love both these styles so we grow several different ones.

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“A plant that gives us great pleasure in the Autumn is the Persicaria. We grow one type for its flowers and seed heads and another for its incredibly coloured and marked foliage. Persicaria amplexicaulis have poker-like flowers in various shades of red, pink and white followed by chocolate coloured seed heads.”

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“Persicaria virginata gives us wonderfully coloured and unusual marked foliage with the addition of tiny white flowers.”

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So that is the November visit to my journal. Next month will see me fill up my lovely little “Moleskine” note book as my December thoughts, photos and paintings bring the journal to an end for 2015.

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A day out with the Shropshire Hardy Plant Society

Today was a special day spent with friends from the Shropshire Branch of the Hardy Plant Society, with the morning spent visiting a plantsperson’s garden and the afternoon listening to a talk with photographs of a botanist’s garden.

The garden was called Stevenshill close to Wenlock Edge venue of our recent woodland walk featured in a recent post. The owners were so full of enthusiasm and plant knowledge, and the garden full of rare and colourful delights.

It had far-reaching views of Wenlock Edge and plenty of varied, comfortable places to sit and enjoy the scents and sights of the plants.

It was one of those gardens with lots of plants to confuse and mystify even the most experienced hardy planters. Lots of head scratching about unknown and forgotten plants. Luckily the garden’s owners have put lots of labels in and have good memories for plant names. Their plant sales table held some unusual specimens and many went home in the hands of hardy planters, including ourselves. We selected a hairy leaved bergenia, Bergenia ciliata and a shrubby Teucrium, Teucrium “Paradise Delight”. Now where are we going to place those?

Throughout the garden were sumptuous Agapanthus and deeply coloured, richly scented roses often strategically placed next to enticing seating.

This yellow rose graced an arbour over a seat in the hot border. It was strongly scented. With it was planted Clematis aromatica with its tiny simple purple flowers scented with mouth-watering vanilla.

Buddleias were scattered in the borders giving height and attracting hoards of butterflies.

A selection of sculpture gave another layer of interest, from this classical figure to sinuous modern metal pieces.

But the true stars of this garden were the plants.

After a break for tea and cakes we travelled over to Bicton Village Hall where we hold our meetings, where we were looking forward to a talk entitled “A Botanist’s Garden” presented by John Grimshaw who until recently was Head Gardener at Colebourne in Gloucestershire, a garden famous for its mass displays of unusual snowdrops. In the last few weeks he has moved to Yorkshire for a new challenge, to develop the arboretum at Castle Howard. The talk was as good as we had hoped for. John illustrated his talk with a Powerpoint presentation featuring photos of the highest quality. We came away enthused and carrying another plant, Sedum telephium “Arthur Branch”.

To find out more about John and to see some of his beautiful photos visit his Garden Diary blog, www.johngrimshawsgardendiary.blogspot.com.

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A Wander around our Garden in August

Our garden in August is a bright, colourful place full of lush growth, rich scent and so much wildlife to enjoy. Our wild birds are mostly quiet at present as August is the time when they hide away as they go through their annual moult. They have gone to ground and gone silent.

Above our heads however avian activity is busy and exciting. The Swallows and House Martins are feeding up in anticipation of their migration south. The sky is full of them, but the screaching of Swifts is absent as they began their own long journey a few weeks ago. For a few days there is a gap in the sounds – we miss them for their excited calls and aerial displays.

The calls of the young Buzzards can be heard above the Swallows and Martins, as they excitedly search out thermals and discover the joy of riding them. The Peregrines have reappeared now that their breeding season is over so we can watch the adult pairs rising in ever-higher circles until they disappear from view. Our eyes become incapable of seeing them as they become smaller, become dots and are then gone. They have the luxury of far better long distance vision than us – they will see the movement of their prey from hundreds of feet up in the air. A real treat is to spot them as they stoop, travelling down at speeds of over 200 miles per hour with a pigeon in their sights.

Yesterday when deadheading in one of our borders we were surprised by a low-flying, high speed Green Woodpecker who zoomed close to us, just a few feet away. A real treat!

Insect life is flourishing. On any warm bright day a variety of insects can be seen hunting out nectar and pollen. Butterflies, bees and hoverflies are attracted to Buddleias, Alliums, Salvias, Nepetas, Lavenders and Echinops. There are so many Peacock Butterflies around at the moment but you can’t have too many of them. The Holly Blues are much scarcer and flit continuously rarely seeming to settle.

Bees and hoverflies are attracted to our Lavender hedge which borders the lane which passes in front of our garden.

The ponds are full of life with shoals of young fish basking in the shallows, diving Beetles and Boatmen moving up to the surface and back to the bottom regularly. On the surface Pondskaters pace out the length and breadth of the pond surface. Young newts regularly appear at the surface take a gulp of air and drop back down. When Jude the Undergardener nets the duckweed and blanket weed from the pond she catches newts every time. She is delighted with every newt that graces her net. I am convinced that removing the weed is an excuse for her newt catching exploits. In August the majority of newts Jude catches are youngsters.

The front garden is looking good! So much colour! The Hot Border is HOT!

The “Beth Chatto Garden”, our gravel garden, is full of interest with Agapanthus taking centre stage. These Agapanthus were actually bought from the Beth Chattos Gardens nursery.

Early in August the front garden was dominated by yellow – even Jude the Undergardener was wearing yellow – but after a few weeks all the other colours caught up.

In the back garden the growth in our Secret Garden is exuberant to say the least. The foxgloves are going over but the achilleas, lychnis and alliums are still giving us a full performance.

Elsewhere in the borders of the back garden the seedheads of our Snakebark Acer add rich reds, Crocosmias give every shade of yellow, orange and red, Achilleas add subtlety and the spiky Erigeron flowers provide silver.

In the greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers and capsicums are adding sweetness and freshness to the cut-and-come-again mixed leaves of ours summer salads.

The world beyond our garden is changing this month as in our borrowed landscape the hay in the paddock has been cut and baled and the wheat fields turn gold and are being harvested one by one. By the time my September garden wander comes around the skys will seem empty as the Swallows and Martins will be on their way to warmer climes, but the garden will be getting busier with mixed feeding flocks of titmice and Goldcrests, and others of mixed finches.

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Mr Buddles Shrubs

Buddleja can be seen as a common and very ordinary shrub especially when we observe how readily it seeds into gutters, between tiles, along railway embankments, river banks and canal sides. These commonest of buddlejas are quite stunning with their long conical panicles of pale mauve flowers which attract bees, hoverflies and are a firm favourite of butterflies and moths. Move in close and enjoy their delicate scent.

I usually spell it “Buddleja” but I am not sure where that spelling came from. I turned to my garden plant bible, the Royal Horticultural Society’s  “A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants”, and they refer to it as Buddleja but add syn Buddleia.

I continued to research and have now discovered that it was Linnaeus who named it Buddleja with a “j” and he named it to commemorate Adam Buddle. So I still cannot find out where the “j” comes from. Adam Buddle was an English vicar who worked in Essex and like many of his contemporaries turned to botany to fill his time. He compiled an English flora which was never published but little else seems to be known about him.

In our gardens we can grow buddlejas with flowers from the purest of white to the deepest purple, from pale to deep pinks and even shades of orange. I decided a few days ago to have a wander around our garden to see which ones we had in flower. Most are varieties of Buddleia davidii. Many have rich yellow or orange centres to each of the tiny individual flowers.

This first set of photographs are of the Buddlejas in flower in our garden this August.

On a day in  mid-August our Buddleja davidii were attracting butterflies, as we had experienced a few warm, bright, calm days after weeks of cold, wet and wind.

In the communal borders on our allotment site we grow many Buddleja davidiis in their full colour range, but we also grow the orange-flowered Buddleja weyeriana.

On a recent visit to a garden with the Shropshire branch of the Hardy Plant Society we came across this beautiful Buddleja davidii with soft grey leaves and blue flowers.

In another border we discovered a much more unusual variety called Buddleja lindleyana. It’s leaves were much brighter green than the davidiis and the individual florets were further apart from each other. The inside of each floret was a rich bright violet while the outsides were a greyish violet.

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Gardening in autumn sunshine, listening to Bob Brown and buying an unknown plant.

This must have been a near perfect day for any gardener – a morning spent in the garden under autumn sunshine, listening to a talk by Bob Brown in the afternoon and then buying one of his plants, a plant new to me.

Bob is a most entertaining speaker, full of information, humour and original thoughts and ideas. It was when we got our plant home I first noticed the wording on the bag that held our buddleja. At the top it said “I’ve found It! and below that “Bob Brown’s Nursery” and a nice clear map. If you have ever tries to find his Cotswold Cottage Flowers (www.cgf.net) you will understand the need for the map and the meaning of the comment.

Buddleja “Morning Mist” is a cross between Buddleja crispa and Buddleja loricata. Although these parents are not hardy the cross is reputed to be a good hardy little shrub. It grows into a neat metre high dome with silver foliage which is white on the underside, white soft furry stems and silver flowers with mustard centres. And it is scented with the aroma of honey! And it flowers most months of the year! A perfect plant?

Mustard yellow centres add a sparkle of colour to the beautifully scented flowers. Turn the silver leaves over and the undersides are pure white and covered in gentle white fur.

So, there it is, Buddleja “Morning Mist”. could it be the perfect garden plant. We look forward to finding out.