We grow dozens of succulents especially aeoniums and echeverias. We love them because they give us wonderful variations in foliage, texture, colour, pattern and shape, but they all will throw up a flower spike on occasion. This week we suddenly had a few flowering all at once, so enjoy my photos!
Back to my garden journal and we will look at my entries for September and see what our patch here at Avocet is up to. According to the weather reporters and meteorologists we should now be in Autumn but the garden is showing few signs of the expected seasonal changes.
I started by finding patches of colourful plantings and wrote, “September is a month when gardens can begin to look a little worn and frayed at the edges. We have made a huge effort over the last 4 or 5 years to ensure we have an interesting garden all year. Let us look and see if we have succeeded in making a good September garden. Here are a few shots of colourful patches throughout the borders.”
Jude, Mrs Greenbench or The Undergardener, and I have created a talk entitled “The Year Round Garden” which we give to garden societies and other clubs such as WI groups and U3A groups. It is all about how we ensured our garden was good for every month of the year. Some of these groups also visit our garden at various times of year to have a look around. Giving these talks helps us focus on ensuring we continue to develop this ever evolving element of gardening and helps us appreciate every day and what our garden gives us on every individual day.
The three photos on these first September pages show very different patches of our garden.
Turning over the page we find a couple of my watercolour paintings of two very differently coloured and differently structured flowers blooming in our September garden, a Crocosmia and a Salvia.
I wrote “I mentioned Crocosmia “Okavango” in my August journal entries as one of our newly acquired plants. It is now between 3 and 4 feet tall and flowering beautifully.”
“The most unusual coloured flower in our September garden has to be Salvia uliginosa. Its ugly name is made up for by its beauty with strongly symmetrical flower clumps and a shade of china blue petals with darker brighter blues too.”
My next double page spread features those wonderful South African summer flowering bulbs, the Agapanthus. We have a large collection of these big blue or white spherical beauties.
“From late summer onwards through autumn and into winter, Agapanthus continue to give colour, shape, texture and architectural elegance to our “Beth Chatto Garden”. In September many are still flowering strongly but a few begin to produce their beautiful seedpods.”
Turning over to the next double page I feature two very differently coloured Mahonias and a beautiful delicate Clematis.
I wrote, “Twin Mahonias, one yellow, one red both bright and brilliant plants for later in the year.”
“Take two Mahonias”
Concerning the Clematis I wrote “I love flowers that hide some of their beauty like this Clematis. Turn it over and discover its speckles and spots of purple.”
“Turn me over!”
The next double page spread features one of my favourite hardy plant families, the Sedums. I included photos of some flowering in our garden now and a watercolour impression of our plants in flower.
“There are so many variations in foliage colour and flower size and colour We have several. Here are a few from our patch.”
Over the page we discover the first signs of the changing foliage colours – the early signs of Autumn.
“A really good garden plant has more than one period where it is a star in the borders. One shrub we grow, Ribes oderatum certainly fits this bill. We grow ours in the “Freda Garden”. In late winter it is covered in deliciously scented yellow flowers which later in the year turn into black berries. Now though it is the foliage which turns the eye as it turns from bright green to rich shades of red, from ruby to almost brown-mahogany.
Not many shrubs could boast this much foliage colour and variation before Autumn has even got going.”
Can you spot the colour co-ordinated banded snail on a leaf in the last picture of the Ribes leaf sequence?
“Dazzling Dahlias! The September show offs!”
“Spot the bee!”
Opposite the Dahlias I look at a much more delicate flower, that of Kirengeshoma palmata, otherwise known as Yellow Wax Bells.
“This is one of the most unusual looking flowers to adorn the garden this month. As the flowers drop their petals, beauty of a different sort appears.”
And that sees the end of my journal entries for September. Next visit to my garden journal will see us moving into Autumn and the changes in weather and light it brings with it. Will I be reporting on the special light and colours, the colours of fire and Autumn?
So here we are with the tenth post in the “My Garden Journal” monthly series highlighting the changes that we see, hear and smell each month in our Shropshire garden at our home “Avocet”. Our garden open days have finished for the year and we have hosted our last visiting group for the year, so we have the garden to ourselves and our wildlife. From April to September we are open on set days and to visiting groups and although we love sharing our garden there is a feeling of letting go a bit once October arrives a sort of end of term feeling.
We will be busy taking hardwood cuttings and potting on those we struck last autumn. Our greenhouse becomes home to our more delicate plants, our Aeoniums, Salvias, and Echeverias. We put up bubble wrap as a cosy duvet for them and put the heating on gently.
My first page in my journal for October refers to the changing light the month brings.
“Autumn is most definitely with us, its special low light with its own intensity and identity gives the garden its coat of many colours. Sedum give us flowers of pink to purple rising from its succulent leaves.
“October began by continuing September’s Indian Summer. We are enjoying blue skies and warm temperatures. Luxuries for the gardeners, who can use these special moments to sit in the sun, drink tea and drink in the colourful richness in every border.”
My journal moved on to consider the changing colours which is symbolic of this season. The quote I have selected for October from Jenny Joseph also looks at October’s colours.
“The fire that October first brings to me is what has started in September. It is the woods flaming; not terrifying summer fires in some afforested countries, but the fire with no heat, no destruction. The torch that sets fire to our woods, hedges, trees in roads and gardens, blazing through cool damp darkening days is the sap withdrawing. It is a dying that can make us gasp at the intensity and great range of colour.”
In my journal I wrote “All those myriad shades of green that had been acting as foils for the colours of flowers are now coming to the fore. It is their turn to be the stars! As we move into autumn more deeply the green recedes to reveal yellows, oranges and reds. Our Euphorbia griffithii “Fireglow” glows yellow with thin red lines drawn on.”
“We grow two different varieties of Hamamelis x intermedia, Jelena and Diana, mostly for their bright late winter/early spring flowers but in autumn they give us the same orange and red colours.”
On the following pages I discuss the birds that visited our garden during October, the Merlin and the Little Owl. I hope you enjoy looking at my coloured pencil crayon drawing as much as I enjoyed creating them.
“Most of our Summer Migrant birds have left us. Firstly the Swifts and the Cuckoos left us in July and then the Warblers and the sky dancers, Swallows and House Martins.
We have been surprised to spot two birds which until recently would also have flown to warmer climes. Some of our summer visitors now stay with us. Early in October we spotted a male Merlin hunting along the lane from our house, moving and manoevring low to the ground in definite hunting mood.
Recently we heard the call of Little Owls, their piercing sounds were more those of a yapping Terrier than those of an owl.”
“In our “Secret Garden” we grow a miniature Chestnut, Aesculus mutabilis “Induta”. We forgive it for its ugly name as we love it all year. It gives salmon-pink new foliage in the spring which is followed by upright panicles of pinky-salmon flowers loved by the bees. Flowers are followed by little “conkers”, then in autumn the foliage turns the brightest yellow. When the foliage falls beautiful silvery-grey bark shines through the winter.”
“I featured the seed heads of Phlomis and Acer rufinerve in my journal pages for September. As we move through October more plants produce seed heads worthy of starring roles. Echinops, Eremurus, Eryngium and Crocosmia.”
November will take us deeper into the autumn which this year is proving to be an exceptionally colourful one.
It is always good to have little projects to get on with in the garden. My latest little project was to create a pair of succulent pots. We already have pots of succulents dotted or hopefully arranged around our Rill Garden. Here we feature several different Aeoniums, Echeverias and Sempervivum. They grow happily here because it is south facing and gets extra light reflected off the glass of our garden room.
We thought it about time we introduced some more succulents for added interest for our garden visitors on our open days, so bought a pair of beautifully shaped terracotta bowl-shaped pots and went off to our local nursery, Love Plants, to get an interesting selection of different succulents. We looked for different leaf colours, textures and shapes. A few had the bonus of brightly coloured flowers too. They have such wonderful names too – much too difficult to remember, Oscularia deltoides, Sempervivum jovibarba alionii, Echeveria elegans, Pachyphytum “Dark Red”, Pachyphytum bracteosum and Sedum x rubrotinctum.
So we gathered together everything we needed on the table in the Rill Garden and got to work.
We mixed up a suitable growing medium by combining equal quantities of a soil based compost and horticultural grit. We hoped this would be free draining while just holding enough moisture to keep the plants happy.
We then covered the drainage hole with crocks and added a shallow layer of my compost mix, ready to arrange the plants to their best advantage.
Some of the plants we put in the pots were our own cuttings. The picture on the left shows how new plants have grown from leaf cuttings. The plant on the right was grown from an offset.
Once satisfied with the arrangement we filled in between the plants with the compost mixture and topped it off with a mulch of horticultural grit.
Whenever you deal with succulents bits fall off and each bit can become a cutting. Other pieces we deliberately took as cutting material.
The photo below shows a leaf cutting taken from an Echeveria which is now forming tiny plants at its base. This is an easy way to make new plants albeit rather slow. It is a process requiring a lot of patience but not much skill.
And here they are in situ, alongside our rill, our new succulent planters.
Sedum spectabile “Autumn Joy”. If you had looked for autumn flowering sedums in gardening books 20 years ago that would be the variety that would invariably have popped up. Today things have changed so much.
Thanks to the work of garden designers from all over Europe such as Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith, who have been seeking out new and imaginative ways of using herbaceous perennials, we have the choice of many. Different flower colours. Different leaf colours, textures and shapes. Different ways of changing their flowers as autumn moves into winter. The photo below illustrates how Piet Oudolf uses Sedum at Trentham.
We have been adding many to our newer borders at home and in the communal borders on the allotments and now is the time to look and see how many we have and how we have used them.
The first selection is from our garden at home, the first two illustrating our favourite way of using them with grasses. The extreme contrast in flower shape – the flat umbrellas of the Sedum with the tall spires of the grasses – make them good companions and the colours of the grasses both in their green coats and in their dried winter cloaks enhance each other.
Up at the allotments members have donated many different Sedum which we have planted within the communal gardens.
And finally I can’t resist sharing a few shots taken in other people’s gardens.
So there we have the sedums. Stalwarts or stars?