Kathy's Garden Diary

October 2021

by Kathy Gray

Hello fellow Upper Nar Gardeners.

Our gardens have been so important this year when much else has not been available to us and this autumn has been one of the mildest and most colourful I can remember, with plants flowering for far longer than is usually the case. This time of the year offers many really beautiful plants that can extend the season. At the moment, I have a number of asters still flowering – did you know, though, that many of them have been renamed and are now known as Symphyotrichum. I think I’ll stick to aster! I grow several including one called ‘Calliope’ which has small mauve flowers and dark, dark leaves; two pink ones I would recommend are ‘Andenken an Alma Potschke’ – a lovely bright cerise pink and ‘Harrington’s Pink’ with bright green foliage and clear pink flowers. Perhaps one of the best, though, is Aster x frikartii 'Mönch' – it has dark foliage and yellow-centred, lavender blue flowers 5cm across. We have some wonderful nurseries in Norfolk where you can purchase these sort of plants – if you don’t already know them try West Acre Gardens and Creake Plant Centre for a start.

Chrysanthemums also come into their own at this time of the year. Below are some photos of those in my garden at the moment. I don’t know the name of the yellow one but it’s lovely and grows to about a metre tall, as does ‘Ruby Mound’ – such a beautiful deep red colour. ‘Hillside Apricot’ is smaller but none the less a good plant. Other plants that have been waiting in the wings also put on a show, such as the white daisy, Leucanthemella serotina. A mouthful I know but easy to grow – the cheerful daisy flowers move to follow the sun and it grows to 2 metres tall. Grasses can look spectacular with the low autumnal light shining through them. I grow Stipa gigantia and a couple of pennisetums, namely Pennisetum orientale ‘Tall Tails’ which lives up to its name and P. villosum. Also Miscanthus – a favourite is M. ‘Morning Light’

Chrysanthemum ‘Ruby Mound’

Photo: © Tony Gray

Chrysanthemum sp.

Photo: © Tony Gray

Chrysanthemum ‘Hillside Apricot’

Photo: © Tony Gray

Dahlias are so worthwhile for late colour. Do you remember when they were considered old fashioned and were often seen on allotments with canes and flowerpots over the top to stop the earwigs? Now, thank goodness, they have rightfully come into their own. A couple I grow are pictured below. I have found that if I mulch them well they come through the winter; the clumps of tubers are now so big on some of the plants that I wouldn’t have room to store them anyway.

Dahlia 'Twyning's After Eight'

Photo: © Tony Gray

Dahlia 'Western Spanish Dancer'

Photo: © Tony Gray

As herbaceous plants begin to wane, it’s time to appreciate any evergreen shrubs in the garden which can form the ‘bones’ in the winter months. There are, of course, many to choose from but one I particularly like is Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’. It makes a neat low growing mound and will flower at least a couple of times in the year – mine is flowering now; it is, of course, scented (see photo below). Another scented evergreen shrub that many of you may have heard me mention before is Sarcococca. It’s true that it does not do much for most of the year, although it is evergreen so provides leaf colour, but when it flowers in January you remember why you grow it; the scent is wonderful.

Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’

Photo: © Tony Gray

It’s also time to think ahead for next spring and plant bulbs. I have had to wait to plant a lot of mine as there is no space with all the late flowering. However, besides the usual narcissus and tulips, there are so many other bulbs, corms and tubers to choose from. I have just planted six Erythronium – they are also variously called fawn lily, trout lily, dog’s tooth violet (the name most of us know because of the shape of the bulb) and adder's tongue. They are members of the lily family and most closely related to tulips. There are a number of cultivars to choose from including ‘White Beauty’, ‘Pagoda’ and my favourite ‘Harvington Snowgoose’, nor forgetting of course E. dens-canis. They like to grow in partial shade and thrive in a woodland setting in a moist, well drained soil enriched with some organic matter. Do not let them dry out in summer. The majority of my bulbs this year came from The Anglia Bulb Company. They were recommended to me by Ray and Pauline who have used them for some years. I have found them very helpful and the bulbs come beautifully packed and labelled, with some free bulbs and labels. What more can you want!

Erythronium 'Pagoda'

Photo: © Tony Gray

A rose by any other name...

or – a little bit on the naming of plants (and forgive me if you know all this already!)

Put simply, the first name of the plant i.e. Dahlia denotes the genus. The second name is often the species and is always shown in lower case italics so Leucanthemella is the genus and serotina is the species. These plants can come true from seed or produce good, viable alternatives. However, some plants are cultivars as in Erythronium ‘White Beauty’. Cultivars are always written with non-italic print and within inverted commas. These are plants that have been specially bred, perhaps by hybridisation, and cannot be grown from seed and given the cultivar name as they are unlikely to be true. Cultivars have to be propagated vegetatively if you want the same plant; this can be done by division or cuttings for instance. However, this is for the purists, collection holders where it is important to maintain the plant in its true form or for those in the nursery trade. As amateur gardeners we can grow what we like, how we like.

Happy gardening.