An Extraordinary Autumn

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There comes a moment every autumn when I leave home and return again under the cover of darkness. Since I have been living full time at The Watch House that moment has arrived earlier in the season. On Friday I experienced dawn in the garden for the last time, on a weekday at least. The bruised sky was inflamed with orange and scarred by criss-crossing vapour trails, as if it had been in a fight with a cat overnight. Everything in the garden was grey and still, coated in a thin veil of dew. I noted with a heavy heart that it would be April before I start commuting in the daylight again. Until then I will only see my garden in the daylight at weekends for the next 6 months.

The Jungle Garden from the top of the house

Looking around the garden this morning I am struggling to identify any evidence of the advancing year. We’ve had wind and rain and the nights are getting colder, for sure. One or two plants are becoming a little raggedy around the bottom, but my dahlias are still going great guns, there are lilies in bloom and the greenhouse is heady with the scent of brugmansias. I am watering almost as frequently as I did in July, only by torchlight rather than sunlight. A fortnight ago I chose to bring a philodendron and an anthurium indoors, but everything else is coping admirably with the onset of autumn. So spectacular has this season been that I am loath to it come to an end.

Dahlia ‘Nicholas’, still looking splendid

I must not complain about the dark since the garden continues to give me great pleasure. My imminent departure for the Far East will be all the more bittersweet knowing what I am missing at home. By the time I return even my most optimistic self knows that it will be game-over for the vast majority of tender plants, for this year at least. I am leaving them in the capable hands of Mr and Mrs M, who are coming down from Sheffield to babysit them whilst I am away. Before I go I need to plant a lot more bulbs, especially narcissi, and to get my house in order for my guests.

Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’ and Salvia uliginosa nestle beneath Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelli’

Whilst I know this annual was not universally popular with readers when I planted it, I must commend Petunia ‘Night Sky’ for its vigour and reliability. It has grown so strongly that I have had to prune it back twice, and yet it has flowered incessantly since April. A nice bonus is the fragrance, which is warm and comforting, like vanilla. No two flowers are ever the same, each sporting hundreds of blurry white dots on a violet background. Another plant I would not be without is Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’ which I grow in quantity and use to plug gaps all over the garden. It flowers non-stop whatever the weather and will continue to do so until the first really cold weather arrives.

Petunia ‘Night Sky’ with Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’, Beschorneria yuccoides, Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’ and Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’ in the background
Kitchen sink drama

With my collection of gingers growing so rapidly I have been worried about having too much of the same foliage in the garden. Gingers produce all sorts of different inflorescences, but their leaves are generally very similar. Then I purchased a reasonably-sized Cyathea australis (rough tree fern), destined for the garden room, and realised it was ferny foliage that I had been missing all along. Next year there will be more ferns and at least as many coleus. I will post separately about my coleus trial (I know I keep promising!), but I am already kicking myself for not trying these for size sooner. Coleus are such marvellous plants for cool, semi-shade. Varieties such as ‘Strawberry Jam’ and ‘Bronze Pagoda’ are giving me little flashes of autumn colour and helping to break up the abundant greenness. ‘Henna’ is still the star of the show, having reached 4ft, although I will stake it earlier and more robustly next year.

By October the plants have all but taken over
Lilium ‘Lion Heart’ planted after the Hampton Court Flower Show

In the greenhouse my nerines are putting on a good display despite me neglecting them for the rest of the year. Their flowering is a clear signal that the gardening year is drawing to a close, and their glistening vibrancy a constant source of fascination for me. Like many bulbous plants a nerine’s  foliage is nothing to write home about, and yet the flowers are supremely flamboyant. Like Monty Don in this week’s edition of Gardeners’ World I am uprooting my tired tomato plants in order to make room for overwintering plants. I have taken a lot of cuttings this year especially of Plectranthus zuluensis, and these are somewhat taking over. What a terrific plant this is for ground cover in a mild, sheltered space.

In the greenhouse

So, enough writing and more doing. If you’d like to see more of my garden I have recently updated the My Garden section with images taken by esteemed garden photographer Marianne Majerus. Marianne was kind enough to let me use a selection of her images within this page for which I am very grateful. I shall continue posting whilst I am on my travels, with more reports from my recent visit to Cornwall. In the meantime, enjoy October and Happy Gardening. TFG.

An autumn cavalcade of foliage and flowers

Categories: Annuals, Coleus, Container gardening, Dahlias, Flowers, Foliage, Our Coastal Garden, Photography, Small Gardens, Trees and Shrubs, Tropical Gardens, Weather

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

Greetings Garden Lover! Welcome to my blog. Plants are my passion and this is my way of sharing that joyful emotion with the world. You'll find over 1000 posts here featuring everything from abutilons to zinnias. If you've enjoyed what you've read, please leave a comment and consider subscribing using the yellow 'Follow' button in the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen. You will receive an email every time I post something new.

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28 comments On "An Extraordinary Autumn"

  1. It still all looks amazing … how hard it must be to leave it to travel. You ought to set up a webcam! I love watching the surf webcams down here in Cornwall when I’m too busy to get my fix.

    1. If I had a webcam I would be looking at it all the time! I know people in Hong Kong and Taiwan that have cameras so that they can watch their pets at home all day …. and it becomes an addiction.

  2. Your garden still looks fabulous and sooo tropical! I also love that Dahlia ‘Nicholas’, despite the fact that I avoid Dahlias (too many S&S in my garden) and am not a fan of pink. Safe and happy travels and I hope you won’t miss your garden too much. The thought of not seeing it in daylight for six months (other than weekends) is a sobering thought.

    1. Hmmm, yes it is. Mondays are the worst, and today a special timetable has come into force due to the threat of ‘leaves on the line’. So my day begins 3 minutes earlier, which really counts at this time of day! Dan

  3. The colours in your garden are amazing. Especially that first image where you seem to have every colour in the spectrum. The light is astonishing at this time of year; I was drinking a cup of tea outside this afternoon and I wanted to stop time to soak it all up. ‘Nicolas’ and Labyrinth’ are on my Dahlia list for next year now.

    1. Nicholas is a fine dahlia. Labyrinth I have found a bit floppy, but that’s probably because my garden isn’t sunny enough for it.

      I was loath to go indoors at all yesterday. Wasn’t it just lovely? I found as many jobs as I could that were in the sun and didn’t do the others ….. including bulb planting. That will now have to wait until I get back. Dan

  4. So many gorgeous plants. I love the coleus with the pinked edges in the last photo. One I will be looking for next year. Have a good time on your travels. I hope you see some great plants and share with us.

    1. That one is ‘Henna’. It’s been sensational this year. I have taken lots of cuttings.

      I don’t get out much when I’m working abroad but there’s always something to comment on! I’ll keep you posted …. literally. Dan

  5. The last photo is just gorgeous: such a variety of colours and textures with your star Coleus in the foreground. In all your photos, everything looks as lush as it has for the last few months-a testament to your nurturing of the garden. That Lilium ‘Lion Heart’ is very eye catching and I can understand why you succumbed to that one! I am away from home for five days, and fretting about my garden and the seedlings I recently planted, so I completely understand your concern about being away! Safe travels.

    1. In my experience it’s never as bad as you imagine it will be, so I am sure your seedlings will be fine. If they’re not, plant more!

      I can’t quite believe the garden myself. You are right, it’s just going on and on … but it cannot last. Recent mornings have been crisp, but with that amount of planting the warmer air is trapped inside the garden and the plants don’t seem to mind too much. I do have some mildew creeping in on some of the dahlias now.

      I heartily recommend planting some lilies in mid summer to flower in the autumn. They give the garden such a boost and, here at least, they avoid lily beetle too.

  6. Thank you for mentioning Petunia Night Sky those months ago. Shortly afterwards I spotted some what were described as ‘Galaxy petunias ‘ in, of all places, our small Morrissons supermarket. I bought three colours, pink, purple and dark blue. The slugs loved them! But, like yours, they have given me a lot of pleasure this summer, lots of flowers, all different. Only the purple one has survived until now but it is still covered in flowers and I have positioned it just outside my kitchen window where I see it constantly. I shall certainly try to find it next year, too.
    We are retired and do not travel much. Living in a fairly rural area without a good nursery nearby, we buy from where we can, supermarkets can be good sources as with , Lidl and Morrissons, worth keeping an eye on.
    And we love Begonia Glowing Embers, too, another great colour filler for pots and corners. Now you have me wanting to try gingers and coleus – my husband keeps telling me that there is no room left in the garden but somehow we always squeeze a few more in, leaves no room for weeds!

    1. There is ALWAYS room. I know this to be true Glenys. Gingers grow nice and upright so they take up no space at all. And, do you know, I never ever have to weed because the weeds have nowhere to grow. Dan

  7. Have a good trip Dan – can’t bear the thought of THAT Festival this year, let alone next! I am digging most of my garden up and re-planting, eight weeks without rain and right on the Greensand Way, did the plants no good whatsoever so the big clear out has begun and I shall be keeping the horticultural trade in business for some time. Went to the Great Dixter Plant Fair yesterday … don’t even ask! Met so many fantastic plantsmen including from France and Belgium.

    Keep the posts coming.

    Mrs. P

    1. I do like the eclectic mix of nurserymen and women at Dixter. The whole set-up is so lovely and naturalistic. It’s just how a plant fair should be in my humble opinion. Quality plants in a quality setting. No need for tacky labels and shouty plants.

  8. Forgot to say Dan that the tropical garden at Dixter is so jungly right now one almost needs a machete to get through it! I love that relatively small area – tibouchina growing almost like weeds. I will go now.

    Mrs. P

    1. Part of me is very sad I didn’t go this weekend. Not having a car is occasionally a pain. However I spent a small fortune in Cornwall and I seriously could not have purchased any more plants. If I had gone I would definitely have spent money, but I missed seeing the gardens.

  9. What a growing season it has been ! Your garden looks stunning as usual, I feel energised just looking at your photos ! My son wanted to buy some Nightsky petunias and I resisted this year, but now that I have seen yours… I wish you bon voyage and look forward to the posts you will write from Asia. 🙂

    1. Thank you. I hope I manage a handful but my itinerary this year is quite demanding. Lots of evening flights etc. Plus I have a travelling companion for a change. Do try the petunias. Plant them in a pot and then you can always move them if you don’t like them. Your son will find them fascinating I’m certain.

  10. Your garden is looking gorgeous. I can’t wait to hear more about your Coleus. I love them for their easy care and splashes of color that can stand up to our summer heat. The vignette at your sink was charming too. I hope your trip goes well.

    1. Thank you. I have found coleus don’t do so well with heat / sun in my garden, but this is perhaps because it’s semi-shaded and the plants are not adapted to it. They have grown so much faster during the cooler spells. However I am quite new to growing coleus and have a lot to learn about them still. Dan

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