Last Vestiges



I returned from China to a garden clinging valiantly on to the glories of summer. It was a heart-warming homecoming, but the gift was short-lived. Last week the weather cooled significantly, sending some plants into terminal decline. Dahlias are blooming their final blooms and my coleus are starting to look decidedly limp and lacklustre. I’ve brought indoors the bromeliads, papyrus and philodendrons, taken umpteen coleus and geranium cuttings and sheltered half the gingers and colocasias in the workshop. The remainder soldier on outside, alongside bananas and aeoniums, and will have to take their chances until I get to them.

As Christmas approaches I find myself more than usually stretched for time. Work is getting busy and taking me away from home for a couple of nights each week. I’m packing more than I can reasonably expect to achieve into my weekends; my lists are reaching epic proportions. It’s not a great sign when one wakes up on a Sunday feeling queasy at the prospect of the week ahead, but one can only do so much. After today’s Archers Omnibus I shall get myself back out to the workshop to empty and clean pots before refilling them with spring bulbs.

Fuchsia splendens
Hedychium ‘Pradhan’

Outside in the garden a handful of plants are still looking terrific. Fuchsia splendens always peaks in autumn and this year is no exception. The long, orange and apple-green trumpets greet me every day as I leave for work, illuminated by the floodlight by my front door. Salvias ‘Amistad’, ‘Black and Blue’ and ‘Hot Lips’ are going great guns, producing lots of flower with plenty more to come. Hedychium ‘Pradhan’ is attempting to bloom, although I suspect the cold has diminished the size and colour of its flowers. Nevertheless this Himalayan ginger has made a stately plant since I acquired it earlier this year.

Nerine bowdenii ‘Isabel’

I’ve had nerines flowering since late September. At this moment the stars are N. bowdenii and N. bowdenii ‘Isabel’, both excellent, reliable late-flowering bulbs for the garden. The lilies I planted in mid-July are still producing bloom, especially L. ‘Lionheart’. Next year I will plant a lot more in midsummer. In the greenhouse the borders are flooded with Plentranthus zuluensis, producing plenty of lilac-blue bottle-brush flower spikes. Rising above them is a ‘rescue’ Brugmansia, purchased in late September, which has been flowering non-stop ever since. Although the perfume is muted by cooler air, it’s still discernibly there.

The pressure is now on to get my bulbs planted. I have hundreds, still in their bags and boxes, which I am eager to get planted as soon as possible. In reality the process will continue well into December, and perhaps even into January. I have learnt from experience that this doesn’t have any adverse impact, except perhaps to delay flowering by a week or two: ultimately the weather is the greater decider. Today is a lovely day, the garden flooded with soft November sunlight, perfect for enjoying the last vestiges of autumn and providing no further excuses for inaction. TFG.

Dahlia ‘Magenta Star’