Friday 19th November 2021

Another Friday. It’s mizzly and drizzly, but the front garden is as neat as a pin. Pots have been planted up with bulbs and topped off with horticultural grit. That’s true haughty culture.

Plant ident.

This could be called ‘The Late Show’, as these lovelies are all still performing even though it’s mid-November.

Phygelius capensis

The Cape Fuchsia is a (very) vigorous semi-evergreen, small shrub with extraordinary tubular flowers, which can be 3 cms long, orange-red in colour and a welcome addition to the border at this end of the year. Its vigour may be welcomed by some, but the phrase “an absolute nightmare” has also been used to describe it. However, the suckers which appear can easily be removed and potted up to make new, free plants. Can be treated as a herbaceous perennial. Ht. 1.5m

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’

Dan Pearson has recently written about Amsonia, and used such descriptives as ‘luminous’, ‘autumn blaze’ and ‘flash of glory’. So, nip out and buy some immediately. When planted in groups, the gorgeous buttery-yellow, lanceate leaves of Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ light up the autumn garden. A clump-forming deciduous perennial, panicles of star-shaped light-blue flowers appear from late spring to early summer. Fairly drought-resistant and copes with most soils. Best planted in full sun to partial shade where the light will hit it at some point in the day. Unassuming, perhaps, but a hard worker and one that is easily maintained. Reportedly resistant to slugs and snails. And not frequently seen, so worth buying for neighbour envy alone. Ht. 0.5m

Salvia confertiflora

Soft, dark red, velvety flowers adorn this beautiful Salvia. Bees and other insects love its nectar-rich flowers and the spikes contrast with the plant’s large, veined, green leaves. Can be hardy in some warm and sheltered areas, but is probably best treated as a tender perennial, so provide winter protection before the frosts arrive. (By the way, frosts generally arrive with a vengeance the night before you decide to provide winter protection.) So, at the very least, take cuttings to ensure plants for next year. Likes full sun and a sheltered position; regular dead-heading will prolong the flowering period. Ht. 1.5m

Sorbus aucuparia ‘Joseph Rock’

This variety of Mountain Ash is known for the beautiful amber-yellow berries which appear in autumn. Its deciduous, pinnate foliage takes on wonderful fall shades of scarlet, red, orange and copper which complement the colours of the fruit. Birds eventually take the berries, and, earlier in the year, bees enjoy feasting from the creamy white flowers. Upright and neat in form, this makes an excellent choice for a small garden. Full sun, any aspect. And it has an A.G.M., of course! Ht. 6-10m

Salvia involucrata ‘Hadspen’s Pink’

Apparently, one of Sarah Raven’s top ten perennials, now that it has survived a couple of winters in her garden in East Sussex. In less sheltered areas, it is generally treated as a tender perennial. Introduced by the colour gurus Sandra and Nori Pope whilst they gardened at Hadspen House (now The Newt Hotel and Gardens). Starts to flower in July and continues for months. The tubular flowers are a bright lipstick pink and are borne on upright, reddish stems which arch as they grow. Likes a well-drained, warm and sheltered position in sun. Ht. 1.2-1.5m

Jobs for the week

Sow a pictorial meadow

Goodness. Sounds very Homes and Gardens. And, indeed it is. As practised by none other than Highgrove House, my dear. So, what exactly is a pictorial meadow?

It’s a spectacularly colourful and naturalistic seeded planting containing both native and non-native flowers, aimed at attracting more pollinators without being a traditional ‘wildflower meadow’. It doesn’t, for instance, contain grasses in the seed mix. One of the best known was the planting created for the Olympic Park in London 2012.

Garden House is using a special hardy cornfield mixture containing Cornflower, Corn Cockle, Corn Chamomile, Cut-leaved Cranesbill, Corn Marigold and Poppies amongst other delights.

And here, the team assemble to consider the best course of action

First, clear the entire Exotic bed. Dispose of all compostable waste in the receiving bin of the compost heap. (See next Job for the week.)

Apply quantities of delicious, home-made compost prior to sowing the seed mix at 2 gms per sq. yard. (Mixing our Imperials and Metrics there. That’s Brexit for you.)

By sowing now we hope for earlier germination and tougher plants. A further sowing can be made next spring if necessary.

Heap heaps on the compost heap

Sort, turn and whisper magic spells. Remove already composted material to spread on newly cleared beds. Our resident expert returns to cosset his pride and joy, accompanied by a willing and able assistant.

Who, for some reason, doesn’t appear to want a photo taken. Can’t think why…

Still, nothing she can do about it now, eh?

And soon, she’s enjoying every minute –

Plant outdoor Hyacinth bulbs

The variety ‘Woodstock’ is being planted alongside Rhubarb plants in one of the raised beds; this should make an attractive combo next year, with the deep magenta of the Hyacinths contrasting with the deep red of the vegetable stalks. (Yes, vegetable!)

Empty 3 blue pots

To be filled with… guess what?


Still, many hands make light bulb work

Or, light work of bulbs

Where possible, match your gloves to the pots you are working on.

Work in the top garden

More emptying of pots, re-filling of pots, planting of pots, gritting, wiring, labelling. You know the routine.

Yes. We know.

Oh, looking very lovely

And what about the other routine we love?

The Cake Break

Ah, yes.

Plant up window boxes

With yet more Tulips. Tulipa ‘Abu Hassan’ to be precise.

Little Dixter

Not just any old Tulips in here, thanks. Now is the time to bring some of the species Tulips to the planting party, namely Tulipa turkestanica and Tulipa tarda. These are much smaller, more delicate bulbs. And much, much more expensive. They will need truly expert planting…

Excellent choice

And? Oh dear

Perhaps a little gingering up is required to get the best out of her

Looks promising

Planting bulbs for indoor flowers

These Narcissi bulbs have been forced in order to produce earlier blooms. They don’t need much in the way of drainage, so wine boxes will make ideal containers. Planted up in quantity, they are going to provide a dramatic display in the near future

Watch this space