A North Wales Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: October 2017: Entry 65
Not much to report as October draws to an end, except to say that luckily, despite occasional gusts of 70-80 mph courtesy of ex-hurricane Ophelia, we suffered no damage to the house and only the odd tree branch broken in the garden. Generally the month has been warmer and windier than usual with about average rainfall and it is notable that the autumn colour has been unremarkable - not only here either, we have noted on our frequent trips to the south of England that the colour has been muted there too. I suspect that the lack of cold nights is to blame, and now that they have finally arrived it is too late!
Scraping around for some flowers to show you I could only come up with old favourites such as Potentilla cuneata which always flowers throughout the autumn here and is still quite well covered, Geranium wallichianum 'Buxton's Blue' (which is being replaced in many gardens by the award winning 'Roxanne'), but which to my eyes is equally good, various cultivars of Hesperantha (Schizostylis) coccinea, of which my favourite is probably 'Sunrise', which was given to me by the late Jack Elliott many years ago, and another plant given to me by Jack on the same occasion, Veronica umbrosa 'Georgia Blue', a richly deserved Award of Garden Merit plant originally introduced by Roy Lancaster from Georgia in the 1970s.
Geranium wallichianum 'Buxton's Blue'
Hesperantha coccinea 'Sunrise'
Veronica umbrosa 'Georgia Blue'
One very positive indicator for next spring is that most of my rhododendrons, species as well as hybrids, are very well endowed with plump flower buds; normaly R. pseudochrysanthum, which is one of my favourites, bears just a few trusses on a bush that is >20 years old, this autumn almost every growing point has a flower bud so watch this space to (hopefully!) see it in all its glory in one of my April postings. Likewise, the diminuitive R. pumilum, although this has been promising before and not really delivered.
William Purvis called with his wife Diana recently on their way home from a holiday in N. Wales and, as he always does, he brough me lots of good plants, including several that I have had and lost over the years. Perhaps foremost among these is the yellow form (hybrid?) of Saxifraga diapensioides which I first had from Joe Elliott's famous Broadwell Nursery in the 1970s and which lived for a long time in a trough, sometimes flowering quite freely, before finally succumbing to a drought some years ago. William also brought the desirable humming-bird pollinated scrambler, Asteranthera ovata, which I managed to keep for a few years in a damp shady position against a high wall, and even flower occasionally, but which eventually petered out before I had taken the essential but oft neglected precaution of propagating it. It should be suited by our damp N. Wales climate quite well as its native habitat in southern Chile is bogs and watercourses, often in shady ravines from low levels up to nearly the treeline.
I first saw Dianella tasmanica covered with its ovoid, dark bluish-amethyst fruits in a wonderful garden in Oakland, California, and soon afterwards I managed to obtain a plant, where from I don't remember... Anyway, it grew quite well and flowered and fruited reasonably freely, but never with the gay abandon of those Californian specimens; we shall see if I can do any better this time! Such is William's generosity that I can't mention all the good plants he gave to me on this occasion, but hopefully some of them will crop up in future offerings here. Luckily I was able to exchange the favour by giving him a few plants that he was glad to obtain so we were both very happy, and once more one of the chief joys of gardening - the swopping of hard-to-find plants and information about them served to enhance both our lives a little.