Plants in the Garden: Autumn 2013
Started by: Tim IngramGo to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 22 November 2013, 14:10. Go to bottom of this page.
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Autumn has its own range of plants in the garden, and a combination of late flowers, berries and colouring foliage. The significant rains we have had over the past month or two, after a very dry summer have led to a fresh flush of growth in some plants, including Podophyllum 'Kaleidoscope', a really fine plant under the apple trees and a good contrast with ferns and the colouring foliage of epimediums.
Potentillas are useful and reliable, but often overlooked garden plants, and I wonder how many gardeners grow the silvery-leaved form of P. fruticosa, 'Beesii'? This has flowered right through the summer and even now has a few blooms. The new foliage in particular is very attractive, and the whole plant is compact and neat. A good shrub for the outskirts of the rock garden.
This plant was selected by Bees nursery from seed collected by Forrest in China in 1906, and must have most striking foliage of all shrubby potentillas.
Zauschnerias are amongst the most valuable rock garden plants of autumn; sometimes a little too vigorous. This form 'Olbrich Silver', has found a spot that suits it and is flowering very much better than in previous years. The tomentose foliage is highly attractive but makes it more tricky to propagate than other species.
On a raised bed we have tried various forms of Cyclamen graecum and they have proved hardy and increased well, but don't get sufficient summer heat to encourage good flowering, as under glass. This silver leaved form though is looking very good at the moment, and certainly worth growing in the garden for the leaves alone.
Autumn colouring perennials are beginning to make a show, and the best of all are the Amsonias, notably A. hubrichtii. These are slow to develop and make specimens in the garden, but once they do are long lived and valuable for their small blue periwinkle-like flowers. A. hubrichtii is unusual in having such fine lanceolate foliage, and keeps this colour for a long time in the autumn.
After such a dry summer we have had very extensive rains this autumn and some of the alpine beds and troughs are getting glass cover from now through to spring. Dutch lights are ideal for this and are sometimes available second hand as old greenhouses are dismantled. The picture shows these in situ on a simple wooden framework over a raised bed; the only problem being when certain plants begin to grow too high to fit them over! In the front garden I construct an open sided glass cover over the sand bed in a similar way - in theory with all the parts numbered so they fit together accurately. Many alpines of course do not require protection in this way, given excellent drainage, but dryland species and those with woolly foliage definitely benefit, and early flowering plants give a better show. Other parts of the alpine areas in the garden are not covered and it is interesting to compare between them and observe how plants overwinter. Several species on the pictured bed for example (notably Androsace sarmentosa 'Sherriffii' and Artemisia schmidtiana 'Nana'), which was not covered last winter, looked very bedraggled in the spring but grew away again remarkably well by summer. Few plants were actually lost on the bed, so the cover is especially of value in maintaining good specimens from which to propagate and as insurance if winter rains are very heavy.
This is the cover on our sand bed, half completed. It takes 4 or 5 hours to construct and once fully put together straightens up and becomes quite rigid. There are some interesting plants being tried on this bed, including the American Paeonia brownii (just emerging) and Daphnes calcicola and modesta. I also look forward to seeing flowers on Pusatilla vernalis and an American form of P. patens, plus the delightful dwarf P. vulgaris gotlandica. The large yucca-like plants are species of Dasylirion which have proved fully hardy through our last two quite harsh winters. And the large cushion on the left is Azorella trifurcata, becoming much too vigorous and I think will be removed and replaced with more choice plants next spring. The dwarfer form of this plant would be more appropriate.
Autumn can be an incredibly beautiful time in the garden, just as it is walking through woodlands as the leaves fall and the form of trees is revealed in new ways. A friend high up on the North Downs gardening on heavy acid soil has the most remarkable range of autumn colouring trees and shrubs from Nyssa to Oxydrendron. Our garden on neutral well drained fertile loam gives less colour, but Betula ermanii is always superb amongst birches. This little grouping of Cornus controversa 'Variegata' and Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' (which is backed by Acer griseum) is especially nice now. Underneath, delineated by the wooden stakes, is an area of rough grass planted with bulbs, and my aim is to slowly add more and more and in greater variety as Brian Mathew describes in one his books. I have sprinkled plenty of seed of Tulipa sprengeri in this area - I wonder how long before I expect to see flowers? Fritillaria pallidiflora has established well and a scattering of erythroniums. I should try Anemone apennina which I saw many years ago growing really well with snakeshead fritillarias and narcissus at Spillshill Court. Any other suggestions?
From comments gathered for the 'International Rock Gardener' article, the time for Tulipa sprengeri to flower from seed seems to vary from four to seven years, Tim .
I just wish I could have it self seeding everywhere as some of my friends do!
I have a few purchased bulbs that flower each year at the moment so will have to console myself in patience to wait for more! The way plants adapt to different gardens often seem very subtle, quite apart from the individual interests of gardeners themselves - I think this is why I have always found gardens so very interesting and stimulating (not to say educational).