Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
8th September 2013
Roscoea purpurea f. rubra
It has felt like a strange week but then I realised that they all felt strange. Perhaps strange is the new normal (or perhaps it's me, but let's not go there, that road leads to madness). Hot days and distinctly chilly nights
have left me wearing strange combinations of shorts and thick woolly jumpers. There have been some very local rain storms and fortuntely one of them landed on the garden. Things had been getting very dry
and the whole place has been refreshed. A mile down the road there are gardens that are still bone dry. During the week I set out to photograph a garden a couple of miles away and as I got to the top of the hill
I could see that it was in the middle of a local deluge so I came home and ate too much flapjack instead. Weather has strange effects.
The Roscoea have been responding to the dry heat by curling their leaves and looking folorn. This R.purpurea f. rubra was looking rather feeble. I planted it out last year hoping that it
would make a small clump and when it emerged things were looking optimistic. Slowly it has curled up thinner and thinner until I thought it had made no progress at all in the year. The rain restored its
appearance overnight and it is once again a wonderful clump of beauty. I am hoping for seed, but there is no sign of any forming. It might be a sterile clone (I have planted a couple of different clones
just in case), it might have been too dry to set seed, or I may not have looked carefully enough. R.purpurea forms seed capsules deep down inside the pseudostem and to begin with the slight
thickening and hardening of the stem is barely noticeable. When fully grown they will burst through the tissues of the stem like an alien parasite escaping the body of its host but by then it is too late, the
seed has been scattered.
8th September 2013
The American Pokeweed was slow to get started this spring and is still struggling to make up ground. It prefers hotter weather than I can reliably provide so it grew once the summer started
but hasn't made up for the time lost in March (which was colder than February this year). All parts of the plant are toxic, and I usually avoid plants that are seriously toxic but it is a spectacular thing in flower
and fruit. The fleshy structure of the raceme (axis, pedicels, calyces and the rest) turn magenta pink as the berries darken to black. It is striking and rather sinister in the occasional bright light of autumn.
It is much more successful in the eastern counties where it will form a giant arrangement of pink and black heads of fruit for weeks in autumn. Cold nights will warn it of the approach of winter
and it suddenly turns butter yellow and collapses like a tired aunt into an armchair.
It is found across the United States, most frequently in the east but reaching to the Gulf Coast and with small populations in the west. The glossy black fruits produce plenty of seed which germinates freely
for me, enthusiastically in the east and pestilentially in its natural habitat.
In Illinois in the American mid-west is Winnebago County and in the north you will find the village of Rockton. Some years ago a kindly person in Rockton collected seed of Phytolacca americana and sent it to the UK
where a friend germinated some and gave me a seedling.
8th September 2013
Something attracts me to Strobilanthes that eludes my atempts to identify it. I have a deep seated conviction that they are astonishing even though the evidence is missing.
This one was planted in the herbaceous border a few years ago and has been entirely moderate. I have seen it in other gardens (under a variety of other names) growing enthusiastically
but looking rather thin, bordering on weedy. My plant has been compact and rather restrained. This year it has appreciated the heat and grown well but there have been two occasions when I looked at it and asked
why I was bothering. The first came in June when it was little more than some thin sticks with dull leaves on them. It grows next to a Hemerocallis and I shrugged my shoulders as I went past
and left it for the daylily to swallow up.
It turns out it is made of stronger stuff and has burgeoned into a strong and surprisingly dense clump of foliage but the flowers have been poor. For the last three weeks I have tried to get a decent picture,
but the flowers have been shrivelled and faded. In the dry weather they have failed to open properly and then dropped an hour or two later. For the second time I was left wondering why I bothered.
When I tidy up the border in winter I was in half a mind to remove it altogether. A drop of rain has changed things. The flowers open wide and speckle the growth with purple. It isn't astonishing yet,
but it is a start.
8th September 2013
Hesperantha coccinea 'Pink Princess'
The suggestion of autumn around the garden is increasing. The herbaceous border has finished with the large flowered excess of summer. A few daylilies remain but they are tattered and old. There
is a little bit of colour from the stalwarts of autumn, some Aster to come still, but it has done it's bit and is finishing.
A couple of years ago I started planting things that would extend the season for another month or so. I put in a number of Hesperantha and they have flowers until the first serious frosts of the winter.
They have done what I thought I wanted, but it was a mistake. I don't get long mild autumns where the low sun shines over the daisies and grasses. I get long dank misty days where the sun doesn't shine
and the snails march about in triumphant legions. The Hesperantha have poked through the dismal decaying foliage and emphasised the sense of decay and collapse. I think it is time to focus attention
on the mid-summer border and accept that it goes over by September.
When there is a suitable space available I will remove the flowers of late autumn and plant them together in a sunny place where I can celebrate October in a small way and let the rest of the garden collapse in peace.
'Pink Princess' is a new cultivar and it has been one of the best, the tall flower spikes stand up well and it produces plenty of flowers on the spike. The pale colour fits the season.
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