Autumnal gales are upon us and blowing the last leaves off the trees. This year the lovely flame-like scarlet show of my Stewartia was over so quickly and many of the trees also lost their leaves quickly in the storms. The Liquidamber ‘Slender Silhouette’ is the exception and still looks fantastic. The foliage of herbaceous plants like hydrangea have been much better value. The quercifolia still has good red leaves, ‘Sanguine Merveille’ beautiful purple, and my new acquisition ‘Santiago’ a super scarlet. Even something like Penstemon ovatus is looking good with deep red leaves.
Nerines have been good in the greenhouse. I am building up some nice big pots of various sarniensis varieties. Even in late November there are some good flowers open. ‘Audrey Clarke’ is looking especially striking with four good flowering stems in one pot.
The early double primroses ‘Easter Bonnet’, ‘Sunshine Suzie’ and ‘Miel’ are flowering away with gusto adding some real colour to the garden. It was such a pleasure to be weeding the new big primrose beds this year, and work in the sunshine dividing the primrose plants with the burnt sugar scent of the Cercidiphyllum ‘Rotsfuchs’ to tease me. Malcolm Pharoah, the National Collection holder of Astilbe, gave me some lovely astilbes this year and they too have had extremely good autumn foliage colour. He has really opened my eyes to these plants. There is so much more of a range than I had realised. I have planted the charming dwarf astilbe ‘Willie Buchanan’ as something of a ground cover. The ‘Isa Hall’ Malcolm gave me was a delight with delicate gracefully-arching flowers and then stunning red shades to the leaves in the autumn. So now I am branching out and have planted more varieties and am especially looking forward to seeing how some of the very tall ones do.
The other delight this year has been the Saxifraga fortunei. they are still flowering away with super mounds of frothy flowers; what a difference they make to shady woodland spots in the autumn. I hope the frosts hold off so their show continues. But what a strange year – the hellebores started flowering in August and most of them have flowers already, and not just the odd flower, they are in full bloom. Violets were in flower in September and the wild primroses in the lawn were making mowing tricky in October. My first snowdrop ‘Faringdon Double’ opened on November 20th. ‘Mrs McNamara’ is set to be the next to flower.
Now I must work fast. The peony beds have been weeded and manure spread but the primroses are waiting for their generous dollops of well-rotted manure. I need to do this before the ground gets too wet to be able to get wheelbarrows around. Then it is the planning for next year. I have many ideas about plants to add to the shrub walk. The shrubs are finding their feet and starting to look good. The Clethra and Styrax are really pleasing. I was very sad in the summer when the Pterostyrax hispida snapped on a day that wasn’t even very windy. It has been tidied back to a good bud and I hope it will overcome this setback. Now with the shrubs establishing well I can spend the winter thinking about plants to tuck in around them.