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Last Month in My Garden, October 2017

October has been a generally mild month with no frost to ruin the flowers until the 30th. It is the first time that I can remember courgette leaves yellowing naturally, without turning to mush. There have been sunny days when the Michaelmas Daisies have looked magnificent and been busy with bees.


Symphyotrichum novi-belgii ‘Daniela’

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae seedling

Symphyotrichum ericoides var. prostrata ‘Snowflurry’

Rain can make symphyotrichum flowers look like dishmops, their petals clinging together in a sad soggy mass. There has been rain but it has also been an unusually windy month so that the flowers have dried out and the fine petals separated again. I mentioned last month that I had never had a seedling similar to Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Andenken an Alma Potschke’. A week into October and I noticed one! It has two stems and I am most proud of it. It has put itself next to a clump of seedlings from S. laeve ‘Les Moutiers’, which I transplanted two years ago because they had larger flowers. The S. novae-angliae seedlings, generally, looked very good but in the last week of the month, as they went over, I started to dig them up; I found that some of them were very close to clumps of snowdrops so they had to move.


Symphyotrichum novae-angliae seedling (2)

Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald 'n' Gold’

Another first has been fruits on Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ – a complete surprise early in the month. The shrub has been there many years so I do not know why this is their first appearance; it is clearly visible from the kitchen sink so it is unlikely that I have missed them. Some days later, I saw a robin attacking them so it will be interesting to see how long they last. They are bright and cheerful.


Dahlia ‘Fashion Monger’

Phygelius x rectus ‘African Queen’

Nerine bowdenii ‘Isabel’

The lack of frost meant that dahlias continued to flower and cooler days made the blooms last longer. Autumn flowers are often strongly coloured and just a few can make a real difference. I have tried forms of the hardy Nerine bowdenii several times with little success but, for the last three or four years, ‘Isabel’ has done well. In October, I attended a Nerine Day, looking at the RHS trial planted at The Patch, the garden of the late Margaret Owen. The importance of drainage was emphasised and my ‘Isabel’, although growing in clay, is on a small but steep slope in front of a low wall. Most people agreed that the other important factor for success was that the bulbs should not be shaded by other plants. This is the case for ‘Isabel’ (the geranium I planted in front died) but I suspect that I have killed other bulbs by forgetting them and allowing them to be “swallowed up” by the border. My challenge now is to find some other “naked” patches of ground to try again; I have some pale pink nerines (‘Stefanie’ and ‘Nikita’) in pots waiting to be planted in the spring, when the leaves start to grow.

On the 21st, I realised that my ash trees had lost all their leaves, as had the pears. However, most trees clung on to the bulk of their leaves all month, which is late. When the clocks changed and mornings became lighter, the bare skeletons of the ash revealed the dozen woodpigeons that taunt me every winter – in early morning they roost there and I feel nervous for my brassicas! I hope that they will feed in the nearby field, separated from my garden by a narrow strip of my neighbour’s. The field rises steeply to the north of Brockamin, forming a backdrop and keeping the eye within the garden.


View to the north

Margaret Stone

Posted by Margaret Stone

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