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Last Month in My Garden, September 2018

Some friends recently commented that September had flown by but the beginning of the month seems a long way off to me. I took a much-needed break in Cornwall and visited the Plant Heritage National Plant Collection® of Dahlias, near Penzance. There are 1500+ cultivars, permanently planted, in the collection but last winter was unusually severe in Cornwall and a number (it appeared to be 20–30%) were lost, leaving gaps in the flowering. There were still a lot to see and it is well worth a visit. I saw several varieties I have grown and lost but would like to grow again (e.g. ‘Bishop of Canterbury’, ‘Bednall Beauty’) and others which were new to me but now join my wish list (e.g. ‘Dovegrove’). Back at home, I found my own dahlias still making slow progress; I put in three plants of ‘Bishop of York’ in June but they did not have the first flowers until September 23rd. Will they have made large enough tubers for overwintering? I think I shall take them up when they are frosted. In the last week of the month, the sunrise twice revealed frosty grass and water in the trays I use for soaking potted plants had frozen but it has not yet been cold enough to affect dahlias.


Dahlia ‘Bishop of Canterbury’

National Collection of Dahlias

Dahlia ‘Bednall Beauty’

Dahlia ‘Dovegrove’

Dahlia 'Bishop of York’ at Brockamin

Dahlia ‘Bishop of York’ in the National Collection

In contrast, September 20th was a particularly wet and dark morning; as it became light and the rain stopped, there was a slight mist. Coupled with yellowing leaves on my hornbeam, this gave a real autumnal feel. The previous day had been marked by high winds, which brought down apples and pears. I needed to tidy the garden for an Open Day so did not want to spend time picking fruit but the best laid plans …. Now I have towers of mushroom boxes filled with fruit taking up space in the kitchen and porch. I do have a purpose-built fruit store, which came with the house. I used it in the 1980s but mice got in so it was used for other storage. Now it has new doors and windows, it is probably vermin-proof but is full of clutter. It would be a real achievement to clear it out one day so that fruit could again go in there.


Malus ‘John Downie’

Malus domestica ‘Bramley's Seedling’

Malus domestica ‘Lord Lambourne’

The last week of the month was mainly sunny with chilly mornings and warm afternoons; I spent most of it in a marquee building the Plant Heritage stand for the Malvern Autumn Show. The day that I went around the show was dull and exceptionally cold! My Symphyotrichum started to flower en-masse, attracting many bees, including honey-bees. I used to keep bees but lost them one spring: they left home with all their honey, probably joining a colony in the wood opposite Brockamin. Now their descendants come back to forage.


Symphyotrichum novi-belgii ‘Blue Lagoon’

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Herbstschnee’

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Alex Deamon’

Some of the other plants that have been looking good in September include colchicums. These were originally planted to grow up through Geranium macrorrhizum, which would support the flower stems. Some of the geraniums have moved but the colchicums persist, one group coming up in a clump of crocosmia!


Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’

Colchicum autumnale ‘Album’

Colchicum ‘Waterlily’

Anemone x hybrida ‘Frau Marie Maushardt’

Margaret Stone

Posted by Margaret Stone

Vist Margaret's garden on one of the NGS open days.

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