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Last Month in My Garden, October 2018

October was a month of two halves. The first half of the month was a smooth continuation from September, my Symphyotrichum novae-angliae collection (late this year) reaching a climax in the second week. From the 12th to the 15th it rained; I did not look closely at the flowers but knew that they would have turned to ‘wet dishrags’. Some good sunny days followed; the flowers dried out but were past their best. It is so sad that I could not have appreciated them for longer when at their peak and shall have to wait another year. Such is the life of a Plant Heritage National Collection Holder! or any gardener. It must be far worse for someone who specialises in plants with a short flowering season. This autumn the S. novae-angliae have been predominant throughout the garden; away from the collection, they have self-seeded and been allowed to grow to maturity. They have a wide colour range and the bright pinkish-red of ‘Andenken an Alma Potschke’, which was a novelty last year, is now appearing in several places. Many of the seedlings are better than some of the named plants, having large flowers with many fine ray florets. Interestingly, there are no white seedlings.

Symphyotrichum n.a. seedlings

S. n.a. seedling

S. n.b. ‘Gulliver’ at the top of the bank

Symphyotrichum novi-belgii have generally not prospered here. There are some long-established clumps, such as ‘Gulliver’, but many varieties I have tried have been short-lived or lasted just a few years. However, forms of S. laeve have fared better and some have made very large clumps. They seed vigorously and I do have to weed them out. I was delighted last year to have a lot of seedlings in an area where I have struggled to establish plants. It is a hollow with a boggy base and dry clay sides. However, the damp part is at last successfully colonised by candelabra primulas and, although the aster seedlings were attractive, I decided that I did not want them to invade further. They were pulled out in the winter, a few S. novae-angliae being left at the top of the bank. To my surprise, there were more asters this year! The plants were 1 m or more tall but, as they approached flowering time, wind and rain knocked them over. They flowed down the banks and made good ground-cover; flowering has been magnificent. My photos do not do justice to the colour, appearing too pale. I have always understood that Symphyotrichum required plenty of water but these plants (mainly laeve but with some novae-angliae) have flourished through the hot dry summer without any watering.

Symphyotrichum seedlings (a)


(c) early morning

Two plants of Symphyotrichum ericoides, also planted on a clay bank, have performed equally well.

Symphyotrichum laeve white-flowered

Symphyotrichum ericoides f. prostrata ‘Snowflurry’

Until a hard frost on the 29th, dahlias and salvias, which did not start to grow properly until September, provided splashes of colour, hinting at what I have missed during the summer. Good patches of red have come from Pyracantha, two bushes being outstanding on sunny days and contrasting with the asters. Iris foetidissima have provided touches of orange. The latter berries will last for months but the former have already been attacked by blackbirds. Some fungi are colourful but those flourishing recently have been more interesting than showy. I am ignorant about fungi so, if anyone can identify them, I should be interested.


Iris foetidissima


Fungus A

Fungus B

Margaret Stone

Posted by Margaret Stone

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

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