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Last Month in My Garden: September 2012

‘Jottings from Bolam’ September 2012

With no pressing jobs to be done in the garden in September I have been enjoying the colour and blousy growth.

Sedums are always interesting because of their strong shapes and texture, but this month sees them developing colour at last. Unfortunately, many of the larger sedums sprawl and flop, unless in very poor soil, and I am always on the look out for effective ways to provide support. I read that placing upturned metal hanging basket frames over plants in spring worked, but when I tried, the fleshy shoots could not grow through the spaces. I use short canes and string but this is not ideal. I think one answer is to split the plants every 2yrs or 3yrs, but that is best done in spring, when I have other things on my mind, and forget. Any ideas?

Sedum ‘Red Cauli’ (as in cauliflower) develops a spectacular rich red colour, and is worth supporting. Another favourite plant for late summer is Potentilla nepalensis ‘Ron McBeath’ with its bright pink flowers threading through surrounding planting, an ideal partner for S. ‘Red Cauli’ and very effective beneath Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’. Fortunately, the potentilla seeds true, and I pop it in wherever the colour is good.

This month has been exciting as we have had a green oak seat shelter built against the garden wall and a large raised bed altered to allow John to drive his quad bike and trailer into the back garden, for gravel, cow muck etc. I am happily sending myself off to sleep at night, planning the new planting, which will be mainly grasses, once again. Well, it’s my garden and I love them, they are easy maintenance and at my time of life that is what I am aiming for! I made a visit to a local salvage yard and found some tall rusted iron pillars, which will add structure to the planting and frame the view into the garden.

A single rust coloured Chionachloa rubra, the large, mobile and ‘see-through’ New Zealand tussock grass, will look good close to a rusty pillar.

Two grasses new to me, bought from my favourite Dove Cottage Nursery 3yrs ago, have developed and look very attractive this year, so I am shortly collecting more Stipa calamagrostis and Sporobulus heterolepsis. The Stipa has arching leaves and a succession of feathery plumes that open green and gradually dry to buff, 16”H. The Sporobolis (prairie dropseed) is slow to clump up but the haze of delicate flowers, and bronze autumn leaf colour, is worth the wait. 14”H

Other suitable grasses in the garden can be split in the spring, but golden oregano has already been divided and planted to spill over the edge interspersed with the limey green grass Sesleria autumnalis, and will be a foil for drifts of scarlet Tulipa sprengeri growing through.

I was tempted by an offer on some pots of Actaea ‘Black Negligee’ as I could see those wonderful dark, cut leaves as a foil for grasses linking in with the dark pillars, and the bonus of spires of scented flowers in late summer. I may well add a few Potentilla ‘Ron McBeath’ to weave in and out the planting for spots of colour.

Sounds good to me.

Heather Russell

Text and photographs by Heather Russell of the HPS North East Group.
You can visit her own website at


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