Monday, 7 December 2015

Frost and Fog

At the beginning of December a few dry but chilly days gave a mysterious air to the garden, and softened the colours on the few remaining leaves and shrivelling flower heads. Maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Sarabande') has turned pale gold and contrasts well with the frosty blue leaves of my lavender hedge.

Across the front path, stems of Sedum "Autumn Joy' are a similar colour ...

... and its once-vibrant flowers look all the better for a dusting of frost.

Daphne 'Eternal Fragrance', which has hardly been without flowers all year long, is now taking a short break, but its tiny pink buds are still visible. An outline of frost on each leaf makes it look like a variegated variety.

Behind the house most of the perennials have retreated underground, but there are still a few green, red and gold highlights, ...

including the last few leaves of smoke bush (Cotinus 'Grace') still hanging on in the shelter of our pergola wall.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Mid-November: Winding Down

In early November, most deciduous shrubs began to drop their leaves. Just about the last to quit, Rosa pimpinellifolia was still creating a pretty mosaic of leaves and shrivelling rosehips.

A favourite annual of mine, Nicotiana langsdorffii,  sown so late that it is only now putting on a show of little lime-green trumpets on tall thin stems, has so far remained impervious to the chilly nights. Nevertheless, it looks a little out of place among all the warm colours of fall.

On the fence beyond, the leaves of a young Parthenocissus henryana are turning red and complementing the aging bracts on Hydrangea 'Kiyosumi' nearby.
 Most of the Hosta have collapsed into slimy yellowish-grey heaps, but a few are dying a little more elegantly in shades of mustard yellow.

Salix nakamura var. yezoalpina has also gone to mustard tones, and is beginning to reveal its snaking branches that contribute some structure to that area in winter.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' nearby has a few yellow echoes in its leaves and a rather violent contrast in its flowers that are aging from rusty red to an intense magenta.

Around the middle of the month, heavy rain and one very stormy, windy day put paid to the autumn show. From now on, there will be just a few bright patches to carry through to the end of the year: skimmias and heuchera ...

... and Euphorbia 'Glacier Blue', which remains unfazed by rain, wind and frost.


Friday, 6 November 2015

Hummingbird alert!

This morning I sighted an Anna's hummingbird in the garden for the first time ever. It was probably attracted by my Mahonia 'Winter Sun', which I planted for just that reason and which is now in full bloom.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Mid-October - The Show Continues

The deeper we fall in Fall, the more I'm pleased with how my garden is performing. Plants that shine at just this time of year continue to prove their worth.
The foliage of oakleaf hydrangea 'Sike's Dwarf' is brighter than ever, slowly turning from deep burgundy to flaming red.

Next to it, Fothergilla 'Mount Airy' is now golden with purple and scarlet highlights.

From the back steps, the view takes in Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate' with its fuzzy white flowers and the still-blooming Aconitum 'Arendsii' behind it. Dying peony leaves, fresh growth on lovage (Levisticum officinale), a few rose hips on Rosa gallica 'Versicolor' and a second crop of flowers on a globe thistle (Echinops ritro) fill the foreground. (Wait! Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate' has now been reclassified as Ageratina altissima 'Chocolate'.)

Wisps of mosquito grass still fill the urn, flanked by a clipped silvery sage and Aster lateriflorus 'Lady in Black'. (Wait! The aster is now Symphyotrichum lateriflorum 'Lady in Black', thanks to those clever taxonomists who never settle for a two-syllable name if they can change it to a five-syllable one.)

There's even a single flower cluster on Astrantia 'Roma', reminding me to add some fall interest to the bed it's in, where it is the only contributor right now.

The front garden is more sedate, although Japanese maple Acer 'Waterfall' is doing its best to add some interest, backed by Sedum 'Autumn Joy' whose flowers, as I've mentioned in an earlier post, have struggled to maintain their colour in this year's unseasonal heat.

An echoing bright spark across the path comes from the last leaves of Begonia grandis rising over the polished dark green of Beesia calthifolia, which will remain shiny and fresh all through the winter. The splash of red comes from the underside of one of the begonia's fallen leaves.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Garden in Fall 2015

Fall has come suddenly this year. It seems that the end of the hot dry weather has caused an immediate change in leaf colour on all those plants that brighten up this season. The warm reds and oranges of foliage are combining with the blues and purples of asters and aconites to keep the back garden full of interest even on a grey rainy day.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Sikes' Dwarf' in the foreground grows more vibrant every day. Two weeks earlier, it looked like this:

Now, as it turns to flaming red, some of the leaves are developing lovely patterns.

 My young paperbark maple, Acer griseum, is a glorious scarlet exclamation point.

The blueberries, having provided us with summer lunch, are now feeding us in another way with their dramatic foliage, going from this ...

 to this...

On the back fence Rosa pimpinellifolia is demonstrating why I love this plant in every season. As its shiny hips fade and wrinkle, the leaves take over, offering a medley of fall colours from green to orange to russet to deep, rich brown.

The brightest can hold their own with any other star of the fall garden.

 Among the flowers, aconites reign supreme,

... but toad lilies, Hydrangea 'Kiyosumi' and Anemone 'Honorine Jobert' in the shadiest corner under the pear tree are still giving them some competition. 

Aster 'Little Carlow' is also continuing to make a splash and is abuzz with bees on every sunny day. It has grown long and leggy this year and crashes to the ground with every shower of rain. Taller, stronger supports are on my shopping list for it before this time next year.

Close to the house, Persicaria 'Firedance' refuses to slow down, while behind it Corylopsis pauciflora is putting out unseasonal flowers. I'm apprehensive about how this will affect its normal spring bloom.

Across the garden on the east fence, the foliage on Cotinus 'Grace' complements the pale pink flowers of Aster 'Anya's Choice'. This is a shorter aster than 'Little Carlow' and has so far stood up well to the rain.

The front garden rarely looks as good as the back. This is partly because we spend more time out back, which is more private and also, being south-facing, more sunny. But it's also because plants in the front have to cope with much more difficult conditions. Part of the garden, close to the house is in total shade all year. That's not so bad: I can find plants that like that cool but bright environment. The rest is in shade for about seven months and in hot sun for the summer months. It's more difficult to find plants that can endure that kind of drastic change, especially this year when most of the shrubs ended up with at least some scorched leaves. Hydrangea 'Nikko Blue' was so singed that I thought it was dying. I pruned it and stripped it of leaves and, thank goodness, it has responded by putting out fresh green foliage.

Next to it is Sedum 'Autumn Joy', whose flowers this year have stayed a pinkish-brown rather than their usual bright rosy hue.
 Adding to their difficulties is the overhanging maple on the boulevard whose roots suck most of the moisture out of the entire garden. It's an ugly tree without even the benefit of pretty fall colour; it just turns brown. The Sedum and the Hydrangea bear the brunt of its presence. A little further away, another 'Autumn Joy' is much less affected.

Meanwhile, Hydrangea 'Beni Gaku', somewhat shaded by Rosa glauca to its west, is coping well and looking decorative.

 Against the north wall, Rhododendron schlippenbachii, although in full shade, also suffered from the dryness this year, but in spite of singed edges is managing to look relatively colourful. Behind it, Enkianthus perulatus is just beginning to go from green to red. In a couple of weeks it will be the fiery focus of this bed.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Drought survivors

It's been a hot, dry summer. In accordance with our water restrictions, I run around every couple of days hand-watering with a spring-loaded nozzle on the hose. We've also been saving the water that runs while we wait for hot water to kick in, as well as the not-too-dirty grey water, and carrying all of it out to slosh over the more needy plants. In spite of these efforts, quite a few plants are showing signs of stress. Some have flowered fast and gone early to seed; hydrangeas keep wilting, and other shrubs are showing singed brown edges on the leaves, like Rosa 'Ghislaine de FĂ©ligonde', which is in a particularly dry and sunny spot.

In spite of being in full shade, Rhododendron schlippenbachii is looking much the same.

However, most other roses are coping surprisingly well. 'Rosa Mundi's coarse leaves show little damage,

... and 'Lykkefund', which is on the west fence and sheltered from the worst of the afternoon sun, looks as fresh as always.

Of course, these three have already turned to producing hips whereas 'Ghislaine' is drawing on its resources for another bout of bloom. It will be interesting to see whether that happens.

Hydrangea sargentiana has some singed leaves too, although the flowers don't seem to be affected.

 It's a good time to take note of plants that seem to be not only surviving but thriving. Echinacea 'Green Jewel'  in a hot, dry bed continues to look fresh and cool. So many Echinacea turn out to be annuals here that I'm sceptical of its staying power over the coming winter but for now, it's doing just fine. The little red flecks on its petals are falling from the flowers of Persicaria 'Firedance' behind it.

Sanguisorba tenuifolia 'Finale' is another stalwart. It may be that having its roots in shade is helping it do so well.

The dark red thimbles atop this tall wispy perennial are attracting swarms of bees.

 Scutellaria incana is just finishing its bloom, but has held up well. This Missouri wildflower's native habitat is on dry, sandy soils.

In the photo above you can just see the first of its equally attractive seedheads forming. Here's a closer view of them. I think they are going to be a worthwhile addition to my fall garden.

Anemone 'White Swan' is proving its worth in partial shade, endlessly producing crisp white flowers

...with their lovely lilac-flushed reverses.

Most of the plants in dappled shade are surviving well.

Front to back: Hydrangea nigra, Hosta 'Krossa Regal, Actaea 'Hillside Black Beauty', Hydrangea 'Kiyosumi', Anemone 'Honorine Jobert' 

A few Astrantia, like 'Ruby Wedding' are reblooming. Behind it, Hosta 'American Halo' is also unaffected by the drought.

Tricyrtis (toad lily) is proving to be another reliable perennial. My specimen is a tall but sturdy cultivar called 'Blue Wonder'.

The flowers are quite small but intriguing when seen close up.

Plants in more exposed beds are having a harder time, but not Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, which seems imprevious to hot sun and dry soil. In fact, it's expanding rather too vigorously and will need some control by next summer, I suspect.

Those intense blue flowers will look even better when cooler weather paints the foliage with burgundy highlights.

Another sun-lover, Angelica 'Vicar's Mead' is attracting lots of bees,

... although some of its normally dark foliage is getting bleached to rose-pink, pale green and mustard yellow. The combination is actually quite pretty.

Meanwhile, my favourite parsley, a curly variety called 'Darki', has continued to line a path near the kitchen door with fresh green foliage, only just now beginning to flop a little from its usual upright stance. I've mentioned before how free it is from the rust that seems to plague the flat-leaf types of parsley. The latter may be the choice of chefs, but it doesn't have nearly the same ornamental value as 'Darki'