Posted on | August 25, 2010 | 7 Comments
EDP article for Saturday 28th Aug 2010
Where has the summer gone? It only feels like yesterday that summer was just beginning. I hate it when people say that summer is over as soon as mid August arrives. Yes, we have had some rather autumnal weather of late, but the sun is still fairly high in the sky and we have the glorious month of September to come, rain or shine, so let’s keep enjoying our British summer before the long gloomy days of winter really do arrive. To celebrate the summer, the Exotic Garden will also be open this Bank Holiday Monday August 30th, a good chance to visit, for those who are otherwise engaged on a Sunday afternoon. So why not come and see for yourself and enjoy a relaxing afternoon, where you will always find me on hand to answer your questions. Don’t be surprised if Dweezal one of my Devon Rex cats is sitting on my shoulder where he can survey his domain in comfort.
There is certainly no sign of autumn here, as the garden is only just reaching its peek with gigantic foliage and sumptuous flowers to tease the senses. The evenings may be drawing in, but warm sultry days are still with us, with all the ‘Angels Trumpet’ Brugmansias now back in full bloom after a well earned rest. And what a joy they are with their enormous highly scented blooms filling the evening garden with irresistibly intoxicating scents.
Thinking of perfume, Clerodendrum trichotoma also known as the ‘Harlequin glorybower’ is now in full bloom and what a stunner it is with its deliciously scented cymes of pure white five-petalled flowers which will be followed when autumn actually does arrive with seductive steel blue fruits to visually treat the eye.
The ornamental grasses have performed well this year with some like Arundo donax reaching gargantuan proportions with at least 3.6m (12ft) of bamboo-like growth since the spring. One that I fully expected to be clobbered by last winter’s big freeze is its supposedly more tender cousin Arundo donax var. versicolor syn. ‘Variegata’ which has not only survived, but is the most prolific it has ever been, with countless stems decked with leaves up to 70cm (27ins) long by 6cm (2ins) across with vertical creamy-white and green stripes. The whole plant is a gentle giant that sways in the slightest breeze. Its pale colouring makes a great foil for dark leaved Cannas like the deep purplish-black foliage of General Eisenhower and dark leaved Dahlias. If room is tight there is a slightly more diminutive version Arundo formosana ‘Golden Showers’ at 1.8m (6ft) tall which, as its name implies, has alluring green and golden yellow stripes which look good in evening light.
While I’m on the subject of grasses there are a few more large ones I would like to mention. Miscanthus sacchariflorus from Japan is a very robust grass which as its name implies somewhat resembles its more tropical relative sugarcane. It grows up to 3m (10ft) tall with arching bluish-green leaves up to 90cm (3ft) long with pale silver-green midribs, the whole plant taking on warm orangey-brown tones in the autumn. If you like the idea of a grass with pizzazz then you can’t beat Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ (Zebra grass) which has long arching dark-green leaves with pale yellow to almost white horizontal banding.
You know me – I always have plants in the garden that are not at all hardy and two grasses that are a must have here is Seteria palmifolia (Palm grass) a very attractive, clump-forming grass that grows up to 3m (10ft) tall in the tropics but as a container-grown plant here in Norfolk 1m (3ft) is about its maximum. It has rich apple-green leaves that arch from slender stems, changing to wide leaves that are conspicuously corrugated up to 7.5cm (3ins) across. It makes an excellent container plant with its sumptuously pleated foliage which hang gracefully over the sides.
The other hopelessly tender grass is Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ more commonly known as ‘Purple Fountain Grass’. It has rich Areddish-purple burgundy foliage topped with paler feathery heads at this time of year. It makes a great container plant where it grows up to 1.2m (4ft) tall in one season if well fed. Although perennial in warm countries this delightful grass is grown as an annual in temperate climates like ours.
I was just about to go into the garden for some inspiration, only to be greeted by one of the heaviest downpours in ages – what a deluge. A gutter over my kitchen door couldn’t cope with the torrential cloudburst which gushed profusely through the cat flap and under the door. The cats didn’t know what to make of this watery intrusion. I can see from my balcony overlooking the garden that some plants like the tall Rudbeckias are now leaning at a precarious angle – a day of tidying the garden is looming in my mind – ah well – this is all part of the joy of gardening.
Last week I did mention that the gingers were coming into bloom, and are amongst my favourite flowering plants at this time of year. One in particular that I’m rather fond of is Hedychium wardii, a little known species recently introduced into cultivation here in the UK from a collection made at 2,100m (6,800ft)in the Nujiang river valley of the Gaolingongshan in the far north-west of Yunnan in China. It is a robust ginger 1m (3.2ft) tall with large dark green, glossy, almost leathery leaves. At the moment it is flowering to profusion with substantial 15cm (6ins) tall cone-like inflorescence of green bracts from which emerge large, scented flowers of the purest, almost day-glow yellow. The most characteristic feature of the flowers is the extremely short filament giving the flowers a very distinctive appearance. Luckily all the gingers have come through the heavy rains without flopping over – I think they must feel as though they are back in their native monsoon habitats. Ahh! Here comes the sun…