Below are the favourite 12 plants from the garden in the last 2 weeks of August 2016. Many from the previous fortnight are, of course, still looking good ..
1:Buddleia davidii – Butterfly bush. We’ve grown Buddleia in the garden at Gelli from very early on, and now have lots of bushes. Many have been taking as cuttings from friend’s plants, so we don’t have cultivar names. They usually begin flowering in early August, but we always look out for the Welsh fifteen moment – which happens when we have more than this number of butterflies around them. Typically, as in 2016, this happens in very late August, or early September, when in a good year we easily get over a hundred butterflies simultaneously in the garden. Bumbles, moths and many flies visit as well, though it’s not so popular with honeybees. Deadheading prolongs the show, and keeps the butterflies around in sunny weather.
2: Sorbus acuparia – Native Rowan/Mountain Ash. Native rowans are a feature of the landscape, and hedgerows, and these half a dozen or so trees were salvaged locally at seedling size and planted up as part of a tiered scheme to shelter the shrubbery, Buddleia and Northern aspect of the house and garden, nearly 20 years ago. They now make a fabulous display, before the thrushes and blackbirds move in to take the berries.
3: Chelone obliqua – Turtlehead. A valuable North American native, these late flowering perennials seem to associate well with Hydrangeas, flowering at a similar time, for about 3 weeks. They don’t seem to seed around, but are loved by a couple of our later season bumblebees, as nectar sources.
4: Hydrangea preziosa. H.preziosa seems to be a unique mop head type Hydrangea, with darker coloured stems, and flower heads that begin white/pale mauve and morph into fabulous deep rich claret colours as they age. It begins flowering in late July, but it’s towards the end of August and into early September when these flowers are at their peak. Like most Hydrangeas it’s easy to propagate from late season cuttings, which is fine for personal use (it’s a PBR plant). It also produces flower heads over a long time, so demonstrating all the colour variations on a single plant. To make it an even better plant, slugs don’t seem that interested in it, and the leaves often develop purple/gold tinges late in the season.
5: Geranium procurrens. This species Geranium from the Himalayas was bought because of its sprawling habit to plant on our steep shale bank behind the house to help stabilise it, along with creeping Cotoneaster dammeri. It has done this brilliantly, and proved to be a thug with expansionist tendencies. However it is one of the most popular nectar source plants in August for honey and bumblebees, flies and even moths and butterflies. The leaves have lovely aromatic foliage which develop autumnal tints. Although it doesn’t begin flowering until early August, it usually continues to the first frosts.
6:Aster divaricatus. Most Asters enjoy full sun, but this species is happy in part shade – even if quite deep shade. It flowers from the end of July with masses of small daisy like flowers with narrow white petals. Unfortunately the new foliage is liked by slugs, but once established, it is a tough plant and invaluable beneath an open tree to add a little flower interest.
7:Monbretia/Crocosmia. Another invaluable thug like plant for awkward places (e.g. part shade, poor soil, tops of banks), which thrives in our damp climate. Some bumblebees visit the flowers, and it gives a splash of colour in the garden for a month or so. The young foliage looks great in spring too. BUT, once flowering has finished, the foliage flops to produce a horrible mat which we now remove as early as possible since it quickly becomes a slimy wet mess by late October, and in our increasingly mild winters, doesn’t seem to decompose sufficiently quickly to allow smaller early spring bulbs to grow through.
8:Aster ericoides “Golden Spray”. Our terrace “Asters”, to use their old name, are used to provide interest and nectar/pollen sources going into autumn. This form is usually the earliest to flower, often before A. Monch, and is a tallish, but open twiggy form, allowing other lower level plants to exist beneath, or beside it. Not spectacular, but its’ flowering time and habit make it a useful addition to the garden in the late summer.
9:Eucryphia nymenensi “Nymensay”. Maybe we were optimistic planting this evergreen tree, but in a fairly sheltered spot, it seems to be settling in, and most year delights with a massive crop of open large single white flowers from mid August. These are only produced over a short period, and don’t last because they are so popular with insects, but the tree hums with activity when in bloom.
10:Anemone japonica (x hybrida) A late summer stalwart/thug plant with us. It does tend to take over in borders, but whilst in flower over a long period, it lifts several areas of the garden, and is brilliantly weed suppressing. Fairly late into leaf, it also allows most spring bulbs enough to time to flower and build up resources for next year, then the dying foliage is nicely hidden by the Anemone. Sadly all these flowers aren’t that popular with bees, though many hover flies enjoy the pollen. The lovely white form, A. “Honorine Jobert ” is even more elegant, and a little less vigorous.
11:Hydrangea aspera villosa. Potentially one of our largest Hydrangeas, and one of our favourites, it flowers fairly late, in mid August into September, and after 15 years it’s becoming a graceful spreading 7 foot high shrub, covered in serrata type flowers. This plant is a cutting from the original we grew in our Bristol garden which came after seeing a spectacular specimen at Dingle Gardens near Welshpool – we succumbed to a plant immediately, and have never regretted having it in the garden.
12:Persicaria amplexicaulis (var.pendula, and other forms). These larger forms of flowering Knotweeds are easygoing vigorous perennials which add reliable flowers over many weeks in late summer. Moreover the flowers are popular with many bees and other insects. But like Japanese Anemones, they are a little thug like, and because of their habit will out compete smaller neighbours. But early spring bulbs can exist quite happily beneath them, and their vigour means no weeding problems, so in the right place, they are invaluable. Thanks for reading.