Whilst visiting Somerset in the last week of May I was delighted with the amount of late spring / early summer irises in flower. Irises are such beautiful flowers – so many types and colours and textures and contrasting patterns. Early spring Iris reticulata (the dwarf irises) and the summer Dutch irises grow from bulbs and those that grow from rhizomes include bearded irises, beardless like Iris Sibirica, and crested irises. Many have intricate, showy markings on the outer petals, like flowers on a flower.
An iris has two types of petals called ‘falls’ and ‘standards’. The falls are the three petals that are curved downwards – they are falling away from the centre of the flower. The standards are three petals that are standing straight up.
In many iris the standards and falls are quite distinct, but in some, like the Japanese iris, the standards are mostly horizontal and start looking like falls. In all cases the standards are the three upper most petals.
The beard is a fuzzy patch at the base of each falls petal. Locate the falls petal and look at it near the centre of the flower. The beard is usually quite distinct and you can feel the fuzzy hair-like feature. If the petal is not fuzzy, it is not bearded.
There’s not a lot in flower this month so I thought I’d take a look at October birth flowers which are Calendula and Cosmos. I have already featured the lovely Cosmos so I have dipped into my garden files to find some of my Calendula photos.
Marigolds and Borage
Calendula officinalis, the common or pot marigold, is a popular annual plant with yellow to orange daisy- or chrysanthemum-like flowers. The common marigold is still widely used around the world to heal cuts and bruises. Its flowers and leaves are edible, and can be used in soups, salads, and other dishes. It also makes a spectacularly eye-catching garnish.
Because of its resemblance to the sun, it is associated with warmth, love, and creativity.
Echinacea purpurea ‘Rubinglow‘ is an outstanding short-stemmed variety of Coneflower with big, heavily petalled brilliant magenta flowers surrounding dark brown central cones.
Ginger Lilies are striking perennials and highly prized for their exotic-looking foliage and brightly coloured flowers. They will thrive in full sun or light shade where there is a reliable source of moisture in summer and will survive outside in warmer parts of the country if the crown is protected by a dry mulch. In colder areas bring indoors and keep dry throughout winter, or lift the rhizomes and store in a cool, dry place until spring when they can be replanted. They are commonly seen in the gardens of Cornwall where they can grow into very large clumps.
Hedychium gardnerianum Large cylindrical racemes of sweetly scented yellow flowers, each with protruding red stamens, put on a very showy display from midsummer. A vigorous species, the bold foliage will often have a slight blue tint.
Hedychium densiflorum Forming a slowly spreading clump of lustrous foliage, this compact ginger lily is one of the hardier forms. The slender spikes of fragrant, orange-red flowers appear early in the season and tend to open in one impressive flush.
Hedychium flavescens Tall stems are clothed in pointed, lance-shaped leaves, which can grow to 60cm long and have a softly hairy reverse. In late summer or early autumn these stems are crowned with clusters of spicily-scented, creamy-yellow flowers.
I have featured this flower before, but couldn’t help photographing some recently in the Lost Gardens of Heligan. I love these flowers and how the petals droop as they age. With their swirling skirts I always think of them as ‘little dancers’.
Helenium ‘Riverton Beauty’: Tall, upright and robust with clear, butter yellow flowers and a central brown cone.
Helenium ‘Riverton Gem’: A tall and robust selection forming a large bush of upright stems with mid green leaves topped with a magnificent display of orange flowers with yellow tips in mid to late summer.
With Storm Lorenzo hitting our shores (my little Aussie grandson thinks it is hilarious that he has a storm named after him), these flowers will probably be finished by the end of the weekend. But hopefully the pictures will brighten up your Friday.
This is the month of the Michaelmas Daisy, or Aster or Symphyotrichum or whatever name has been decided upon this year. I mean who is going to remember Symphywhotsit! The feast day of St Michael the Archangel on the 29th September coincides with the peak flowering season of autumn flowering Asters. Which is how they come by their common name, Michaelmas Daisy.
There’s a colour to suit every garden – they come in shades of white, blue, purple and pink and they can flower for weeks beginning late summer and into autumn.
They look great in cottage gardens but also work in more contemporary schemes – they associate well with ornamental grasses. They’re extremely popular with bees and butterflies, too.
Some are compact and clump-forming and suited to the front of a border or a container, others are taller statuesque specimens reaching 2 metres and look best at the back of a border where they can waft over the other plants.
One of the best places to see these plants is in Worcestershire, close to the beautiful Malvern Hills. The Picton Garden is a plantsman’s garden that holds the National Plant Collection of more than 400 varieties of Michaelmas Daisies creating a jewel-like tapestry from mid-September. I published a post about this beautiful garden in 2014 so please click on the link and head over there for a visual treat.
Japanese Anemones make their presence known in September. These pretty flowers are very attractive to pollinators too. The term Japanese anemone is misleading. Anemone hupehensis is actually a native of Hupeh province in eastern China, but it was grown in Japanese gardens for centuries, hence the confusion.
Pink anemone with bee
Anemone ‘Wild Swan’
Pink anemone with bee
White anemone with hoverfly
Anemone ‘Wild Swan’
Anemone ‘Wild Swan’
Colours vary from the purest of white and the palest pinks through to deep pink. They can be grown in good light or dappled shade and like many Asian plants, are used to summer rainfall and good winter drainage so these anemones need fertile soil that does not become waterlogged in winter.
Although they may look delicate these flowers can survive with minimal maintenance once established. With a blooming time of 6-8 weeks they are an obvious plant for late summer to autumn gardens and look good in cottage gardens, coastal gardens or a more naturalised, prairie style planting among grasses and other autumnal planting.
Anemone x hybrida ‘Pamina’
One of the most dramatic flowers at this time of the year is the golden Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’. Also known as ‘Black-eyed Susan’ with large, golden-yellow, daisy-like flowers up to 12cm (5in) across with cone-shaped, blackish-brown centres from August to October.
This knee-high plant bridges the gap between summer and autumn providing welcome colour to the garden. Best planted in drifts among other late flowering perennials, Rudbeckia works well in prairie-style schemes with ornamental grasses. They like a sunny spot and to be kept moist especially when in flower.
Bees, butterflies and other pollinators love it too.
White-tailed bumblebee. August 2019. Click image to enlarge.
In late summer it is the turn of the hotter colours to take pride of place in the garden. The pinks and purples of earlier months are now starting to look tired and dusty. Orange, yellow and red herald the turning point in the garden, a last hurrah! Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora is a garden hybrid of C. aurea and C. pottsii, first bred in 1880 in France by Victor Lemoine. This hybrid between two species of this lovely South African genus, a cross aimed at producing a select plant with adequate hardiness, is known to gardeners as “Montbretia.”
The sword-like leaves and brilliant wands of fiery scarlet, red, orange, and yellow flowers add dramatic structure to the garden and look particularly good grown alongside grasses and other tall flowers like Kniphofia and Rudbeckia or Helenium.
Crocosmia “Lucifer” (below) has sprays of vivid red flowers on stems to 1.2m in height. Others are lower growing, but may need support as they can flop around.
Crocosmia “Emily McKenzie” is a particularly delightful plant with arching spikes of yellowish-orange-red freesia like flowers.
Those left to their own devices tend to dwindle into congested, grassy clumps, but if you dig up a clump you will see that the corms build up on top of each other. Twist off the topmost corm which is the one taking in the energy from this year’s foliage and replant these in a shallow trench a few inches apart and a few inches deep. In spring add achilleas and grasses to mix with them and create a naturalistic planting style. Dispose of the old corms carefully. Normal compost heaps will not be hot enough to break them down so you might find a garden full of them in the future!
Here in Cornwall, during the months of August and September, the vigorous Montbretia can be found growing wild in clumps in the Cornish hedges. Escapees find themselves in my garden!