Looking around the lanes and gardens in August you can’t fail to notice the number of Hydrangeas that are in flower. Here in Cornwall where the temperatures are mild all year round and where there is plenty of moisture they grow into enormous shrubs in colours ranging from the purest white to the darkest purple.
The one place to visit to see these flowers en masse is Trebah Garden on the Helford River. This is when they take centre stage. The plants here are hand pruned in early spring which helps promote the abundance of flowers that remain until long into the autumn. The majority of these were planted in 1949.
Included in the species are H. aspera which has soft velvety leaves. Bees collecting pollen from this plant accumulate a blue sac on each leg rather than the usual yellow.
H. quercifolia has large oak-like leaves which develop burnished tinges in autumn.
H. paniculata “Vanille Fraise” (Strawberry Vanilla) has large panicles of white flowers that turn pink as the summer progresses. This one I have in my own garden.
Hydrangea Valley is filled with plants of all shapes and colours. The pretty ‘Monet’ style bridge provides the perfect place to see them with reflections in the Mallard Pond.
If you want to see more of this lovely garden then please click on this link to my other blog: Cornwall in Colours
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!
Annuals come into their own this month and none more colourful than the Cosmos which was introduced into this country in 1800 from Mexico. These big, bright and beautiful daisy-like flowers come in many colours and heights. The most common variety C. bipinnatus with large yellow-eyed daisy flowers in the burgundy-red-pink-white colour range include the taller ‘Purity’ that will grow to 1.2m and suited to the back of the border. The shorter varieties like ‘Apollo’ are good to grow in containers and new types include ‘Xanthos’ the first yellow-flowered variety. Keep the containers fairly large though as even the shortest plants reach 45cm tall and as much across.
Varieties derived from C. sulphureus have smaller flowers in scarlet, orange and yellow shades set against slightly broader, darker leaves. [unfortunately I do not have any images of this type]
C. atrosanguineus is the Chocolate cosmos which is hugely popular with richly chocolate-coloured, and chocolate-scented, flowers. This is a half-hardy perennial that develops tubers like those of a slimline dahlia and may need to be overwintered indoors. This is also a good candidate for containers.
Cosmos enjoy plenty of sunshine and any reasonable soil, although rich, moist conditions encourage exuberantly leafy growth at the expense of flowers. If you ensure to deadhead throughout summer into early autumn, you’ll continue to get beautiful flowers right through the season.
July in Cornwall = Agapanthus commonly referred to as the Lily-of-the-Nile or the African lily plant. You will see them everywhere. In planters, alongside the footpaths, in gardens. They instantly take me back to South Africa where they are from and provide an exotic look to a place. I bought some new ones at the beginning of the year, but it will take time before they are big enough to flower and for some reason my variegated leaved agapanthus ‘Silver Moon’ has no flower stems at all this year. Apparently that is not unusual for this variety. Fortunately the strap shaped green leaves with creamy variegation are rather beautiful anyway.
Agapanthus create displays of large masses of striking flowers. They come in a huge range of colours and heights from almost-black through to purple, from French navy to royal blue through to subtle lilac, grey and white and even bicolour ones like ‘Twister’ and ‘Fireworks’.
The name, agapanthus, translates as ‘love flower’ and some are evergreen (Agapanthus africanus and Agapanthus praecox) and others deciduous, depending on which side of the Cape they grow on. The western Cape has a Mediterranean climate with moist damp winters, between May and August, followed by a dry summer between November and January. Agapanthus species on the western side grow in winter when moisture and warmth is available so they like to keep their foliage in winter. These are tender and may need taking into a greenhouse over winter.
The eastern Cape has a wet summer season lasting four months, between November and February, when rainfall averages 5 inches per month (125m). The winters, between May and August, are dry and cool however. As a result agapanthus species found on the eastern side of the Cape tend to do their growing in the summer and then die down in winter.
They respond to both water and food and a liquid high-potash tomato food applied every two weeks will pay dividends and don’t forget that agapanthus needs a sunny position that gets maximum daylight. The flowers, which are bee-friendly, last many weeks and they cut well. Don’t allow them to run to seed, always cut the spent flower heads off.
A type of ornamental onion, also known as round-headed leek, drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) is appreciated for the egg-shaped blooms that appear in early summer. These unique flowers open green, then start to turn a purple/crimson colour from the top, creating unusual two-tone drumstick flower heads.
And the bees love them!
Musk Mallow (malva moschata) is the perfect wildflower plant for adding of bright splash of pink or white to a summer flowering meadow. It is well suited to all wide variety of soils, but grows best on well-drained ground in full sun. Musk Mallow has large showy flowers that grow in dense clusters and are often visited by bees. Plants also host the Painted Lady as a breeding butterfly which will lay its eggs on the plant.
The flowers appear from July to September, and blend particularly well with other meadow plants such as Oxeye daisy, Meadow cranesbill, Knapweed, Scabious, and Birdsfoot trefoil.
Mine were grown from a packet of wildflower seeds two years ago and have come back every summer even though I dug a lot out last year as they are big plants and dominate the small raised bed. I will be cutting them back to the ground in September to make room for the other late flowering plants they share this bed with. Meanwhile I am enjoying the show.
If you are looking for something different to grow on an obelisk, cane teepee or trellis then why not try a Black-eyed Susan. Thunbergia is completely unrelated to Rudbeckia hirta, an herbaceous annual or short-lived perennial in the daisy family.
Above is Thunbergia grandiflora an evergreen vine. The blue to mauve flowers are about 8 cm across with a 4 cm long tube that is pale yellow inside. Common names include Blue Skyflower and Skyvine. It is a houseplant in temperate climates.
Thunbergia alata – Black Eyed Susan is a herbaceous perennial climbing plant species in the Acanthaceae family. An eye-catching day beautiful five petalled flower with a jet black eye. This easy annual used to be regarded as a conservatory climber for growing in tubs, soil borders or from hanging baskets, but in recent years it has become a popular subject for outdoor cultivation, both in baskets, pots and in more protected corners of the garden
Thunbergia alata salmon shades
T. ‘Salmon Shades’ is a tender, evergreen, twining climber, often grown as an annual, with triangular to ovate, toothed, dark green leaves and, from summer to autumn, flowers in shades of pale yellow, salmon, and pink until the first frosts. A similar variety is T. alata ‘African Sunset’ which has flowers in all the colours of a spectacular sunset and looks lovely with other apricot and purple shades.
June just has to be roses, doesn’t it? Though Cornwall is not known for growing roses. The damp climate reeks havoc on the leaves (black spot) and flowers (balling buds, browning petals) so roses are not that popular. Saying that I have seven of my own (three inherited), two from my previous container garden and two new ones which are supposed to be disease resistant.
However, black spot is the most serious disease of roses. It is caused by a fungus, Diplocarpon rosae, which infects the leaves and greatly reduces plant vigour, the fungus is genetically very diverse and new strains arise rapidly. Unfortunately, this means that the resistance bred into new varieties usually fails to last because new strains of the fungus arise to overcome it. (Source: RHS)
There is something quintessentially English about a rose though. Childhood memories of picking highly scented petals and soaking them in water to produce a rather brown, but fragrant ‘rose perfume’. The beautiful jewel-like colours, the silky blooms and the myriad of scents. There is nothing quite like a rose garden. In summer. In the sun.
All these images were taken at Godolphin Gardens on 19 June 2019.