Autumn Elegance

This white Japanese anemone (‘Honorine Jobert’) has just finished flowering in the last week. I’m impressed that the flowers have lasted so well, despite it getting very little extra watering in summer.

Many of the other plants in the garden appeared to finish flowering earlier than usual due to the stress of the hotter than usual weather and lack of rainfall. (Some plants, like the red echinacea have loved the sunshine and produced masses of flowers.)

The pink Japanese anemones here (‘Hadspen Abundance’ and ‘September Charm’, which always flowers much earlier than September) have struggled this year. Both have produced far fewer flowers than usual and much less leaf growth too. Perhaps drought and heat will help to keep these thuggish plants in check in future!

It’s a relief to see that this anemone hasn’t spread as much as the pink ones. So far it hasn’t caused any problems by crowding the plants around it. (But it has only been in the ground for around three years. Maybe it will start a takeover bid when it has had more time to get thoroughly established. I will have to wait and see.) Originally I had thought of keeping this plant and a second one in pots to limit their spread but eventually decided that they would be better off in the ground.

Japanese anemones may be inclined to swamp their neighbours, but so far ‘Honorine Jobert’ has been much better behaved than her pink cousins. Even if that does happen, I will have to forgive the plant because the white flowers with their touch of glowing yellow are delightful, especially when the other flowers are fading away.

Brief Glories

My title isn’t entirely true! Annuals, like the cosmos in this post, can flower for months. But here I’m thinking of the difference between annuals and perennials.

Most of my garden is made up of perennials because I rely on them coming back year after year and gradually spreading. I wouldn’t have time to grow much from seed every year, so I need plants that are long-lived and can pretty much do their own thing once they are planted.

That makes lots of sense for building up the planting of the garden. But annuals have the advantage of providing me with something new to photograph. These – such as the zinnias, cosmos and nigella I’ve grown in past years – add some variety to the images I can create. This year I’ve missed having that variety because I didn’t grow any annuals at all.

There are sometimes a few annuals and biennials that reappear from self-sown seed. The love-in-a-mist (nigella) manages to spread itself around, as do evening primroses, wild carrot (daucus) and borage (which gets everywhere if it gets a chance). This year I’ve noticed that there is a small self-sown cosmos in a border. I’ve never had them do this before, so it’s an unexpected surprise and I’ll have to wait to see what the flower will be. (Probably a pink and white ‘Candy Stripe’, since they were the most recent. You can see them here.)

Waiting for that little cosmos bud to open is making me feel that I must make time to sow some annuals next year. I’ve missed the added interest and excitement that growing something new and unfamiliar from seed brings. Hmm, now I need to look at some seed catalogues… 🙂

Flower of Cosmos 'Seashells'
Flower of Cosmos ‘Seashells’

Absent Friends

A look through my photo files shows me that I have taken very few images of bees this year and none at all of butterflies. That may be partly due to me being busy finishing off the pond, rather than paying so much attention to the flower borders. But the relative absence of these garden friends has been very noticeable over the last few months.

Spring wasn’t so bad. There were Buff-tailed bumblebees and Common carder bees keeping busy in the spring flowers as usual. A little later, lots of honeybees made the most of the flowers of the Ceanothus bush. It fairly buzzed at times! But when the temperatures began to climb, there certainly appeared to be less activity in the garden.

Red Admiral, Peacock and Comma butterflies
Butterflies clockwise from top left: Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma

Keeping myself out of the heat probably means that I was less aware of any bees that were around. Normally, though, I would see quite a lot of them – hoverflies too. I’m more sure about the drop in butterfly numbers here. There are warm, sheltered spots in the garden that frequently attract butterflies but this year there were rarely any there.

I’ve read that this year’s ‘Big Butterfly Count’ had lower numbers recorded, despite an expected increase because of the warm weather. It is feared that environmental changes and habitat loss account for the drop. For many bees, though, the heat of this summer is suggested to have been a disadvantage. A study by US scientists has found that the larger, heavier bodied bees (including bumblebees) declined as temperatures increased, while smaller bees increased in numbers.

Does this explain why I’ve seen fewer bumblebees this year? I don’t know. All I can really do is to try to provide as much as I can in the way of useful plants and habitats in the hope that it will help both bees and butterflies.

Common Carder Bee on Sedum
Common Carder Bee on Sedum

Low-Growing Beauties: Herbaceous Clematis

Tall, climbing clematis are amongst my favourite plants. I love the different flower forms, as well as their wonderfully rich colours and the velvety look of their petals. But I can struggle to keep them going here, in the dry and baking soil of my East-Anglian garden.

The short-growing herbaceous varieties of clematis may be a dependable alternative here. I have two at the moment: ‘Sapphire Indigo’ ( just opening in the top photograph) and the popular ‘Arabella’ below. They have been in the garden for a number of years and have managed to come through the drought and unusually high temperatures of this summer without any extra watering. Both are still in flower now, at the beginning of October and have been in flower on and off from June. (They would probably be more constantly in flower if they had more moisture.)

Clematis Arabella
Clematis Arabella

Reading up on these clematis tells me that they don’t suffer from clematis wilt and that they are long-lived. They have no tendrils to help them climb and are only 30 to 60 cm tall, so are good where they can grow through another plant for some support. I have ‘Arabella’ growing through a shrubby sage that gets to over 60 cm and provides a useful home where the clematis can lean against its twiggy framework.

The only problem that I’ve found so far is that slugs and snails like snacking on the flowers. So I’ll need to find something gritty or prickly (we have a holly and mahonia bushes, so perhaps some of their leaves) to sprinkle around the stems in the hope of keeping these marauders away.

The flowers on these two plants start off with a lot of purple in their colour when they first open and then gradually become more blue as they age. (You can see the newly-opened flowers of ‘Arabella’ here.) My last photograph is another purply-blue short-growing clematis, probably a clematis integrifolia. This one was photographed on a visit to Fullers Mill Garden and is one that I would like to try here. These lovely purple-blues are my favourites, but I’m sure I’ll be tempted by pink and white varieties too. For now though, I’m going back outside with my camera to take some more pictures of ‘Sapphire Indigo’…

Clematis integrifolia
Clematis integrifolia