Summer flowers in November
Published 19/11/2016 | 00:00
Cover brassicas with netting to keep off pigeons
Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis' and 'Autumnalis Rosea'
Taking a walk around the garden last week I was staggered to see the amount of summer flowers still out and about despite the lateness of the year. In fact a bed of Rosa 'Bonica' appeared to think it was nearer June than November judging by the number of its flowers and a climbing Rosa 'Iceberg' was in full second bloom. Groundcover roses are always great at late flowering with perhaps the pink Rosa 'Whiltshire' performing better late in the year than in the more traditional months. Rosa 'The Fairy' and 'Little White Pet' are both also useful in this regard.
Many other roses are also offering up a bloom here and there and very welcome they are too. Advice would have it that roses be pruned back by half at this time of year to stop wind rock. I certainly won't entertain the notion until the last lingering rose buds have had their chance, then I'll prune and firm with a boot heel around the base of any rose that has become loose. Any roses that are finished now should be pruned however.
Frankly this late flowering is largely due to the very mild, dry and calm October we had this year. This calm weather has also allowed us to enjoy a pretty good year for autumn leaf colour as the leaves have had a chance to turn before being ripped off by winter gales. Paradoxically the plants that we do asscoiate with winter flowering are also coming out now and unusually they are meeting up with their strangers in the summer flowers. Iris unguicularis, Viburnum tinus and Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis' are some of the winter flowers also out in my garden at present. Anyway we'll take it and enjoy it because next year could serve up the other end of the spectrum. I have just finished reading a book called ' After me comes the flood' and I hope that after writing this that title doesn't come to fruition. I don't control the weather, honest.
Of course many of the summer plants that are still blooming now are doing so reluctantly and sparsely. Among these are Penstemons, Anemone, Strobilanthes and some lingering Rudbeckias and Erysimums. Other plants are however still in rude good health and flower and while the weather stays benign will continue to be so. Dahlias are possibly the most striking example. A text book may well advise to cut back, lift and store Dahlia tubers by mid November. Mine are still as good as they were in August I have to say, so will remain in situ until they are a lot more dishevelled than at present. Its one of the joys of gardening that there are such regional and seasonal variations to keep us on our toes. The fact that it is not an exact science is what really interested me so much when I was young, or younger at least.
The lovely climber Solanum jasminoides 'Album' I have seen escaping over a garden wall still looking fresh and floriferous. The yellow daisy Euryops pectinatus 'Sunshine' seems to be much longer flowering than the type which itself has a pretty extended blooming period. I have both varieties in my garden and E. pectinatus flowered from late April to July where as E. pectinatus 'Sunshine has been non stop since April, whether it's as hardy I will have to see. Gaura lindheimeri 'Whirling Butterflies' looks far too delicate to be out in this cold weather but determined not to give up yet it would seem. Verbena bonariensis is flowering with gusto still and the always late flowering Aster varieties are continuing where they started in late August.
Many bedding plants are repaying our regular liquid feeding over the summer by filling tubs and troughs with splashes of colour still. I find baskets are slightly harder on themselves and tend to go over much sooner than plants in larger containers. Marguerite daisies have always been a favourite of mine both in pots and as infill plants in borders. I have good flower on plants in both locations and in very mild years they will even over winter completely.
The trailing Bacopa and Calibrachoa [million bells] are putting on a last hurrah and certainly don't warrant pulling up just yet and even some of my Petunia surfina will survive another week or two as long as the weather doesn't change.