Ready for autumn?
AS we head into late summer we can confidently say this year has been a good one as, despite the cold spring, the weather has generally been kind to the garden. At Aberglasney it's been an excellent year for the plants that require plenty of sun and as a result the late summer displays offer plenty of colour. It's at this time of year too that we're in a position to be able to identify the stand out plants that have done particularly well at the gardens. This year there have been many good performers and several I would recommend you try.
One of the very best has been the red hot poker or Kniphofia which I have talked about before, I know, but must mention again. They have benefited more than most plants from the extra sunshine. One type that has been particularly good flowering from late July, and it will probably go on well into October, is Kniphofia rooperi. It needs a big space but interestingly it is popular with the less glamorous pollinators such as wasps, as well as all sorts of flies. Like most pokers it prefers sun and comes in vibrant colours.
Hydrangea paniculata is something that is a little different and which come into flower in early August and will keep going into late September. There are many different types of this Hydrangea but they all have similarly spectacular heads of white flowers. They don't lose their flowers when there is a hard frost and they can be pruned hard after flowering so they don't get too big. This type of Hydrangea also seems happy on most soils and will take more sun than many other types.
A new addition is the Catalpa which is an ornamental shrub or tree grown for its large often coloured leaves. We grow two types, one with purple leaves and another with yellow leaves, both of which have been providing interest since late May. They do have nice flowers but it's the exotic leaves that provide interest all season long. Again they can be pruned hard so that the plant is manageable and the leaves will then get even bigger. Catalpa erubescens 'Purpurea' has done best so far and is much hardier than it looks. Recently I visited Berlin Botanic Gardens where they had plenty of Catalpa and they get much colder winters than we do, proving they are not something you should be afraid to try.
Another spectacular plant is Cynara cardunculus or Cardoon. It has huge thistle like heads similar to Artichoke, the flowers are about two or three metres tall and it has bold architectural foliage.
All of the plants I have talked about are relatively easy to find in good nurseries and they are all very hardy. The extra sunshine this year also seems to have benefited them, so they are best placed in a sunny spot. Plants such as these are very important during September as this can be a time when the garden starts to lose colour or look a little tired, so they are well worth thinking about.