Autumn blues and nice smells


The best thing about blogging – as opposed to writing for a weekly newspaper deadline – is that you can simply opt not to for a while.

OK, so the graph that tells you how many people read your stuff  (the checking of which can become a bit of an obsession if you let it) gets dishearteningly un-peak-y –  and no doubt some of your readers give up on you –  but unless I feel inspired by something, preferably something horticultural, I don’t – can’t – won’t – prattle on.  And that’s that.

‘Inspired’ may not be the word for exactly why I’m writing this, but there are some lovely things about which to rejoice as the sun gets lower, the mornings brisker and birch leaves start littering the lawn.

In otherwise slowly sagging borders I love my clear blue Aster frikartii, the gangly spires of a slightly mauver-than-blue Aconitum, the  potted indoor Plumbago that goes outside and wafts about in an urn in the summer.

There are other things in containers, too: although the huge tender Agapanthus (variety unknown, probably ‘africanus‘) is past its best, its seed heads remain  dramatic while the equally vast annual orange Tithonia next to it keeps zinging on and on, as does a Mimulus aurantiacus in a battered old galvanized bucket.

Even just looking out of my office window I get an eyeful:  dangly strings of little ripening tomatoes, the Med-blue of Ceratostigma willmottianum and a perfect clump of yolk-yellow, black-eyed daisies – Rudbeckia fulgida, while through the French doors  just feet from my desk, the combination of the stripy Miscanthus ‘Cosmopolitan’ (just starting to flower) and a vivid red Persicaria amplexicaulis lording it over the fat, lazy goldfish in the nearby pond never fails to lift the spirits.

The huge agapanthus at its best in August...
The huge agapanthus at its best in August...

And there are gorgeous smelly things out there  too – particularly on a windless evening. And so, a propos of nothing, my list of plants for the best late summer pongs goes like this:

  • Cestrum parqui (now a massive shrub – pruned annually like a Buddleia davidii with little lime-y flowers in abundance that alas only smell after dark).
  • Nicotianas: ‘Fragrant Cloud’ and suaveolens (both grown from seed from (Thompson and Morgan) seed.  The young plants of the latter were almost disastrously beloved by slugs – they only just made it through- but smell divine)
  • Acidanthera murielae (a scented, white, refined gladiolus, best grown under glass crammed shoulder to shoulder in pots, brought outside in late summer to stand somewhere strategic – and treated as an annual, I regret to say).
  • Elaeagnus ebbingei (Yes I know, this is sometimes classed as a ‘winter-flowering’ shrub.  But around here in Sussex it is starting to flower its socks off already and the air is full of lily-of-the-valley scent.  I used to grow this  shrub en masse as a hedge to hide a (consequently) ‘fragrant’ tennis court.  Ah, those were the days…. a tennis court?  You could almost fit this whole garden into one of those…)

Over and out.


2 thoughts on “Autumn blues and nice smells

  1. Dear Helen, So glad to pick up your latest blog. At the moment I am trying to create a late summer/ autumn border so any info is taken on board at once.
    Thanks for giving the address of the Felco renovators, yet again, although it was the first time I had seen it. I think I actually gasped with delight when I opened the package with my now beautiful ‘new’ Felcos.
    Best wishes Liz Cooper.

  2. Hi, Helen,
    I found you on Blotanical while I was looking for another Helen, never mind her. I liked your self description, and enjoyed this post. I didn’t plant acidanthera this year — I’ve had them return, but none returned this year. I miss them blooming with Salvia leucantha.

    Tithonia has been a real beauty this year. Butterflies love it.

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