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The fugitive summer


By kowhai


Am I alone in feeling that this summer has come and more or less gone without, on the whole, giving much of an impression, except fleetingly, of summer? July was grey, but with insufficient rain to keep the soil damp enough, and here in mid August, there is a feeling of, I hate to say it, autumn in the air. In fact, Monday gave a good impression of one of those Indian summer days which, with luck, we get in September or even October.

The garden has more or less gone over now, and only there are only a few flowers in bloom. One of these is the late flowering lysimachia clethroides (or Chinese loosestrife) which seems to survive and even thrive in the sunnier parts of the border, although by rights it prefers really damp soil. I always think of it as the grebe of the border because of the resemblance of the flowers to the head of a grebe. It could also be the meercat of the herbaceous border!

Meanwhile, the giant teasel is starting to shut down. The leaves are browning off, while the flowers are now turning into seed heads. Although it’s really out of place in a small domestic garden, I like its ‘architectural’ quality, and even as it starts to die back, it remains a striking presence in the garden.

Another drying out plant is the stipa gigantea which has done well this year. Several years ago I decided to put three at intervals in the border because, like most grasses, they can survive and even thrive in dry conditions. Two did, and I’ve removed and potted the third, which didn’t, as it didn’t receive sufficient sun, and given it to my daughter-in-law for a sunny spot in her garden. I like their feathery heads which move in the wind and provide continuing interest when all about them has gone over.

The hardy geraniums, which have done extremely well this year, have, with some exceptions, faded away. I’ve cut them back as this encourages healthy new growth. Fortunately, there are one or two which continue to flower, including dear Anne Folkard (she was named after the wife of the gardener who developed her), whose flowers continue to punctuate the border.

Ann Folkard isn’t alone as one of the late summer fugitives. The salvia are still providing an encouraging display of red, white and blue while the Chiltern rose is not only in flower, but is also sending up vertical growth, although it’s supposed to be a prostrate type which spreads, which it has also done.

Elsewhere in the garden, on the south (but north facing) border, there isn’t much colour other than the eleagnus which is a year round blessing. Most of the border is taken up with hellebores which I’ve managed to spread around by bringing on the self seeded off-spring and now there is a carpet of foliage. Next month I’ll start feeding them as they start preparing their early spring flowers in the autumn, and they benefit from feeding at the end of the summer. They flower more or less before anything else, except the snow drops, in the spring, and with their foliage cut back, their flowers are a really encouraging sight at the end of winter.

The eleagnus foliage stays the same colour year round, but the hamamelis provides some wonderful flame colours in autumn, and the leaves on ours are starting to colour already.

The day lilies have now flowered their last, having performed brilliantly this year. And the hibiscus, which is still in flower, will soon join them in shutting down for the season, the dying flowers being a fitting symbol for the end of our fugitive summer.

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Nice pictures, Kowhai.
Here in Somerset we've had a good spring and summer - i'd say a really good one actually ..... i know a lot of people are saying they haven't though.
Warm temps, decent sunshine hours and in the last 3-4 weeks some rain too - but not enough to make you grumble, just enough to help the garden along nicely :-)

18 Aug, 2010


I agree Kowhai, its been a weird summer started with a late spring then many weeks of draught, now its wet but very chilly, The garden seems to look and feel like late September.

18 Aug, 2010


You echo just what we were saying today, we breakfasted outdoors in May and June, thought Summer was going to be a good one, then weeks of drought with endless filling of watering cans for the wall baskets and now it's chilly and grey ! I really think I should hibernate and re-emerge in the Spring next year !

18 Aug, 2010


Well, while I agree that apart from those of you down south it's turned out to be a forgettable summer, however looking through my window I can see; Potentilla, 3 different Achillea, 3 different Saliva's, Agapanthus (several) Day lillies, Crocosmia Red + yellow, Sidalsias, Sedum, Rudbeckias, Echinacias (several), Hydrangeas umpteen Roses and many more.

18 Aug, 2010


yes it is starting to 'smell' of autumn. some of mine havent really odne well at all this year. but next year I await with bated breath.
lovely blog :o)

18 Aug, 2010


Thats what I keep thinking next year will be good like last year! gardeners arnt we optimists?

18 Aug, 2010


Isn't it sad seeing all those beautiful blooms, plants etc begin to die off for the winter...Roll on next spring :-)

18 Aug, 2010


Its early autumn in my garden as well,I`ve already cut back my everlasting sweetpeas,the bedding plants in the borders have really struggled this year so a lot of gaps there, lack of water at the start and quite a few drowning sessions finished them off early, the roses however have been really lovely so not all bad and the hanging baskets and pots are still looking good.

18 Aug, 2010


I think we have been luckier than most this year,as we didn't have the drought as prolonged as some of you,so on the whole,I feel its been a good summer for my plants,and still lots of colour.I have only had to cut the Crocosmia's Lucifer,and the Lavenders back so far.

18 Aug, 2010


Your have a wonderfully descriptive way with words Kowhai, describing the Lysimachia as Meercats made me smile!

19 Aug, 2010


Oh yes, definitely Meercats!

23 Sep, 2010

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