Regardless of how rough the weather gets, some plants remain stubbornly in denial. They don’t want to know. For them it is still spring or summer, or perhaps spring and summer all over again. There are various primroses I could mention, especially doubles or those fabulous Barnhaven Venetian Cowichans.
Please don’t get me wrong, I enjoy their out-of-season flowers as much as the next person, but there are conditions attached. Having painstakingly lifted several large clumps, chopped them into nice fat pieces, trimmed their leaves and roots before lining them out in fresh soil to fatten up under the pale autumnal sun, I want them to produce new roots and leaves, not flowers.
All are hell-bent on flowering themselves to death and I have to go on at least twice-weekly dead-heading, or rather life-heading rounds. The more buds I tweak out, the more they produce. I can’t remember this autumnal floriferousness to occur to quite such an excessive extent but am still determined to put an end to it as, come spring, I want sturdy little plants ready to be potted up, not spindly, exhausted primula fragments.
Well established primroses can flower their hearts out all winter as far as I’m concerned, especially as I now make use of this unseasonal bonus by teaming them with seasonal performers such as autumn crocuses or the smaller colchicums.
Colchicum aggripinum is one of those plants I shouldn’t grow. It doesn’t like me. It doesn’t like my garden. But I adore it. A clear case of unrequited love with all the pain and despair associated with this condition. Its spring foliage is neat and small enough to earn it a place in the rock garden and its delicate pale lilac flowers are bewitchingly beautiful – each segment tessellated like a snake’s head fritillary. I’ve tried to make it happy for well nigh on twenty years and one of the many replacements has produced a single, slug-eaten bloom with rather poor chequering this autumn. I’m thrilled all the same and worship it on a daily basis.
My relationship with the autumn crocus is not an entirely happy one either. Millions ( I have a tendency to exaggerate) naturalised in grass ages ago have dwindled to a handful over the decades and until this year I have never felt the urge to replace them.
Crocus kotschyanus and C. speciosum ‘Conqueror’ are now more or less safely ensconced in the lime bed. More or less, because some bulbs of the latter have been dug up several times by I’m not sure whom or what. Both are on the point of flowering.
Some of the roses are still going strong. This comes as no surprise in the case of ‘Pink Perpetué’, a rose that, from July to December, is always determined to live up to its name. Its charming neighbour ‘Buff Beauty’ has decided not to be outdone and presents me with freshly opening buds on an almost daily basis.
In the bed opposite, all was gently and appropriately autumnal, some pale geranium blue, the odd fading crocosmia, bleaching grasses, until a nameless rose put it into its head to eclipse its surrounding with a truss of neon-bright vermillion. No more mid-season potash feeds for you my dear!
Apart from a few late maturing courgettes all blossoming and fruiting has come to an end in South America or rather had, as Crinodendron hookerianum, a plant that forms its buds in summer, but never opens a sepal before the following spring, has decided to be precocious. The little group I planted in April is hung with long-stalked cherry baubles and would make perfect tone-in-tone companions for Berberidopsis corallina. Alas, I have never managed to raise a single cutting of the latter and, well-established in a narrow raised bed on the east-facing wall of the house, it is too late for a move. This evergreen climber has leathery leaves and produces bunches of tiny long stalked ‘cherries’ in autumn. It is said to be almost extinct in the wild.
While some plants from the southern hemisphere adapt when they find themselves moved to the north, some continue to adhere to their original patterns, while yet others – in all likelihood very confused – just flower whenever they like. Drymis winteri is such a plant. Once fully settled in, it will produce flurries of creamy white blossom from spring to autumn. This year there’s still a sprinkling of seed pearl buds, and I’m hoping for rich Christmas pickings.