On the top of the dry garden at Hyde Hall, Essex, U.K., in the well-drained soil, in full sun, a Ceanothus ‘Concha’ (Californian lilac) was covered in clusters of deep blue flowers. This evergreen shrub has a dense habit with arching branches bearing narrow, dark green leaves.
The purplish-black berries of Myrtus communis (myrtle) create some autumn interest. This evergreen shrub has small, aromatic leaves and in summer is covered with small white flowers. It needs a moist but well-drained soil, ideally sheltered from cold dry winds. This one was part of the dry garden at the Royal Horticultural Society Hyde Hall Garden, Essex, UK.
Naturalised in the meadow of an arboretum the autumn flowering Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ (meadow saffron) provides some unexpected late season drama. These double pink flowers reminiscent of waterlilies will be followed by large leaves, these will be retained until mid-summer. Remember to wear gloves when working with Colchicum since all parts of the plant are poisonous and a potential skin irritant.
Emerging from the gravel mulch of Beth Chatto’s dry garden the flowers Amaryllis belladonna (belladonna lily). This bulbous perennial has erect stems with fragrant pink flowers. The narrow strap-shaped leaves appear later. The dormant bulbs are planted just below the soil surface in light free-draining soil. The plant needs full sun with shelter from frosts.
Signalling the start of autumn Colchicum ‘Rosy Dawn’ (meadow saffron, autumn crocus) flowers in the borders of the Beth Chatto Garden, Essex, UK. This cormous perennial reaches up to 15 cm in height, with up to six goblet-shaped rosy-pink flowers. Grows best in moist but well-drained, humus-rich, fertile soils. The large leaves will appear in the spring.
Climbing the entrance hedge at the Beth Chatto Garden, Essex, UK, Cobaea scandens ‘Alba’ (cup and saucer vine, cathedral bells) provides an excellent welcome. This vigorous perennial climber is usually grown as an annual in Britain but will flower almost year round if planted in a glasshouse or conservatory. The fragrant, bell-shaped flowers are pollinated by bats in their native habitat of Mexico. This plant thrives in a sheltered, sunny location with a moist but well-drained soil. They are useful to follow sweet peas, as they flower from mid-summer to the first frost.
On the moist, boggy soil at the edge of the pond at the Beth Chatto Garden, Essex, UK, the Darmera peltata ‘Nana’ (dwarf umbrella plant, dwarf Indian rhubarb) was putting on a fine display of autumn colour. This rhizomatous herbaceous perennial grows up to 30-45cm in height, with glossy, rounded leaves. The clusters of pale pink flowers appear on bare stems before the leaves in the early spring.
At the Beth Chatto Garden, Essex, UK, Rhododendron ‘Sappho’ was covered in flowers. This large evergreen shrub was attracting the attention of the visitors and the local bees. These plants have a very distinctive character with their large leaves and domed habit presenting a very solid, permanent form in the planting. The stems of older specimens develop great character and can be pruned (crown-lifted) to reveal these. Rhododendrons need a moist but well-drained, leafy humus-rich, acidic soil.
These containers at the Beth Chatto Garden, Essex, UK, were enlivened with the long-flowering half hardy annual Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ (tobacco plant). The acid-green trumpet flowers will mix with a range of other colours and Nicotiana are moth pollinated, so are fragrant in the evening. The dust-like seeds are sown in a glasshouse in mid spring.