Autumn’s here, but there’s work still

2008-03-01 00:00

In the gardener’s calendar this is the first day of the three autumn months. It’s always a good feeling to be through with the fierce heat and the absolute fullness of summer. But, although the calendar says we’re through, this is not really so, expect a lot more of summer, there is still a lot of cutting back, clearing out, weeding, trimming and mowing to be done. Some autumn plants have decided it’s time to arrive and they’re coming into flower.

The Dichorisandra is a beauty for its tall, clustered growth and the way it carries its very pretty cone-like heads of massed blue-mauve firm small flowers among large smooth leaves. This delightful shrub is happy to grow in dappled shade, an area often a little difficult to clothe with colour. The many different indigenous Plectranthus are giving off their pastel shaded spur-flowers; this is another group happy in the cooler parts. From white through to blues, pinks and mauves, the flowers are gentle and pretty. There are Plectranthus that grow low as ground covers, others are medium-sized shrubs and others much taller, all spreading and all with attractive foliage. These shrubs need to be cut back hard after flowering to keep in bounds.

In full flower currently are the climbing Stephanotis, these bear clusters of pure white, waxy, tubular, fragrant flowers. This climber starts slowly and then very steadily increases its growth and produce generously. It is a gentle climber with strong waxy green leaves and tendrils that carry the lovely flowers in late summer.

A herbaceous border plays a big part in the garden; with careful planning and well planted it will provide interest throughout the seasons. Its composition, depending on its size, comprises small trees, shrubs all sizes, perennials, ground covers and a few annuals. Heliotrope shrubs are in flower now and, in fact, this delightful, fragrant round bush gives forth almost throughout the year. British gardeners call this plant Cherry-Pie; difficult to see why as it has no cherry red colour at all. The pale-green leaves are small and the tiny flowers are presented in a little round ball, all very pretty. Flower colours are in the soft mauve, lavender and violet shades. Heliotrope gives of its best if the shrub is cut well back after winter. Seen recently were wide window or wall boxes planted with Heliotrope bushes and it looked beautiful.

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