Going, going, gone…

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Salvia confertiflora and ‘Anthony Parker’ mingling in the hall, Tostat, November 2017

That’s it.  First big cold spell of this autumn/winter last night with a frost of -2C but the recompense is beautiful sunshine this morning. And to be honest, given all the topsy-turviness of this year weather-wise, it feels better to be having the weather we should be having at this time of the year.

So, on Sunday, much lugging of pots, pruning of things, and then fleecing of the odd pot too big to bring in took place.  Yesterday I ran round and dug up the 3 plants that had been planted in- and managed to remember to bring only two of them into the house.  Result: one very brown and unhappy Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ outside this morning.

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Salvia Mexicana ‘Limelight’, Tostat, November 2017

It had only just flowered, and possibly the flowering had saved it’s bacon.  I am so disappointed with this plant!  I should have paid attention to Louis the Plant Geek.  he says, ‘Want the excitement? Accept the dullness. No pain, no gain.’  Louis is a brilliant blogger.  In my view, he has everything.  Good pictures, great, tested in his own garden information, a witty and astringent turn of phrase- and really detailed advice.  I bow down.

The thing is with ‘Limelight’, the dullness goes on for ever- well, given that it has been outside since April, precisely 7 months.  I am not yet sure that the gain outweighs the pain. Not to mention, that ‘Limelight’ is a thirsty so-and-so, bending leaves down every day in a sort-of-Mum-wait-for-me way.  And growth was stingy to say the least.  From the opposite, more rational point of view, these 2 plants were grown from seed last winter and it thrilled me that they germinated on a sunny windowsill.  And, in the first year, perhaps I am being unduly testy about the lack of performance till now.  So, Louis’ advice is:  sink it in a 3 litre pot into the ground, as opposed to planting it which I did, then at the first frost, cut it back and overwinter in a cool place.  The last part is easy: the big hall, codename IceStationZebra, in our house.

So, I have half-frozen one plant and saved the other plant.  I shall cut both down as Louis describes and hope that over-wintering will give them more of a headstart than they had last year- and meantime, allocate 2 x 3 litre pots for them for next year.  I shan’t be mean and ditch them.

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ had made it just in time to flower.  In fact, the cooler nights have brought out the golden tints at the ends of the petals, which really brings the flowerheads alive, I think.  They can stay outside for now, and I will move them to the outside barn so they don’t get drowned in too much winter wet.

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Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’, Tostat, November 2017

This little Aussie plant, Westringia fruticosa ‘Wynyabbie Gem’, was planted, new to me, about this time last year, and it turned out to be pretty robust in our sunny, dry border, happily shrugging off a spell of -10C last winter.  These are the first flowers on this little plant, and I am hoping that it will slowly bulk up to make a jolly 1m wide and high mound of light green foliage, pretty in itself and then these sweet spotted-throat white flowers in little groups.

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Westringia ‘Wynyabbie Gem’, Tostat, November 2017

And this shot of the back of the garden, looking West, in the last sunshine of yesterday afternoon, is a kind of  over-and-out shot, as the leaves on Populus deltoides ‘Purple Tower’ which are so golden in this photograph, have almost all fallen off this morning.  Another season begins.

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November 2017, Tostat.

A death to report….and a small cheery thing

Fremontodendron californicum May 2015
Fremontodendron californicum in flower, Tostat, May 2015

I am really gutted.  I had grown this Fremontodendron californicum from a tiny 0.25m stripling to such a big tree, which was a bit of a shock so we had to lop it back a few years ago.  It was one of the first plants I  bought when we moved here eleven years ago, and it was a Spring show-stopper, absolutely covered in these vibrant, custard yellow, waxy flowers in Spring.  It was in a hot, south-facing position, and although it was never that fond of a wet Spring, it had always come back fighting.  Not this year.  It is definitively dead, and we will need to chop it down as it is the height of the house, say 7m.  Las Pilitas, the nursery in California on the link above, hints at sudden death syndrome in garden conditions, but my stony, poor soil should have been ok for it.  Who knows, and as with small babies, you have to learn that things happen and knowing the reason why is actually of no help at all.

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Dahlia imperialis photo credit: strangewonderfulthings.com

So, although I will have to try a bit of a bodge to beef up the soil situation, I am tempted to try out one of my wilder purchases in the Fremontodendron’s place.  On a whim, I bought a tree dahlia, Dahlia imperialis, on ebay last summer, and I have been nursing it through the winter with leaves on in our cold hallway near the back door.  It is only a sproglet, but look at what Louis the Plant Geek has managed to do with his.  I love his blog.  It manages to combine botanical accuracy and scientific advice with a loopy sense of humour and trenchant words on occasion.   So, that is my current plan, to be executed in May when I can really 100% confident of no frost, and once we have committed the dead thing to the wood heap.

On the plus side,  all my seedlings of Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Xanthos’ are up and away, on the sunny window ledge of our sitting room.  I have been rubbish with annuals in the past, but this time, eating humble pie, and instead of winging it, actually reading and using the excellent detailed instructions from one of my favourite seed sites, Seedaholic, I have had success.  ‘Nuff said.