Saturday, 5 October 2013

Out with the old, in with…

I used to have an enormous Acanthus spinosus in the middle of my garden, in the left flower bed, just in front of the large camellia. If you don’t know this plant it is one of those you either say ‘ugh’ when you see or you smile and find interesting at first sight. I suppose I belonged to the last group, I really love anything unusual, and it doesn’t come more unusual than Acanthus spinosus!

Every summer it sends up these really tall, prickly spikes with so unusual flowers, like nothing else you have seen. Last year I had THIRTEEN flower spikes on my Acanthus, a record in my garden.

These flowers hide a really sharp spike that can pierce your fingers if you are not careful, but the rest of the plant is just soft leaves, masses of soft leaves.

This year my Acanthus sent up its leaves like usual during the spring and started to send up spikes, but then the leaves got this horrible powdery mildew. I tried spraying it.

And I sprayed some more, then some more. Then I gave up. I have had this Acanthus for 9 years and some of the enjoyment had gone. I have taken all the photos I want, I have seen all there is too see – while the plant has grown bigger and bigger and taken over a larger and larger part of the bed. I decided to get rid of the whole thing.

Now, usually getting rid of a plant means digging it up and putting it in the compost bin and planting something else in the space. Not so with this thug. I have read that even the tiniest piece of root can make it re-grow to the same size, and if you leave two pieces of roots – you guessed it, then you’ll get TWO plants, where you once had just one! I am keeping an eye out and will not plant anything here for a few years, just have containers in this space and try to get rid of anything that pops up. I am not starting an Acanthus nursery, nope!

Oh, by the way, the pots in the foreground are the fuchsias I tried to rescue from spider mites earlier this summer by taking their leaves off. It worked well on the dahlias and hydrangeas, but I am sad to report that the fuchsias in the pots did not recover, they are all gone to the big compost heaven now. Instead I have now filled this space with my newly acquired daylilies which all are still in pots, they very conveniently managed to squeeze in all on the edge here.

While I was ripping out plants anyway I took out some old tulip bulbs and some daffodils that had stopped flowering because it is too shady right here, so I got myself a very decent empty space. I love empty flower beds, what can I put in here?!

Oh, don’t worry, empty flower beds don’t stay empty for long in my garden! I had a white anemone in a pot that was desperate to get a permanent space in the ground and here in this shady, dark space it will be perfect. I also had 10 white giant oriental lilies in pots around the garden, and so was the idea of my all-white flower bed borne! I bought 3 Papaver orientale 'Royal Wedding' (white with deep black eye) a Viola sororia 'Albiflora' and one of the daylilies I got on my plant swap is also placed here, Hemerocallis ‘Nanuq’.

The pink pot at the far end is an Aster ageratoides ‘Ashvi’ which I got at my plant swapping, it is still a small plant but once out of its pot it will probably be growing fast and put up a big show next autumn with pure white flowers. I have also ordered some new plants....yep, couldn’t resist those autumn sales, got a delivery on the way to me and one of the plants is a Dicentra formosa 'Aurora' which is also going in this bed, right in front of the lilies in the previous photo, behind the bird bath. Not sure if I can manage to squeeze in more white plants, but if I can, I have many Primula vulgaris I can dig up and dot in around. I also have a Hosta 'Patriot' and a Hosta 'So Sweet' that I hope to put in here and by then I think this bed will be more than filled with white flowers in all seasons!

At the moment the anemone is flowering like mad, this was actually one I dug up from a friend’s garden when he was moving out, it had come as a seed from someone else’s garden so I have no idea which variety it is, I only know it is an Anemone japonica.

The white flowers really light up this dark part of my garden, it has been flowering for 6 weeks already and shows no sign of slowing down. Not bad for a free-bee coming over the fence?! I can’t wait for my white flower bed to start flowering next spring and summer, I hope everything goes to plan!

And now for a few photos to show that autumn has well and truly arrived here in London, despite that we had 22 degrees C (71 F) today and much nicer weather than many of the days back in August.

This is two of my Bonsai trees, I absolutely love making Bonsai trees from things that are totally not meant to grow as Bonsais! These are made from Parthenocissus henryana and are 9 years old. You might know this plant as Chinese Virginia creeper and one of its characteristics is that the leaves change from green to deep red in the autumn, before the leaves fall off.

I love the old character these trees have got over the years, with the moss and everything.

Look at those gnarly trunks. They are really easy to care for. I just give them water when I water the rest of the garden, and some weak fertiliser a few times in the spring. I change the compost and snip off half the roots every 3 years. That’s it. They stay outdoors all year and I seriously don’t run around with those speciality clippers all the time! Mine get a snip with my secateurs every spring if they need it, but at this ripe old age they don’t grow much anymore.

Another fun plant in my garden right now is the Physalis alkekengi var. Franchettii or Chinese Lantern. It has grown like mad this year so I think I need to split this clump next spring, possibly in 4. I have not got space for more than one so if anyone want a mature clump please let me know!

The lanterns are mostly orange, although the plant is still making new flowers. Next month these lanterns will turn see-through and look almost like made of gold, like Christmas decoration!

I haven’t shown my clematises here for a while, they are tricky to photograph as most of the flowers are no longer on the actual plant, they are on the camellia next to it, masses of them!

This is Clematis texensis 'Gravetye Beauty' and it will go on flowering until we get frost nights.

Clematis texensis 'Gravetye Beauty'.

Some of my fuchsias have done a great comeback after the spider mite attach, most of the older fuchsias in the ground survived fine, they just needed to grow back their leaves and set some new flowers. This is Mrs Popple, hanging over one of my many Primula vulgaris, still in flower for the 13th month in a row! September is when Primula vulgaris should start to flower again, after having had a break over the summer, but all mine have flowered constantly since last September so I’m not sure what got into mine – they just never stopped!

My roses are still going strong on their second flush, very late, but with this nice weather and the very late first flush they had that’s to be expected. They will probably go on flowering like this until we get down to pretty chilly nights and then it will slow down – but flowering will never stop completely until I cut down the roses in February.

I am finishing this post with one of my favourite roses which is flowering again now, one of the David Austin roses 'Wildeve'.

Rose, 'Wildeve'.

Autumn is a great time in my garden, I haven’t really got much of the typical ‘prairie’ plants or even ‘autumn’ plants, my garden isn’t big enough for that, instead I try to find plants that flower for a long time – well into autumn.
Next time I’ll show you my dahlias....until then, take care.

23 comments:

  1. Helene, your garden looks beautiful in autumn! I love these two bonsai, made of Parthenocissus! I look at mine- big, long, with branches hung to the lawn and think to cut it down and make bonsai as well. Do you cut their roots if they grow out the pot? White anemones are pretty, now I planted some dry roots to flower in spring but I'm not sure if anemone survive the winter. Happy weekend!

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    1. Your anemone might very well survive the winter, it depends which variety you have bought, some can survive down to hardiness zone 1.

      You can make a couple of cuttings (hardwood cuttings) of your Parthenocissus and put in small pots, cut off the tips and put plastic bags over until they take. When they start to send out long shoots, cut them off so you leave just a few leaves. Pot on to a bigger pot after a year or two but not too big, you don’t want to give them too much space to make roots, I had mine in 1 ½ litre pots for many years and I didn’t trim the roots at all until I put them in Bonsai trays some years ago. When you are ready to pot into Bonsai tray, wash off all soil in lots of water to expose roots, trim off to spread the remaining roots out to make a nice, flat base and leave some roots exposed. Use Bonsai compost, it is very fine and will filter the water nicely. Gravel on top will help prevent water evaporation, but Parthenocissus must be a very drought resistant plant, mine have completely dried out numerous times! For best autumn colour, don’t put the plants in full sun, they prefer semi-shade or just afternoon sun. Good luck!

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    2. Thank you, Helene, it's very valuable advice and I will do all you wrote the next spring/

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  2. The U.K. must be the most perfect place to garden! I can't believe the diversity of plants you can grow there--and most of them survive your mild winters! Your bonsai plants are lovely--I wonder if I could try the same thing with our native Virginia Creeper? Thanks for the idea! I like the look of the Acanthus plants, but thorns and spikes can be a drag. Your garden is beautiful no matter what the season!

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    1. Parthenocissus quinquefolia grows to a bigger plant when fully mature than what Parthenocissus henryana does, but I don’t know if there is any difference in vigour when they grow, they are pretty vigorous both I think. But that doesn’t seem to be a problem with henryana, it has adapted well to a life in the slow lane! Just give it a go and see, it will take you some years to have something like mine though, probably 5-7 years, but hey, we gardeners are very patient, right?!

      I love the climate here in UK – most of the time, and the fact that so much can survive the winter took a while to get used to when I first moved over here. Now I am so used to it I want more, I try to push the boundaries all the time and this autumn I have bought two palms and several oleanders to grow in containers. What survives, survives….

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  3. What an interesting post, Helene. That Acanthus looks quite lovely, but looks can be deceiving, right? Glad you removed the plant - hopefully it won't be back. And what a lovely selection of plants to put in its place! I'll be eager to watch this section of the garden develop.
    I have that same Clematis texensis! I saw a few blooms still left this morning, waaay up in the trees.
    And how great that your bonsai has decided to turn colour for fall. Just beautiful.

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    1. Thanks Astrid.
      Ehm, the acanthus is back! I found two small shoots today, barely poking up from the ground. I will have to dig them up soon before they grow bigger. This might turn into warfare….
      I have not yet decided on what to put on top of the space where the acanthus was, I will place a large container there, all the plants I have listed in my post are going on the margins of where the acanthus used to be – it was huge remember! I need a container plant that can take almost full shade, have to ponder about that, might get a large fuchsia if I can’t think of anything more exotic.

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  4. I enjoyed your lovely post, Helene! I am in love with the Chinese Lantern and MUST have one now. I really love a pop of bright orange in the garden. Thanks for sharing. :-)

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    1. The Chinese Lantern is fun and gives colour to the garden all the way to Christmas here in London. But it is a thug, keep it in a container unless you want it spread all over your garden!

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  5. Your garden looks wonderful. Enjoyed seeing it again. The Anenome is a thug here, quite as bad as Acanthus, though without the spines. Does it behave itself in your climate?

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    1. I dug mine up from a friend’s garden, it had been growing there for a good few years and looked the same as it does growing in my garden now. Can’t remember it spreading anywhere else in his garden but I think it depends on how shady place it gets and how heavy the soil is. The Japanese anemones prefer a sunny site with sandy soil and can get very invasive under good conditions over here too, I have given mine full shade and heavy soil. Hope it gets the message!

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  6. Wow, you have so many different still flowering plants in your garden. I think the Chinese Lanterns are beautiful, I have them too, but they are a real nuisance in my garden they creep everywhere between other plants. It is more difficult to keep in control than the Acanthus, which in my garden got powdery mildew too.
    Your bonsai trees of Parthenocissus are great!!!

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    1. Thanks Janneke, I am quite proud about my homemade Bonsai trees!
      This summer has been quite unusually warm and I have powdery mildew on plants that has never had it before, the price to pay for such great weather I guess. I was aware of the Chinese lanterns being invasive so that’s why I planted it in a container, it will not end up in a border in my garden so I will split it next spring and try to give away whatever won’t fit back in the container.

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  7. I'll be interested to know whether the acanthus reappears as we removed one a while ago and bits still shoot up in the midst of our fern bed,

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    1. Sue, it has already started sprouting! But I think the acanthus will be a great plant to try out the new Roundup gel so whatever comes up won’t stay for long…..

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  8. What a wonderful selection of plants you have shown us. I admire your courage in removing non-performing plants. I tend to let mine go much too long. I know there are space-takers in my garden right now that I should be removing. Maybe I can gain inspiration from your example and be brave about it. Fingers crossed!

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    1. Oh, I also tend to leave them too long, especially if they are plants I have a special relationship with. I raised the acanthus from a seed in 2004 so I must admit it felt a bit sad to just throw it away. I should probably have done it a couple of years ago so I might not be as courageous as you portray me! Good luck with your garden reshuffle!

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  9. I was going to suggest treating the new shoots as they appear but I see you've already thought of that. By doing so you will probably weaken the whole root system and eventually it will give up! I have this Acanthus in a big pot - it belonged to my brother who couldn't get it to grow!! It's now looking great and I think I might just keep it there!
    Good to see you making use of you plant swaps. I've started working on my page now!
    Lovely blooms Helene - love that Clematis. It's very similar to Princes Diana in tight bud isn't it.

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    1. Princess Diana is also a Clematis texensis, I have seen it, slightly lighter pink but very similar. I also have a Clematis 'Niobe' growing up in my camellia but I just couldn’t get close enough to get any photos. Looking forward to seeing your grower page, wish you weren’t so far away, I bet we could have done some great swaps!!

      I am going to try that Roundup gel, if not I could always do it like I have done before, using the normal Roundup spray and spray a bit in a cup when standing on the stairs, away from anything green, and then dabbing it on with a paintbrush – works too, probably cheaper! I would definitely keep your acanthus in the tub, but it might grow out of space eventually, it gets huge. Mine was 9 years old, you won’t believe how big the clump was!

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  10. Your white anemone may well be 'Honorine Jobert' -- I'm growing some for the first time and the blooms look identical to yours.

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    1. Yes, it might very well be, although I have looked at quite a few Japanese anemones and they look very similar - not easy to tell from photos.

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  11. I just came across your blog looking for Acanthus spinosus and wow! Very inspirational. I LOVE the Parthenocisus henryana bonsais, that's very clever. I really want to give bonsai a go this year.

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    1. Thanks Jack, you have come across an old post I wrote in 2013, if you click on 2016 you will see current posts and my new garden, I had to move house in May 2015. Good luck with making Bonsais, they are quite easy but takes a lot of time, you should allow at least 10 years for most plants before you could call it a Bonsai.

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