Monday, October 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day October 2012

Having missed the September 2012 Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day by going on holiday I'd better make up for it by illustrating a lot of plants that are in flower in October 2012 in my small Plymouth garden.

October is very rarely cold enough for frost down here in South West England but the nights are starting to get a little chilly as the days grow shorter.  But, we've had some sun, and quite a few things are in flower - even if they are not as productive as in high summer.  Some are just finishing their season, some just starting - but many have flowered all summer and will continue until the frosts begin to bite.  This then is this month's selection.  As always, click the pictures to embiggen.

The hardy begonia, Begonia grandis evansiana, is brightening all corners of the garden in a final swansong before the chill of winter.  By next month it will have vanished, leaving behind only the overwintering tubers and the small bulblets that form in the leaf axils at this time of year.  I've illustrated the slightly less vigorous white form below.  It's certainly one of my favourites, hardy enough to survive -9C unprotected, with excellent foliage and a neat habit topped by the crystalline purity of the small white flowers.
Begonia grandis evansiana 'Alba'
Two autumn flowering bulbs are also producing a small but attractive display at the moment.  Crocus speciosus 'Conqueror' was an addition to a small, narrow border that also houses a group of summer flowering Freesia laxa and spring flowering species crocus to try and provide a miniature display for as much of the year as possible.  In retrospect I might have been better growing this autumn crocus through a low ground cover as the thin stems are susceptible to damage and the flowers easily dashed to the ground.  No matter, a single bulb produces a multitude of flowers and the display has been very attractive despite wind and rain.

Crocus speciosus 'Conqueror'
Cyclamen hederifolium I've had in the garden from the start.  I brought some tubers from my previous garden and, after a year to get established, have flowered every year since.  The small flowers are a feature now, the attractively marked leaves will feature through the colder months.

Cyclamen hederifolium
One of the stars of the autumn display is Tibouchina organensis.  It's not fully hardy, so I grow it as a pot plant that can be given protection in the worst of the winter.  Outdoors, it flowers with increasing freedom from late September to the onset of hard weather, opening nearly 3in / 7cm wide purple flowers from velvety red buds in a regular stream.  In a heated greenhouse or a warmer climate it will flower freely all winter but I don't have either of those luxuries - though it does quite well indoors on the kitchen window ledge during the harsher times.  Lovely all year round are the velvety leaves, hairy green with a red rim that expands to cover the whole leaf when they die off.  T.urvilleana is very similar but a bit more straggly in growth and less free flowering
Tibouchina organensis
The comparative warmth of my south facing house wall allows me to grow the tender Ipomea indica as a returning perennial.  It usually begins flowering late August but this year has been so cold, wet and miserable that flowering was delayed till late September.  Cooler nights and days mean that individual flowers last 2-3 days rather than dropping by mid afternoon, are smaller and not quite so electric blue-purple in tone as they would be in warmer conditions.  For all that they are very welcome. 

Ipomea indica
A little further along the wall Thunbergia 'Sunshine Susie Red and Orange' is continuing to produce bright flowers.  I'm hoping to keep this one by cutting down the top growth and overwintering the plant in the protection of my shed.  With luck it'll return next year.

Thunbergia 'Sunshine Susie Red and Orange'
At the other end of the wall Abutilon 'Waltz' is still establishing.  It will take a year or three to produce a framework dense enough to flower almost continuously but even at this early stage the odd flower is being produced.  Just enough to whet the appetite for future years.

Abutilon 'Waltz'
In the shelter of my little shade house Streptocarpus 'Harlequin' is producing a bright display.  It does seem to like the cool, shaded but sheltered conditions in there and certainly adds some colour to the predominant foliage display.  It will soon be time to bring it into it's winter quarters.

Streptocarpus 'Harlequin'
Out in the open garden I've been very impressed with my plant of Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata.  It's taken everything the weather can throw at it and grown to produce a bushy plant about 3ft / 90cm tall and wide, with each stem topped by a continuously produced succession of bright red-orange, hooded, almost orchid like flowers.  Very distinctive, very attractive, and, if I can get it through the winter by lifting it and growing it indoors, guaranteed a place in the garden next year.

Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata
Whether it will flower for quite as long as a perennial wallflower I grow is a moot point.  Cheiranthus 'Walburton's Fragrant Star' has been continuously in flower since April and could quite easily continue till next April if we have a mild winter.  These perennial wallflowers are odd plants.  I've grown 'Bowles Mauve' in the past and one bush flowered continuously for nearly three years before expiring of old age at the end of the 90s.  They manage the continuous flowering by being sterile.  New flower heads are formed in spring and then lengthen as an unending stream of new flowers is formed at the tip.  By this time of year they look rather straggly but are still bravely producing insect attracting flowers.  'Fragrant Star' has the advantage of also having neatly variegated foliage so I'll have something to look at when I cut of the flower stems in a month or so.

Cheiranthus 'Walburton's Fragrant Star'
Equally long flowering is the welsh poppy, Meconopsis cambrica, which starts in spring and, by virtue of seeding around, can often be producing flowers well into the autumn.  I couldn't resist taking this shot of a rain drenched flower when I was out at the weekend.

Meconopsis cambrica
Fuchsias can flower over a very long period but one that definitely comes into its own at this time of year if 'Karl Hartweg', a variety of the tender Fuchsia splendens.  I say tender, allegedly it can only take the very lightest of frost, but mine has returned from the roots every year for the last ten or so despite temperatures that have gone to -9C and remained below zero for two or three weeks.  It can flower earlier in the year but autumn is definitely its best season with me.

Fuchsia splendens 'Karl Hartweg'
Other plants continue to throw out some blossoms.  I haven't time to illustrate them all but looking around the garden the Schizostylis I illustrated earlier this month are going well, Salvia 'Hot Lips' continues to produce flowers, Geranium 'Salome' is weaving its way through the Pieris in the front garden and Abutilon 'Patrick Synge' continues to flower, though not with the freedom it showed earlier in the year. 

My hardy passion flower, Passiflora caerulea, will continue to flower till hard frosts kill the softer growth so I can expect flowers from now till Christmas.  Rather than illustrate it with yet another shot of an individual flower (I've got dozens!) I've selected two rather different shots.  In the first one I did a still life composition of flowers and fruit of the species and the white cultivar 'Constance Elliott' that I took a few years ago when I had both in the garden.  Alas 'Constance Elliott' is not as hardy as the species and died in the recent bad winters.  And yes, the fleshy part of the fruit is edible - but not that tasty. In the second shot - well, if you've ever wondered what pollinates passion flowers, here's one answer.

Passiflora caeulea and P.c.'Constance Elliott' flowers and fruit
Bumble bee pollinating Passiflora caerulea

Finally, the last flowers are brightening my free flowering Japanese anemone, Anemone japonica 'Honorine Jobert'.  Single, pure white with a yellow centre, this perennial flowers for two months.  Another week or so and it will be over till next year.  So I'll leave you with this reminder of what has been.

Anemone japonica 'Honorine Jobert'
As always, my thanks to May Dreams Gardens for hosting the Garden Bloggers Blooms Day meme.  Head over there to see what's flowering in many more gardens round the world.


  1. You've got a great set of blooms there John! I'm particularly taken by the intense blue of the Tibouchina blooms, so intense!

    1. I don't think I captured it exactly; its more purple than blue but so much depends on the light as to what you actually capture on the shot. A fabulous plant and one of my own favourites.

  2. Quality shot of the Bumble Bee! Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata looks lovely.

  3. What a lovely collection of colourful autumn flowers! Every autumn I get reminded that I should get some autumn flowering crocuses for my woodland corner, and reading your post reminded me that I forgot it this year too....Loved the photo of the passion flower fruit, I got a cutting from a friend a year ago, it is romping up a dead tree and gave me two flowers this year but no fruit. I was impressed even getting any flowers at all, but am hoping for fruit next year.

    1. Passiflora edulis is very variable when it comes to fruiting. Mine normally only produces a few fruits a year unless there is a compatible pollinator nearby. I grew 'Constance Elliott' for a couple of years before it succumbed to one of the recent harsh winters and those years generated lots of fruit. Not that they are wonderfully edible. You only get a tiny amount of flesh and it's very seedy, albeit quite sweet.

      At this time of year what I like about the passion flower up my cherry tree is the way that flowering branches trail down from 10-15ft up with a constant string of flowers opening along the length of the stem. Very tropical looking.