It's Asteraceae Time!!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

No sooner it seems than I finished my massive News Item for August, here I am again in the small hours composing the September edition with just 13 days to go at the time of writing to the month end. With seemingly! less to write about than last month I was concerned that it would be difficult to find a Headline, which I have mentioned before is the key to me getting off to a good start. Fortunately a visit to a Cook Shop last month came to the rescue. There were the usual range of items for sale, including teatowels, aprons, T shirts etc. singing the praises of Prosecco time! Whilst I like a drop of the bubbly, I like plants even more! so I decided to use plants as the paean of my praise. Hence the headline to this months news.

The asteraceae (daisy relatives) in the title is the largest family of plants in the plant kingdom, dwarfing orchids and the pea family (Fabaceae). At this time of year many are at their peak and what a choice there is, some unexpected and familiar garden plants among them.   The gardens here are no exception and many in the family are showcased later on. The genus aster which gives its name to the family is a  stalwart of autumn although this year they were slower  to flower than usual to start with, but are now reaching their prime, and the butterflies and bees just love it.







A month of mixed weather which included  a delightful taste of an indian summer with 6 continuously warm sunny days

10 Sun Days max 25C on 21st. Min 3C on 8th and 3 other days of 5C

7 Rain days with 4.6" rain. Wettest day1.2" on 26th which included thunder and lightning

7 Changeable days

6 Days not recorded because of our absences


Garden update

The lack of any episodes of severe weather has ensured that all parts of the gardens look as good as they did at the end of last month.




You always wonder with October in the offing how much longer this happy state of affairs will continue, so you want to make as much of it as you can before the first real frosts arrive along with severe gales and heavy rain, and the dreaded forecast of a named storm! I feel like this more than ever as I approach my 4th year of living with a terminal illness. I have however been lucky so far to have had the chance of living a relatively normal life which has featured as many of the tasks as I can do in the gardens which, along with Moira have been my salvation. So it is normal for me  to be contemplating all the jobs that need to be done into the developing autumn. 

A last cut of the hedges is due and especially our beloved Yew Tree which has been shaped over the years from a straggly untidy thing  when I first moved here. With so many herbaceous plants around it I can only start to do this when they begin to fade.

Lawn cutting and the ancillary clipping of the edges  continues at the rate of  a cut every 2 to 3 days, weather permitting. Towards the end of the month I had already commenced feeding the lawns with specially formulated autumn and winter lawn feed which keeps the lawns green and  in a good condition. This will be repeated at several monthly intervals.

Dead heading flowers is essential to keep the show going for as long as possible, most of which is done by Moira, who never misses much!

Unusual flowers on rosa "Nostalgie"


Now however I have reduced this so that seed pods can develop and ripen to start collecting seed as I do every year, fo feed into The Hardy Plant Society Seed Exchange for members which we have participated in for the 25 years or so that we have been members.

We continue to be thrilled by the quality and abundance of the vegetables in the gardens, brassicas better than for many years, runner beans still cropping thanks to my regime of successional sowing to avoid gluts. "White Lady" is always a tender bean that can be relied upon. All the other pulses have now finished but there are plenty of peas in the freezer  for later. 

The largest cauli this year


Part of the former fruit cage filled with brassicas including several forms of curly kale


 A few of the "Autumn Bliss" raspberries left behind from when I cleared it to plant the brassicas


 Some of the perfect sweetcorn we continue to harvest from successional sowings variety "Swift"


 Ready for soup making by Moira


Root crops with the exception of parsnips that stay in the ground all winter, will all be dug for storage in the next few weeks, and if there is any sign of  frost the mature celeriac will have the tops cut off and those tasty roots prepared for storage- up to as late as April! 

Parsnip "White Gem"


 Celeriac "Monarch"


 After those pics last month of terrible carrots, "Sugarsnax 54"  has put on a better show!


I mentioned in last months News that I had for the first time made a very late sowing of carrots  and dwarf beans in July, as other crops were cleared, and they have made wonderful progress. It still remains to be seen with crossed fingers whether there will be any harvest.



I have still continued to make small sowings of salad leaves under fleece to take us into late autumn which is when horti. fleece comes into its own.


What is/ was looking good?

 A lovely composition of white viola cornuta with the 5 foot tall Kirengeshoma palmata.


 White Japanese anemone with a terrific very tall sanguisorba of which sadly I have lost the name with aLong season of flowering. More research necessary to establish the name


Bottlebrush flowers of actea "Brunette" set off by the pink flowers of alstroemeria "Summer Saint" in  the foreground


 Seed grown single dahlia with deep red salvia "Jezebel"


 Salvia "Amistad" meaning Friendship- a superb tall deep blue


 salvia "Pink Lips"


 Salvia "Love and Wishes"


 Sedum now called hylotelephium planted with blue ageratum petiolatum.  A hardy perennial form of the ever popular annual bedding plant but much nicer!




 And a delicate white form which is more resistant to the vagaries of autumn weather, well supported by its border colleagues


 Cyclamen hederifolium much later to flower than usual


 Nerine amongst sedums


Flowering from a huge division made last May by our friend Tony; is Crinum powellii



A few smaller shrubs of interest at this time of year:-

Abies grandiflora. Flowers all through summer and autumn



Diervilla "Butterfly" This honeysuckle family member has a long season of interest but sadly not much scent. Flowers early summer and lovely bronze leaves into autumn.



Lonicera "Honeybush", a non climbing form, with lightly scented flowers and red berries into autumn


 It is harder to ignore the larger shrubs like Hydrangea paniculata "Vanille Fraise" in all it's autumn finery.


 Hydrangea aspera "Mauvette"  What a recovery from that late May frost!



Hydrangea aspera macropylla




 Having given them the top billing, members of the asteraceae deserve of course a substantial mention, but there are so many there is not the space to include them all!

In recent years some asters have been re- classified. Species and  hybrids native to America are now known as symphiotricum. The 2 main forms in this group are still known as New York (novi belgii) asters, and  New England (novae-angliae) asters. In some ways it might be easier and less cnfusing to call all of the genus Michaelmass Daisies as they always used to be known!

One of my favourites is "Marie Ballard" a New York  form


 And this is an unknown New England form


 Aster divaricatus  which after another name change is now called Eurybia. Valuable plant for a shady spot


Looking like an aster but this is another relative called kalimeris. A real tough and long flowering plant 


 Looking nothing like an aster but of the same family is Senecio candidans "Angel Wings" In the 2 years we have grown it we we have never seen it flower! Lovely foliage though.


 Sinacalia tangutica. The infloresence doesn't look much like an aster but each individual floret does when viewed close up


 Achillea "Cloth of Gold"


 Vernonia gigantea with deep purple buds just opening into aster like flowers


 Cosmos are archetypal daisies


 As are echinacea


 No introduction necessary!


 Helianthus "Lemon Queen"


 Bidens "Hannay's Lemon Drop"


 Pale pink aster "Anita Webb" blending beautifully with astrantia "Ruby Star"


Countryside and Wildlife

Butterflies continued to swarm everywhere with all open flowers attracting all kinds of polinating insects. Most of the  common species of butterflies seen with the exception of Commas.

"Tortoiseshells were the most common towards the month end



 The last "Painted Lady" I saw. sharing the flowerhead with a " Tortoiseshell"

Not being sure what happens to mature migratory butterflies when the breeding season ends, Google came to the rescue. Painted Ladies like this one die. Their offspring however fly back to the wintering grounds in N. Africa, the middle east or central Europe a journey in some cases of 7,000 miles! Some may breed there and their progeny will fly back to the UK and the whole cycle begins again. Painted Ladies are found on every continent except Australia and Antartica ( not surprisingly!)


An unexpected find under the staging in the the large tunnel was a recently dead pipistrelle bat. They used to be very common here as  as we had a colony roosting in the roof of the Lodge but we rarely see them now. I got used to handling them when they flew into the bedroom on hot summer nights! Causing Moira much consternation and exciting the 2 cats we had then that used to chase them around the room!




 Native Hawthorn berries of which there are masses this year


Rosa Glauca covered in hips at the back of the Paddock Garden.


Plenty of berries on hawthorns and ornamental shrubs was nice, but  most eciting of all was a good crop of hazel nuts untouched by squirrels for the first time in years. We haven't seen squirrels for a long time which was a bonus alongside no rabbits this year.




Then ever chaging cycle of life on local farms continues with the rams now in the fields  with the ewes.

Whatever the uncertainties of Brexit, farmers have no choice but to press on with the production of lambs in the hope that there will still be a market for them.

Hedge trimming or trashing is now in full swing. Few hedges are laid in the traditional way these days as mechanical methods are less time consuming and produce a good tight hedge until the bottoms start to go.




Always a memorable day out is a trip to Llwyngarreg, Llanfallteg, owned by great gardeners and good friends Liz and Paul O'Neil. There is interest throughout the opening season even up to the closing date towards the end of October. We cannot recommend too highly a visit at any time. See   for more info and visiting arrangements.

 The pictures reflect all the vision and hard work Liz and Paul have put into the 3 acre garden since converting it from fields for agriculture

Nowhere illustrates this better than the sunken garden which was all dug out by hand and copious quantaties  of  gravel added as the growing medium. The drainage is superb.




 In the wider garden there is a wide selection of trees shrubs and herbaceous plants on a grand scale. This permanent planting of Canna ehemanii is typical of the tender plants they can grow there.




Just behind Moira is a glimpse of the red Japanese bridge which was installed a year ago. A perfect spot to have your picture taken, preferably not in the rain!





 There are large drifts of tall salvias


Another tender plant that does well in the stream garden is a large stand of colocasia far from its tropical homeland


And just when you think the thrills are all done, and teas to be taken in the Consrvatory, where there is an unbelievable range of rare and tender plants to admire

None more exciting than the white form of lapageria rosea


Or this exotic orchid.



There were other visits in the month but I am carrying these over to next month's News for all our sakes!! Thanks for reading.