Monday, 8 September 2014

Big daisies

Early September; sun-warmed days, cooler nights, and moisty mornings of mists and plants dripping with dew. This is the month when the romantic notion of the gardener you wish to be can collide head-on with the stark reality of the gardener you are. Having occupied myself over the past few months fighting a series of losing battles against foes including greedy molluscs, disappointing compost (I really must sort that out – too much unrotted wood in a lot of the peat free jobbies, locking up all the nitrogen) and a general inability to make the most of limited time, it’s now getting a bit too late in the year for even the most heroic of my efforts to make much difference to this year’s garden. I find myself on the brink of thinking that, with the growth rate now slowing markedly, the most I can hope for is to make the place look a bit tidier and, having concluded that such a dour state of mind is neither helpful nor particularly enjoyable, I opt instead for a course of retail therapy.

To Perryhill Nurseries in Sussex, then, there to buy a cartful of of fabulously cheerful daisies in two and three litre pots, ostensibly to increase the stock and variety of the plants in my borders, but in all truth to perk up the prospect by filling the gaps left by dahlias which fell victim to the combined efforts of winter flooding and the bloody slugs.

My haul included three asters, the purple leaved Aster lateriliflorus 'Lady in Black', the reasonably mildew resistant Aster 'Little Carlow', and the small, gorgeous Aster divaricatus, all of which are tantelisingly bedecked with buds about to burst open. I also couldn’t resist some more echinaceas, especially the wonderful 'Tomato Soup' – just the colour of a bowlful of Heinz – and a few more 'White Swan', whose blooms I find hauntingly beautiful. They’ll be going over soon in time for the asters to step up, but I’ll pull the spent petals off to leave the firm, coppery central bosses of the flower heads, which are worthy of their space in the border once the inital drama of the flowers has passed.

Echinacea 'Tomato Soup', with a hitchhiker

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan', soon to be de-petalled

Echinacea flower bud, looking very Sci-Fi

Of course, notwithstanding my uncharacteristically mopey moments earlier, there’s still plenty of exciting stuff to do in the garden. While some plants will soon need to be prepared for overwintering, now is also the time to start planning in earnest for next year’s garden. In practical terms, this mean sorting out my growing mediums and compiling a list of biennials and hardy annuals for autumn sowing. And, it goes without saying, leaving plenty of time for daisy gazing.