Late Summer Colour

Contributed by Editor

On October 27, 2019

A report by Robert Lines on our meeting in October 2019 when Derry Watkins spoke on ‘Late Summer Colour’ 

A fine and dry afternoon displaying some good autumn colour provided an appropriate backdrop to Derry’s talk. She started by saying that although the arrival of spring rightly galvanises all keen gardeners into action, the potential downside is that gardens that bloom in April, May or June can become rather drab by the summer. As summer is a great time to be in and to enjoy the garden, her message was to make sure it was colourful! To this end, Derry professed a liking for plants that bloom from June onwards and into autumn. As illustration, she devoted her talk to the attributes of about 60 plants taken from her garden.

I have to say that I was impressed by her wide selection and sharp slides but unfortunately space limits a description of them all, so I have picked a number of plants that particularly appealed to me.

Heptacodium miconioides, a favourite tree of Derry’s. Elegant drooping leaves and fragrant white flowers certainly catch the attention, but after petal fall at first frosts the calyxes remain and turn gradually to burgundy. Furthermore, in winter some of the young branches turn red and, as a bonus, scarlet berries are occasionally produced. See image above.
Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album’ (to 5ft). Described as a handsome self-supporting plant that has elegant white spires of flowers in midsummer, then dark seed heads that last through the winter.
Romneya coulteri or California Tree Poppy (to 5ft) with large white flowers in July and August. It likes poor soil but is prone to flop! Can be invasive once established and resents root disturbance.
Phlox paniculata ‘Blue Paradise’. Derry commented that this was her favourite phlox – fragrant blue lilac flowers that really stand out in the evening light, flowering from July to September.
Thalictrum delavayi ‘Splendide’. Clouds of purple flowers on burgundy stems from a lacy mass of green foliage. July, 4-5ft.
Selinum wallichianum. Blooms in late summer with large white umbels and purple flushed leaves, to 4ft.
Hesperantha (formerly Schizostylis) coccinea ‘Major’ (crimson flag lily). A great plant for the autumn producing large red flowers on stiff stems. Likes sunny positions in moist soil.
Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’. Rich blue flowers in branched panicles from early to mid-autumn, 4ft. Derry pointed out that, like the phlox, the flowers really glow in the low autumn light.
Crocosmia paniculata ‘Cally Sword’. Grown for its form and foliage with huge pleated leaves and heads of orange flowers, 5ft. Good for a mid-border location.
Amsonia illustris. The light blue flowers in open panicles are produced in late spring and early summer, but its real beauty is revealed in the autumn, when the leaves turn to gold.
Hylotelephium (formerly Sedum) ‘Red Cauli’. Magnificent raspberry-red flowers on arching purple-red stems in late summer, attractive purple-grey foliage. Height 1ft, spread 2ft. What’s not to like!

Although Derry focused on late summer colour, she did mention some plants that provide interest during the winter months:

Corydalis temulifolia ‘Chocolate Stars’. Derry’s favourite winter foliage plant – green summer leaves turn chocolatey then red in spring, while striking dusty-violet flowers appear from February to May. Good in any aspect.
Arum italicum subsp. italicum ’Marmoratum’. Dormant in the summer, but from September produces up to 18inch-long spear-shaped, mid-green, cream-veined leaves that last all winter. White spathes emerge in the spring, followed by red berries if planted in a sunny position.

This was an engaging talk, much appreciated by the audience, and supported with a great range of plants for sale from Derry’s nursery.

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