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2011: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov    
The Garden in September 2011
September 1st Helenium seedlings

Holding a National Collection of Heleniums means I have to be careful not to allow unwanted seedlings to come up in my clumps of named varieties. However last year I allowed Helenium Rubinzwerg to set seed and some came up in the cracks in the paving next to the plants. On the right are two of the resulting seedlings in flower. This really illustrates why you can't grow named varieties from seed and why if you buy a packet of say "Moerheim Beauty" (and yes they are being sold) you will not get the true plant.  


September 2nd More late bloomers

Selinum wallichianum is just coming into flower and looking lovely today.


September 3rd Encore! Encore!

Centaurea just love taking an encore - always obliging with repeat performances of flower that is very welcome at this time particularly. Here is C. nogmovii now on its third flush of flower for the season.

The normal treatment is to cut the fading flower stems hard back to the ground to encourage more blooms. 


September 4th Elegant grasses

The flowering grasses are coming to the fore now and Calamagrostis brachytricha (Diamond Feather Grass) is one of the most elegant.  About 3ft - 3ft 6in tall this year and full of these fine flower heads it looks particularly good in the autumn breeze.

Said to prefer moist soils but performing really well in our dry soil in a very dry year.


September 5th Time to dead head (or not)

As I've said previously I like to dead head Heleniums early, before they fade too much, but as you can see the bees really like the flowers when really mature. So its a good excuse at this time of year to be a laid back gardener and not be too zealous with the dead heading. I must admit that after a couple of months of dead heading over 1000 Heleniums I'm all for that!


September 6th Looking good

Rudbeckia (commonly called Cone Flower or (incorrectly) Black-Eyed Susan) are looking good at the moment with their bold yellow or gold flowers in both sunny and shady spots in our garden.

Rudbeckia subtomentosa here is flowering away in dry sun and has grown to about 5ft tall this year - at least 1ft taller than normal. This is probably a result of becoming more established and the early, warm spring.


September 7th New to our collection

I'm always pleased to add Heleniums to our collection, although finding space can be a problem nowadays This is Tura - an oldish German variety I think . Tall, yellow and performing well in a partly shaded spot.


September 8th More elegant grasses

Pennisetum macrourum is a lovely grass from Africa with tall (3-4ft) bottlebrush flowers from August into the autumn. 

Usually winter hardy in most of the UK (Zone 8 areas) it did succumb last winter - Zone 7 or even 6 winter here although soggy soils are more likely to kill it than cold.

If you're not aware of "hardiness zones" these are measures of the average winter a plant will stand, so for example most of the UK is Zone 8 which is temperatures of about -1c to -7c in winter. Plants are then classified into which temperature range than can normally withstand. (For Zone maps of UK and Europe see http://www.uk.gardenweb.com/forums/zones/hze.html (please note we are not responsible for this site and make no guarantee of its safety etc.).

Of course hardiness is more complex than purely temperature: wetness, duration of winter, soil type, establishment of plants, previous summer drought, snow cover for example all play their parts.

September 9th Hardy Geraniums for autumn foliage interest. 

Hardy Geraniums are great value plants with lots of flower and also attractive leaves. There are many Geranium phaeum varieties available now with attractive leaves and these start to look fresh again as light levels reduce in autumn.  I noticed G. phaeum Variegata today with its green, cream and red leaves. Other good ones include Samobor and Margaret Wilson - these will all be available in our 2012 catalogue.

Species such as sanguineum, dalmaticum and macrorrhizum get good autumn tints in their leaves, especially after a dry summer.

Some retain season-long interest and look especially good if old leaves are cut off revealing pristine new ones. These include: renardii, Stephanie and orientaletibeticum.

September 10th Collecting seed 

Now is the time to be collecting seed from your Salvias such as patens Cambridge Blue here. These particular ones come true from seed but not all do so its worth experimenting and noting which do and which don't. As the flowers fade brown husks are left behind. In each there will be (normally) two seeds that can be gently squeezed out into a waiting container. Janet sows these in gentle heat in early spring. 


September 11th Love your bugs 

I spotted this mean look bug on a Helenium today. It is, I think, a Black Slip Wasp (Pimpla instigator) and is a parasitic wasp laying its eggs into the larvae of other insects providing its hatching young with an instant food source. 

It makes "Alien" seem a bit tame don't you think?


September 12th Fireworks in September 

I'd not grown Golden Rod (Solidago) until recently because the books said it was a slave to mildew. None of it! With Fireworks here just lots of bright yellow flowers just starting to open now and healthy, roughish leaves. 

By the way, just behind the Solidago you are getting a sneak preview of a brand new Helenium (as yet unnamed) we aim to release next year.


September 13th The late show 

Our taller Asters are just coming into flower now starting with Vasterival (right) and Glow In The Dark a few days ago. Calliope isn't far behind.

The dark-stemmed, tall varieties look great in the slanting autumn sun.


September 14th Love your bugs

Its always worth having a closer look at plants and today revisiting Aster Vasterival I spotted this beautiful Orb Spider, Metellina segmentata, spinning its web across the top of the plants.


September 15th The bee's knees

Well actually the bee's legs are the thing to be looking out for. That's if you want to tell the difference between a social bee and cuckoo bee (one that lays its eggs in other bees' nests). Cuckoo bees don't have nests and so don't collect pollen whereas social bees collect it on their legs - so the flat surface is smooth like this one (called pollen baskets), whereas cuckoo bees have legs covered in hairs. It is also possible to tell the sex of a bee by the shape of its pollen baskets - concave is female, flat or convex is male (I think, please correct me if I'm wrong).



September 16th Cardoon

Our Cardoons (Cynara carduncularis) are just coming into flower, perhaps three weeks later than usual but very welcome nonetheless. The extra cold winter probably killed off some of the dormant buds and it took longer for those deeper in the soil to burst and sprout.


September 17th Lemon Queen

Helianthus, perennial sunflowers, are really looking good at the moment and shrugging off the dry weather we are experiencing in South Cheshire.  Lemon Queen here is at its peak and about 6ft tall this year.

Beware the RHS is still insisting on listing Helenium Lemon Queen!


September 18th Still looking good

Stipa gigantea, giant Spanish oats, must be one of the best value plants in the garden.  Its tall stems, which flowered in May, still hold their husks and catch the autumn sun and wave gracefully in the wind. I won't be cutting these down until February.


September 19th Hoverflies

I've been enjoying watching hoverflies in the garden recently and its amazing how many different species you can find in a small area.  I think this one is Eristalis tenax but I may be wrong - its quite complicated trying to identify them from  a photo. 

Hoverflies are of course beneficial to the garden because their larvae eat aphids. In many species adults mimic bees and wasps to deter predators. This one looks quite like a honey bee.


September 20th Comma gain?

Lots of Commas in the garden at the moment and this resting one shows just where it gets its name from.


September 21st More Hoverflies

This time a wasp-mimic, Eristrophe grossulariae I think.


September 22nd Yet more Hoverflies

Another wasp mimic, Eupeodes luniger. Hover flies don't sting and can be distinguished from wasps and bees by their flat-profiled abdomens. 


September 23rd At last..

... a Hoverfly with a common name. This is the Sunfly, Heliophilus pendulas.


September 24th Better late than never

Our Pimpinella major Rosea have steadfastly refused to flower this year, until now that is.