This morning we had the first real frost of the autumn. We had a frost yesterday too, though not quite as hard and it was followed by a crisp sunny day. Today it is overcast. The white grass has the effect of emphasising the shape of the new beds though the garden has a monochrome effect and any hint of colour is gone. Yet there is a bit of colour even though it will be last of the alstroemerias. I am not quite sure if I like alstroemerias much as garden plants, though they are blooming machines and have provided lots of colour in their first season. Yesterday I picked all I could find in bloom to save them from the frost. All had lots of new stems, which will now be wasted.
Although not the best for flower this summer, ‘Spitfire’ has made a big clump in just a few months, distinguished by its tall habit and prettily variegated leaves. It is a much stronger plant than the delicious ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ which has green-edged, cream leaves that fade to white. It is gorgeous but I have lost it several times. ‘Spitfire’ seems to be a good doer and I suspect that it is a variegated sport of ‘Mars’ but don’t quote me on that. ‘Summer Breeze’ has been the star this year. This subtely variegated sport of ‘Indian Summer’ is neat and clump-forming, about 60cm high in my windy conditions and has bloomed all summer. I had the plant in a pot over winter and it was very unhappy at being planted into an exposed garden bed and looked awful for a few weeks but once it was resigned to its new spot it just thrived.
There is lots to do in the garden and although I planted lots of bulbs a few weeks ago, I am still waiting for one delivery, which is a set back. A lot of daffs are to be planted under a new feature: a circle of ten hazelnuts. These will not be planted till next month because they are bare-root and the daffs will have to go in immediately – a little late but it can’t be helped. I want this circle to be reminiscent of a nuttery a la Gertrude Jekyll so I don’t want big, fancy daffs here. Instead I am planting a new, but small daff called ‘Roundita’, old , creamy white ‘W P Milner’ and another new, small yellow called ‘Say Cheese’. But that will be in a few weeks. In the meantime I have marked out the area. Now I have a few weeks to get the ground ready.
Quicker results come from autumn-flowering crocus. A month ago I planted 120 of what is supposed to be Crocus speciosus and its cultivar ‘Conquerer’ – you can never be quite sure with dried corms (or bulbs). I put most of them under my three new liquidambars. I love the lavender flowers popping up between the fallen, purple and crimson leaves. Crocus speciosus is the best autumn crocus for the garden and will naturalise in grass in a sunny or partly shaded spot. It is a far better garden plant than the more commonly available C. sativus, the saffron crocus, which needs a hot summer to bloom well. Crocus speciosus is native of Turkey to Iran where it grows at the edge of woodland and copes with cold winters and damp summers, the reason why it copes with the Irish and UK climate. The flowers are a bit later than normal this year, because they are newly planted. In successive seasons it will bloom a little earlier, but always after the majority of colchicums.