The race is on…

Despite the early frosts last month, many plants are fighting on and trying to act as though it is still summer. Tender perennials, unlike hardy perennials, are not always programmed to stop blooming when it gets colder so they soldier on as though summer will last for ever. It is one reason why it can be so difficult to empty those summer pots and replant for spring when there is still so much colour.

Other plants are programmed to flower late in the season and these can be a worry.

This spring I planted a collection of x Amarines. These are hybrids of Amaryllis belladonna and Nerines. I have never had a lot of luck with Amaryllis belladonna wherever I have lived, lacking the south-facing wall that is necessary not just to bake the bulbs in summer but protect them from winter frosts. They flower scapes appear later than nerines (well N. bowdenii) and never quite make it. I bought five cultivars, in the Belladiva series, three of each, and they didn’t do much after planting but are now quite leafy and one is doing well, with a scape appearing on each bulb. The question now is, will they open a bloom before the cold weather really sets in. Its a race against time.

The same is true of chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’. I wonder why I grow this, to be honest. The leaves are colouring up as they do in late autumn, but the buds are still small and again it is a race to see if they will open a few flowers before the wet and cold destroy them.

On the other hand, some plants can’t wait to flower. I grew a lot of primulas from seed in spring and the Juliana primroses, put among the hostas to provide a bit of spring colour, have been popping up a few flowers for months.

And although the leaves are now looking tatty, some of the hostas themselves are still producing flowers. ‘Minuteman’ is throwing up flowers above the (still small) azaleas and I am grateful for the extra colour.

And the sweet peas are valiantly producing flowers still. This is the old-fashioned ‘Cupani’. They were badly treated and were left too long in their pots because I didn’t have anywhere to plant them so I popped them in to trail among other plants as they liked and they have been little troopers, covering the ground and producing lots of blooms. Unlike modern sweet peas which are a bit too long-legged for such use, the old Grandifloras are short-jointed and bushy so you can get away with this sort of use. Not recommended of course, but it works.

And though they look untimely, this is the right time for Crocus speciosus to bloom. Their flowers are so fragile that I wonder that they can stand upright in the grass. Of course many can’t but they are still as fresh and fragrant and I welcome their blooms.

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