Mild weather suits some

Persicaria ‘Orangefield’

This year’s strange weather continues with a week of mild weather and another week forecast. It has been wet and windy but night temperatures have not dropped below 10c. Only in the past week have lots of trees decided it is time to assume any hint of autumn colouring but lots of plants are making up for lost time, unable to grow in the drought and now either growing or flowering.

The autumn-fruiting raspberries are refusing to rest and are making lots of new flowers and trying to fruit and the dahlias are still in bloom. Of more concern are the honeyberries which are opening the flower buds that should be waiting till spring and there is nothing I can do about that. Of less concern, even the cistus are blooming, but they will need a spring trim anyway.

The rosemaries, which often bloom in winter instead of spring, are now in full flush.

And the Madia elegans, which was looking past its best a month ago is now making another big effort to bloom. The plants are scruffy but new shoots are growing from the base of the stems and, unlike in high summer when midday heat makes the blooms close, they are staying open all day.

I learned last year that Bidens aurea ‘Hannay’s Lemon Drop’ flowers on and on, but this year it seems even better. The clump is now two years old and has lost a bit of vigour as a result and is half the height it was last year. It is a better height to combine with white cosmos.

More of a surprise is the prolonged flowering of buddleia ‘Glass Slippers’ (Monarch (R) series). This was planted last spring and I chose it because of the wonderful silvery leaves and attractive lavender flowers. It was bought with the vibrant raspberry pink ‘Prince Charming’. ‘Glass Slippers’ is much more compact and is about 1m wide and 75cm high, after a moderate spring prune. I did deadhead ‘Prince Charming’ and was rewarded with a second flush of bloom but ‘Glass Slippers’ doesn’t seem to want to stop flowering. I know I need buddleias in the garden but I don’t always love them as much as I should because they are intrinsically scruffy, but ‘Glass Slippers’ is a good-looking plant.

Long-flowering plants are good to have but autumn is also the time when some plants naturally do their thing. I planted a grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’ this spring and it could not have grown faster if I had fed it with cake labelled ‘Eat Me’! Grevilleas and other proteaceae worry me and will continue to worry me till I understand my soil more. An early foray into the family, the fabulously beautiful embothrium, was a painful disaster as it slowly died. It is one of those plants that defies any rule as to what to do with it and as the whole family dislikes phosphorus in the soil (and fertilisers) it is hard to know what to do to encourage it. Lots of references say it like the poorest of soils so a patch that was previously colonised with bracken seemed perfect. But the plant thought differently. This spring I planted another, this time in a ‘normal’ bed next to a lilac. So far it looks much happier, even after the summer drought, but time will tell. But back to grevilleas.

In early summer I bought a Grevillea victoriae, partly because it was reasonably priced and thought that it would not be too much of a financial risk. The species is native to New South Wales and Victoria in Australia and is supposed to be one of the hardiest species. This seems unlikely because the foliage, unlike most of the hardiest grevilleas, is not finely divided but entire, olive green above and grey below. The flower buds form in summer and are reputed to be prone to dropping off if it gets too hot in summer. I think this is only a issue in hot climates and was not a problem here. The flowers open, from clusters of rusty buds, in autumn and winter, and my plant is just starting to bloom. As expected, they are very exotic and colourful.

My plant is ‘Murray Valley Queen’ and I am not sure how it differs from the species but I hope it is more floriferous or hardier. It should reach about 2m high but that is if it doesn’t get hurt by frost. Light spring pruning is usually suggested to keep the plant compact. Like all grevilleas it would be a good choice for coastal spots because it tolerates strong winds and appreciates the mild temperatures. It needs well-drained soil and full sun.

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2 Comments on “Mild weather suits some”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    October 24, 2022 at 5:00 pm #

    The Grevillea is very beautiful. It certainly has been wet – I cut the grass (collected leaves with the lawnmower) this afternoon and the wheels left bad marks on the ground. No damage done but a warning sign.

    • thebikinggardener
      October 24, 2022 at 5:08 pm #

      Yes our grass is very soggy. I cut it exactly a week ago and it needs cutting again but I can’t see being able to for a few days at least. The mower has a back roller (still rotary) but even that can make a mess on the turns. Yes, I am hoping the grevillea remains happy. I like them a lot.

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