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A fabulous display of autumn colours - from a succulent!

Sedum sieboldii variegata in autumn colours.

With a long drawn out autumn this year - we are still awaiting the first real signs of winter - there has been plently of time to appreciate the colours of autumn leaves. 

This is normally something you associate with trees and shrubs, especially Acers - with their display of fiery reds, oranges and yellows.

However a few days back I saw this pot of Sedum sieboldii variegata putting on the most vivid display of autumnal colour as it started the process of dying back to its rootstock.  Sedum sieboldii is well worth growing in a pot or a very well drained sheltered spot.  It has nicely marked leaves - although the variegata form will tend to revert very rapidly to the straight form unless you ruthlessly prune out any reversion - and it has delicate soft pink heads of flower.

 

Persicaria affinis 'Donald Lowndes' - a great late display.

Persicaria affinis 'Donald Lowndes' in flower

Autumn is very much pushing on - clocks will be going back over the weekend so the early dark evenings are upon us.

However some plants are still managing to put on a really pleasing display.  I recently saw this knotweed - Persicaria a. 'Donald Lowndes' growing in a garden and was rather taken with its generosity of flower combined with a nice compact growth form. Growing down a bank or on a border edge it is really very attractive.

 

Thinking of big tropicals - Echium pininana growing well

Echium pininana in leaf

Another plant that our tree fern enthusiast customer Patrick has grown in considerable quantity is Echium pininana - the tower of Jewels.

If you planted out Echiums earlier in the year they will hopefully have now grown a great rosette of leaves and will be throwing up an increasingly tall, somewhat prickly trunk.  They will also be enjoying the current mild Autumn.  However if we do get some hard winter weather they will need to be protected, unless you live in a very protected urban area.  During the winter cold and wet is when you reap the benefits of ensuring plants have genuinely good drainage.  With Echium pininana it is well worth covering it with fleece / or using one of those fleece bags to protect it from excess wet and snow.  A bit of a hassle but when it is towering 15ft above the garden, in full bloom, well worth the effort!

 

A monster of a tree fern - a 14 foot Cyathea brownii

Cyathea brownii and other tree ferns

We did a rather successful bit of tree fern rehoming yesterday - a contact had been growing some Cyathea brownii which had just got a bit too large for their situation. 

We were very happy to rescue this monster of a tree fern (at just over 14 ft this is a relative baby specimen of a C. brownii - they have been recorded in their home environment (Norfolk Island) at over 60 ft making it probably the tallest tree fern in the world).

Given that C. brownii is not generally considered to be winter hardy in the UK the fact that a specimen like this could grow successfully in a central London garden demonstrates what can be achieved with the right microclimate.  It also indicates that some tree fern species, especially some of the Cyatheas grow quite rapidly in height given enough feed and moisture.

 

Another vivid flower display - Lobelia 'Tania'

Lobelia 'Tania' in flower

Like a number of the Lobelias, L. x speciosa 'Tania' can produce a most spectacular display of flower - given some sun and some moisture.  L. 'Tania' has the most intense magenta flowers which go really well with the hot colours of many of the best autumn flowers.

 

Fasicularia bicolor - a true relative of the pineapple!

Fasicularia bicolor in flower

Also flowering at this time of year is what is probably the hardiest bromeliad grown in British gardens - Fasicularia bicolor.  This is a tough character - lots of leathery leaves with serrated spiny edges.  It certainly seems to be pretty hardy in London gardens as long as it has really good drainage.  Given the right conditions it can produce a really large clump of rosettes.

When it gets round to flowering - mid summer onwards - a rosette of its leaves turn bright red - and the central cluster produces small sky blue flowers.  Really quite impressive.

 

Eucomis comosa - the Pineapple flower

Eucomis comosa in flower

Still flowering nicely is this impressive stand of Eucomis comosa.  A bulbous perennial from southern Africa is produces great spear shaped leaves with with a very smooth silky texture.  The flower spikes which vary in colour from cream to pink have the very distinctive pineapple like crown of leaves on the top.

Once established Eucomis comosa can produce a great clump over an almost football sized bulb.

 

Not forgetting blackberries!

Fruiting blackberry canes

The classic cooking companion to apples and not at all bad on its own. These are a cultivated thornless blackberry which produces larger fruit and makes picking them a little bit more comfortable.  The canes are trained down a rail fence which makes for extra easy picking.  The recent sunny weather has started to ripen things nicely.

 

Fruit trees in the garden.

Apple tree 'King of the Pippins' in fruit

Having fruit trees in the garden always provides an extra dimension to the gardening year - especially when there is a good crop rippening on the tree.

While this old mature King of Pippins may be a bit big for a very small garden there are plenty of trees grown on a dwarf root stock which will suit even a small London garden.

This tree in an orchard in Shropshire was both wonderfully ancient with a hollowed out trunk and wildly lopsided shape, but was also coated in Mistletoe - which was very much a feature of most of the old fruit trees in the area.  Local town Tenbury Wells is the centre of Britain's mistletoe trade - no doubt due to the many old cider orchards in the area.

 

October - the season of fruit for humans as well as for the wildlife!

Quince 'Vranja' in fruit

With Autumn well under way we are now starting to get into the fruit picking season proper.  These Quinces are perhaps a week or so off being ready to pick - they are a variety called Vranja and are quite magnificent - great golden knobbly pear shaped fruit with a soft downy coating which rubs off when you handle them.  They are very large specimens and this tree had a pretty generous crop on it.  Good for quince jams or jellies, or Membrillo is you like things Spanish!

 

 

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