Summer is winding down and the nights are beginning to draw in, and what a summer it’s been!
The Met Office has announced 2018 was the joint hottest summer on record for the UK as a whole, and the hottest ever for England, narrowly beating temperatures seen in 1976.
The Beale Park gardens suffered inevitable losses due to the heat and lack of rain but, on the whole, and with a lot of care from the busy gardening team, the gardens continued to bring joy to many throughout the summer and into Autumn.
September continues to see plenty of colour in the gardens. Highlights at Beale include the Dahlias in the tiered garden, currently in full bloom, and the Asters in the Jubilee gardens. Symphyotrichum (Asters) which are sometimes called Michaelmas Daisies or Autumn Asters, are a group of late flowering, herbaceous plants that produce flowers through September and October, and are loved by pollinators.
For those of you fascinated by plant classifications and changing names the RHS site is a particularly detailed article informing us of all the new names for our beloved Asters: for example Aster novi- belgi is now known as Symphyotrichum novi -belgi !
The station border is at the peak of its growth.
Being our new tropical border it’s loved the summer conditions – come see the huge Brugmansia x Candida ‘Grand Marnier’ trumpet flowers as you ride past on the train before the cold nights mean we need to take in tender plants to overwinter.
One of our great successes this summer has been Salvia ‘ Amistad’. all grown at Beale from a single parent plant. If we had a plant of the year, we may well choose Salvia ‘Amistad’. This cultivar is particularly floriferous, has large, deep purple flowers with almost-black calyces and stems and is extremely popular with bees and other pollinators. Our ‘Amistad ‘ began flowering in May and has been in continuous bloom since then, hopefully flowering until the first frosts. They can be found throughout the gardens, including in the new Ticket Office beds as you enter the Park. Being classed as a tender perennial we ensure good plants for next year by taking semi- ripe cuttings in late summer and autumn. It is reputed to survive down to -8, so we will leave some clumps in situ to see how they fare this winter – although temperatures do usually drop much lower than this at Beale. Salvia ‘Amistad’ is featured in this month’s RHS publication ‘The Garden’, so we are in good company.
Autumn divisions and planting to increase herbaceous perennials such as the Rudbeckia , Penstemon and hardy salvias continues, as any garden is never truly finished. Propagation has begun in earnest, as we begin to sow seeds such as Echinacea , and take many cuttings such as from our Brugmansias , ivy leaf trailing pelargonium and salvias to increase and refresh stocks.
September is also the beginning of Autumn bulb planting.
The Gardening Department at Beale are planting lots more Allium ‘Aflatunense’ and Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ in the Jubilee Gardens, so look out for them May onwards next year. They both attract bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators. We plant them behind herbaceous Geranium ‘Rozanne’ that help hide the alliums’ leaves as they began to die back as the flowers open.
We are leaving the Allium seed heads that haven’t been damaged, to provide food for birds and shelter for insects over the winter. They look great in the frost, too.
Insect eating birds have to work hard to find their preferred food in winter, so they could be helped by planting a few winter flowering plants that attract the insects. We will be trying some new varieties of Helleborus × hybridus to add to our current hellebores in the gardens this winter. Other good plants are Mahonia and Viburnum.