August & September in the garden

An Instagram retrospective of August & September 2017

By now, Autumn has well and truly got its feet under the table. With characteristic tardiness, I’m taking a look back at the past couple of months – the height of summer recently departed, as portrayed on my Instagram grid. Here’s my pick of the best images.

Hydrangea petals are crinkling and browning now, still attractive, but you can almost see the colour drain out before your eyes. It wasn’t like that back at the beginning of August, when the fresh greens, whites and creams of Hydrangea 'Annabelle'  were at their most inviting. 

The word ‘daisy’ conjures mental images of pretty, dainty, insignificant flowers. Which just might be excusable when referring to the daisies in our lawns, but never those in our flowerbeds, and particularly not echinaceas. These flowers are tough – thick, hairy stems that wouldn’t dream of snapping and, while the colourful petals might be the most vulnerable part of the plant, the central parts of the flower are quite a different matter, almost teasel-like with their rigidity. You could kosh someone over the bonce with one and probably be had up for assault. I make no excuse for photographing them continually over the summer.

I think I mentioned a few days ago that it was big daisy time in the garden. Here's echinacea, or coneflower, a key member of Team Big Daisy. Just look at that, orange and pink, shouldn't be allowed, but it works so well! And even after the petals fall off (which though do rather attractively as autumn fades to winter) the russet coloured central part of the flower remains nodding about on long stalks, for as long as you care to leave it, which is great for keeping some structure in the borders over the colder months. Talking of which, the winter on heavy soil can be a bit of a pig for killing off a hibernating echinacea, so if your garden gets very soggy and the water doesn't drain quickly, best think of having these in containers or raised beds. Oh, also available in white! 🌿🌸💕 #mystoryoflight #iphoneography #tostandandstare #fb #thepinkstagram

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Having been banging on about pink echinaceas and white echinaceas in my post the other day, I completely neglected to mention that coneflowers are now appearing in all sorts of colours. A couple of years ago I bought a bright red one called 'Tomato Soup'. It decided it didn't really like the soggy winter that followed its planting, and promptly tanked. Probably just as well, it was a bit loud. These beautiful peach toned ones in the high garden @greatdixterofficial are fabulous – I'm not quite sure of the variety, but wouldn't at all be surprised if they're from the Big Sky™ series, probably Sundown (aka 'Evan Saul'. Just remember, full sun, and well drained soil. ✨🌸☀️✨#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb #rhsphotocomp

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Of an altogether more delicate nature are the pelargoniums. A combination of domestic set-up and natural ham-fistedness means I’d not be anybody’s first choice as a custodian of a collection of tender perennials – particularly over winter – nonetheless, I continue to build a collection of these antipodean beauties, which I tend, propagate from, nurture and then expose to the brutality of my hibernal plant provision, so that only the very toughest will survive to see the next spring. I’ve got good compost this year, so I’m feeling confident, but who knows what will survive the chilly dark and draughty house? Whatever happens, I’ll always have the pictures of them in all their summer glory.

If all goes to plan, I'll be visiting the home of pellies, @fibrex_nurseries, at the weekend, along with a muddy-knee'd army of gardening types. This little stunner is a stellar pelargonium (that's actually a type, I wasn't just being complimentary) 'Vectis Allure'. I do love how the top two petals of a pellie have the prettiest crows feet ever. Laughter lines. 🌸💕🌸. how many 'e's in "knee'd"? Technically it must be three, though I don't think anyone's ever had the mental strength to include them all in print, hence why you always see it with an apostrophe to mark the excision, which is silly since it's the same number of characters. It's just that three 'e's in a row is a bit "cracking cheeese, Grommit!". . #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb #thepinkstagram

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Fully aware of my tendency to kill any plant in the house, I’ve been banned from ‘looking after’ the growing succulent collection. 

Though you may notice creeping into the odd internal shot the leaves of one of the rex begonias I’ve bought myself. Surely I can’t destroy them? I do hope not, they’re spectacular. 

Two weeks off in summer is not a thing I’ve done since becoming a self-employed gardener. Getting to spend the first week very close to one of my all-time favourite gardens was a real bonus, as was re-discovering flowers I remember fondly from my childhood.

Of course, one huge benefit of working for yourself doing a job that you love, is that it’s never too hard to come back from holiday.

And by the end of August, I was seeing the effort put in earlier in the year with the dahlias begin to pay off. 

At some point, I decided that we need more hydrangeas at home. 

I took up the challenge to make ragwort look pretty...

...and continuing the small-flowered daisy theme, this time in a shady spot in the border. 

But soon, the year begins to turn. I don’t make myself popular by seeing signs of the approach of autumn all through the height of summer, but eventually, even the most resistant have to concede that it’s on its way. 

And once the Autumnal Equinox arrived on 22 September, I could mention the ‘A’ word without fear of reproof. As long as I tried not to look too happy about it. 

In the last days of September, a cloud of Red Admiral butterflies settled across Instagram – growing up, it was always a rare treat to see one in our north London garden, but this year they were the most common sight.

Old containers out, new containers in. Time to refresh tired displays that have served well through the warmer months, and plenty of stock in the nurseries from which to choose. One of my favourite jobs. 

How was August & September in your garden? Let me know on twitter, or in the comments below.