LATE COLOUR

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I’ve just finished planting 250 Camassia ‘Quamash’ bulbs while the river lapped at the bank behind me. The whole area is submerged beneath the Brede now and I’m slightly fearful that I’ll see them bob to the surface. So far, so good. I planted them at least 4-5” deep (so they should remain where they are) and they’re planted in fine, alluvial soil that drains well in a sunny, south-facing spot. These are perfect conditions for Camassias so I’m expecting a riot of vivid-blue flower spikes along the water’s edge next April. And I’ve cast thousands of coal-black seed taken from the papery seedheads of this year’s nigellas hoping to have them flower just as the camassias are fading.
I’ve been thinking about how I can introduce more colour into my garden and while I’m quite pleased to see a decent amount of colour still persisting in this colder weather I’m keen to add more. As a garden designer I’m not only intent on adding more colour to gardens but also having it remain there for as long a period as possible. This is not only welcome in an aesthetic sense, but it’s also kind to the wildlife that depends on nectar and seed to survive
It’s fairly easy to introduce colour at the start of the year as there are many spring bulbs to choose from with snowdrops appearing first (looking wonderful in clumps amongst Helleborus niger, the Christmas Rose) closely followed by crocus and then, of course, narcissus which has varieties flowering as early as February (‘February Gold’) right through to those that bloom in May (‘Hawera’ or ‘Sweetness’) However, having some interest in the garden in say November can be rather more tricky.
Good autumn bulbs to try are Cyclamen coum and Nerine bowdenii in shade and sunshine respectively and of course the Autumn crocus, Colchicum autumnale, but if you are wanting to have beds filled with colour over a much longer period there are three perennials I would definitely recommend. The first is the Japanese Anemone, Anemone x hybrida of which there are several cultivars ranging from white through to the deepest pink. They are easy to grow and can cope with a bit of shade, but they can be a little invasive so keep them in check as and when you need to. Salvia, particularly the species uliginosa, is a wonderful plant for giving colour from mid-summer right through to the first frosts- they are unfurling their clear blue flowers in my garden even now. Then there’s Verbena bonariensis with its clusters of purple flowers borne on tall, square stems reliably blooming until November if the frosts aren’t early.
The salvia and verbena can be a little tender and may succumb to a really hard winter, but they are extremely easy to propagate by taking root cuttings in the autumn. Simply cut off some non-flowering stems and trim to about 3” in length just below a leaf node then remove the leaves of the lower half. Next, dip each base into hormone rooting powder and stick about 6 cuttings into a 6” pot full of gritty compost then place the pot in a plastic bag and keep at room temperature. The Japanese anemone is hardy and needs no special treatment, it will grow quickly from a root section plunged into the earth wherever you want it to grow.
Pic- Salvia uliginosa with Verbena bonariensis

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