You can tell that it’s getting colder. I’ve got my leg warmers out of the cupboard and I look like Norah Batty with a shovel. Perhaps it was the purposeful twirling of a spade that frightened Attila, maybe it was the goodness of his heart. In any event, I left the premises for a couple of hours, only to return to find that he had exhumed the Dahlias and stashed them in the garage for their winter nap. No threats were made that I can recall, so we’ll have to put it down to generosity of spirit. This means that I will have to listen to a fair few football roundups with an interested expression plastered on my face but that is a small price to pay.
Ilex aquifolium “Ferox Argentea” & Hedera colchica (Hedgehog Holly & Ivy “Sulphur Heart”)
What’s flowering, now that the Dahlias have quit? In the conservatory, Hedychium flavum (yellow butterfly ginger) is looking elegant, despite being swamped by Passiflora “Purple Haze” which has gone berserk. The cacti are almost immutable except for one or two perverts who are pushing out buds now, just when it’s a race between blooming and crinkling from the chill. Another denizen, the Brugmansia (angel’s trumpet) is decked with dangly knobs of promise. After years of trial and error, I find that the brute needs annual top-dressing with hands full of Gro-Sure, weekly application of tomato fertiliser and daily doses of buckets of water. At last, one of three buds is going to burst into colour, unless the drop in temperature gets it first.
Phyllostachys & Arundo donax (bamboo & giant cane)
Outdoors, there are a small number of roses braving the wind and the Pieris are getting ready for action. I don’t care much for variegated foliage but must confess that at the moment, my garden would be dull without multi coloured leaves of several species of holly and ivy. Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferox Argentea’ (silver hedgehog holly) makes a butch and prickly backdrop for everything else until now, when it comes into its own. I’m wall training Hedera colchica ‘Sulphur Heart’ as best I can but being a large leaved ivy, it has its own ideas about rightful territory.
Fargesia (clump forming bamboo)
I’ve been pleasantly surprised that grasses do so well, since the lawn requires constant primping to maintain a decent covering of green. Anemanthele lessoniana (pheasant’s tail grass) is seeding itself everywhere, leaving an agreeably joined up appearance amongst my obsessive plant collecting. Other perennial types do a good job but are being outstripped by the bamboos. These are forming such dense thickets that I’m amazed not to meet pandas ambling about after having taken a hearty breakfast. I brought a small piece of Phyllostachys with me when I moved house; now it has reached the first floor windows at 15 feet (5 metres) high. In 2014 I put in a sturdy specimen of Arundo donax (giant cane) for different texture. Originally sited well away from the bamboo, it’s getting squeezed from behind. Constrained by a wall and the path, the two varieties are steaming along towards maximum sunshine, forming a crowded copse of whispering stems. I’m thinking about biological control; note to self, call the Chinese Embassy to enquire about offering a good home to a bunch of smart black and white bears.