Still a lot of colour in the late summer

Genii and Queen Victoria work well together.
Genii and Queen Victoria work well together.

We’re surrounded by growth and colour in various parts of the late summer garden, and edible crops are still being harvested.

There are occasional warm days, and the continuing presence of swallows and house martins performing acrobatics is reassuring. But there is also a slight restlessness as nature starts to drop subtle hints that this is not going to last forever.

Salmon geraniums

Salmon geraniums

This should have us thinking about which favourite plants need a backup plan for next year.

Although several of the summer-flowering plants have faded, the good old reliable types continue to entertain. Hardy annual cosmos is presently covered in bloom and lots of developing buds. Begonias have once again proved their worth. Tuberous-rooted non-stop varieties continue to flower and the fibrous Begonia semperflorens just goes on forever.

Once we get deep into autumn the former type will be lifted, the tubers cleaned and stored in a cool, frost-proof place until next year. But semperflorens still has a job to do. After lifting and checking the roots for vine weevil grubs, we transfer the plants to pots and fresh compost, trim the foliage and take them indoors to flower again over winter. Zonal pelargoniums or potted geraniums grown year-round indoors, are also used in summer bedding schemes. This time we’ve had several groups of a salmon pink variety that have stood up to the weather well. Over the next few weeks we will be taking stem cuttings to secure next year’s plants.

These go three to a pot of gritty compost and stand on the cold greenhouse bench but would do just as well on the kitchen windowsill. Water them once then no more for several weeks.

Good value cosmos.

Good value cosmos.

I find it difficult to discard the parent plants when they show such vigour. Some are potted and continue blooming in the relative warmth of the conservatory, others will be planted in boxes as a future source of cuttings. Were we not already inundated with rooted cuttings of several outdoor fuchsias, I’d be taking more from the soft stems still available. Genii is so valuable when planted in groups. The golden foliage and red flowers are planted in association with the perennial Lobelia Queen Victoria and how they stand out in the September sun. There was a time I’d have lifted both of these and offered winter protection, but they’ve sailed through several testing winters now so we leave well alone.