September 17, 2017
Now the cyclamen are declaring their unremembered or unexpected presence almost anywhere that seems unpropitious, but especially in the bottom of box hedges, and also in a pot of Pelargonium ardens, (whose flowers, if it hadn’t stopped flowering, would have made the most alarming Christo-type clash of knicker and flame) the mood of the garden has changed.
Geraniums that dominated the summer have pretty much packed it in. Honorine Jobert, of course, is till the lamp in the leafy corner. The little white stars of Aster divaricatus in their modest floppy way are a reminder that Gertrude Jekyll had an eye for a good plant. The most modest of fuchsias, ‘Hawkshead’ has woken up and droops its miniature white bells among the muddle of plants planning their retirement.
Flop is the feeling in a border where Sedum spectabilis ‘Brilliant’ looks fagged out. Wonderfully enduring and upright and still flowering Acidanthera murieliae (I forgot to water their pot until mid-summer) are the sweetest-smelling thing in the garden, as well as the most elegant. And there are leaves that are paying their rent despite a dearth of flowers: Salvia vitifolia, pale, soft and striking, and Fuchsia boliviana against the east wall. Why didn’t you dangle your scarlet tubes this year? Not one.
Now our total tomato crop is in: eleven tiny ones and another ten teeny, the greenhouse star is the bizarre Brillantaisia owariensis. I begged a cutting when I saw a pot of something rather like a long-stalked hosta in a French friend’s dark stairway. I had no idea it would respond to light and lots of water with long spikes of salvi-ish purple flowers. It is apparently an acanthus cousin from Madagascar and those parts.
In Kensington Gardens meanwhile only one tree has committed itself to autumn; the tall gleditsia outside the Cambridges’ quarters is shining yellow. Sweet chestnuts all over the gardens have such a crop of nuts they look like green chrysanthemums. A cluster of hawthorns, Crataegus prunifolia, are firing up in deep shades of red and orange and gleaming round scarlet haws. No cold night has come along yet to change the whole leaf palette.