Pause before fall Posted on September 23, 2014

The best performer: Fuchsia boliviana

An overnight storm had left the grass cool and green underfoot, but the heat of the low sun was oppressive. I followed the shadows of the trees until I got to the Round Pond; in the open, skirting the pond, the double glare of sky and reflection was dazzling, my face burning. Autumn has only begun in the horse chestnuts; the rest of Kensington and its gardens are still enjoying summer.

There is anticipation in our little garden now, but not much action. A second or third crop of roses is half-hearted, however welcome. The Central and South American salvias should be striking up now with their paintbox colours; I fear they miss the sunshine under our walls and trees. S. uliginosa is too tall and floppy; much as I love its tiny Cambridge-blue flowers, they hardly justify such a leggy plant. S. vitifolia, from Mexico, looks fine with its pale furry-soft leaves; its branching flowerspikes are just giving glimpses of its sapphire blue. And as for our tomatoes, whatever the temperature in its greenhouse, they need more sunlight. They are still only reluctantly beginning to ripen. With Gardener’s Delight doing best. I shan’t bother with the yellow varieties again; they turn soft before (if ever) turning sweet. In fact the real bonus is the smell of the beautiful leaves, now scrambling high into the roof.

Curiosity is a curse in a gardener. You can never be tidy if you are curious. I always want to know what will happen next. Will a faded flower set seed? Can I grow the seed? How tall will this climber grow? What is that seedling in the paving? (I’ll have to leave it till I see its flowers). If your whole garden is a mass of mini-experiments it will never merit a photograph.

Successes and failures? At the end of a long summer there must be conclusions to be drawn. Tomatoes and salvias apart, almost everything could do with more light, too. Hydrangeas have done well, geraniums, phlox, Japanese anemones, campanulas, Thalictrum delavayii, the inevitable Verbena bonariensis all earn their keep.

The best performer, though, by far, is the redoubtable Fuchsia bohiviana. We brought it as a standard in a mere 8-inch pot from Saling Hall. It has grown to four times the size, added four feet to its span and recently three feet to its height, flowering vividly with its scarlet tassels of narrow bells all summer. Its fruit ripens, too, red berries turning black and (tolerably) edible. It propagates easily by either seed or cuttings. I shall have to chop off whole branches to squeeze it into the greenhouse for the winter – although I wonder if a plant this lusty wouldn’t survive if I just stuck it under the verandah.

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