This is such a great time of the year, when the summer purples and pinks and soft easy colours are all turning muted and faded, and in come the vibrant zingy shades that will take us up to autumn.
A visit to the Walled Garden at Clumber Park recently was interesting for the bright annuals that were grown in the borders among the usual shrubs and perennials.
I keep a separate space for oranges and yellows and plant helleniums and the relative of the sunflower, the helianthus. Rudbeckias, achilleas and echinaceas are not half as complicated as their names and will grow easily in most soils. And with so many different varieties there is always a new one to create an impact amongst dahlias and grasses and late flowering roses.
Keep things under control by cutting back a bit so each plant can get a look in. Cut off the dead heads of aquilegia and it’s time the catmint had a haircut to freshen it up.
Have you noticed how berries have started appearing on the rowans and various trees and shrubs? I have a bumper crop this year.
Sorbus hupehensis is a lovely small Mountain Ash tree with greyish foliage and whiteish - pink berries, which seem to get left alone by the birds, until later in the winter than the red ones.
Around my kitchen door is a wonderful honeysuckle, which is smothered in berries which the blackbirds are loving and dropping all over my cream coloured stone paving in orange splodges. I think the honeysuckle is in my top ten plants for variety and scent and, if chosen carefully, you can have one flowering for most of the year.
Start off with lonicera fragrantissima, which although an untidy sprawly shrub, will cheer you up during the depressing days of February.
Then near the house, or preferably climbing around the door, I would have the Early Dutch, Lonicera periclymenum ‘Belgica’. This is stunning on a May evening when we get the first hints of summer warmth to unleash its perfume.
Look out for varieties of this type like the long flowering L. ‘Graham Thomas’. But not all Honeysuckles need to climb. I have a variegated one, the Japanese honeysuckle Lonicera japonica ‘Aureoreticulata’ scrambling away through some ordinary ivy and giving off a luscious scent of vanilla from tiny flowers in June and July. The choice is vast - look out for the evergreens; L. ‘Halliana’ is a good one.
They like a bit of shade at their roots like Clematis, but as most of us do, given half a chance, they will head for the sun.
I remember seeing hedges of fucshia and hawthorn in Ireland with honeysuckle bursting through the top, relieved to be in the light at last, and glowing in the warmth.
I was once given a tip to shade the roots of clematis by covering them with a paving slab. What a load of rubbish! I struggled for years getting them going until I ditched the slabs and they romped away after that. Perhaps the water couldn’t get down sufficiently. So plant them deeply and don’t believe everything old gardeners tell you!
Talking of clematis, I have made a note to buy a clematis tangutica and plant it to scramble through the hedge behind all my bright things. The little yellow bells will last well into the autumn and fluffy seed heads after that will brighten up the shortening days.
Caistor in Bloom is eagerly waiting for the results of their visit by the Britain in Bloom judges and the town is still looking fantastic with hanging baskets and tubs brimming over.
Hope House on the Horsemarket and Ramada next door are open on Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon. Plants for sale and teas at the great new Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre opposite.
Sue Neave designs and builds gardens www.hopehousegardens.co.uk
Caistor in Bloom is a Community company run by enthusiastic volunteers www.caistorinbloom.co.uk