A Passion For September

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Who would believe we have arrived at the first day of September already – the year is slipping by so quickly! Today is the first in one of the new series that I have talked about, when I will share with you the things that I am most excited about in the month to come.

Here in my temperate English garden the changing seasons are very marked and I love to make the most of what each month has to offer. I sometimes feel that when I am talking about jobs that need doing or specific areas of the garden I miss out on sharing the seasonal highlights that make everyday life such a joy.

September is one of my favourite months. I am not really a summer person (very pale skinned and always seeking the shade in the hotter months), so September marks the return of fresher air and lower temperatures. The increasing hours of darkness and a cooler bedroom mean that I can look forward to a full nights sleep for the first time in what feels like many months and the beautiful gentle September light that illuminates the garden means that I can look forward to capturing some beautiful garden views again with my camera.

So there you have my excitement September in summary – more sleep, more energy and  incredibly beautiful light. Now for the specifics:

Beautiful Dahlias

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September is the month when the dahlias reach their peak – my dahlia beds will be overflowing with flowers and I will be able to fill every room in the house with baskets full of flowers in a variety of shades. Dahlias work perfectly with the gentle shape of the late roses and the beautiful berries that are ripening around the garden.

Misty Mornings

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Although autumn is a few weeks away, the morning mist is a characteristic sight from the very first days of September. I love the mornings when this atmospheric mist lifts to reveal the blue skies and hot days that keep the garden flowering until late autumn.

Bringing In The Harvest

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September is the month of garden bounty. In the fruit garden there are apples, plums, blackberries and the autumn raspberries to savour. The vegetable garden is also groaning with tomatoes, cucumbers, sweetcorn, beans, celery and salad in plentiful supply. One of the treats of September is to pick the ripened cobs of corn and throw them into already boiling water or onto the BBQ – nothing can beat that taste of just picked corn.

Plum Brandy

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With the ripening plum crop comes Plum Brandy – a favourite way to use up the surplus. My recipe is taken from the lovely book ‘Prepped‘ by Vanessa Kimbell – a book full of ideas to keep your larders stocked with useful year round treats. Made now the Plum Brandy will be ready to strain into bottles in November – perfect for festive gifts.

Apple Cake

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One of my favourite September treats with a morning cup pf coffee is a slice of apple cake. This is a perfect cake to use up windfalls and although delicious warm from the oven it also lasts well in a tin. I will post the recipe with some photos of the finished product later this month.

Drying Hydrangeas

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I love to pick large bunches of hydrangeas in September just as the flower heads start to change colour and take on a papery texture. Placed in large vases with just a couple of inches of water in the bottom I leave these flowers to dry slowly throughout the month.

Housekeeping

For me September is the month when I start to spruce up my house ready for the autumn and winter entertaining season. During the summer the long days and holidays mean that the house is left to its own devises. Come September it is time for some autumn spring cleaning! I always start with running down the freezer – using up all the food more suitable for outside dining than autumn suppers and clearing out the larder. Next on the list is the linen cupboard – I keep my towels and linens in a very large old Victorian school cupboard and September is the month when I like to pull everything out, have a good sort out and wipe down the shelves with warm water mixed with a few drops of lavender oil. If I have any enthusiasm for housekeeping left I will try and clean the front porch ready for autumn decorating. The pots on the porch need emptying and washing, the lanterns dusting and the stone steps scrubbing to stop them getting slippery in the winter weather. I can imagine you shaking your heads in dismay to find such takes on an inspirational list, but I really do enjoy these seasonal tasks with the feeling of organisation and preparation for busier times that they bring!

Bulb Planting

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My bulb orders are in, so as soon as they arrive I will be getting on with planting. Whilst I always plan to start bulb planting in September, usually the ground is far too dry to dig holes, so I have to wait until much later in the year. This year we have had plenty of rain, so conditions are perfect for bulb planting. I am concentrating on building up the bulbs along the entrance drive and in the beds in front of the house this year, so have ordered plenty of narcissi for these areas. There are also pots to be scrubbed ready to be planted up with bulbs that will flower inside and in the greenhouse.

I always prepare for bulb planting with a big tidy up – cutting back and dividing spent perennials, pulling annuals and giving the beds a good weed. After all that preparation there is space to plant the bulbs and then the beds are covered with a layer of compost or leaf mold to keep down the weeds over winter.

Last year I was very lax in preparing for winter and left much of the work until spring – I have been paying the price all season so will not make that mistake again. In a smaller garden tidying up could be left until late November or even next spring, but in my large garden I will start with the beds furthest away from the house and gradually work inwards to keep the colour where I see it most for as long as possible.

A Day With Emily Quinton

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Emily Quinton is  a blogger and instagrammer who runs beautiful photography workshops. I spent a day on her Makelight Level One course a couple of years ago and have decided to do the Makelight Level Two this September. This will be an extra special day out as I am going to do the course with my daughter, who recently started her own blog called Butterfly Becca. I am sure we will both pick up lots of tips on this lovely inspiring course.

Downton Abbey

I will be demanding an hour of undisturbed peace on a Sunday evening when my favourite TV series returns this month!

Fruits & Berries

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September is a the start of the fruit and berry season in flower arranging. I love to comb the garden and surrounding woodland for foraged finds including windfall apples or pears, which I can combine with new season ivy berries and beautiful dahlias for a very seasonal look. Ready right now are elderberries, rowan berries and ivy berries – before the end of the month the hawthorn berries will be added to the list.

Chutney, Jams & Jellies

September is a month for making the most of the harvest. I will be combining the many tomatoes which are ripening in the greenhouse with the onion crop to make chutney, the blackberries will make jam, the elderberries a lovely cordial and the apples a clear bright jelly. As I often cook in the evenings I tend not to use my camera very much to capture food, but this is something I am planning to work on over the next few months, so hopefully I will have recipes and photos to share with you.

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So there you have a few of my favourite things in the month of September. What  are your favourite things to look forward to this month?

In A Vase On Monday – A Rather Wet Affair

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As usual today I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to join in her challenge to find something from the garden to put in a vase every Monday.

This week I have to be honest and say that I did not venture out very far into my garden today – it has rained so hard throughout the day that I have stayed firmly indoors apart from a quick spell on the terrace when I managed to cut these flowers from surrounding pots and beds. Whilst I had planned to show my zinnias today, the purple buddleja has been attracting my attention as I watered my pots this week and could be cut without venturing out onto the grass.

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Buddleja is one of those plants I rarely consider for a vase and yet it bears a strong resemblance to my favourite spring flower, lilac. If I had caught this buddleja a few weeks ago I could have produced a whole vase draped in long purple stems, but most had gone over today so the pickings were quite slim.

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To fill out the vase I found cosmos, dahlias and a few stems of blackberries.

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This cosmos is called ‘Psyche Rose Picotee’ and is performing extremely well in my pots close to the house. I am hoping it will carry on flowering for some time yet – until I am ready to plant up my bulbs in November if I am very lucky.

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This has been a fantastic year for the fruit garden and these blackberries are no exception. Dark and juicy when ripe they are irresistible to both me and the birds!

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This is Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’. Buddleja is, I feel, a very underrated flower in both the gardening and the arranging worlds. I might eat my words if it has collapsed in the morning, but tonight it is still looking very happy in my vase. It is fragrant, comes in a variety of lovely shades, grows well in all weather conditions and can be cut back almost to the ground in late winter. On top of all that the butterflies love it and I am very happy to give a number of plants a home in my garden. If these flower stems perform well I am also going to make a point of bringing it inside more often in future.

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I also added a few wet stems of dahlia ‘Purple Gem’ to fill out my quick vase today. This is a dahlia that I grow every year as it is very reliable and a beautiful colour.

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So there you have it – a rather wet collection of blooms on this, a rather wet last day of August. I hope that you have had better weather where you are and that you will join me in popping over to Cathy’s blog to see what she and the others have made this week.

Tomorrow is the first day of September and, as promised, I will be back with the first of my new series of seasonal inspirations – I am looking forward to sharing with you a few of the things that make September a special month for me.

 

 

The Cutting Garden Review – August

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August in the Cutting Garden is a month of pure abundance – although most of my hardy annuals have gone over leaving a few gaps, the half hardy annuals and dahlias are pumping out flowers on a daily basis – regular dead heading is crucial to keep the succession going into September and October.

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Now that the flowers are growing close to head height it is hard to get a good shot of the overall Cutting Garden, so this month will focus on close ups again.

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Cosmos Bright Lights is a favourite flower of mine – so delicate and uplifting.

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The zinnias have loved the hot weather and stood up well to this weeks monsoon like rain storms. Although zinnias can be a little tricky to get going, once they are established they will keep on producing plenty of fresh flowers well into October.

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The single white cosmos ‘Purity’ is my favourite cosmos – tall and billowing it is hard to believe that this delicate looking plant was not flattened by all that rain. As long as I keep dead heading (on an almost daily basis) the flowers will keep coming – it is a perfect plant for cutting but also very prolific and long lasting in pots and containers. I have used a lot of cosmos as bedding plants this year, in place of the costly garden centre petunias etc and it is proving to be very long lasting.

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The flower above and below is cosmos ‘Double Rose Bonbon’.

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This stunning single is cosmos bipinatus ‘Rubenza’.

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And this lovely double is cosmos ‘Click Cranberries’.

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Amaranthus is another favourite half hardy annual – adding a touch of drama to anything you arrange it with. This year I have grown amaranthus tricolor ‘Red Army’ above and amaranthus caudatus ‘Viridis’ below. The green variety I have been growing for a few years, but this is my first time growing the red. I am surprised that its growing habit is so much more upright – perhaps it will arch downwards as the tassels increase in length.

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This beautiful orange dahlia is called ‘Mrs Eileen’ and I grow her every year. The colour of the large flower heads is just stunning!

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I have mentioned that my sunflower sowing was a disaster this year, but look at this beautiful half hardy rudbeckia called ‘Cappuccino’ – these will make a great replacement for sunflowers and again are a new seed for me this year.

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On Monday I promised I would show you the grass that I used in my vase growing in the garden. Panicum elegans ‘Frosted Explosion’ is a half hardy annual grass which is looking as lovely in the border as it did in my vase. The thicker leaves that you can see come from the gladioli bulbs which were interplanted with the grass seedlings in late June – hopefully these will flower later in September. I have never grown annual grasses before, but I certainly will be growing this, along with Briza Maxima (the greater quaking grass) next year.

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Every year I find room for a few asters and I loved the apricot colour of this one (aster ‘Tower Chamois’) so much last year that I made sure to grow plenty more this year. I do not find asters make a very long lasting cutting flower, but for a few weeks they are so beautiful that I feel they are worth the effort of growing.

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I had my usual helpers this afternoon – although Hardy was a bit grumpy about having his photo taken today – he does look very handsome in the sun though.

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This vibrant orange nasturtium is a self seeded plant from last year.

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The apricot coloured dahlia ‘Preference’ is another favourite.

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My borage sowing was pulled up by birds earlier in the early summer, so I am delighted to find a few plants have self seeded themselves randomly amongst other flowers.

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Dahlia ‘American Dawn’ above and ‘Labyrinth’ below are both new additions to my garden. I gave in to the temptation of the Sarah Raven catalogue in early spring and I am so glad that I did – these two new dahlias are stunning and will be appearing in my Monday vases very soon.

Cutting-Garden-Review-August.

Cutting-Garden-Review-August

A few of the roses are starting to flower again – hopefully there will be lots more roses in September. This one is the David Austin rose ‘Munstead Wood’.

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This annual lavender is called ‘Spanish Eyes’. Another half hardy annual, this one is very easy to grow and flowers non stop until the first frosts, making it a great alternative to perennial lavender which is over by mid August. I have some growing in the Cutting Garden, but have also used plenty to edge my borders around the house (last year I filled pots with it). As long as you dead head regularly it just keeps on flowering, whatever the weather conditions.

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Nelson was delighted to find a few raspberries had dropped to the ground – his favourite summer treat!

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The sun was just too soporific for Hardy.

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Annuals that are still flowering well include euphorbia oblongata and salvia viridis. Both make excellent edging plants and the euphorbia should survive through the winter to produce fresh flowers early next spring.

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So that is most of what has been flowering in August. There are also sweet peas which I forgot to photograph and a few perennials including scabious and phlox growing in the Cutting Garden. Also I have a second sowing of stocks and snapdragons growing well but not yet in flower. Another omission is the half hardy annual Bells of Ireland which are looking good right now. I find it is handy to have lots of green filler foliage to choose from when working with the sometimes quite rigid shapes of dahlias.

With the exception of the asters and cosmos ‘Double Rose Bonbon’ (which came from Seeds of Distinction), all the seeds I have mentioned today came from the beautiful Sarah Raven seed catalogue. If you are making plans for next years cutting flowers I would highly recommend that you order a copy for lots of inspiration!

I do hope that you will leave a link to your own cutting garden posts and if you have any questions please ask in the comments below. It would be really nice to know what everyones favourite August flowers are, so do please join in with a comment about yours.

I will be back on the last Friday of September with my September Cutting Garden Review and will have a Giveaway for you again next month. In the meantime I will be posting about the hardy annuals I will be sowing in September next Friday. It is hard to believe it is already time to start planning for next years blooms!

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