September 2021 – Not going anywhere

I’m writing this column from home. I’m having a “staycation” or as we used to call it, not going anywhere. I’m loving it.

My garden has been a little neglected (ok, well a lot if you really must know) and gardening at home has been a joy and a pleasure. I have been weeding and lifting and diving and planting and moving to my heart’s content.

In truth, having the time to sit and look has really given me the impetus to move things around: sometimes from front to back and sometimes just six inches to the left to give it and the plants around it a bit more room to spread out. I confess I find it hard sometimes to envisage just how fast and how far a plant will spread.

I’ve been delightfully caught out with something I planted earlier in the summer. Coreopsis auriculata ‘Limoncello’: a tickseed growing to around 35cm high, loving sun or partial shade and a bee magnet.

It has romped away in a matter of months and is getting a little too up close and personal with Heuchera ‘Very Berry’, planted next to it. I’ll be shifting that a bit further back in the bed, regrouping the Francoa sonchifolia and…but I won’t bore you further with the minutiae of each bed.

Anyway, we sit here on the edge of September and my thoughts turn to two things. One is colour to take us through into early winter and the other is next spring’s bulbs.

You may well have chosen, but those who read this column regularly, will know I am frequently late to the party and thus have not yet put in my order. Never fear reader, I will be settling down later today, with a glass of wine in one hand and a catalogue in the other to circle everything I fancy.

Then I will go through my choices and tailor my order to my actual budget. Reality really cuts in on my gardening pleasures.

This will bring colour in spring, but what about now? Well, I found two shrubs this summer that will fit nicely into my not very big garden and will light up the autumn with brilliant hues of red and orange.

One is Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’. You’ll undoubtedly have heard of its bigger sibling, C. coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ This is a beautiful shrub with leaves of darkest purple and clouds of light, airy panicles of flowers which give it its common name of smoke bush.

We have ‘Royal Purple’ in the Hot Border at Helmsley. We prune it back a little as that keeps the leaves at their darkest. But left untouched, it can reach a height and spread of 5 metres (15ft) Not one to fit easily into modern gardens.

Enter stage left C. coggygria ‘Gold Spirit’. Golden yellow foliage, turning orange and red through autumn. At 2m tops (a respectable 6ft) this pocket size Cotinus will definitely punch above its weight through autumn.

My other find was Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’. Whilst the straight species only tops 2 metres, it can spread to 3m (10ft). Imagine my joy on discovering ‘Compactus’. All the colour and delight of its bigger brother; fresh green leaves turning vivid red in autumn alongside orange seeds. But it only grows to 90cm (3ft) and that takes ten years.

I’ve put it where I can see if from the kitchen window to enjoy as the days grow shorter. It’s back to work next week but at home or at work, I’ve got plenty to look forward to this autumn.

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