The ice plant warms up

Sedum spectabile
Sedum spectabile
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The so-called ice plant, Sedum spectabile, is spot on with flowers at present. Add a sunny day and it is alive with insect life.

There are several groups in the border, not because we’ve been on a buying spree, they are so easily propagated.

Fill a tray with damp, gritty sand any time during summer and push the fleshy sedum leaves into it. Remove them from the main stem by holding the point at which they join it and tug downwards. Once the tray’s full place the plastic dome on top and stand it on a greenhouse bench.

Two perennial mallows, Lavatera Barnsley and Olbia Rosea, have always earned a spot in our garden for their sheer flowering capacity (July to October), but those we grow now are not the original shrubs. They’re too short-lived for that.

In keeping with many buddleja, they’ll grow from ground level to 10 foot or more in a season. This makes annual pruning a necessity, and it is done in two phases.

The first comes as flowering finishes and every stem is reduced by two thirds. This is to prevent the wind gaining purchase of top-heavy growth and loosening the root system. It also keeps options open should a severe frost catch premature growth. The second cut (or saw if necessary) comes at the point of spring when new shoots are appearing. Go as close to soil level as you dare for the plant’s sake.

Soft stem cuttings of lavatera taken in July, August, even September, will quickly root with a little warmth, and can be potted up as possible replacements.

I suppose we have to accept, albeit grudgingly, that there are signs of seasonal change in the air. The late chrysanthemums have formed buds, and that does not happen until the day-length shortens.

All the foxgloves in our garden have run out of steam. The flowers open from the base of a spike upwards. Starting to bloom in July, they often last until early September and those at the tip have just expired. Berries on the holly are turning red and hips on roses are gleaming.

But it’s not all gloom. Focusing on the near future, I can see a vase of stunning chrysanthemums, hardy cyclamen and heathers illuminating the borders. Add several other forthcoming delights and my glass is still half full!