Saturday, 24 August 2013

Late summer stars ...

thornless blackberries ripening

A few mornings this week have hinted at the coming of autumn in their coolness ... dampness ... mistiness; blackberries and elderberries are ripening; even the trees are feeling it with occasional leaves turning to shades of yellow and red. In the walled garden at least, we're trying to hang on to summer a little bit longer with all sorts of bright flowering herbaceous plants providing a colourful feast for human eyes, and nectar and pollen for a whole host of insects too.
Japanese anemones
The misleadingly named Japanese anemones (actually native to China) are one of the few herbaceous perennials that can keep their flowers coming right through till late autumn. Currently flowering in our herbaceous border they can be seen offering up their pale pink petals and ring of bright yellow stamens in a delicate display that belies their rather invasive tendencies.
Inula hookeri
Another star of our herbaceous border is the vivid yellow inula whose flowers seem to beautifully imitate the sun and are a magnet to bees.
Papaver comutatum
Neighbours to the inula are these tiny ladybird poppies who make up for their lack of stature with luminous crimson petals that each have a black spot at the base. If you look carefully, hoverflies can often be seen feeding in the soft bowls of their flowers.
Echinacea purpurea
Another particular haunt of bees and hoverflies is that wildflower native to North America, the purple coneflower. The three hoverflies caught feeding above are also known as Marmalade Flies (Episyrphus balteatus) and can often be seen in our gardens in July and August when they migrate over from continental Europe. They have a distinctive double black band on their abdomens.
Phacelia tanacetifolia
The 2 large beds of phacelia (see this post for more information) are also proving a huge hit with human and insect visitors alike.
Salvia viridis

It is outside the walled garden, at the top of the shrubbery walk, where the most asked about plant this week resides, and it is the humble annual clary sage. A member of the same family as the culinary herb, this sage has attractive large bracts in shades of pink, purple and white. It's a lovely annual for path and border edges providing colour right through to the end of September.
Sunflower "Little Leo"
Autumn may be snapping at the heels of summer, but here in the walled garden at Gibside there's still plenty of life and colour to be found, so why not come and see these stars of late summer for yourselves!


  1. Lovely photos. It's good to see the clary sage, an ingredient in various toiletry items but not something with which I was, or many others are, familiar.

  2. Thanks very much for your comment. I wasn't familiar with this plant as an ingredient and so did a little bit of research.

    I think the clary sage that is used for essential oils, and in some herbal rememdies, is actually a different species, Salvia sclarea. They are both members of the same genus, Salvia. What we're growing here at Gibside, the annual clary sage (as opposed to just clary sage), is Salvia viridis (previously known as Salvia horminum) ... if that makes sense.

    Thanks, Tam