This Month in the Garden with Derek Cox (September 2017)

During August, on behalf of Syston in Bloom, Kate Hill and myself pruned and weeded the raised bed in the centre of Syston Town Square and during that time we had many people come to chat to us about what we were doing. One elderly gentleman came up to me and said “I read your article in Syston Town News, but you don’t write much about vegetables”. So I told him that until I was seventy six, I was still working at Goscote Nurseries, presenting gardening on Central Television and BBC radio Leicester’s ‘Down to Earth’, so I did not have the time to manage my vegetable garden, but instead it had been turned into a Japanese garden.
However, I now still grow a number of vegetables in black tree tubs, so I will, for his sake, start on my vegetables and show that I can fail with some plants.I will start with my climbing yellow French beans. I sowed these last April and grew them in my greenhouse in 25 litre tree tubs until they were stood outside during mid-May. They grew and grew into a huge mass of stems and foliage and few small violet and white flowers, but the beans did not set.
However, closeby, two containers of ‘St George’ runner beans have been giving us a very good crop. ‘St George’ has red and white flowers that seem to attract numerous pollinating insects, so I wonder are they not attracted to the violet and white flowers of the French beans.
My second early ‘Jazzy’ potatoes have not produced the large crop that was predicted, but the small to medium sized elongated oval white potatoes have a very good flavour and even when the foliage has completely died down, the skins are unblemished and only need a small hand brush to remove any soil that adheres to them.
My trial of New Zealand yams has yet to prove itself, I did tip out one 25 litre container during the first week in August and all I found was a mass of large roots. Then Josie Hutchinson who has been to New Zealand told me that I need to let the foliage die down before harvesting the yams.
The 18 inch tall stems carry numerous leaves which resemble Oxalis. While on the subject of the raised bed in Town Square, an Irish lady came up to Kate and commented on the Crocosmia whose orange flowers lit up the centre of the bed. She said they are native to Ireland and grew everywhere, but we call them Montbretia’s. They are in-fact native to South Africa, but are hardy and are now to be seen in most parts of the temperate world.
I have a perennial Origanum laevigatum ‘Hopleys’, pictured left, whose 18 inch (45cm) almost prostrate branches are massed with purple-pink flowers, this superb perennial is normally found in full sun in well drained soil. My plant grows in half shade beneath a large golden conifer, where despite the dry soil beneath the conifer and lack of rain fall due to the conifer over shading it, the plant flowers from early August until the end of September.
This year a seedling Cotinus appeared in front of the Origanum. I have grown the purple leaf Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ for over 50 years and the yellow leaf Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’ for 30 years and up until this year I have never had a seedling appear. This seedling has pale purple leaves which are larger than both my other Cotinus, but this might be due to it being young. I shall pot the seedling up in the autumn and wait to see how it grows. Every year I cannot wait to mention Zauschneria californicum ‘Dublin’, pictured right, mainly because it produces a carpet of growth that is massed with tubular orange-red flowers from August until October. As this plant comes from California it does need planting in full sun and a very well drained soil, so mine is growing in a raised bed in a mixture of half soil and half alpine grit. This will die down to the ground during the winter, but it does produce numerous underground roots which are inclined to grow through the dry wall that retains the bed and these have to be removed. The common name for this is Californian Fuchsia, but it does not belong to the Fuchsia family.