This Month in the Garden October 2022, with Kate Hill

In recent years varities of thalictrum (meadow rue)  have become very popular. Their attractive foliage is similar to that of aquilegias and their tall flower spikes in shades of lilac or white add an ethereal look to the garden. The photo at the top of the page shows a variety called Hewitt’s Double, which my cousin Jan introduced me to, two of which I planted for the first time this year.   They have completely won us over, so much so that she and I snapped up several more pots whilst they were still available at the garden centre and although past their peak they will have time to settle in nicely now and should provide a great froth of flowers next summer. This particular variety seems to flower later than other varieties, doesn’t seem to mind being in full sun (where other varieties tend to prefer partial shade) and has a long flowering period. It’s easy to see why it’s highly prized by flower arrangers. 
Lythrum (or loosestrife), pictured left, is currently another very popular border perennial. Bees and other insects love loosestrife flowers and whilst the native purple loosestrife (Lytheum saliciaria), which I like to see growing along the brookside in Syston, can be invasive L. Dropmore purple, L. Robert (bright pink) and L. Blush (pale pink) make impressive statuesque spires and flower well, especially if you deadhead them regularly.
When I first started writing these articles I mentioned that I was intending to overwinter in my garage two pots of lantana. They continued flowering into November but once the flowers were finished I duly stored them and by February they looked as dead as dodos. I was, therefore, delighted to see that come the spring they were very much alive and they have been absolutely full of vibrant yellow and red blooms (see photo right), so I shall definitely store them away again this winter.
When this rather odd looking red flower spike appeared I was somewhat intrigued as I had no idea what it was. For the previous two summers a clump of pale green foliage had sprung up but it failed to produce any flowers. I certainly don’t remember planting it and decided that if it didn’t flower this year it would be consigned to the compost heap. It must have known what I was thinking (or more likely it was the hot weather) because it now has several of these exotic looking flower spikes and through the help of a friend I’ve discovered it is a lobelia Tupa (or Chilean lobelia), pictured left.
Quite how it got here I don’t know because it’s not the sort of plant I would normally buy and as it has no known benefits to British wildlife it’s unlikely a seed has been set by birds. A mystery indeed but I’m hoping it will flower again next year.