In a Vase on Thursday 10th October 2019

Rich Venetian shades. Just the joy we need for October days. Temperatures are dipping and nights drawing in, but the cut flower patch is blazing with colour.

Dahlia Nuit d’Ete is flowering well, standing up to the wind and the rain. We had the wettest September for 20 years. And October doesn’t look like it’s getting any drier. We’ve had 134mm of rain in ten days. That amount usually falls in two and a half months! With swamp-like conditions it’s impossible to work on the borders. Luckily my cut flower patch is divided by little slabbed paths, so I never need to step on the soil.

Alstroemeria Laguna and Serenade

In amongst the dahlias there’s pink and red alstroemerias grown in pots. If you pull the flower stems out of the compost when you pick them, more blooms will follow. Pull instead of cut is the message. It seems destructive, but promotes further flowering. These are tall varieties suitable for cutting. I accidentally bought some dwarf types once, which looked pretty in the borders, but were hopeless for flower arranging. So take care when choosing plants.

Dahlia Arabian Night

An old favourite I’ve grown for years. Very reliable and doesn’t seem troubled by rain and wind. Earwigs don’t seem to go for the darker shades, preferring the whites and pale-flowered dahlias. If your plants are being nibbled by earwigs, place upturned pots of straw or corrugated cardboard on canes near the flowers. In the morning you can tip the earwigs and their bedding into a wildlife corner, or amongst fruit trees. Earwigs are voracious predators of aphids and vine weevils. Worth relocating away from your dahlias.

Amaranthus cordatus

Love lies bleeding. An easy to grow annual. Produces pendant tassel-like flowers. It’s also known as velvet flower, foxtail and prince’s feather. Sow seeds in half seed trays in March/April. Prick out seedlings into 9cm pots or full seed trays and plant out after frosts. Flowers all summer until the end of October and sometimes into November, depending on temperatures.

Penstemon Plum Jerkum.

A short-lived perennial. This came as a cutting from a friend. It’s a good idea to take insurance-policy cuttings in late summer. These plants are not totally hardy. It’s the winter wet that defeats them, so plant in well drained soil in full sun and protect from the worst of the weather with fleece. Take cuttings in July and August from non-flowering shoots. Cut below a pair of leaves, where there’s a concentration of hormones to promote rooting. Remove all but the top two leaves. Place the cuttings around the edges of a 9cm pot filled with 50/ 50 horticultural grit and compost. The edges of the pot provide the most free draining position for the cuttings, which helps roots to form.

Verbena Bonariensis

Another short-lived perennial requiring a sunny spot in well-drained soil. I lost all my plants in the Beast for the East big freeze last year. Luckily, it grows really well from seed and cuttings. Sow seed in the spring in half trays and prick out, as above. Or take cuttings in late summer. There are tiny side shoots just above a pair of leaves. Gently pull these down and you will have a short cutting.

Aeonium Zwartkop

Aeoniums are evergreen succulents with a shrubby growth habit. My plants collapsed in the wind and some of the stems broke off. They make a lovely, unusual addition to flower arrangements. It’s all about using what you’ve got in the garden. When I take the posy apart, I’ll cut the bottom few inches from the stems and stick them in a pot of very gritty compost. Kept frost free, the cuttings will readily root and I’ll have new plants to stand out on the patio next summer.

Trifolium pratense red clover

The lovely pink rounded flower on the left is just common clover. This year I grew a patch of wild flower meadow in a raised windowbox on legs. I’m always saying you don’t need acres of land to grow food, flowers, and veg. So I put it to the test. It worked a treat. I filled the containers with Dalefoot seed compost and sowed seeds direct in spring. Red clover flowered all summer, alongside blue harebells, yellow birds foot trefoil, scabious, corncockle, and vipers bugloss. It’s been a joy to watch bees, hoverflies and butterflies visiting my little patch of “meadow.”

Nicotiana mutabilis.

The pretty tubular flowers are colour-changing tobacco plants. These were sown and planted last year. They self-sowed over the winter, and have come up stronger and more beautiful this summer. I’m hoping they will do the same for next year, but I’ve saved seed and sown some more, just in case. Stems grow to 1.5m and produce clouds of trumpet-like flowers. They change colour as they age through various shades of white, pink and lilac. Glorious, and highly recommended. I’ll never be without it now I’ve seen it flower all summer long.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Venetian shades bouquet, photographed on a windswept day in the garden. Golden beech tree leaves were swirling past my head as I was tying up the flowers. It seems autumn is on a fast forward setting. What is it like in your garden right now?

Links: I love to join in with Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme. But Mondays are my busiest working day. So I’m just going to post photos when I can. I’ll be reading all your posts when I get home from work.


Dahlias :


Amaranthus :

Penstemon :

Verbena Bonariensis;


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37 thoughts on “In a Vase on Thursday 10th October 2019

  1. Alstroemerias sure have come a long way. When we grew them as a cut flower crop in 1986, there were not many cultivars. I do not think there were any in white. I can not keep up with all the variety nowadays. I still prefer the classics though.

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  2. I can’t believe how much wetter it has been for you, Karen, considering we live so close – it was a wettish month here too, but not as wet as that. Your Venetian colours look wonderful – so rich and such an imaginative range of plants. I bought an alstroemeria after reading iof success with it in poots under glass, but sadly it has been too short to cut 😞 Don’t worry about not being able to post on a Monday

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    • Thank you Cathy. I’ll just have to post when I can. Time’s not my own at the moment. I hope your alstroemeria grows taller next year. Mine were quite short the first year. Lots of potash helped them out. I’ve just driven over to Mum’s and all the fields along the A6 are flooded again. Have a good week. Love karen xx


      • That’s astonishing, Karen – our amateur weather monitor tells us we have had about 130mm in the last month, but August was wetter than September here. I think that being at the top of a hill means that weather systems coming from the west have lost some of their moisture by the time they get to us

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  3. I love your bouquet Karen! It is amazing how much colour October can bring us. Those Alstroemera are pretty. And your Dahlia too. I had earwigs in my basil containers this year and they ruined so much of my precious crop… I’ll have to try the trick with straw in pots next year. I am also rather envious of your Aeonium and think perhaps I should just buy myself a new one – I rescued one years ago from a supermarket sale and it has never thrived. That is an awful lot of rain you had. We had a fair bit too and we stopped counting once our rain gauge was full. It is the first time my garden here has been really soaked through and it will have done our trees good. Autumn colour is appearing slowly here and leaves are starting to fall too. Happy October days Karen. I hope you get some dry and sunny weather for the weekend! 🙂 xx

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    • Thank you Cathy. I was thinking of your garden, and hoping the rain would be good for your trees. The autumn colours here might not be as bright as usual. All this rain dilutes the process. What we need now is a blast of hot dry weather to bring on the bright reds and yellows. Fingers crossed. Have a good 🙂 week xx

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      • I hope you do get a bit of a ‘golden October’ Karen. We have just had three warm sunny days in a row and went mad doing jobs outside. Now if this would last until November…. 😉 Still need to get my bulbs planted though, so a crisp dry cool spell would also be good. I am hoping for a damp winter and wet spring… 😉

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    • Forgot to say, there’s a message for your mother. We have five hedgehogs using our hibernation boxes. They are still roaming around at night, but I carefully checked in the day, and they are cosily in there! Was so pleased! Xx

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  4. What a delightfully rich arrangment…hope you have more flowers yet from the garden…but it is a great crescendo if not finale to the Summer Blooms. I agree with you about the rain….I think we may have had enough now.

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    • Thank you Noelle. I’m hoping for some dry weather soon. It’s impossible to get the daffodils planted. cant get on the garden at all it’s so soggy. Would do more damage than good. Have a good week x


    • Thank you Rickii. If I can help at all please let me know. The secret of growing from seed is to use best quality seed compost which is free draining and low fertility. Use tap water, sow seeds sparingly to prevent damping off. Only handle seedlings by their stems. Good luck 😉 xx


  5. Karen that wonderful bouquet of flowers, I love and I love its colors and the large number of different and magnificent flowers of the vase. The Dahlias are divine and their color fantastic. The Alstroemerias are fabulous. Amaranthus is a flower that I like very much. Penstemon is a very special flower. Verbena Bonariensis is wonderful and fabulous for pollinators and love butterflies. Aeonium is a fantastic succulent plant, I have had it. I love Red Clover, I have it for a part of the garden and it is beautiful. I like the Nicotiana mutabilis with its trumpet-shaped flowers. Luckily you have paths with slabs between your flower patches and you can access them easily. So much rain is abnormal !!! And so often to the floods last week. I hope this time did not cause damage or flooding. While here in Spain we have reservoirs at an average of 30% and without raining. Climate Change is here. You are cold and I heat 28ºC, totally abnormal for these dates. I loved your trick for earwigs that, as you say very well, are very useful against aphids. I hope you are well. A lot of love, a lot of health and a lot of strength for your whole family and for you. Caresses from me for Grace and Meg. Take care Shelter well and do not get wet with the rain, which gets into the bones. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx

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    • Thank you Margarita. The flowers are so cheerful. They make such a difference at this time of the year. I think I appreciate them more than in summer. I’ve just been for a walk with Meg and the ditches are all running like streams with so much water coming off the fields still. All the crab apples are bobbing about in the water. Such a strange sight. Last year they lay in the ditches and were cooked by the heat. The scent is like apple crumble or apple pie! In the corner of the back field we have found a natural spring which is bubbling up just like a water feature. It’s not a time to discover that you have leaky wellington boots! I’m changing out of wet clothes and keeping dry. Past experience tells me to just layer up as soon as October starts. I don’t seem to have any resilience to the cold after being ill so much. Caresses given to Meg and Grace. Meg is making a very loyal and loving pup. She is so eager to please and never more than a few inches from my side. Grace is in charge and uses Meg as a cushion! Affection greetings and much love from karen xxx


      • Karen I am very sorry for the amount of water you still have in the field. On the positive side you have discovered a natural spring of water in the countryside. From what you say Meg is a puppy that loves you with passion and is always by your side caring. Grace does very well to take advantage of Meg’s heat and use it as a cushion. That was what my cat Pepe did with my dog ​​Anton who arrived after him. They were close friends. Anton kissed Pepe on the snout. Anton lay on his side all stretched out on the sofa and Pepe got into his chest and gut: he was a huge cat but better than nothing. May the two rest in peace. Karen I hope from the heart that you don’t have any more rain in a season until the ground is completely dry; and that the next rains are normal. Do not get wet with the water and if you do change yourself running and put on dry and warm clothes. Take care of you all many: your family, you and your family of hair (Grace and Meg). Much love and health .. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lovely to hear about your lovely Anton and Pepe. Pets are such a treasure and memories of them are like gold. Enjoy your week. Affectionate greetings from karen xx x


    • Thank you. That’s kind of you to say so. I’m recording them all so that I can look back on my gardening “diary” and remember which plants did well and which were a waste of time. I grew a lot of stocks this summer, but they all came up single flowered types which was disappointing. I’m growing more nicotiana instead next year. The scent is delicious, reminiscent of lilies. Plus they are valuable for moths, which need our help.


    • Thank you Tanya. That’s so kind of you. I’m just hoping to inspire readers to grow their own cut flowers. It’s possible to have flowers all year round, with a bit of planning. Thanks for reading

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