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Plant of the month – clematis

Annette Förger, garden apprentice

Komm in den totgesagten Park und schau – come to the park they said was dead – starts a poem by the German poet Stefan George, and it comes to my mind these days at Fulham Palace.

It is November, and as we are heading into the dark winter months with giant steps, we might think that most plants are now either coming to the end of their life or are entering their long winter dormancy.

However, visitors to Fulham Palace garden will be surprised how many plants are still delighting us with their flowers right now! On the north wall of the walled garden, by the wooden gate, there is the wonderful Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’ with an impressive abundance of delicate white and pink flowers hanging from its stems like little bells.

Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’

In the pollinators border, Sparmannia africana from South Africa, often grown as a houseplant, has a lovely display of white flowers with red and yellow stamens.

Sparmannia africana

Many dahlias with their showy reds, yellows and pinks are still going strong, and the Cosmos dotted around the border simply seem to ignore the fact that it is November and they should be senescent! As does the aster  Symphyotrichum ericoides ‘Vimmers Delight’, which displays a charming cloud of small white daisy-like flowers.

Cosmos with backdrop of Gaura lindheimeri

Another really lovely plant that keeps going almost until Christmas is the toad lily (Tricyrtis) which has tiny white flowers with pink speckles almost looking like orchids, but it is a member of the lily family Liliaceae.

Tricyrtis formosana, or toad lily

I could go on with the list of late flowering plants – check out our many Fuschia magellanica shrubs around the garden, Gaura lindheimeri also in the pollinators border, Lavandula dentata var. dentata in the Compton beds, or Penstemon ‘Andenken an Friedrich Hahn’ in the knot garden. It is also flowering time for hardy Cyclamen hederifolium (in the north border of the walled garden), and the evergreen shrub Viburnum tinus is just actually starting to flower, and will provide a late food source for our bees over the coming months!

Penstemon ‘Andenken an Friedrich Hahn’

Apart from these flowering plants, another joy to see in the autumnal garden are of course the many trees with their flaming yellows and reds. Take a look at the Gingko biloba just outside the walled garden Tudor gate, our two little Sassafras trees and the Rhus typhina on the Compton bed outside the south gate of the walled garden.

Sassafras tree

Last but not least, dead flower heads and the flowering panicles of grasses also add much to the autumn display in the garden – I’m thinking of the lovely brown, dried-up seedheads of Centaurea macrocephala, and the tall stems of reed grass Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Förster’, which will be with us throughout winter, swaying in the wind with their golden colour. Whilst the Palace interiors have had to close again, we are happy that our garden remains open for you to enjoy these beautiful colours. We hope you find the time to visit us this month!

Seedheads of Cephalaria gigantea and reed grass in the background