August is a strange month for gardeners… this is the month surely when you are allowed to sit back, admire your efforts, cut the grass (if you have any) and sit in your deck chair, enjoying the hum of nectar-seeking bees, the fragrance of your buddleia or roses. Undoubtedly idyllic, but perhaps seldom true – at least at the Bressingham Gardens!
Back in the day when there were fewer gardens and (except for those well-off people with gardeners) fewer garden owners, it was customary not to be concerned about summer colour in your garden, since you would be most likely away in the south of France for the whole month of August. One of our noted garden writers who shall be nameless suggested August “isn’t a month to bother about”…
… But a visit to the Bressingham Gardens in August (a nice day out) will quickly show you how much colour there can be from perennials at this time of year. Alan Bloom was ahead of his time, not only in his creation of flowing island beds (no, the beds didn’t flow – but the style of planting did!). He collected many perennials originating from North America – gold-standard perennials like Heleniums, Heliopsis, Helianthus, Coreopsis, Phlox paniculata (over 100 cultivars), Rudbeckias and others. All flower in August; yellow perhaps predominant (although some strangely elitist gardeners refuse to plant these joyous plants in their summer garden since they follow some designer who didn’t like yellow, in all that blazing August sunshine…).
Kniphofia ‘Bressingham Sunbeam’
South African Plant Treasures
So back to Alan Bloom, who also collected perennials with South African origins, many importantly adding other colours than yellow to the summer and August flowering period. Agapanthus, Crocosmia and Kniphofia are the three genera that stand out and Alan, with helper Percy Piper, soon started breeding species and cultivars of all these. Most gardeners will know Crocosmia‘Lucifer’, the most popular and widely grown of all – but not all know it was raised at Bressingham by Alan and Percy. ‘Lucifer’ and others such as ‘Spitfire’, ‘Emberglow’, ‘Bressingham Blaze’ and ‘Vulcan’ are all Bressingham introductions still widely grown today.
Today Jaime Blake, Alan’s son-in-law and curator of Alan’s Dell Garden at Bressingham, is continuing some fascinating selection and breeding (well – as Jaime modestly says, he does the organising, and the bees do the breeding!). Jaime has also continued with Kniphofias – his ‘Penny Rockets’ (available from our nursery online) was recently awarded the Award of Garden Merit in the Royal Horticultural Society’s trials. Several more selections with vibrant colours on free-flowering spikes are being assessed, knowing of course that there will be a need to stand out from other varieties by their vigour, balance and garden worthiness.
In the old grass tennis court created by Adrian in 1963, and long since unused, Jaime has in recent years put it to good use as a trial garden for new plants brought in and for testing those of his own breeding. Adrian (who took the above picture), Jaime and Jason were there on a summer’s day in early August looking at some selected hybrids of Crocosmia and Kniphofia; Crocosmia and Helenium in the foreground.
New plants will continue to be part of our offer. We have, with over 5,000 species and varieties of plants, such a wide gene pool to choose from, and gardening experience to always seek better – as well as demonstrate how our new plants can be used with others in our amazing 17 acres of gardens.
The summer colour in our gardens means August is as much a peak of interest as June and July… and September is pretty good too.