Autumn Blues

In my garden, the Autumn blues are the gentians:This is gentiana macaulayi providing a bit of late colour in the scree bed.While g sino-ornata  does the same in the peat-lovers’ section….And g. acaulis , which is supposed to flower in Spring, has decided on an Autumn show as well.

I often wonder why I bother with gentians. Every weed in the universe, especially horse tail and sorrel, enjoys growing through them. And it is rare at this time of year for there to be enough sunny days for them to open out fully. Yet, that pure deep blue at a time when most of the intense colours have gone from the garden provides a last coda to summer. In the height of the summer weeding It’s difficult to remember how valuable they are going to be, and I’m often tempted to rip them out and have done with them. But I don’t, and I’m usually grateful in the end.


The slices from the fallen beech have been split. A Hycrack splitter on the back of a tractor does the job in a couple of hours. It’s a genius device – just a simple corkscrew thing, which rips even the knottiest of logs apart, but at the risk of smashing your fingers – so you have to concentrate. The pile may look adequate, but there’s probably only about six weeks’ supply there, and I shall need to forage for more.Meanwhile, I’ve cut back the massive leaves of the gunnera tinctoria. They will make a last addition to the compost heap.

And the meconopsis have been put to bed for the winter. They will die back anyway, but if I have the time, I like to tidy them up, get rid of the buttercup and give them a top dressing of compost. It will save work in the spring.


17 thoughts on “Autumn Blues

  1. Well the gentians are truly beautiful, such color. We are putting in firewood now too and that beech wood is pretty perfect looking. (If you decide maybe you don’t like it mail it to me.) The dinosaur plant is dangerous I think, tends to stomp around on things and eats people, be careful. And you expect me to believe you have a WHOLE BED of blue poppy? Do you have any idea what a holy grail of plants that is here? I’ve killed maybe three over the years, for each of which I paid actual money to get whole alive growing actual plants. How do you do it? (Is it something to do with haggis?)

    • Hi Linnie, There are SOME advantages to a persistently cool and wet climate, and being able to grow (some) meconopsis is one of them. I’ll do a long post about them one day – such as next year when they are flowering. All the ones I grow are m. ‘Slieve Donard’, part of the infertile blue group, so they have to be spread by division. Forty odd years of doing that has given me two large beds, plus numerous plants distributed to friends and neighbours. The chief criteria for success would seem to be shade, damp, and endless feeding with leafmould & lime-free compost. To spare your purse, why don’t you try seed? m.betonicifolia (going back now to its previous name of m.baylei) and m.’lingholm’ are the two blue species that are fertile – I’m sure you could track down seed.

      • I looked online and you are so right Kininvie, I can get seed for the ones you indicated. Your ‘Slieve Donard’ was mentioned among many hybrids, which apparently have bigger flowers. Maybe if I can conquer some from seed I will gamble on a hybrid again someday. I will be looking forward to your post next year about these amazing poppies. (And now I also know that Slieve Donard is a mountain in Ireland…)

        • Hi Linnie, For further research, I commend It’s actually rather a fascinating site, as it tracks the progress of attempting to pin down the meconopsis genus by a group of (largely amateur) botanists and gardeners. Many of the early introductions were distributed around Scottish gardens by the original collectors – which explains the predominantly Scottish bias to the group. I have no idea where mine originally came from, but no doubt were part of the informal distribution from one garden to the next…

  2. Meconopsis are those flowers I always like but never try, too expensive and non success probability is close to 100% for me. Sometimes it is better to give up before you try, just avoid disappointment. Your Scottish soil shall be miraculous for them though, I still remember with envy your previous header…
    That gunnera is wonderful, you can cover a little shed with those leaves!

    Do you use fresh wood for this year heating? Has it dried already in your damp climate?

    • Alberto: ‘giving up before you try’ is ultra-sensible. Looking at the number of costly things I have tried and failed to grow, even though I was fairly sure they wouldn’t work, fills me with chagrin. Apples, for example. Worse – on the meconopsis front – I got carried away and tried to grow some (amazingly expensive) high altitude monocarpic types, such as m.delayvii & m.horridula. Complete fail! Yet. if we didn’t occasionally push the boundaries, gardening would be a lot less fun.

      • You are completely right, pushing boundaries is what I always try to do, actually, but sometimes I only got to be realistic. Meconopsis here is like thinking of keeping a whale in my pond… That splash of water could be nice though… 🙂

  3. The gentians are such a clear blue but not as good as meconopsis…. I was wondering if you had tried some of the more unusual/ difficult ones such as horridula. I stick to the “easier”ones! Major gripe: I wish the ” powers that be” would stop changing the names as I have enough trouble remembering the first ones!

    • Hi Janet – see my reply to Alberto. I have indeed tried the more difficult species, but I don’t think I have the patience to give them the intensive care they require. No doubt I’ll try again one day. Do you have m.simplicifolia? It does well with me – though slow to increase – but flowers very reliably over quite a long period.

  4. Janet, taxonomists have alot to answer for!

    Kininivie – gorgeous gentians, the colour is so vivid. As to flowering in spring and autumn, bonus! Being a previous west coaster meconopsis hold a special place for me, I love them. Lovely pictures

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