Plant of the Month – October

October, a ghoulish month; toadstools on the lawn, spiders’ webs between every plant and monkshood in the borders.

Mmm, Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’, tall, dark, handsome and slightly sinister standing in the corner of the Autumn Border. . . makes me swoon just thinking about it, or scream hysterically in the case of 1 visitor who told me flatly that we should not grow it as it was so dangerous and poisonous. We’re not in the habit of grazing on our plants as we weed but, point taken, do wash your hands after handling. Not that you’ll have to do much handling. We stake the earlier July flowering aconitums as they tend to lean a little ungainly and then we cut them down when they are setting seed as by then they are looking perfectly louche. But the Autumn blooming monkshood are made of sterner stuff, vamping it up with no support even though they are tipping 6′ by then. By the end of the month their leaves will be turning yellow, joining in with the general cacophony and carnival atmosphere that is the garden in Autumn. The Autumn Border has good loamy soil and receives a generous mulch of compost and a sprinkle of blood, fish and bone (how ghoulish is that?!)

Why do men and women of the Cloth have this austere reputation? People have watched ‘The Name of the Rose’ too often I expect. My experience is otherwise. A friend, working in a certain famous garden near Windsor saw a large tree swaying in a repetitive manor. The bottom of the tree was screened by a hedge but as she walked to the other side she was faced with half a dozen nuns, in full habit, bouncing up and down on the lowest branch of the tree as though it was a seesaw and laughing gleefully at the fun.

“How did you tell them to stop?” I asked.

“Sharply” was her reply!


Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’ in the corner with Aster laevis  and Miscanthus ‘Yakushima Dwarf’ with the Malus transitoria avenue behind.


Kniphofia rooperi, Sanguisorba officinalis and Panicum ‘Warrior’


More monkshood under Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’


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