greentapestry : Plants That Die Disgracefully

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Plants That Die Disgracefully

Some plants simply have the knack of bowing out gracefully whilst others it seems seem to attract attention to themselves for all the wrong reasons.  We read in gardening books and magazines about the glowing colours of autumn foliage but are rarely made aware of plants that are grim at this time of year. I have wondered round the garden this morning where my eyes have been assailed by some unpleasant sights which I am going to share a couple with you.

I will start though with a pleasant passing before revealing the unseemly -  that of a hardy geranium (wracking my brain in vain to think which one it is but not succeeding at the moment - maybe sanguineum) which you can see at the top of the page. Almost as pleasing as when it is smothered with flowers. Would that all specimens in my garden follow in its wake.

Gently leading up to the real bleugh - below is the foliage of polygonum or 'Solomon's Seal' ~
Now this seems decidedly dreary to my eyes yet I have read suggestions that you should grow this plant for its autumn foliage. I also read about it producing attractive small black berries in autumn but they remain elsusive.  I am unable to understand why it should be recommended for autumn but perhaps it behaves differently in other peoples garden. Maybe somebody reading this has evidence to the contrary

As for my finale this really should carry a government health warning as I do not prune it until spring. It is clematis x jouiniana 'Praecox'. This is a late to flower scrambler which is covered with flowers from July to October. It is great to pick for small vases and it attracts bees and butterflies. The Royal Horticultural Society has bestowed an Award of Garden Merit upon it but surely not for its grim departure. Please avert your eyes if you are of a sensitive disposition ~
It look even more unpleasant on wet days and as autumn proceeds. Perhaps you have some autumn ugliness that you would like to nominate for a plant that dies disgracefully.

All photos were taken this morning on what could only be a November day.


  1. I have to admit liking the way the hardy geranium goes out. Probably it's the colors that appeal to me.

  2. That clematis does look disgusting! Though the long flowering season sounds alluring and I assume that makes up for it many fold. And as for alluring - that geranium is quite something!

  3. I agree with the Clematis but my solomons seal is quite attractive, veyr buttery yellow which I really like.

    I suppose its a matter of taste

  4. My solomons seal was a beautiful golden before passing. I admit, however, I like even brown leaves in a shriveled state. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

  5. Great post that made me smile. I've just been reading this month's garden Illustrated magazine which shows plants covered in frost looking beautiful and then I look out on my soggy, damp garden. I have an area planted up with grasses and prairie style plants which all the design books say you should leave through winter so that they provide structure and so they can catch the frost. Unfortunately the days where they look beautiful over winter can probably be counted on one hand.It might work somewhere with drier winters but here in Wales they just look forlorn.

  6. The geranium has some wonderful autumn foliage, which can't be said for the other two. There isn't much in my garden which offers anything in the way of autumn splendour, apart from the blueberry which has wonderful red leaves before they drop.

  7. one of the best titled posts I've seen in ages, Anna. Made me smile :) but see what you mean about the necrotic chocolate leaves. My hostas were promising and then went into slimy yellow wilt mode

  8. Hi Anna, You're so right about the Solomon's Seal. Ditto for my garden. Hostas are another plant that looks disgusting in the throes of death. At least in my garden. Great post!

  9. Anna, just wanted to pop by to say Hello and say thanks for all the comments and chat we have exchanged over the last five years. :-)

    In this post, I think wellywoman has hit the nail on the head (lol) – frost looks good on dying plants but soggy and wet is a different picture indeed. I agree with you on your clematis.

    Name and shame in my garden? Has to be another climber - golden hop. The difference is though it is out of sight from my windows and it gets cut to the ground each winter. Lucky me :-)

  10. Cannas always look splendid following a frost, nice and slimy much like a hosta can.

  11. You are so right, some plants have a wonderful autumn, and others just wet slimy mess to clear away.

    We have some of the former and far too many of the latter!

  12. Remember the blog meme we had going around a couple of years ago about beauty in the dying garden? I can't remember the phrase at the moment describing it, but it made me look at November's garden very differently. And a famous photographer named Freeman Patterson took a stunning photograph of fading hosta leaves that he described as reminding him of his mother's aged hands. It's in his book called The Garden, and I should scan it and share it. Lovely post as always.

  13. We are in that period of soggy brown dampness that makes the idea of frost and snow very attractive!


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