Name: The angel’s trumpet is well named for the large trumpet-shaped flowers that grace this shrub in late summer and it is a pretty name, easily remembered. Also, it is known as datura and brugmansia.
Family: Angel’s trumpet is a member of the potato family from Asia and North and South America and contains similar poisons as deadly nightshade. In South America, the plant was used to poison sacrificial victims and for religious rituals. Derivatives of the plant are used, in very low doses, for motion-sickness control and for opening the pupil of the eye in ophthalmology.
Like so many members of the potato family they are killed by frost, but Brugmansia sanguinea is somewhat more resilient than others. It is red, with relatively small trumpets, and there are yellow, white, peach and purplish varieties. The red one has been known to survive for many years outdoors in mild gardens near the coast. It routinely gets cut down by frost but sprouts from the root and shoots up quickly enough to flower in late summer.
Most other kinds would probably do the same, especially if covered by a layer of dead leaves or compost to prevent frost penetrating the soil.
In the colder parts of the country, the best policy is to grow brugmansia in a large pot and take it under cover in winter. A cold greenhouse, without artificial heat to protect against frost, will not keep the plant safe. The advantage of keeping the top of the plant intact is that the new branches will begin to flower earlier when stored in a frost-free shed indoors for winter. The plants grow much bigger in the open ground but pots or tubs are more convenient.
There are few more spectacular plants for use in a tub or container on a patio in summer. The large flowers are truly exotic and they hang so beautifully from the stems. It is lovely in a greenhouse or conservatory too, where it will perform even better with the extra warmth provided. For use on a paved area, the plant is kept slightly dry in winter, just watered enough to keep the root ball barely moist. Well-grown plants can be over two metres tall, and if over-wintered successfully, even taller.
From spring to early autumn, water and feed well to encourage rapid growth and lots of flowers. Datura is easily grown from cuttings and plants are often available in the mid-summer period. Be very careful about handling the plant, especially when cutting it back or taking cuttings. Wear gloves and avoid direct contact in case of accidental ingestion.
On the law of averages, we are due some good weather in August and September. While this does not always follow, it is quite often the case, and if it is, there will be good growing conditions for some late-sown vegetable crops. Top of the list to sow now would be spring cabbage, which can be sown in late July and early August for planting out in late September or early October. Late varieties of lettuce can be sown too.
The quick maturing salads such as radishes and rocket leaves can be sown. Swiss chard and spinach for next spring can be sown. Some Chinese vegetables for stir-fry such as pak choi are notorious for bolting but often do well when sown late and reliable moisture and a touch of warm weather follows. Salad onion seeds can be sown to over-winter and provide an early supply.
Trees, shrubs and roses
Trees and shrubs that have not properly rooted out into the surrounding soil suffer from water shortage due to the exceptionally hot weather. Depending on the weather, roses could put in a good finale as there has been good growth of new shoots.
Lawns have been scorched, especially on sandy ground, or on areas where the soil depth is low. Although they look bad, lawns recover very quickly. September is a good time to sow a new lawn and ground for new lawn areas can be levelled and raked now.
Bedding plants in pots and baskets are also in need of regular watering and feeding. Because the roots have now filled the pots, watering has become more critical than before. Feeding every two weeks or so is essential to keep the plants going.
Fruit, vegetables and herbs
Vegetables to overwinter could be sown, for instance, lettuce and spring onions. A late crop of swiss chard could also be sown still. Spring cabbage should be sown now. Do not let weeds go to seed to avoid building up trouble for the years to come.
Greenhouse and house plants
Many kinds of shrubs are easy to raise from cuttings taken now. Also take cuttings of geraniums and fuchsias to overwinter for next year. Continue watering and feeding greenhouse plants. Be sure to water plants in pots or grow-bags regularly.