A nice horticultural weekend has been had with yesterday spent at my HPS group meeting. As ever an excellent day was had with an interesting group discussion in the morning about what is looking good in gardens mainly chrysanthemums. A bit of plant buying over lunch including a rather nice Nerine ‘Kinn McIntosh’ and a Polyxena corimrosa to add to the bulb collection. I also was given a rather large Viburnum which has been planted today; I am always amazed at how generous gardeners are not just with plants but with knowledge as well.
The afternoon talk was on mistletoe which I have to admit I thought might be a little dull but as with the fungi talk last year it was completely fascinating. Our speaker, Jonathan Briggs, dispelled many myths about mistletoe, explained amongst other things how they were our only native white berry evergreen semi-parasitic plant, and how the real centre for mistletoe in this country is the Severn Valley including Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Hardly surprising given that there seems to be mistletoe everywhere around here but I don’t think I had really noticed how little there was elsewhere.
Despite the weather temperatures being warmer than normal for this time of year we have had really stormy skies and strong winds so some of the trees around the boundary are nearly bare of leaves and I need to start the big leaf collection. I am particularly keen on the autumn colour of the Prunus kojo-n0-mai which simply glows at the moment. Having planted the viburnum my focus today was planting the latest bulb purchases and making a decision about what should and shouldn’t be overwintered in the greenhouse. I have been procrastinating and dithering because I didn’t really know what winter conditions I should give my bulbs or some of the borderline hardy plants. Thanks to
the contributors on the Alpine Garden Society forum I have received advice and I plan to leave the greenhouse unheated and open for the winter unless the temperatures really drop in which case I can shut the door and if really bad turn the heater on. Research has made me decide to overwinter the tenders in the garage. The majority will be allowed to dry out but there are some that need a bit of moisture and I will put these to stand in saucers so I don’t flood the garage.
Having finally decided to dedicate the greenhouse to the bulbs I have relocated all the succulents and the bulbs have now taken over the whole space. There are also some primula marginata which I have a love/hate relationship with as I haven’t managed to get them to flower this year and some crusted saxifragas which are the nearest to alpine dome plants I plan to get.
I have even had a go at some cuttings which are in the propagator on the shelf. I know how to take cuttings but I never have much luck. Most of them, the fuschia and pomegranate, are from display stems brought to the club meeting yesterday but I have also had a go at some cuttings from Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’. I expect I am a bit late doing these but who knows they may take which would be fab. Actually I did manage to get the Malmaison carnation cutting I got from the club last year to take so who knows my luck might be changing. Moving all the pots around was quite time-consuming but at least its done now. I have a few succulents I want to dig up from the garden and overwinter under cover but the rest will be left in situ and get a thick mulch of used compost topped off with straw.
I have a couple of days off at the end of the week as hopefully, weather permitting, the tree surgeons are coming to tackle the weeping willow which swamps the top of the garden. This time next week, all things being equal, this view will be very different which I find exciting but also a little scary.
It has been some time since I featured the greenhouse. It may be small but I try to maximise the space as much as possible. The raised sand beds are beginning to bear fruit with the first bulbs flowering. Some crocus have been and gone but Galanthus peshmenii is looking quite lovely although I still struggle with the idea of snowdrops in October.
Sternbergia greuteriana is a new plant to me. I acquired the bulbs a year ago but this is the first time they have flowered. Whether the conditions of the sand bed have helped or whether they just needed a little more time I don’t know. I quite like Sternbergia, some people call them yellow crocus but they are actually in the Amaryllidaceae family.
The second Oxalis is flowering. This is my favourite Oxalis and was the reason I started to acquire them. I adore the sugar-cane markings on the flowers. Hopefully the plants will bulk up and produce more foliage and a more busy plant with lots of flower.
As you can see there are more bulbs to follow although I think it will be some time before the narcissus are in flower. As the plants in these pots finish I will move them down below the bench to rest and replace them with the next pots with emerging shoots. It isn’t ideal but its the best I can do with the space I have.
I am currently storing some of the tender perennials on the floor space in the greenhouse. I haven’t thought very far ahead but I think I will be moving them into the garage soon. I am thrilled with the brugmansia as it is flowering for the second time and far better than its first flowering. I need to research how to overwinter it – should I bring it in to the house or do I cut it back and store it in the garage? I also need to research the bergenias.
Finally the other side of the greenhouse which is full of the tender perennials. Again I need to work out which ones will be OK in the cold greenhouse and which need a little more warmth from the garage. I am also toying with the idea of putting some bubblewrap around the lower part of the staging to create a sort of cocoon in which I can store some of the tender plants.
Autumn has decidedly arrived although not the crisp dry Autumn that I prefer, instead it has been a bit grey and quite damp leading to soggy piles of leaves to collect; many have already been collected.
I have noticed that despite the lower light levels there is still interest in the garden mainly from the various asters. I think the smaller flowers add some real texture although I want to add some of the larger and brighter flowered asters next year and maybe some more rudbeckias to lift it all.
The first job was to weed the slope where the Hardy Exotic Border is and plant a mass of mixed daffodil bulbs. I am conscious that many of the plants will die back over the winter and I don’t really want a large bare area so I am hoping the daffodils will add some spring interest and colour until the main planting reappears. As my garden is quite small I need to make ever area work as hard as possible. I am trying to adopt the idea of layered or succession planting as advocated by Christopher Lloyd and also David Culp but of course although I understand the logic and purpose putting it into action isn’t as easy as it appears. I think you really need to understand the plants well and I haven’t quite got there. To help me out I am thrilled to have signed up for a study day at Great Dixter next June.
At the moment my starting point is to give each area a key season of interest. So the border above is a spring/winter border with the conifers and some bulbs which will appear in the new year. Today I have added a few cyclamen to give colour. There is a sprawling geranium in the front of the border which looks wrong and will be relocated elsewhere. I think a Japanese Painted Fern, yes I know another fern, would look good here and I fancy some white vinca or maybe periwinkle around the tree trunk.
A small achievement was finally sorting the area in front of the shed and fence. This has been a bit of a dumping ground since the shed went in over a year ago and has been irritating me for some months. My son plans to put a wood store here, the shed is his workshop, but he is so busy it is well down his list of priorities so I decided to take charge. It is amazing how much things are improved with a quick tidy up, a thick layer of gravel, a bit of fence paint and a few pots. The little auricula is far too small so I need to find one of my other pots to go here. I am thinking maybe a pot of bedding cyclamen.
Elsewhere I planted out the shrubs I bought at the Hergest Croft plant fair last weekend. The Hydrangea Merveilla Sanguine at the top of the slope to add to the foliage interest. I was told it needs good moist conditions and maybe at the top of a slope isn’t the best place but the soil is very heavy clay based here and doesn’t seem to dry out too fast so fingers crossed.
More bare soil but this is where the dead acer was and I am quite pleased with how it is coming along. I have added a Leptospernum myrtifolium ‘Silver Sheen’ and Berberis seiboldii which is quite electric at the moment and should be wonderful in a year or two. Also planted out today is an unnamed double hellebore and some bedding cyclamen. There are lots of spring perennials under the soil here at the front of the border so I have added the cyclamen for interest until I am reminded what is here and where it is!!
I thought I would show you a border I replanted just over a year ago – The Japanese Fern Border. A grand title for a small area alongside the patio which admittedly has other perennials other than ferns but they are all from Asia – apart from the stray Welsh Poppy in the back there. The ferns have really filled out and it looks lush and full and makes me smile.
Just for Yvonne I have include the Primrose Jack in Green at the top of the post which I look at when I sit on the bench.
Autumn has arrived and a sense of panic marred my gardening today. With evening gardening over due to the shortening days and a wet day yesterday, I felt an unexpected sense of urgency in the garden today. To such an extent that I found myself not enjoying myself at all but this may be tangled up with the pervasive feeling of unhappiness I am experiencing currently – which I know is hardly surprising and I need to be kind to myself.
With cooler temperatures forecast the tender plants were the priority. I am in a bit of a quandary at the moment since I am using the greenhouse for my alpine bulbs which presumably means that this space won’t be very helpful for overwintering the tender perennials. I intend to keep the greenhouse just frost-free, or even cold, and the door will be open on warmer and sunnier days and I suspect this won’t be good for the succulents and pelargoniums. There is part of me which thinks “give it a go and see what happens”. I’m not emotionally attached to any of the plants so if I lose them I won’t be heartbroken but then my sensible and risk averse head kicks in and I wonder how to accommodate the diverse range of plants I have accumulated in recent years. The solution, at the moment, is that I have tided up my work space in the garage and all the pelargoniums are now stored in there by the window where they will get lots of light. The tender succulents are currently in the greenhouse whilst I come up with a better solution. I only ever keep the greenhouse frost-free and they have always been fine so I wonder if I corral them in one area and give them some extra
protection with fleece whether that will be sufficient. The rest of the borderline plants in pots have been collected on to the patio so they can be quickly put under cover if a frost is forecast. There are still some planted out but again I am thinking of risking them to see what happens. Bob Brown told me the other week that he thought if you planted them deep enough and mulched plants you didn’t expect to survive do. I have also heard John Massey say the same so I might give it a go.
As I collected the pots up I was deeply conscious of the fallen leaves which weren’t present last week and how much I still wanted to achieve in the garden to prepare it for Spring and finish off projects before Winter commences. Then in the next breath I experience a strong feeling of just needing to give up and ignore it all. There are areas of the garden where I still feel very strongly that the planting could be better. I spent some time talking to my sons about my loss of confidence in my horticultural abilities, how the borders don’t replicate the images in my head and our conclusion was that writing about the garden on this blog may be partly to blame. I have always shared my plans and thoughts about the borders and in the last few years on a weekly basis, much as I have done today. I have always tried to treat the blog as a record for myself but at the moment, in my heightened emotional state, I am feeling quite vulnerable and sensitive so it may be that the garden won’t appear here for a while until I am feeling a bit more positive and confident.
September has been a very dry month and has ended with exceptionally warm temperature. a real Indian summer. Although the garden is dry at first glance luckily because we have had the odd day of rain and there is frequently a heavy dew in the morning the plants are looking quite good.
Starting with the smallest area of this monthly post – the hardy succulent trough has really filled out. When I planted it up at the beginning of the year it looked so empty but now it seems I under estimated how much and how quickly the plants would grow and no doubt I will have to edit it in the not too distant future.
The staging area got a bit of a tidy up. I mentioned a few weeks back that I was planting up my various perennial alpines into bigger pots and you can see the results here. You can also see the huge flower on the Aeonium tabuliforme which is quite wonderful; sadly the plant will die when the flower finishes.
The Patio Border is looking a lot better since I moved the Edgeworthia along from the end on the right – it seems more balanced out. The Kirengeshoma palamata is now beginning to go over but it has looked wonderful for about a month now. The border will now start to fade but come Spring it should have lots of spring bulbs appearing.
The Rose Border (formerly the Cottage Garden Border!) is settling in with its new planting. The Japanese Anemones have continued to flower since I planted them a few weeks back and some of the roses have buds appearing so I may get a second flush of flowers. I am pleased with how it is looking but it will now be a case of seeing how it comes through the winter and how the plants fill out. One day I will work out how to photograph the border to show it at its best.
On the other side of the path is the Big Border which I have added a number of asters too over the last month. I haven’t felt the border was right yet and I have decided that the two shrubs in it are just too large for the space and are dominating the planting. When I visited Old Court Nursery a few
weeks back I was very taken with the borders and they didn’t have any shrubs in. I have been following a principle of having a range of plants e.g. shrubs, perennials, bulbs in a border to add interest but I think that this border can do well without the shrubs. There is plenty of interest elsewhere in the garden in the spring and winter that the border doesn’t need to be interesting all the time. I want to improve my original plan to have the focus of the border on asters with some other late summer perennials. The asters are a little thin at the moment so making much of an impact but I think given another season they should start to look very good.
The new seating area and Hardy Exotic Border is great and has exceeded my expectations particularly as they were only created earlier this year. It will be interesting to see how the plants in the border come through the winter and how much they fill out given another year’s growth.
The original Woodland Border is looking a little faded now with plants beginning to fade for Autumn. However it looks so much better than last year and I am glad I added plants at the back to add height. I still need to edit the front and middle of the border now I know what is where so plants have the best chance to show of but this will be a job to do over the next month or so and in early spring.
Finally the enigma which is the former Bog Garden and which continues to perplex me. There is something not right with the border and I can’t work out what to do to make it zing. I am sure the penny will drop in the near future but it definitely needs something added or removed – it’s just been dull this year.
So that is my garden at the end of September and with Autumn upon us I am hoping to undertake a number of small projects over the next couple of months to get the garden ready for next year. I find writing this monthly post very helpful as it makes me look critically at the garden and analyse why different areas please or irritate me.
If you would like to join in with the monthly meme you are very welcome to do so. You can use it however you want there are no rules – you can show us around your garden, feature a particular area whatever you fancy. All I ask is that you include a link to this post in your post and you put a link to your post in the comment box below so I can find you.