My Garden this Weekend – 1st December

Japanese Fern Holly
Japanese Fern Holly

A lovely autumnal weekend although the weather man is telling me that meteorological we are in winter.  It doesn’t feel like it yet especially as the leaves are taking so long to fall this year.

On Saturday I went to my HPS group meeting.  I have to admit that I left at lunchtime as I just felt out of sorts.  The last few weeks at work had finally caught up with me and now that the pressure is off, well until January, I think my body just needed to rest.  So instead I came home and spent the afternoon on the sofa selecting my seeds from the Alpine Garden Society seed list.  I have been amazingly decisive this year and I have decided not to sow as many seeds next Spring.  I have said this before but I need to focus my efforts more as my gardening time is limited and I need to manage my expectations of what I can achieve more realistically.


Today, with recharged batteries I set too and collected up some bags of leaves.  I’m not a gardener who is obsessive with collecting leaves but I’m also not a gardener who turns their back on their garden at this time of the year.  I am working through the borders tidying those with lots of spring bulbs first.  I really don’t agree with the idea of leaving the leaves on the borders when there are lots of perennials and bulbs as to my mind I am just providing a nice warm home for the slugs to live in.  I have also read that leaf mould is very good for adding to alpine and bulb compost so I am determined to try to make some this year.


The patio border had the most drastic tidy up and it looks very bare at the moment.  The focus of this border is early spring and I have been adding snowdrop and narcissus bulbs over the recent year.  I can see this border from the living room and seeing the spring flowers appear always cheers me up in February and March.

Disporopsis perneyii
Disporopsis perneyii

The border looks particularly bare as I removed a large clump of Japanese Anemones from it.  They have annoyed me for a couple of years now as there wasn’t really enough room for them and every year they end up flopping over the patio.  I have others so this clump has gone to the compost bin and instead I added a Disporopsis perneyii which I think will do well in this location.

I was pleased to see that the bulbs are already pushing their nose up so it wont be long before a green sheen fills the border.

I also tided the other end of the patio border which has been planted up predominantly with Japanese ferns.  It struck me today how many ferns I seem to have acquired this year and how good they are at this time of year for providing autumn/winter interest (see top photo).  I love their structure, texture and the variety of greens.  In fact I seem to be more and more interested in foliage and texture and flowers are becoming more of a bonus.

2013_12010005The next job on the list was to review the larger plants in the Big Border.  Everything was planted in a bit of a rush in April/May and before there was any real thought of putting a secondary path in.  Needless to say this means that the main shrubs are no longer in the middle of the border but adjacent to the path.  I have moved the Viburnum a couple of feet and its new position looks much better and hopefully this poor plant will get a chance to get its roots down.  I also relocated the Giant Scabious as it is just too big for the border.  It may be called the Big Border but it really isn’t big enough to fulfil all my aspirations!


The Giant Scabious has been relocated to the border along the top of the border which is slowly but surely becoming a bit of a rogues gallery housing more and more of my bigger and butcher plants.  Hopefully they will continue to do well and screen the fence.

Moving these two plants get me to get my mind in gear about this border. I don’t want to fill it with dahlias etc again  next year but I havent been able to work out an alternative.  I already have a young tree peony in the border and it seemed sensible to add more peonies especially as I had three sitting on the patio waiting for a new home.  I added some Aquilegia and Thalictrums that were also waiting to be re-homed, hopefully I have worked out correctly which is which!


The Big Border is also looking a little bare and I really need to think about adding some foliage and texture to it but I will see how the peonies, Aquilegia and Thalictrum do next year before I make any hasty decisions.  I have tended to give the different borders a particular season/month of interest so it isn’t surprising that some of them look very bare at the moment.  There is plenty of interest elsewhere in the garden so I’m not too concerned.


So a busy and rewarding day although it is clear I havent done so much gardening for a while as I really ache now.  More plant moves are planned but it will depend on the weather and we have also decided on a small seating area adjacent to the workshop behind the Sorbus which will be a winter/spring project, oh! as well as painting the workshop and the fences!




18 Comments Add yours

  1. ginnytalbert says:

    Projects, projects, projects! They’re never done, are they? But it is such fun to plan ahead for our gardens, isn’t it? You’ve got some good ones (along with more aching back) for sure 🙂

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Ginny, I do like a project it gives me a sense of purpose

  2. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Lots of work done! what is a giant scabious? I just know the lovely mauve/purple 10 to 15 cent high that the bees love. Seen bumble bees still on them at 9pm (dark here in summer, not the long twilights of the South of the South Island. Garden Club coming for Xmas lunch tomorrow – hope some bring togs as pool 26/28 degrees cel. Must get out and do some tittervating and sweeping. will do some Ikebana arrangements from flowers from garden – Ringa Ringa (white native) Pohutukawa (fantastic NZ tree red brush like flowers with gold tips) White agapanthus with maybe some red bourginvillia scattered in it – Weather looks sunny for it. Yea warm summer beachy Christmas – strawberries, raspberries BBQ – swimming.. Our traditional NZ Christmas

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Yvonne, the Latin name for Giant Scabious is Cephalaria gigantea. It grows about 6ft tall and has large yellow cream flowers

  3. Cathy says:

    I thought my eyes had gone funny when I saw the ‘snow’ drifting down across the screen, Helen! I don’t remember seeing this patio border before. Do you plan to add ferns here too? I look forward to seeing what you plan for your seating area – I do like a good project!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Cathy
      I thought I had turned the snow off! It isn’t showing in my iPad, it comes up every year on the 1st December! I could indeed add some more ferns to the patio border, there are some Japanese painted ferns but they are deciduous and have disappeared for this year.

  4. Christie says:

    Hi Helen, you get so much done in a short time. I seem to work but get little done. Never mind, just chipping away at things. I am so glad you mentioned the Viburnum. I have one in my garden and had forgotten its name!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Christie
      I am hoping that my viburnum will now flower although I suspect it will sulk for a while to pay me back for moving it so much

  5. Anna says:

    Hope that the time you spent in the garden yesterday helped both body and mind Helen. I remember that November is not an easy month for you. I chuckled at the thought of you trying to id thalictrums and aquilegias – they do look rather similar. That Japanese fern holly is a gem – will it be green all winter?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Anna
      November isnt the best month no. The Japanese fern holly generally stays green although it gets a little brittle if the temperatures are very low for a long time and collapses for a while if covered in snow but generally it looks good.

  6. Pauline says:

    The Japanese holly fern looks really good, I have mine in the woodland next to a hardy Maisenhead fern and the contrast is lovely. You seem to get so much work done in the garden at any one time, those were the days, when I could work like that.

  7. Pauline says:

    The Japanese holly fern looks really good, I have mine in the woodland next to a hardy Maidenhead fern and the contrast is lovely. You seem to get so much work done in the garden at any one time, those were the days, when I could work like that.

  8. rusty duck says:

    I laughed at the rogues gallery. Every garden needs one of those! The steep bank is going that way here… a repository for anything that gets evicted from more formal areas elsewhere. It’s a good point about fallen leaves being home for slugs.

  9. Patty says:

    I am surprised to see green shoots poking out of the soil. What are you growing there? Here it is too cold to do anything more than some tidy up or raking. The ground is almost frozen.

  10. Mmm, I love that Japanes Fern Holly, making a note of that, and the Disporopsis perneyii which I had never heard of before, what a lovely plant and perfect to have something scented there. I too am gradullay planting a corner I can see from the lounge with spring flowering bulbs and plants, the perfect antidote to February. Enjoy you many – many – projects, you are clearly not going to be bored over the winter. I have a large viburnum to move when I can muster the energy, not to mention some tree planting prep and borders to extend. In fact I think I find this as busy a time in the garden as any other!

  11. Adrian says:

    Great article good job 🙂

  12. That is the great thing about this time of the year, it gives you a chance to catch up a bit. I love your Japanese holly fern. How lovely to see those bulb noses poking up.

  13. hillwards says:

    Looking very tidy. I’m itching to move a salvia that is rather swamping our young witchhazel at the minute, but not only are there still a few hot pink flowers on the salvia, but I rather fear moving it now would kill it off so I’ll bide my time until spring – and hope that the witchhazel isn’t too upset to give us a few flowers still in the meantime…

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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