Hellebore Anna's Red
Hellebore Anna’s Red

I hate to say I have had a good gardening weekend when so many people are coping with floods or howling gales,  but I have.  At this time of year I think we are grateful for any time we can steal to get outside and work in the garden so I was thrilled to steal about 3 hours over the two days this weekend.

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I have spent most of the time picking up leaves, weeding, and cutting back perennial flowers.  I’m not a great one for leaving lots of winter debris as I believe this provides homes for slugs and snails and I think when you garden a space extensively you need to try to maintain good garden practice.  I tend to start the Autumn/Winter tidy up with those areas that are heavily planted with spring bulbs so that I don’t damage emerging shoots.  I’m a little behind due to the recent wet weekends so was really pleased to tidy areas such as the Asiatic Fern border, which I look at when I wash up.    There aren’t many bulbs here as it is constantly moist throughout the year but as the ferns are wintergreen and this is their real season of interest I want them to look their best.  I spent quite a bit of time removing the ever invasive Soleirolia soleirolii (Mind Your Own Business) which normally carpets this border and wondering what possessed me to plant it in the first place.

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There are more ferns on the slope.  Different ferns which like a bit of better drainage.  This border is also full of spring bulbs so it was delightful to clear away the debris of the fallen leaves and spot shoots pushing through the soil.  As you can see, if you look carefully, there are some random self-sown plants appearing.  I think the grey leaves at the top of the border is some form of thistle and I am inclined to leave it to see what it does.  I have also found a Geranium palmatum seedling which is good as I love that geranium but I am wondering what the border will look like in the summer with its mad big pink flowers everywhere – I can always move it if need be though.

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Tidying up revealed that the Crocus speciosus had been flowering but for some reason not well.  Some of the plants have long lax stems, some of the flowers haven’t formed properly barely covering the stamens and some flowers have been eaten.  I can understand the cause of the latter but I don’t understand the first two problems.  The crocus are meant to flower in late September/October, roughly when I planted the corms.  I wonder if the mild wet weather have confused the crocus causing the lengthening and weakening of the stems.  Whilst some were covered in leaves which might add to the problem, there are just as many growing in this way where the leaves were removed a while ago.  Hopefully next Autumn they will flower better and create the lilac haze I was hoping for alongside the top steps.

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Clearing the leaves also allows you to discover all sorts of delights.  As I posted last time I discovered the first snowdrop of the year yesterday, I suspect it might be Mrs McNamara.  Today I spotted another one with the first signs of a flower forming, this time I know it is Galanthus plicatus ‘Colossus’ as the label is still there.  It appears that this snowdrop often flowers around Christmas so I think it is on track to do that.

Also found where the fat buds of Hellaborus niger; an extra flower stem this year so I think it is safe to say that this plant is well and truly established now although it has taken many years to achieve this.  I also spotted that some of the other hellebores were already budding up to the point that I removed the leaves from Hellebore Anna’s Red and one other.  I am waiting for the buds on the other hellebores to be a little bigger before I remove the leaves.  And then there are the Epimediums to think about – I need to work out which I should remove the leaves on and which not, oh dear….

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