Fading Beauty and Hellebore Leaves

As I slowly re-engage with my garden it seems to me that this autumn has been unusually mild.  Even a couple of cold nights this last week seem to have made little difference to the garden.  It all looks as green and verdant as ever with some plants seemly thinking it is Spring like the potted Crocosmia which are already re-shooting.

I presume the mild weather is also prompting the hellebores to flower earlier.  My experience is that the whites tend to flower earlier than other hellebores with the yellow, if I remember rightly, flowering last but I’m sure this hellebore doesn’t normally flower before Christmas.  I only stumbled on it by accident amongst the neglected border because at the back of my mind was a notion that I should be removing the hellebore leaves around now.

I remove the leaves religiously every winter so the flowers stand out but I often find myself wondering what the consequences would be if I didn’t.  I suspect there wouldn’t be any consequences as in the wild Mother Nature doesn’t go along removing leaves so the hellebore flowers stand out better.  Apparently we remove the old leaves to also help reduce the likelihood of hellebore leaf spot (Microsphaeropsis hellebori (syn. Coniothyrium hellebori). Some of my hellebores do show some signs of this disease so presumably I should continue with this approach but I feel more relaxed about my gardening practice these days so maybe a few plants won’t find themselves as thoroughly de-leafed as before.


End of Month View – October 2015

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October has been a kind month to this gardener.  We have had generally dry weekends with milder temperatures than normal allowing me to spend some quality time in the garden.  My efforts have been small but widespread and really have been little more than planting out bulbs and some perennials.  I have spent as much time looking, peering and pondering.

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As you can see the Field Maple, I think that is what the tree is, is dropping its leaves.  There were nearly as many a week ago and the tree has still more to drop.  I love autumn leaves; they always take me back to my childhood  and jumping into large piles of beech leaves in my parents’ garden.  But I can’t leave these leaves as they make the steps too hazardous.  I also don’t agree with the whole slow gardening approach which argues that you should leave the leaves in borders etc to rot down and feed the soil just as happens in nature.  This does not take into account that we, well I, garden my garden more intensively than happens in nature and the decaying leaves act as an overwinter home for all sorts of slugs and pests.  It always amuses me that those who extol the virtues of slow gardening loudest are also the ones who complain most about slugs!

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The milder temperatures mean that a lot of deciduous plants are still looking very green and even attempting a second flush of flowers.  Many of my roses have more buds on them than they did in early summer although I think it is unlikely that many will actually open.  I have started to cut back and tidy the Big Border.  I generally work through the borders on a regular basis cutting back any plants that are going over and once I have an area that is pretty tidy I give it a good mulch of home-made compost.  Due to the number of bulbs in the garden this is probably the best chance I will get in the year to mulch as come early spring there will be too many bulbs pushing through the ground to work round.

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The top of the woodland border has really come on this year.  Most of this area was dominated by an Acer which sadly died just over a year ago.  There are quite a few shrubs here now but they are all still quite young and will take a while to bulk up so I have been planting the rest of the border up with other woodland favourites including epimediums, hellebores and honesty.  I am hoping that next spring it will look very pretty. I will also get to see whether I had relocated some snowdrops here or not!

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The bottom half of the woodland border is more established having been planted some 3 or 4 years ago. I am pleased with the foliage textures but it needs a bit of tweaking; I’m not sure what exactly but something.  I will have to look back over this year’s photographs to try to identify why my instinct is telling me this area needs some attention.

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And finally the grass path which has survived my ponderings of removing it and is now enjoying the unusual prospect of being a fixed element of the garden.  Over the last few months I have added a number of grasses to the garden particularly either side of this path and they have brought some sort of cohesion to the planting as well as providing movement and airiness.  I need to work on the border to the right of the path.  The planting between the grass in the right hand corner and the small prunus is distinctly lacking.  In the spring it is full of hellebores and other spring delights, followed by hostas and I would like to add something to bring interest to overlap with the end of the hostas.  Something to ponder over the winter.

So that is my garden at the end of October.  If you would like to join in the with the End of Month View please do, the more the merrier.  You can use the meme in any way you wish.  I tend to take photographs of the same views during the year, others like to do a tour of their garden, or use the meme to follow a project.  Whatever approach you take all I ask is that you link back to this blog in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below.  It will help us find each other and pop by for a look-see at what is happening in your garden.


Foliage Follow-Up – April 2015


I didn’t do a foliage follow up post last month as I was bored with posting about the same plants all winter – even I couldn’t face another photo of Melianthus major but with the warm weather and spring well and truly upon us there are new leaves appearing even more than the new flowers. I love the freshness of the new leaves something which you get at no other time of the year especially when the late afternoon sun dips down and back lights the leaves. I have a few hostas but they are a plant I want to increase in the garden.  The hosta above I have had since my first garden some 20 years ago.  I have no idea what variety it is and it has been divided over and over again.  This plant is residing under the Prunus kojo-no-mai; I have been dividing it and spread it to create a cushion of hosta under the shrub.  It isn’t quite there yet but I think it will look lovely when it is.  And yes there are some of the dreaded sycamore seedlings which I have missed.


An example of what I mean about the back lighting of foliage.  Here is a run of the mill dogwood which came from my mother’s last garden.  The young variegated leaves look wonderfully fresh but late in the day they positively glow and provide a nice contrast to the other green foliage around them.


Acer is another plant that has wonderful fresh foliage as well as good Autumn colour.  I love both ends of the year but at this time of year the leaves look so fragile and feathery.


Then we have the wonderful glossy leaves of Cardiocrinum giganteum which look almost like plastic and very unreal.  I grew this plant last year but I really don’t remember the leaves being so shiny and yes there is another sycamore seedling – tsk!


Leptospernum myrtifolium was added to the woodland border last Autumn to provide a nice light contrast to the large Fatsia and Rhododendrons which are in the border.  It is still a very young plant and is difficult to spot from a distance but I think it will be a good addition in time.


Berberis seiboldiwas purchased and added to the border at the same time. The leaves mature to a reddish-purple but I hadn’t realised that they opened with such a light green hue – like little torches in the border.  I think that once the shrub bulks up it will really glow in the spring border.

So here are my Spring foliage highlights, for more foliage delights pop over to Pam at Digging.


End of Month View – November 2014


November this year has been wet and mild resulting in the weeds and grass still growing, even the drop of temperature earlier this week was short-lived and we are back to mild temperatures for the time of year and fog. Whilst I’m not so keen on the continual dampness the fog does add to the real autumnal feel which is nice as there are less fallen leaves in the garden this year due to the removal of the majority of the willow and some of the large prunus.

The hardy exotic border and new seating area remains my favourite part of the garden and I hope the plants are hardy enough to come through whatever this winter throws at us. I am hoping that it will be a mild winter and the plant will have another year to establish before they have to cope with prolonged cold.


I am surprised at how lush the garden still is. The Rose Border (formerly the Cottage Garden Border) is filling out and I am hopefully for a good display next year when the roses, aquilegias and geraniums start to flower.


I worked through the Big Border last week, weeding and cutting back.  I want to move the Cotinus to the corner of the border in the foreground and I need to build up the log edging of the path but aside from that the border should look after itself now until the hellebores flower in the early spring.  I will cut the hellebore foliage back probably in late December.


The other end of the Big Border.  I have also tidied up the border on the other side of the grass path and as I mentioned last week this is an area I want to tackle next year to make the planting stronger, it can’t get any weaker!  I have finally got the start of an idea of what I want to put in here and it won’t surprise you to learn it is foliage based.  I have a hankering for a dark-leaved banana or maybe as Rusty Duck has suggested a hardy Hedychium and this has led to me deciding to extend the hardy exotic planting from the slope behind but with plants that appreciate a little more light.  2014_11280005

The other end of the border I am talking about which has been much shadier but I suspect will be lighter now due to the willow being cut back so drastically.  The planting here is predominately foliage based so I think I will finally be able to make the whole border work rather than it feeling like two halves.


The next area due an autumn tidy up is the original woodland border.  Again it will be interesting next year to see how the shade has been affected by the tree work.  I think I need to do a little re-jigging just to stop plants swamping each other but I need them to reappear in the spring so I can remember what I had planned to do. However, I am very pleased with how the changes I made to the back of the border have worked out this year adding depth and interest as well as height.


Going down in scale the spring/patio border is at one of its low points in the year.  The late summer interest is well over but hopefully come early spring there will be lots of colour from snowdrops and other bulbs.  Saying that I have a sneaky suspicion that I meant to add more bulbs this autumn and if so I have failed to do this.


The staging is still working hard and currently supporting the collection of pots planted up with collections of various alpine plants and the hardy succulents.  It is also hosting all the pots I have emptied of dahlias.  Last year I planted these up with tulips which were OK but I think I want to add some more permanent plantings in them so I have decided to leave them empty over winter.


Finally the hardy succulent trough has been more successful than I ever anticipated.  The various sempervivums have bulked up and filled out.  However, I will be happier once my amateurish concrete repair mellows a little.

As ever any one is welcome to join in this monthly post and use it how they wish.  Some focus on one area of their garden and others the whole garden.  All I ask is that you link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can come and visit you.

Foliage Follow Up – November 2013


Finally I can blog again.  With the shorter days I am struggling to take photographs for the blog and being away last week meant that I couldn’t get any photographs for the GBBD post.  But never mind its the weekend and the sun is almost shining so I have taken some foliage photos.  There is still lots of colour in the garden and predominantly from the turning foliage than from flowers – I wonder should I look to have more floral interest at this time of year or just enjoy the autumn colours.


The top photograph is a Cotinus which looks wonderful when the sun decides to shine on it. Above is Sorbus vilmorinii whose leaves have been slowly turning over a number of weeks, I like the way they go through a number of shades colour from green through burgundy to a yellow.


The large unknown Prunus at the top of the garden has finally decided to give in to the change of seasons and the leaves are starting to turn a soft buttery yellow. It occurs to me that with all the trees and shrubs I have added in recent years I have increased the amount of fallen leaves I need to pick up.  I do tend to take the approach of pushing them under shrubs and hedges as a sort of mulch although I plan to bag some up again this year as rotted leaves are meant to be very good for alpine and bulb compost mixes.  I will have to find somewhere to store the bags where the evil badger wont find them and rip them to pieces.


I think many perennials add to the autumn display and at the moment Kirengeshoma palmata is lighting up the patio border with its pale yellow flowers. Definitely a plant that should be grown more by people.


But not all the leaves are turning and dying.  There is a whole range of woodland plants that give good foliage during the winter including epimediums, pulmonaria (above), ferns and hellebores. Then there is the wonderful range of cyclamen leaves which varying greatly within species


Cyclamen hederifolium is a great plant, it flowers for months and slowly once it has started flowering you have these wonderful leaves.  I have noticed more and more cyclamen coming home with me from various horticultural club meetings chosen for their foliage!


Melianthus major continues to look fresh and bright and I am wondering how long it will be before it succumbs to frost and cold.  I need to provide it with some protection but I have yet to decide what.  Last year I covered the crown with straw which seemed to work well but then it wasn’t that cold a winter.


For more foliage follow up posts visit Pam’s blog Digging – there will no doubt be lots of sunny photographs with agaves and other interesting succulents.!

Weekly Photo Challenge – Green

I noticed yesterday that my blogging friend Ronnie was participating in a weekly photo challenge meme run by wordpress.  This weeks theme was ‘green’.  I thought that as it was such an easy subject matter for a gardener like me I would join in so yesterday morning I wandered round the garden seeing how many different types of green I could find.

First up the yellow green of the Choysia which is looking really healthy at the moment, in fact healthier than it has all year so I suspect that the cooler damp weather suits its well. It is also no longer shaded by the tree next to it which has lost its leaves so maybe that is also a contributor.

Then there is the glaucous blue of the prostate rosemary that completely dominated the border, draping down the wall.  It’s funny how much I love this plant but how much I forget its there until this time of the year when the frost outlines the cobwebs.

Another good glaucous blue is the Melianthus major.  I have three of these grown from seed last year.  There are too big now to dig up and overwinter so I am going to have to give them a thick mulch around the stems and keep my fingers crossed.  It has been suggested that I make fleece tents for them and stuff them with straw so I might consider this if you temperatures look like they will really drop.

Lots of shiny green: Sarcococcao hookeriana humilis (Christmas Box); Acanthus, Japanese Holly Fern

Rich dark green of the Berberis

Lots of lovely Greens many of which will remain in the garden through the winter and are my winter stalwarts.  Green for me is fresh and a signifier of growth and life.

For more Weekly Photo Challenge posts visits The Daily Post at WordPress

To tidy up or not?

Phormium - slightly flattened by  snow
Phormium - slightly flattened by snow

Having spent quite a few hours in the garden this weekend tidying up after nearly a month of bad weather I found myself smiling at Victoria’s post about her winter garden.  In particular it was her confession of being a neatnik that amused me.  Not only is it a peculiar expression but it connected with my musings whilst collecting leaves and cutting back collapsed perennials.

There has been much over the last year, if not longer, in the gardening media including blogs about a change of attitude towards the autumn tidy up of the garden.  Those with a focus on wildlife and an organic approach to gardening have been advocating that gardeners should be less fastidious in their gardens.  Not only should we leave seed heads for the birds but it is better to leave leaf litter on the borders so that wildlife can hide and keep warm under it.  The recently departed editor of the RHS The Garden, Ian Hodgson, in his welcome to the December 2010 edition, admits to a less tidy approach to his winter garden given a “realisation that all the detritus has a purpose in providing homes for wildlife, particularly overwintering insects.”

So as I was heaping piles of leaves into my trug there was a niggel at the back of my mind that maybe I shouldn’t be expending so much effort on the big tidy up.  However, as I pondered and plucked fallen sodden leaves from amongst the perennials I came across slug after slug.  Not the big ones but the little  black ones which in my opinion do the most harm.  My cutting back was not as comprehensive as in past years, this year I have left lots of seedheads for the birds.  This change has come about from watching birds attack the Agastache seedheads during the snow last year. But I cannot bring myself to leave the borders covered in leaves.  As far as I am concerned leaving leaf litter in my borders is just providing a haven for those annoying slugs to hide and wait for the young  new shoots to appear – my perennials  and bulbs won’t stand a chance.

Not only this but I suspect there is a degree of neatnik in me.  I find it more uplifting to look at the garden and see neat borders with  the hint of fresh green shoots appearing than to look out  at a sodden decaying brown mess. I find winter hard to get through so anything that lifts my soul is important to me.

Buds of Christmas Rose appearing from under the leaf litter
Buds of Christmas Rose appearing from under the leaf litter

My conclusion was that, like so many things in life, if you choose to pay attention to the things you read or see in the media then you shouldn’t feel obliged to follow it religiously. Instead it is a case of finding an approach  that works for you, following your instincts.  My  approach to the tidy up is to lessen my fastidiousness.  The leaves have been collected from the border where the perennials and bulb are but not from under the trees, shrubs and hedges.  They have been racked from the lawn but not collected from the wood chip paths (after all that is quite  a hard thing to do!).  The  collected leaves have been piled up under the hedges and at the back of the garden.

After all I don’t mind providing somewhere for wildlife to hide out during the winter but if they are going to munch on my young plants they can at least make the effort to get to the young plants instead of lying in waiting!!

Delights of Autumn

2009_10170006Finally managed to get out into the garden this weekend and start the big autumn clean up.  I have been getting increasingly fustrated as due to the weather and major work in the house I haven’t been able to get on and I could see the garden descending into even more chaos then normal.  Saturday was a glorious autumn day with the sun shining and filtering through the overhead coppery leaves, like stained glass.

Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai'
Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai'

It struck me as I raked up leaves that some of the shrubs that I had bought for their spring flowers were equally as attractive in the autumn when their leaves changed colour.  All around the garden there are patches of bonfire colours.   Some people say that you should leave the fallen leaves on the borders to act as a mulch and I can see the logic in this.  However, apart from under the shrubs, I like to collect the leaves up.  Many of my small perennials get swamped with all the leaves that fall on my garden and it seems a pity for them to disappear from view especially as many of them are evergreen and much valued in the winter.

Amelanchier canadensis 'Snowy Mespilus'
Amelanchier canadensis 'Snowy Mespilus'

The Amelanchier is finally beginning to earn its keep.  I bought the shrub a couple of years ago from Woolworths – it was literally a stick at the time and cost me the princely sum of £2.  I do believe that it is best to buy plants small not just because they are cheaper but because they establish better and soon catch up and overtake others which have been planted at a more advanced stage.  This spring for the first time the Amelanchier had dainty white flowers along with the coppery new shoots and I was thrilled to see how attractive its fading leaves are this weekend.


I was also taken with the foilage on the Circumfuga.  It appears in late spring very dark and dramatic but in the last week its as though the colour has been completely washed out of some of the leaves, with just a dark fringe around the edges.  I love this plant it has wonderful foilage, dainty flowers and a heady scent and comes up year after year.  I just need to be successful in propogating it and I will be really happy.