I seem to have started each EOMV post this year with commenting on how little gardening I have done for many reasons. I have decided to stop apologising, it is what it is and actually on reflection the garden doesn’t look too bad for the end of November.
I’m not a gardener who feels a need to put the garden to sleep for the winter. I’ve never really understood that approach unless of course you live somewhere where your garden is covered in snow for months on end. For me, having something that needs doing in the garden throughout the year is a good motivation to get outside even on the coldest day even if its only for a short period of time.
The front garden, which I have forgotten to photograph this month, has had most of the attention over the last few months. Due to the new driveway I have had to replant the narrow borders outside the front door partly with plants I had lifted to protect them from the contractors but also to add two new lavenders either side of the door. It all looks so much smarter now. I have also tidied up the smaller of the big borders and filled it with a mix of tulips so I’m hoping there will be lots of colour in late spring.
Now I need to start thinking about tidying up bit by bit in the back garden. There has been some pruning and leaf collecting happening but there is still lots to do if I get time. I don’t get stressed about having it all perfect now as no one tidies these things up in nature and it all works just fine. I do want to move the various pots of seedlings dotted around the garden to nearer the house to protect them and I seriously need to use the four bags of bark chip that have been sitting in the garden for two months now – which is a little embarrassing.
I also would like to finally finish removing the very top path that I started back in the spring and I plan to use some of the large pile of Malvern stone we have to build a low edging/retaining wall along the edge of the border in the above photo. The border slopes quite a lot and is always dry. I have quite a few alpines in pots around the place so I plan to use the stone to level off the border and provide lots of gravel drainage for the plants. I probably haven’t explained that well but its very clear in my head what I want to do here which is progress as I have been thinking about it for years.
As you can see the garden gets shabbier as you get further from the house which probably reflects that with limited time over the past months I have focussed on those areas I can see better from the house but I am now determined to change this and sort it out once and for all so I don’t feel I have to apologise all the time.
So there’s my garden, warts and all, at the end of a soggy November. Its great when people join in as its one of the few times that bloggers actually show their gardens rather than nice plants and I find that more interesting. If you would like to join in then all I ask is that you link to this post and leave a comment with a link to your post in the comments box below.
Weeding in the garden today, listening to a big fat bee buzzing around the Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, and feeling the sun on my back you could be forgiven for thinking it was Spring. This assumption was reinforced by the flowering of snowdrops, hellebores and primulas with even the Daphne putting in a show. However it is mid December with the shortest day just two days away. This winter has been incredibly mild so much so that it is hard to believe we will be recovering from the over indulgences of Christmas in just 5 days.
After weekend after weekend of rain it was with pure delight that I was out cutting back hellebore leaves first thing this morning, making the most of the blue skies in case they were going to be short-lived but I needn’t have worried as the fine weather lasted longer than my energy levels or my back muscles.
I don’t ascribe to the ‘slow gardening’ approach at this time of year which advocates leaving all the tidying up until the spring. I think it is fine if you have a garden that is grasses and late summer perennials but with a garden like mine that I like to look as good as possible all year and which is planted in the layer style it is important to keep on top of things. I’m not talking about putting the garden to bed for the winter – what a waste of a quarter of the year and so many delights. Instead I love to potter and tidy and consider. With the amount of rain we have had this month I am glad I take this approach as lifting the sodden thick layers of sycamore leaves revealed the hellebore flower buds above which were struggling to push their way through just as some of the bulbs were, you can see how little light has got to them.
Back on the 5th December I shared my surprise at discovering a snowdrop about to open. Finally this weekend I have had the privilege of seeing the flowers fully open and this has helped me confirm that its identify is Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’, a very elegant flower with long outer petals and a nice nodding head.
The main borders have been tidied and cleared of leaves and decaying stems cut back. I still have the very back borders to do and I have a scheme around the compost bins that I am hoping I might get a chance to carry out before I return to work on the 4th January, which does seem a very long way away being next year! Though no doubt having seen the forecast I will spend more time day dreaming over seed catalogues and making plans for gardens to visit this year.
Perversely I like this time of year in the garden. Every half hour stolen seems like a bonus and a treat. For a change I have actually done all the jobs I need to do for the winter and so everything I do now is a bonus. The weather is mild, although a little damp, and it is a relief to get outside for a bit of fresh air and exercise.
Saturday saw me finally finishing mulching the front garden with chipped bark. I didn’t think I would get a chance to do this before the ground froze but somebody was on my side and hopefully the mulch will help with locking in the moisture and keeping the weeds down.
I also removed the leaves from the majority of the hellebores. I have done this for a few years now but I can’t remember the logic for it any more and I find myself wondering whether indeed it is the best thing to do; something to research. I was pleased to see emerging buds on all the plants including those I bought earlier this year from Ashwoods but I was especially pleased to see two buds on the Hellebore niger which I have been struggling to establish for a few years.
Although the forecast for the next week indicates that the temperatures aren’t going to drop much lower I decided today to use the time to put a little more protection around my borderline hardy plants. Last year I covered the crowns of the three Melianthus major with straw and they came through the winter fine, although of course it wasn’t as hard a winter as we had in the two years previously. As I had some straw left over I have done the same again this year and also protected the Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Swan’ which has thrived in the Big Border and the three Watsonias which I am risking in the border as they are just too big for the greenhouse now.
I was reading back through my garden diary last night. It was satisfying to see that some of the things I planned to do this time last year have been achieved but it was also amusing to see how my son’s woodworking hobby and the need to house it thwarted at least two projects; at one point I think we were on Plan R! On the plus side it meant I had to get on and dig up the lawn which I had been procrastinating about for a while. I am still thinking about a focus for the Big Border but my instinct is to go Cottage Garden style but with a mid-late summer focus.
The last area that really needs a winter clean-up is the sunny end of the slope. This area has seen the most upheaval this year due to the workshop going in. All my Asters from the slope have been shoe-horned, along with other late summer perennials, into a tiny space about a third of the area they were in before. I really don’t feel that the way I planted them, admittedly in haste, has shown them to their best so I am thinking that I may clear the slope and relocate the plants into the Big Border. I also need to finish staining the fences and the workshop but we are still waiting for the green wood to dry out completely – the glass in two of the paves has cracked due to the sides of the workshop shifting as it dries. The work never really ends does it.
Meanwhile in all the border there are signs of bulbs pushing their noses through the soil which makes me feel that Spring really isn’t that far away.
For a change I can report back on a productive and enjoyable weekend of gardening. Saturday was sunny although with a distinct Autumnal chill in the air. I have had a to do list in my head for over two weeks now so I was quite focussed. First up was to finish planting the tulip bulbs. Last winter I had real problems with a badger digging up all the tulip bulbs in the main garden so I have had to contain my love of tulips to large pots on the patio. The pots had to be emptied of the Dahlia imperialis first. These plants are quite amazing having grown at around 5ft in just a year and I had to resort to lopers to cut the stem down to ground level; hopefully they will flower next year.
The patio is looking rather bare now but at least everything that needs protecting from the cold is stored away safely. Having planted up the pots with the tulip bulbs I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon tidying up the original woodland border which has been neglected completely this year.
I know many advocate leaving borders to be tidied in the spring but due to my neglect this year I had lost track of what was actually in this border. I needed to remove a couple of Deschampsia which just weren’t work along with various weeds. I think this border needs some reorganising in the spring once I can see where the dormant bulbs are. I need to give it a more coherent approach rather than looking like I have shoehorned in all my woodland plant purchases which to be honest has been the approach. However, I now have more shady space and to I can start to bring some semblance of order to the planting and hopefully show the plants off better.
One of these new areas is the shady bank which I mentioned a few weeks ago. This has been completely dominated by an old unknown Crocosmia which has been removed. There were already some ferns in the border along with one or two hostas. I have decided to use the slope primarily for small spring bulbs along with Epimediums and Ferns which I seem to be drawn to at the moment. I have acquired three new Epimediums in recent weeks: Epimedium pinnatum subsp Colchicum, Epimedium ogisui and Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Red Beauty’. These have been supplemented with ferns including Blechnum chilense, Dryopteris sieboldiii and Asplenium trichomanes.
There is a little colour from flowers left in the garden from a few late flowering geraniums, another new interest, Saxifraga, and the last of the Chrysanthemums.
Sunday has been a damp day with that fine misty rain that you can hardly see but which slowly soaks everything. Luckily I now have my new working area in the garage which I have to keep pinching myself about. This means I have spent a contented day sorting through the cold frames, removing old foliage and discarding seed trays which are just not going to produce seedlings. I am all for waiting for seeds to germinate but I know that due to pressures earlier this year I have neglected some of the pots of seeds and they have just dried out far too much to be viable. I need to the space to overwinter the seedlings I have as well as to house the seeds that will be sown in the coming months.
All my new purchases have been planted up including some Arisema consanguineum corms which I am hoping will produce wonderful seed heads in the coming years and some Narcissus ‘Little Flick’ bulbs that I ‘won’ at the Plant Auction last weekend. The last job was to reposition the hardy succulents that are overwintering in the garage and give them a water – although they are hardy I overwinter them under cover as I don’t want them to freeze in their pots.
So now when the weather is conducive at weekends it will be a case of tidying the garden and planning for next year. It is nice to feel like there aren’t piles of jobs that need to be done for a change.
I had the benefit of a three day weekend this week and despite the weather forecasts of doom and gloom it turned out to be much better gardening weather than I had anticipated. However, overshadowing the weekend is the forecast for storms on Sunday night/Monday morning with winds up to 90mph. I wonder how many of the plants in the garden will still be standing in 24 hours.
I am quite philosphical about it especially as there isn’t much you can do when faced by Mother Nature. My biggest worry, if it’s a worry, is the fences will come down and maybe the obelisk will topple. All these things are fixable of course.
Friday I took the opportunity to continue with the fence border and plant up the conifers I had bought the previous weekend. I’ve never been one to follow fashion in fact I have a rather perverse satisfaction in going against it so I have no issue with planting reviled conifers. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind the idea of prostrate conifers under the maple tree was the obvious choice. I had intended to only go for one conifer, its not that large an area but I couldn’t choose at the nursery and they weren’t that expensive (being so unpopular) so I bought three – opps. I went for two Junipers: Juniperus media Gold Sovereign and Juniperus communis Barton. The second one has creamy new growth in spring and will not get any larger than 18″ x 3′ in 10 years. The Gold Sovereign, as the name implies, has yellow new growth and is a slow growing prostrate variety. The third conifer is Cryptomeria japonica Elegans which I fell for as apparently its foliage turns purple in the winter and I do like interesting foliage. This one too is slow-growing 1.5m x 1m in 25 years and as a plus the reference book says it responds well to coppicing. I don’t get sentimental about plants unless they have been given to me by someone I care very much about so if the conifers start to out grow their space they will be removed. I have interplanted them with Narciuss recurvus (Pheasants Eye) and Muscari latifolium and Muscari Blue Magic but it occurs to me that this might also be a good space for special snowdrops.
Saturday I spent at my HPS group meeting where we enjoyed a fascinating talk on fungi which showed what a vast subject it is and how you really really need to know what you are doing before you collect and eat. Needless to say I bought a couple of plants (succulents not fungi) and I also booked on a snowdrop day in February which is something to look forward to. I had also plucked up courage and taken in some stems of salvia for the display table and for Bob Brown to discuss – it was OK and next time won’t be so daunting.
Sunday was preoccupied with clearing the patio of all my various pots and plant purchases. Storing seedlings away until the spring and tidying away furniture, watering cans and anything else that might be thrown around by the wind. As the sun was still shining I took the opportunity to start clearing the shorter end of the slope border. This is full of crocosmia which has been lying flat most of the year and not produced any flowers. I don’t know what variety it is but it was in the garden when I moved in and I suspect it is what some people still call Monbretia. It was a little challenging clearing the crocosmia as I also have snowdrops and other bulbs in this border so there was quite a lot of distangling of bulbs. I am planning on using this border to extend my woodland plant/bulb collection and this was started with the addition of Epimedium pinnatum subsp. Colchicum, Blechnum chilense and Dryopteris sieboldii. With the addition of Narcissus Sophies Choice and Narcissus Elegans as well as the replanted snowdrops I am hoping this will present a good show in the Spring.
Sadly the rain showers got to a point where it was just too much for me to carry on so I retreated indoors. Looking at the lovely Autumn colours on the Acer I wonder how many of the leaves will still be there tomorrow. We will just have to watch and wait.