Penstemon ‘Raven’ in the late autumn sunshine
Our lovely quince tree with six glowing fruits
Clematis tangutica ‘Bill Mackenzie’ having its big moment
The japanese crimson glory vine (Vitis coignetiae) living up to its name
Since I last wrote I have been extremely busy.
Now is the time of year to re-organise anything that is unsatisfactory about your garden, and it is most gratifying to tackle the garden in the autumn – you know the plants are dormant and happy to be divided or moved, and all the while you are setting up the best possible start for all your plants. Plant or re-plant everything well, with lots of compost and bonemeal, set them up for getting really nicely settled before the winter, and sit back and watch them do their stuff next year, with the happiness of knowing you did everything at the right time.
This year I had big plans for my sunny long border, and for my front garden, both of which have been niggling away at me as needing a re-think.
A happy chance composition of box balls awaiting planting
The back garden sunny border has always been a bit random in its evolution, with some ‘wrong’ plants I’ve just been putting up with. This is how it looked in June…
The front garden had got far too untidy and wasn’t really doing very much – a lazy mix of planting that didn’t quite work either. The irises, whilst lovely, always got bashed down a few minutes after being photographed – it just wasn’t sheltered enough out the front for them. This is how it looked in June…
So, time for big changes.
The weather throughout my intensive seven separate days of tackling my big project was wonderful – in fact on some of the days it was a little too hot and I had to don a sun hat and sunglasses…
but since I completed all my works it has rained a lot which is just what everything needs now.
So, day one started with a big clear out of the mess that had become the inside of the shed over the summer. Even the cat could sense a deal of excitement in the air.
A huge clearing of dead or failing plants also then took place, and packing away of summer furniture.
Day two was removing bearded irises from the front garden and trimming them and replanting them in the back garden (they were in too much of a wind tunnel at the front.) This is a fiddly and time-consuming task, but important.
If you want your bearded irises to perform well every autumn you should cut away old leaves, and neatly trim the leaves to prevent rocking in the wind which can unhinge the rhizomes from the surface of the soil. Make sure all rhizomes are nicely on the surface of the soil so they can bake, but also well anchored in the grit which you should surround them with to ensure that they don’t get waterlogged in the winter. If the roots haven’t anchored enough to be very firmly embedded when you touch them, give them a helping hand with a little stake just until they are firmly rooted. (Occasionally my cat digs one up and it needs to be re-settled!). All this effort will be well worth it, come May. This is the same patch of bed as seen above, in its prime…
I also dug up all my front garden crocosmia ‘Coleton Fishacre’ which had got congested and non-flowering and moved it to the back garden. Carol Klein describes them as growing like a sixties bobble necklace, and it is a very apt description – I unpicked vast bucket loads of the necklaces, and replanted them. The plants will now put on new vigour (I hope!)
I then planted more of the species daylily (hemerocallis liliosphodelus) and hemerocallis ‘Stafford’ as both performed so well in the summer.
On day three I removed all dead and non-performing plants from my long sunny back garden border, and cut back all large plants so that I could work unhindered.
On day four I removed all the perennials from the bed, and divided all those I wanted to replant.
I have some lovely nepeta, penstemons and geraniums, but instead of just having a clump of each I wanted to have more repetition and rhythm to the bed by repeating those plants. I then replanted these with some lovely new plants – a second pink buddleja, a caryopteris, a mock-orange, and a new penstemon called ‘Raven.’
New hardy geranium ‘Brookside’ happy in the new planting scheme
Hopefully a dreamy combination of blues, pinks and purples will come forth next summer – watch this space!
On day five I cleared the front garden completely and dug in compost and grit.
On day six I completely replanted my front garden with a mixture of euphorbia, lavender and sisyrinchium. I have a blue wisteria and a yellow clematis on the front wall, so I decided to stick strictly to yellow and blues in my new bed, with box balls for structure in the winter.
I also cleared the enormous pile of debri from my back garden into twelve bags of the heavy duty variety to go to composting (the boring bit, and hard work!)
And finally on day seven I planted all my bulbs in the front and back garden, and on my balcony. What has been refreshing is planting bulbs properly for probably the first time ever – instead of just popping them in here and there in my borders (often digging up other forgotten bulbs in the process) this time I was able to add them into newly planted borders, exactly and precisely, laying them all out where I wanted them to be planted first, and then putting them in, in one clean planting schedule – hurrah!
Lots of daffodils in the front garden, and lots of tulips, alliums and camassias in the back garden. Fingers crossed they all come up well.
Then a final mulch of grit and compost, and a weed of the entire paving (hated job), and my garden is finally ‘put to bed’ for the winter.
I have so enjoyed being out all day long gripped by the task in hand – it is what I love most about gardening – getting your hands dirty, tending your plants in a caring and exacting way, and knowing you are creating something lovely for the spring – it gives you something to keep you going through the winter months, and gives you a unique glow of having done the right thing by your garden.