Monday, October 17, 2011

October flowers

Well I seem to be late for everything this month. And so it is with the unmissable Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens, which for some time now I have been using as a way of stepping back and looking, properly at the garden and where it is in the year (instead of just seeing the usual tick-list of jobs that became urgent last week).

I blame a certain lethargy brought on by the impending frosts. And the recent demise of, which was my way of indulging in loads of photos without the guilt of having to inflict them on anyone unless they wanted to sit through them all.

So I'm afraid this month you'll have to look at all my photos, one by one: either that, or log off right now and go do something more improving instead.

Since it's undeniably autumn now - the swishing sound as I walk becoming less and less easy to ignore, or indeed wilfully deny - I'll start not with flowers but with berries, filling my garden gradually from the yellow buttons of Sorbus 'Joseph Rock' to hips and cotoneaster berries and the little jewel-like Tomato 'Hundreds and Thousands' tumbling over the tubs on my patio.

I'm not too keen on the cotoneaster, as it self-seeds everywhere, but at this time of year you can't help but like it.

There are always lots of wildlings in my garden - and several are having a second flush at the moment.

Some aren't strictly wildings but sort of naturalised garden plants: the Anemone x japonica 'Honorine Jobert' is going mad in the front garden and will have to be sorted out at some point. Not now though.

The hardy fuchsia is another one in its prime right now: hard to think I'm going to have to get rid of it this year (too big, too old, too shady).

In fact the fuchsias generally are looking pretty good right now.

Also in this part of the garden are - or rather were - the scented-leaf pelargoniums; though I spent part of today digging them up and tucking them away in the greenhouse ahead of the Big Freeze.

It's been a good year for the annuals: and a good thing too, as I'm still in my first season so stuck to seed-raised flowers to see me through while I waited to see what came up in my new garden.

The cosmos in particular have been fabulous: flowering madly since about the end of June and still going strong.

But there have been two annual stars which have really stolen the show. The first is my bronze fennel: a lovely foil for other plants while they have their summer spell in the spotlight, but now a fireworks display of golden yellow.

And equally tall and airy, the Nicotiana mutabilis are dancing through the border on their wiry stems of pink and white, charming, dainty and adorable.

So adorable have they been, in fact, that I'm going to follow some advice Chris Ireland-Jones gave me on my recent visit to Avon Bulbs and try to overwinter them in the greenhouse. He says if you can cut them back hard, pot them up and bring them in, they have a head start on the season next year. Twice this display will be quite, quite ravishing. Can't wait.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Not-quite-the-end of the month view: September

Well, heck, I'm only a week late for the End of Month View (hosted, some time ago now, by Helen, aka The Patient Gardener). And who can blame me for clinging onto September: it has been a remarkably warm and balmy one. And it's looking pretty dicey for October, so if it's all the same to you I'll linger for a while longer in the twilight zone between summer and autumn.

It's not, however, been an altogether sunny picture in my garden: particularly my front garden. You see we've had an amusing time this summer almost completely rebuilding our house.

A relatively straightforward project, to replace the blown cement render with lovely stone-house-friendly lime render, turned into something altogether more fundamental when we discovered that the cement render was actually holding the outer wall in place.

The whole process has involved large holes appearing here and there (and I mean large: we could stand up in the one in the end wall), the rebuilding of the entire end wall plus a chimney stack and the reinstatement of the top of the wall at the front, which turned out not to be there any more.

And most upsettingly for the garden, it also meant we've had scaffolding right round the house since around July. The builders were commendably sensitive and didn't plonk scaffolding poles onto prize plants: but there is lime on everything, and because I haven't been able to access the area the bit of progress I had been making has gone backwards.

So this winter's project (one of them: the fruit cage is also going in this winter, but that's another story) is to get this little lot back in order again.

First job is to remove the more rampant plants here. There's a self-sown cotoneaster bent on taking my stone wall down with it, and a large stump that needs to come out.

Also getting seriously out of control are some more welcome plants: a fine clump of small-flowered asters, a species I think though I haven't yet been able to identify them with any sort of confidence. There are masses of white Anemone japonica 'Honorine Jobert'; the snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) has galloped gaily over everything; and there's tons of self-seeded valerian in every nook and cranny, too.

Some of these I shall just move; the valerian will go (there's plenty elsewhere in the garden; I do love it, but not to the exclusion of everything else). And I'm afraid the Cerastium is just a bit too bedding for me; it's going.

There is a dilemma, in the shape of a large and stately hardy fuchsia in the middle of the whole thing. It's massive; it's in the wrong place; but it's a fine plant. I can't see I'll be able to move it without wrecking it wholesale; my preferred option at the moment is to take some cuttings and start again, with the statutory mourning period required for the sad but necessary passing of such beauties.

And replacing it all? Well: part of it is already assigned. I have my corner of scented geraniums, underplanted with blankets of Strawberry 'Baron von Solemacher'. I have an olive tree to replace the horrible cotoneaster in the corner, to arch gracefully and elegantly over the semi-oval of chamomile lawn which will replace the scraggy grass and even scraggier roses which inexplicably occupy the only flat bit. And the thyme collection dotted around another side is coming on nicely.

And once the other planting areas are cleared and as I want them, I have herbs dancing through my dreams: medicinal echinacea and stately angelica, prostrate rosemary dripping over the old stone wall and hummocks of sage ringed with dancing spheres of silvery-pink chive flowers.

I have a yen to grow mandragora root, liquorice and blood-red veined sorrel, fenugreek and cumin, capers and orach, mint (sunk in pots) of every shape, size and flavour, vervain for tea and sweet cicely for sweetening my rhubarb.

In fact I'm sure I'll run out of space long before I've run out of herbs I want to grow. At the moment, I'm just thinking how different what I see out my window looks in comparison to the vision I have in my head: but then gardens are the stuff that dreams are made on. And besides, the scaffolding came down this week. Time to get out the spade and turn those dreams into reality...
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