Plants in the Garden: October garden
Started by: Tim IngramGo to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 25 October 2012, 12:13. Go to bottom of this page.
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An American gardener has said that 90% of gardening is weeding. If this is so, an essential feature of the gardener is to enjoy weeding! In a large garden the problem becomes more difficult and the tendency is to go into certain areas in succession and work on them intensively before moving on to the next. There is the element of 'Painting the Forth Bridge' about it. On the smaller scale of alpines the scree-like soils and gravel top-dressing, and sheer fascination of the plants, really do make weeding a pleasure, and little and often is probably the better policy. With bulbs though the annual cycle of growth that these go through leads to a different way of tending them. This small bed in our lawn originally was the site of a weeping cherry which was eventually removed and the bed extended with liberal amounts of stone chippings in order to grow a wide range of bulbs. After these go over though interest is maintained into the autumn with small late perennials, notably sedums and self-seeding Eryngium bourgatii. Come October the autumn crocus are just beginning to come through, followed through the winter and spring with many more bulbs, so the bed needs to be thoroughly tidied up. These pictures show the bed 'before' and 'after' with still a few sedums left to keep some colour.
Generally the bed works quite well and keeps interest right through the year but both the sedums and eryngium and a number of other plants self-seed generously in the gravelly soil so a good bit of weeding is necessary. Not something probably that is taught at Horticultural College. But certainly an essential feature of making a garden.
As well as weeding rather larger scale operations need to go on in the garden too. A Wisteria planted alongside the house over thirty years ago has had a new lease of life and climbed up onto the roof and aerial. Access is difficult but we will have to try and keep it more under control from now on. The two troughs are waiting to be coated in hypertufa and then planted out next spring. With all our work restarting the nursery, parts of the garden have now been neglected for several years and a considerable amount of clearing and shredding is necessary (especially since we are opening the garden in February for the NGS, specifically for snowdrops. There is certainly a lot of work behind a garden! Fortunately winter tends to tidy the garden up for you to an extent, and weeds take a while to reappear the following year.
Autumn always holds a lot of interest in the garden. We tend to be too dry for many classic autumn flowers - Asters, Helianthus, Dahlias, Chrysanthemums - which all need consistant summer moisture to bring them vigorously through to flowering in autumn. But fruits and berries and autumn colours more than make up for this. Actaea pachypoda 'Misty Blue' is only a young plant but striking for its white fruits set against red stalks, and the Persicaria species (from Cally Gardens) also stands out. Solidago (rugosa)? is one of the few really spectacular flowering plants - infinitely more graceful than the more familiar 'Golden Rods' of weedy and unkempt gardens (not to say that ours is not going that way!). But the jewel is just a few flowers on the exquisite Geranium x lindavicum 'Gypsy'. This was a result of a cross made by Eric Smith at 'The Plantsman' nursery (between G. cinereum ssp. subcaulescens and G. x lindavicum 'Lissadell'), and was named by Jim Archibald (who writes about his partnership with Eric Smith, and their nursery introductions in 'The Hardy Plant', Vol. 22, p. 92 (2000), or access the archive on the SRGC Website). Like many of these small geraniums this is not too easy to bulk up, but centainly worth any effort, with that dark eye which perhaps drew the name 'Gypsy'.
Crocus speciosus has appeared en masse over the past few days. There are a few other autumn species in this bed but only now that we are free of rabbits are they beginning to recover. Hopefully the bed will fill up over the next few years. This bed changes quite dramatically throughout the year so I am trying the experiment of photographing it every day to create a video of the change. Any advice from members who have done something similar would be greatly appreciated.
In a small shady trough near the house Saxifraga fortunei is a great charm. (The fallen leaves were left deliberately as they seemed to add to the scene).
Cyclamen hederifolium is planted all over the garden and this white form was at the base of an Arbutus unedo, which was badly damaged by snow and eventually had to be removed (actually a very good opportunity to make a new alpine area!). Hence the mushrooms coming up next the cyclamen - quite a striking combination. On the same theme we came across the final rather dramatic specimen in Blean Woods near Canterbury.